Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Friday, May 29, 2020, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.
This catalog was created on Friday, May 29, 2020.
Honors projects are coherent programs of independent work carried out by students, usually in their senior year, on subjects or problems of more than ordinary difficulty in areas they have studied in considerable depth, usually in their majors or closely related areas. An honors project may also be a work of creative, visual or performing art. Senior Experience projects may be submitted as honors projects if they fulfill all of the requirements for honors. It is up to each individual department to decide whether an honors project will be accepted as satisfying the Senior Experience requirement for the major.
Successful honors projects receive Honors in Independent Study at graduation in three levels: cum laude (with distinction), magna cum laude (with great distinction), and summa cum laude (with highest distinction). These levels are awarded by vote of the faculty acting on the recommendation of the university Honors Committee. Honors are indicated in the Commencement program and on official transcripts.
Planning for an honors project
Since honors projects frequently complement students’ work in their majors, students should discuss the opportunities for independent study with faculty members in their fields of concentration as early as possible in order to begin laying appropriate foundations in courses, tutorial work, and summer reading. In some fields, tutorials or courses in research methods can lead to the formulation of suitable thesis topics and methods of attack, while in other fields topics may stem from unanswered problems in regular courses, from students’ own interests, or from teachers’ suggestions. Whatever the field, students ought to keep in mind the possibility of doing an honors project as they plan their programs, especially in the junior year, or earlier if they will be off campus at that time. If it is agreeable to both the student and advisor, an honors project may be undertaken while a student or advisor is off campus. Students do not have to take an independent study course in order to submit an honors project.
Projects undertaken jointly may be submitted for Honors in Independent Study. The work involved in such cases, however, must be equitably shared and demonstrate benefits clearly resulting from the merger of the authors’ different skills and knowledge. Students considering joint projects must obtain the consent of their faculty advisor(s) and the Honors Committee well in advance of such endeavors.
The faculty advisor
Students’ project advisors are responsible for providing guidance in regard to format and the conventions of scholarly documentation pertinent to their disciplines. Advisors are also expected to periodically review the progress of their students’ research or creative activity.
All voting members of Lawrence University’s faculty may serve as advisors of honors projects. If the honors project advisor is a non-voting member of the faculty, the advisor must enlist a voting member of the faculty to serve as a co-sponsor of the proposed project and periodically consult with the co-sponsor as the project develops. A voting member of the faculty is a full-time faculty member with academic rank (instructor, assistant professor, professor, etc.) or a part-time tenured faculty member. Emeriti professors are considered voting members of the faculty during those terms in which they are teaching. Fellows may act as honors project advisors. Visiting faculty may act as honors project advisors at the discretion of the Honors Committee.
Statement of intent
To apply for Honors in Independent Study, a student must send to the Honors Committee a statement of intent to submit a thesis in candidacy for honors. This statement includes the student’s contact information, title of the project, department, and both the student’s and faculty advisor’s signatures. The final date for receipt of such statements of intent is announced at the beginning of each term to all juniors and seniors and is posted on the honors projects website and the honors projects Moodle site. Statements do not obligate students to submit projects, but no project will be considered for honors unless the committee has received a statement of intent.
The honors thesis
The thesis need not be of any special form or length, provided that its form and length are appropriate to the discipline. Nevertheless, since physical copies of all accepted theses are permanently retained in the Lawrence University Archives and digital copies are housed in Lux, Lawrence University’s institutional repository, the form of honors projects is subject to a few standardized regulations suggested by the librarians and endorsed by the Honors Committee. The chair of the committee may be consulted about these regulations.
Upon completion of the project, sufficient copies of the thesis, one for each member of the examining committee and the Honors Committee representative, are to be submitted to the chair of the Honors Committee at a place and by a date and hour designated each term. Students who find themselves unable to meet this deadline may petition the Honors Committee for an extension, 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.
