Pursuing departmental honors can seem like a difficult and intimidating process, but as I have learned over the past six months, it is actually composed of tasks Honors students enjoy anyway. I’ll admit my original motivation was a diploma that reads, “…with Distinction in Professional Writing.” However, I quickly realized it was an opportunity to more thoroughly explore my area of study, and it gave me experience in researching and developing a more intricate project than otherwise possible. And the project was actually fun! That’s not to say it didn’t require a lot of hard work and dedication, but the ability to choose a topic based on my own interests really made the work enjoyable.
Because everyone’s majors and interests vary greatly, so do their senior honors projects. But just to give you an idea, here is a little about my own experience. Though I only planned to spend one semester on the project, I began preparation the semester before. First, I chose an instructor who I have had several courses with and know I work well with—my advisor, Mrs. Tracy Dalton. Once she agreed to be my project advisor, we began brainstorming possible projects based on my major, my interests, and my previous work. In the end, we decided on an analysis of correctness in writing (something in which I’m experienced) in blogs (something I was excited to learn about). I then wrote up a project proposal for the Honors College and English department head, and I discussed details with Mr. Scott Handley, who was extremely supportive and provided vital feedback. After receiving approval, I quickly dove into research. By spending a few hours—maybe 12–15—completing these preparations before the semester began, I really hit the ground running.
As soon as the semester officially began, Mrs. Dalton suggested I develop an annotated bibliography, which really helped my research and the writing of the first two sections of my project: “An Overview of Blogs,” which explores the impact of blogs on writing, communication, and integrity, and “An Analysis of Writing in Blogs.” Though it may differ greatly depending on the project, students should expect to dedicate at least 5 hours a week, which isn’t too bad if you break it down. I suggest procrastinators, like myself, sit down with your project advisors to set specific deadlines for each element of the project—this isn’t something you can put off until the last month. Holding bi-weekly meetings with Mrs. Dalton really helped me get through the work.
Finally, for the third section of my project, I actually needed to apply my research. Although deciding the type and topic of a blog is often the most important and challenging step, the Honors College eased this feat with its need for an informal communication tool. One of the benefits of membership in the Honors College is the sense of community it creates among the students, who share a desire to learn and succeed as well as numerous responsibilities and challenges. An Honors College blog provides the community an outlet for ideas, experiences, and concerns. Therefore, I wrote up a style guide for Bear in Mind; I set up the blog with the help of the Honors College Graduate Assistant, Amy Legg; and I recruited several bloggers. I hope that in time members of the College will regularly visit the blog both to share thoughts and experiences and to strengthen our community.
So that’s my pitch for the blog and some insight into my experience with departmental honors. My advice: Choose a topic you’re interested in, and the work, regardless of its difficulty, will be enjoyable. Now that it’s finished, my work toward departmental honors is not just a few extra words on my diploma, but it’s the knowledge of what I can accomplish, it’s something I’m truly proud of, and it’s the start to a line of research I plan to continue as a graduate student.
I would recommend anyone who is even slightly interested explore the information available on the Honors College’s Departmental Honors page, talk to faculty in your department, and sit down with a member of the Honors College staff. Good luck!