To apply for Honors in Independent Study, a student must send to the Committee on Honors a statement of his/her intentions to submit a project in candidacy for honors (Statement of Intent Form.) This statement includes student contact information, the topic of independent study, the term in which the student intends to defend, and the name, department and signature of the faculty advisor. The final date for receipt of such statements of intent is the Friday of the first week of classes in each term (Schedule of Deadlines.) No project will be considered for honors unless the committee has received such a statement of intent; however, statements do not obligate students to submit projects.

Sufficient copies of the completed project, usually four, one for each member of the examining committee including the Committee on Honors representative, are to be submitted to the Committee on Honors at a place and by a date and hour designated each year (Schedule of Deadlines.)  Students who find themselves unable to meet this deadline may petition the Committee on Honors for extensions, but they must do so well in advance of the deadline. The committee usually approves such petitions only when circumstances beyond the candidate’s control have arisen.

At this point, the honors thesis advisor, in consultation with the student, chooses voting members of the examining committee and arranges for an oral examination (Oral Examination Guidelines.) After the examination both the project advisor and the Honors Committee representative deliver reports on the exam to the Committee on Honors prior to its last meeting.

The Committee on Honors meets to review the reports and determine levels of Honors to recommend to the full faculty for a vote.

Although the Committee on Honors tries to keep its procedures as simple as possible, the extreme diversity of projects submitted for honors makes necessary certain clarifications and interpretations of the basic guidelines. For more information concerning special types of projects and further details about the committee’s procedures, email Antoinette Powell, Chair, Committee on Honors.

Projects Involving Testing of Hypotheses

One important purpose of honors projects is to provide opportunities for professionals to evaluate students’ knowledge of an area, their skill in employing that knowledge in experimentation, and their care and cleverness in approaching the task of testing their hypotheses. Thus, if a project allows these evaluations to be made, it should be considered for honors despite the vicissitudes of fortune that may attend the project. In particular, the failure to obtain significant positive results when testing an hypothesis or a network of hypotheses ought not to disqualify a candidate from achieving honors, provided that those professionally competent in the area agree that this failure was not due to a lack of care, to a lack of skill or knowledge in the field, or to a lack of competence in techniques or experimental design.

Mere diligence, on the other hand, is not a sufficient ground for the awarding of honors. Students whose projects have not achieved their expected results should give the best accounts they can of the ways in which they probed for additional operative variables that were uncontrolled in their previous experiments, of the reasons why the failures could not have been anticipated by skillful experimenters in the crucial beginning stages, and of their careful attempts to locate the difficulties.

Procedures for Handling Dissenting Opinions

On occasion, members of the examining committee may not agree upon the awarding of honors/no honors or the degree of honors to be awarded. Such dissent may be handled in one of two ways:

    The dissenting member of the committee, while unable to support the decision of the other members of the committee, may not disagree so strongly as to challenge the decision. In this instance, the inability of the committee members to come to a mutual decision should be indicated in the report submitted by the student's adviser to the Committee on Honors.
    The dissenting member of the committee may vigorously disagree with the decision, believing that inappropriate standards were applied or that incorrect evaluations were made in judging the project. In this situation, the dissenting member submits a written statement to the Committee on Honors, challenging the legitimacy of the decision and, in effect, requesting the Committee to reconsider the decision. The student's adviser should also include information concerning the disagreement in the report sent to the Committee on Honors.

In either instance, all members of the examining committee will sign the adviser's report to the Committee and the signature page which will later be attached to the library copy of the paper.

The Committee on Honors representative will also include a brief summary of the dissent in his/her report to the Committee.

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