The Senior Project in Honors - A Process and a Timetable

As Professor Ned Radulovich remarked, “Conducting research and writing a paper on a specific topic is one of the best ways to learn; indeed, after experience, it is probably the deepest form of academic learning.”   Ultimately, your goal will be a completed research paper that could be the basis for a published article or further graduate study.   In the humanities, the paper should be between 25 and 30 pages, but ultimately the length is a matter to be decided between you and the faculty member supervising your project.

While the senior project asks the student to take the initiative and discover inner resources that seldom come into play at the undergraduate levels, the faculty mentor has a vital role to play in the process.  In fact, the best senior projects at Fairmont State have resulted from regular and frank meetings with the faculty mentor.  The faculty mentor can help to set the schedule and determine appropriate deadlines, both of which will help the student to learn to manage their time effectively.

To get started with your research, write down everything that you know and think about your topic before you begin to write.  This was the practice of Edward Gibbon, the great British historian of the Roman Empire, so it is a tested method.  As a preliminary step, brainstorm your topic and write down any important factual content, generalization or theories you hold about this era and topic.  Start thinking about questions you may want to be answered through research.

After completing this initial step, use the following program as you guide to move through the process:

  1. Compile an annotated bibliography of sources.  Include the following:
    1. general texts on the period
    2. any specialized monographs about the period and topic
    3. possible primary sources
    4. *journal articles, traditional and online
    5. new media sources (Suggested due date: fourth week of the term)
  2. Analyze these sources and compile a list of questions you may want to answer, along with possible hypotheses. (Suggested due date: fifth week of the term)
  3. Formulate an abstract and a thesis statement for your paper along with a general outline.  (Suggested due date: sixth week of the term)
  4. Conduct your research in earnest. (Ongoing throughout the term)
  5. Produce a draft. (Suggested due date: thirteenth week of the term)
  6. Make revisions to your draft and create a polished second draft/final copy.
  7. Hand in final paper.  DUE: Last day of classes

Please let your faculty mentor or the Director of Honors know if you have any questions along the way.  Communication with your instructor can only help you in making this a successful project.  The best senior projects in Honors have been the result of close collaboration with faculty.