The Campuswide Honors Collegium’s curriculum spans all four years of the undergraduate experience (or, all two years for transfer students and those admitted by application during their second year). The CHC’s capstone project, which students undertake independently in the form of the Research and Thesis project (R/Th), is meant to provide students an opportunity to take initiative in their undergraduate experience by engaging in independent research beyond the scope of any previous class experience, in a research field that is personally relevant and meaningful not only to their undergraduate experience, but to their career aspirations and beyond. This project can be creative, interdisciplinary, and allow students to pursue research in areas outside of their majors, or they can be more “traditional,” such as projects that begin in one of the world-renowned labs on UCI’s campus, literature reviews across fields, or extended research papers in the humanities and social sciences.
Most students will begin to think seriously about their capstone R/Th projects in their junior year, when they will meet with a Graduate Fellow or an honors advisor to discuss their ideas for research and receive personalized advising about the requirements and timeline of the project.
Some students will choose to participate in departmental, major, and school honors programs, which are also centered around a research project. In these cases, the students may use the same 2 quarters (or more!) of research conducted for departmental honors programs to satisfy CHC requirements, as well as any thesis produced for one of these programs. In the case where a departmental honors program does not require a written thesis, a CHC student will still need to write a thesis to satisfy their CHC requirements, and turn it in before graduation.
While students may opt to take independent study (199) courses for credit, or to participate in departmental/school/major honors programs which require research courses, CHC R/Th requirements do NOT include taking classes to receive unit credit for the 2 quarters of research under faculty supervision. When the faculty advisor approves the student’s final thesis, they will sign some paperwork indicating that the student has engaged in the required 2 quarters of research, at which point the research component of the requirements will be satisfied.
We do, however, encourage students to get unit credit for their courses if they have room on their schedule to accommodate the units.
What is research?
Research can be defined as the purposeful pursuit of new knowledge. No matter the discipline, all R/Th projects begin with a research “question,” which seeks an answer that does not already exist and has not previously been answered by other researchers in the same field. The method of this purposeful pursuit of knowledge differs per area of study; some methods, such as the scientific method, are tried and true, while other methods, such as, perhaps, artmaking, creative writing, and interdisciplinary approaches that blend the methodologies of various disciplines, are waiting to be discovered and implemented.
The CHC does not impose any externally-sourced requirements on the methodology that each student engages in for their 2 quarters of research. Rather, it is up to the student to determine which method of research works best for their project. Therefore, the faculty advisor is an invaluable resource when it comes to the actual methodology of research, and should be consulted regularly throughout the process of research as well as the writing of the thesis.
What is a thesis?
A thesis is a write-up of the process and findings of research. It may be called a report, a paper, or a project, depending on discipline. Similarly to research methodology, a thesis’s format varies depending on the scope and shape of each research project, so the CHC does not hold each individual thesis to an external set of formatting and content standards. Rather, it is up to the student, in concert with their faculty advisor, to determine the most appropriate form for their thesis, including questions such as exact format, page count, word count, headings, etc.
All CHC students will turn in a thesis to the CHC, regardless of different major/school honors programs requirements, before graduating. Specific due dates can be found on the Canvas page (for current students), but all due dates correspond to graduation quarter. Students who graduate in the Spring, for example, turn in their approved honors theses by the end of June.
Many of our past students report that their R/Th projects were one of the most rewarding experiences of their undergraduate experience, and many amongst them have gone into graduate programs and careers featuring a significant research component. The project should be uniquely meaningful and relevant to each student’s particular areas of interest, and thereby should not only be relevant to their CHC and UCI education, but to the trajectory of their lives as a whole.
The CHC is here to support students throughout their R/Th journey, from the very beginning and brainstorming steps to the polishing up and submission of the thesis, with mandatory meetings in students’ third years (or first year, for transfer students) to provide a thorough understanding of the requirements, process, and timeline.
The CHC Research and Thesis project requires students to conduct at least 2 quarters of independent research under the supervision of a tenure or tenure-track faculty advisor. This research will culminate in an approved, honors thesis, to be turned in by graduation.
The nature of the research project must be independent in that the student takes responsibility for the formulation of a research question and takes action toward answering the question.
Over the course of the researching year, students will turn in:
- A thesis proposal (at least two quarters before graduation)
- An honors thesis (approved by faculty advisor)
Students usually complete their 2 quarters of research and write their thesis in their final, senior year, over the course of the entire academic year (Fall and Winter researching, and Spring writing up their thesis). However, students are encouraged to start research early if they wish, and arrangements can be made to complete the mandatory R/Th advising meeting in the sophomore year rather than the junior year on an individual basis. Some CHC students have also participated in multiple research opportunities across campus and have actually completed more than one R/Th project, though this is not the general expectation.
As mentioned in the General Overview, both the methodology of research and the format of the honors thesis are inextricable from the nature of the research and the standards of research/reporting in each research field. However, the thesis is expected to be publication-quality and beyond the scope of anything that might be completed during one quarter, in a class setting. For this reason many humanities/social science thesis projects end up being anywhere between 30 and 60 pages long, and theses in STEM might be anywhere from 10-25 pages long. Students should discuss the format of their thesis with their faculty advisor to make sure they understand the expectations of a publication-quality paper within their field of research, including formatting elements such as length, content (multi-modal elements, headers/footnotes, etc), and other relevant information.
Creative and interdisciplinary projects
The research and thesis project may be conducted in a more traditional sense, such as participating in a lab and writing a lab report for those in STEM and the social sciences, or it may be conducted in a creative fashion that melds disciplines or results in a creative project such as a collection of poetry or a theater performance. Students may engage in research projects outside of their major, including research projects that are extra-curricular in nature, such as the composition of a graphic novel, a photography exhibit, etc. Students may also choose to merge different areas of interest by engaging in research that employs methodologies from two or more disciplines, such as humanities/social sciences, biology/dance, art/literature, etc. Students may consult with an honors advisor to ascertain whether their ideas for a creative project are appropriate for the scope of the R/Th timeline, and work closely with their faculty advisor to make sure that they are setting attainable goals and parameters.
Brief Overview of Timeline
In their third year, continuing CHC students will have a mandatory R/Th advising meeting with an honors advisor or a Graduate Scholar. This advising meeting will take place in either Fall or Winter quarter and will acquaint the student with the R/Th project’s requirements, general timeline, possibilities, and equip the student with some action items to begin brainstorming and reaching out to potential faculty advisors. If students plan to join a lab, applications are often due in the Spring quarter of the junior year, so during the R/Th meeting students may be advised to begin preparing their applications to labs or departmental honors programs.
Transfer students will have this mandatory meeting in the Spring quarter of their first year.
Fall and Winter quarters of senior year are often spent engaging in research, though some students opt to begin preliminary research in the summer between their third and fourth years. Then, Spring quarter is often spent working with the faculty advisor to write and polish up the thesis.
For students who are not graduating in the Spring, the research component of the R/Th project is often begun three quarters before graduation, with the quarter of graduation being spent writing the thesis. For example, if a student is graduating in the Fall quarter, they will likely start research in the Winter quarter of the year preceding, research through the end of the Spring quarter, and spend Fall quarter writing their thesis.
The timeline of research and thesis writing can be further customized to individual situations and preferences as long as the basic requirements of 2 quarters of research and the production of an honors thesis are met.