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Honors Project Guidelines

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Following the successful completion of at least two honors seminars with a grade of B or higher, each Caldwell Honor will undertake a three-credit project of her or his choosing. The Honors Project may be either research oriented or a creative effort.

The topic is to be approved by the Advisory Board of the program. The proposal of a topic and presentation can take place, at the earliest, in the junior year. We strongly recommend that you do not wait until the last semester of your senior year to do the project in order to avoid unnecessary pressure. The project advisor, to be chosen by the student and approved by the Director, will assist the student in every phase of the process, and must be chosen before work on the project begins.

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The goals of this component of the Honors Program are much broader than the production of a paper alone. They aim to give the student substantial experience in:

selecting a topic

refining a research idea or creative concept

drafting a proposal

pursuing independent research using Honorable publications or by doing creative work

drafting and revising one’s work

presenting the results to a panel of faculty

presenting at the Honors Forum to a more diverse audience

fielding questions from an audience


a. Selecting a topic

Choose a limited, well-defined, focused topic, and something that is reasonable in terms of time.

What are the issues? Develop a thesis expressing the main idea of the paper.

Focus on an in-depth approach rather than trying to give an exhaustive overview, which usually ends up being vague and unstructured.

We recommend that the topic be looked at from a variety of viewpoints. What methods or techniques are you going to use to explore your topic? Different disciplines such as the social sciences and the humanities use different methods to analyze subject matter. See part VI.

b. Writing a proposal

Include a brief description of the project, explain why it is a valid and interesting topic, and describe the approach chosen. Give a preliminary outline, including introduction, body and conclusion, as well as a preliminary bibliography. You should be familiar with the works included in your bibliography.

The proposal must also include a timeline signed by you and your advisor. It will set deadlines for the completion of each stage of the project.

Proposals will not be accepted late. See deadlines at the end of these guidelines.

Be sure to develop your proposal with the help of your advisor. The Director must have the advisor’s approval before your proposal is presented to the Board.

The Board will read proposals and make suggestions for revision. Revisions are due at the beginning of the next semester. Changes in focus must be made known to the advisor and the Director.

The proposal, less the length of the bibliography and contract, should be a minimum of four double-spaced pages in 12 point type.


A research paper uses information other than the writer’s knowledge and experience. However, a research paper is not just a collection of the thoughts and opinions of others. You must use the information of others to support the argument that you will construct. Citations may include original works and secondary sources, but the paper is to be the synthesis of your own thinking.


You may describe or explain a problem, analyze primary material, or argue a point of view. To give a better idea, here are some types of projects that would use such approaches:

A review of the literature on a problem

A content analysis of primary materials: reading original works by one or more authors to extract a common theme or key ideas

A topic using social science methods such as surveying and interviewing

An investigation of a problem or answer to a question

A comparison and contrast of related people, events, and periods


Write a preliminary draft. The research paper, less bibliography and supporting documents, should be approximately 20 to 30 pages in length.

Revise the first draft for form and content by working on effective writing, clarity of ideas and organization with the help of your advisor.

Write and proofread the final draft by making suggested changes, doing further research and revising the writing.

Use the MLA or APA publication manuals for form and notation of sources.

Be sure you are consistent.


Students should understand how to use the methods or techniques of the discipline(s) that you are using to present your research. What tools are you using to evaluate your sources or to conduct your experiments or surveys? Be sure to explain these in your research. Try to present material in a clear and understandable manner.

The conclusion of the paper should be explicit about:

the significance of the topic or work in terms of disciplines

what further work could be done on the subject


If a student is interested in presenting a creative project (fiction, a play, a series of art works, performance, etc.), he or she will also have to develop a proposal following the above guidelines. This proposal will state the student’s objectives and the concept behind the creative effort. In short, the proposal provides the project with a theoretical framework by situating it within ideas.

Whether it is a creative writing project, a fine arts project or performance, the final product will have to be accompanied by a written synopsis of the project. In the synopsis, you will state what your influences are and how you situate yourself within your field. You must also describe your creative process or how you went about doing your project. The synopsis should be a minimum of 10 pages in length, less bibliography and documentation.

In the conclusion of the synopsis, you must indicate how your creative work relates to other disciplines. You should also think of how your work could be interpreted by others, including those outside your discipline.

The presentation for a creative writing project should be accompanied by a reading. The defense of a fine arts project should include a presentation or exhibition of the actual works of art. Some projects demand a performance. The scope of these presentations should be discussed with your advisor and the Director.


The student is responsible for keeping in touch with the advisor and the Director and for arranging to meet the advisor on a regular basis. The student should give a first draft of the project to the advisor well ahead of the due date to allow ample time for revisions.

Should problems arise, the student has the option to request a change of advisor. Also, the advisor may withdraw, notifying the Board and the student.

An unofficial “midterm grade” (P or F) will be given by the advisor to the student. Should the student receive an F, she or he will have time to withdraw from the project. Only under extraordinary circumstances, such as serious health problems, will an incomplete grade be granted.

The deadline for handing in the paper must be respected.


The project will be graded on a pass/fail basis. The project is presented prior to the end of the student’s senior year before a faculty panel. This panel consists of the advisor, another faculty member whose expertise pertains to the topic and who is from a different department than the advisor, and the Director. The advisor and the Director must approve the choice of the second faculty member. The student works with the approved panel to schedule the presentation. During the presentation, the Director will act as moderator. After the student presents the project, she or he leaves the room, the panel votes to approve or reject the project, and the student is informed.

The presentation includes three aspects:

  • A presentation of your findings to the panel, including a brief discussion of your process. This presentation should last approximately fifteen minutes. If there is a performance aspect to a creative project, it may precede the presentation.
  • Answering questions from the panel. This part explores the student’s work and will include clarifications and criticisms. The questioning segment is open-ended, but will not exceed one hour.
  • In the spring, students will present their project at the Honors Forum. This presentation will be brief. Through it you will explain what your project was and what you learned from it. This presentation will be done in a group and before a larger audience of other student Honors, friends, family and invited faculty and administrators. The Forum is meant to share your knowledge or creativity. It is meant to be a celebration of your work and will be followed by a reception.


Projects completed in the Fall:

Project proposals must follow a three-step process. The deadlines for each step are as follows:

  1. Timeline contract signed by Advisor: March 1st
  2. Proposal drafts: March 15th
  3. revised proposals: April 15th


  1. Faculty panel selection due by October 15
  2. Final draft due to panel by November 15
Projects completed in the Spring:

Project proposals must follow a three-step process. The deadlines for each step are as follows:

  1. Timeline contract signed by Advisor: October 1st
  2. Proposal drafts: October 15th
  3. revised proposals: November 15th


  1. Proposals are due November 15.
  2. Faculty panel selection due by March 15
  3. Final draft due to panel by April 15


With your advisor, supply dates for the following steps that meet the above deadlines.

__________ 1. Meet with advisor and Director to discuss completed research.

__________ 2. Introduction and full bibliography due.

__________ 3. First draft due.

__________ 4. Meet with advisor to discuss revisions. Discuss panel selection with advisor and Director.

__________ 5. Discuss presentation. Schedule presentation.

__________ 6. Meet with advisor to approve final revisions.

__________ 7. Get revised copy to panel members.


Student’s Signature ___________________________________________

Advisor’s Signature ___________________________________________