Even though the Honors Committee permits candidates to correct minor typographical errors or to make such other minor corrections as their examiners may require, it emphasizes that theses must be in final form when they are submitted prior to the oral examination. Candidates must assume responsibility for accurate proofreading and checking of all quotations and references. Frequent misspellings, faulty punctuation or syntax, omitted references, or stylistic incoherence will disqualify projects despite the intrinsic merit they may otherwise exhibit. Candidates are therefore encouraged to work with their advisors and/or tutors from the Center for Academic Success to ensure the quality of their work: clear, well-organized writing; consistent bibliographic citations appropriate to the discipline, and the absence of grammatical or typographical flaws.
Projects involving testing of hypotheses
One important purpose of honors projects is to provide opportunities 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 a 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.
Projects in the arts
Students interested in submitting an exhibition, a performance, or a work of art, music, theatre, or imaginative literature as an honors project must follow the normal procedures for honors work and must be willing to engage in a discussion of their work. A brief essay—as preface, foreword, introduction, afterword, postscript, or critical review—must accompany any such creative work. The essay should clarify and illuminate the work in a manner appropriate to genre, form, or medium and may include the aims of the project, its formal and stylistic precedents, its techniques, and the limitations and potential of the project. The artistic work and the accompanying written portion will be evaluated equally by the examining committee according to the criteria for honors. Here is a list of supplementary guidelines for honors projects in the arts:
- A project in the arts may be undertaken in any discipline (e.g., biology, physics, history, etc.), keeping in mind that Honors in Independent Study are university awards.
- If a project in the arts consists of a performance, audio-visual documentation in both digital and hard copy (DVD, CD, photographs, etc.) must be included with the final project for archiving, along with a performance program. If the project is an art exhibition, visual documentation and an exhibition catalog in digital and hard copies must also be included. If the project is web-based, arrangements must be made to create an archival copy. Materials will be archived in physical form as well as in Lux, the Lawrence University digital repository.
- The supplementary essay should be six to 10 or more pages in length. A bibliography and appropriate documentation may or may not be necessary, depending on the content of the paper.
- The project will be evaluated on its artistic merits, for which the accompanying essay provides context, and on the subsequent oral examination. The essay must fulfill the criteria for Honors in Independent Study and be clearly organized, well written, and free of error, and its content must display a high quality of thought and presentation and be accurate, meaningful, and appropriate to the project.
The examining committee
The examining committee evaluates the results of each project, conducts an oral examination of the honors candidate, and considers what constitutes the appropriate level of honors in view of the strengths and weaknesses of the work and oral defense in relation to the criteria for Honors in Independent Study.
The project advisor, in consultation with the student and with the assent of the Honors Committee, appoints an examining committee consisting of at least three voting faculty members, one of whom must be from outside the project’s department. Faculty within the conservatory may serve as outside members for examination of honors projects in other conservatory departments (for example, a faculty member in the voice department may serve as an outside member on an exam in jazz and improvisation). The project advisor, if a voting member of the faculty, acts as one of the three voting members of the committee. If the advisor is a non-voting member of the faculty, the co-sponsor acts as one of the three examining committee members, and the non-voting advisor attends the oral examination and participates in all aspects of the committee’s discussion of the project except voting on whether to award honors and the level of honors to be awarded. Fellows may not act as voting members of examining committees. At the discretion of the advisor, after consultation with the student, an additional Lawrence faculty member or an outside expert who is uniquely qualified to shed insight into the quality of the project may also attend the examination. These individuals may not take part in the decision-making process.
The Honors Committee assigns its own representative to act as the non-voting moderator during the oral examination. Sitting members of the Honors Committee and other members of the Lawrence University community may be asked to serve as Honors Committee representatives. The Honors Committee representative reports the results of the examination to the Honors Committee prior to its last meeting. The Honors Committee reviews the recommendations of each examining committee and submits its recommendations for Honors in Independent Study to the faculty for final approval.
The examining committee recommends honors on the basis of the criteria below, not on the criteria a professional journal would use to determine whether to publish a thesis in a given area of research based on the review of professionals in that field. In other words, Honors in Independent Study is not limited to students whose work would compete successfully with that of their professors for publication in professional journals.
Criteria for Honors in Independent Study
The following criteria are used in evaluating all projects submitted for Honors in Independent Study:
Cum laude—honors with distinction
To achieve honors, the project must fulfill all of the following criteria:
- Theoretical understanding: The work demonstrates a substantial knowledge of, and facility with, previous work, underlying principles, and central concepts or theories in areas relevant to the project.
- Originality: The work clearly shows that the student has established an original thesis or hypothesis, an original interpretation or analysis, a substantial and original synthesis or innovative pedagogical exposition of a sophisticated body of established work, or has created a new work of art. In other words, the student must demonstrate that the project does not merely replicate, review, paraphrase, or compile previous work by others.
- Quality: The work itself is of very high quality and is clear, well-organized, and stylistically sound. The paper appropriately frames the original material in the project within the context of established work or relevant traditions in the discipline.
- Format: The work provides documentation (e.g., bibliographic citations, tables and figures, illustrations) appropriate to the discipline and contains few and relatively minor grammatical or typographical flaws.
- Research/Creative Process: The project has been carried out competently, diligently, independently, and in a manner that fulfills the basic standards of the discipline.
- Oral Exam: The oral examination reaffirms the student’s facility with relevant principles, concepts, and background material; the originality of the contribution; and the high quality of the work.
Magna cum laude—honors with great distinction
In addition to fulfilling the criteria described above, the project must fulfill all of the following criteria:
- Theoretical Understanding: The work demonstrates a level of mastery of, and facility with, relevant previous work, underlying principles, and central concepts or theories of which few undergraduates are capable, as well as a solid grasp of related but peripheral material.
- Originality: The thesis, interpretation, analysis, synthesis, pedagogical exposition, or creative endeavor encompassed by the project demonstrates unusual and substantial creativity, conceptual innovation, or theoretical sophistication (i.e., an unusual degree of independence of thought) on the part of the student.
- Quality: The work itself is of outstanding quality and is particularly well-written, lucid, and compelling. The framing of the original material in the project within the context of established work or relevant traditions is remarkably sophisticated, revealing a sensitive and advanced understanding of the relationship between the student’s contribution and established traditions or theories.
- Format: The paper contains almost no grammatical or typographical flaws.
- Research/Creative Process: The project has been carried out with a degree of technical competence, diligence, and independence of which few undergraduates are capable.
- Oral Exam: The oral examination reaffirms the outstanding quality of the work. The student is able to give complete, clear, well-organized, and satisfying responses to the examiners’ questions without the need for much guidance or prompting from the examiners.
Summa cum laude—honors with highest distinction
This level of honors is rarely achieved and is reserved for those instances in which all components of the project demonstrate a superlative level of excellence. In addition to fulfilling the criteria described above, the project must fulfill all of the following criteria:
- Theoretical Understanding: The work not only demonstrates an exceptional level of mastery of, and facility with, relevant previous work, underlying principles, and central concepts or theories but also a sophisticated and original critical perspective on this material (i.e., the student possesses informed opinions about the strengths and weaknesses of previous work, theories, and traditions in the area). The student not only intimately understands relevant background material but also has the ability to view this material critically in a wider intellectual context.
- Originality: The thesis, interpretation, analysis, synthesis, pedagogical exposition, or creative endeavor encompassed by the project demonstrates a superlative level of creativity, conceptual innovation, or theoretical sophistication on the part of the student.
- Quality: The work itself exceeds all expectations and is exceedingly well-written, compelling, and engaging. The framing of the original material in the project within the context of established work or relevant traditions is elegant and subtle, revealing a rare and exceedingly advanced understanding of how the student’s project represents a significant contribution to established traditions or theories.
- Format: The paper is technically flawless.
- Research/Creative Process: The project has been carried out with a superlative level of technical competence, sophistication, diligence, and independence.
- Oral Exam: The oral examination reaffirms that the work is a rare achievement that makes an original and sophisticated contribution. The student is able to give extraordinarily complete and persuasive responses to the examiners’ questions without the need for guidance or prompting from the examiners.
Projects in the arts
The above criteria are used in evaluating all Honors in Independent Study projects, including the brief essay written for a project in the arts. The paper for a project in the arts must fulfill all of the criteria for Honors in Independent study and be clearly organized and well-written, contain appropriate documentation when needed, and display a high quality of thought and presentation. The criteria listed above will be used to evaluate the project itself, the accompanying essay, and the oral examination.