For many students, research is the one Honors requirement with which they have the least experience outside of the Humanities Core or Writing 39C research paper; hence, it is often seen as the biggest hurdle and may cause some anxiety. This handbook is designed to clarify procedures, expectations and deadlines, explain your options, list the various campus resources available to you, and reduce some of that anxiety. Your research/thesis experience should prove to be one of the most rewarding parts of your education at UCI. It has been for the majority of our graduates!The capstone work you do for Campuswide Honors will be a faculty-mentored, undergraduate research or creative experience that culminates in the writing of your honors thesis. In this handbook, we refer to your final paper as a “thesis,” but the terms “project” and “report” (used by some of the upper-division, school or major-specific honors programs), are interchangeable and acceptable. You are encouraged to think about your interests, research topics, and possible faculty research advisors, from the day that you enter the university, but if you are just starting to do so during your junior year (or early in your senior year), then it is still not too late to have a positive research experience. More often than not, students will finish their honors thesis during their senior year.
The honors project will require students to spend a minimum of two quarters on research. Students conduct their research under the direction/advisement of an approved faculty advisor (who is tenured or tenure-track) within their chosen discipline. Many students devote three or more quarters to their research project, and within some disciplines, we have had honors students participate in research over all four years at UCI! Before you graduate, you must write up your research experience in a publication-quality paper, which we call your “honors thesis.” Most honors thesis papers are 25-65 pages in length. Although there is no page requirement, an honors advisor will be able to tell you what an appropriate length is for a thesis in your area of study.Some majors (for example, those in Dance, Music, Art, ICS, Engineering), might elect to do a creative work for their honors project. For these types of projects, you must submit written documentation of your creative process and summarize your final piece/work – that write-up will constitute your “honors thesis.” It would be appropriate to include a CD/DVD, photographs, code, etc., which physically capture the aspects of your final project.Honors projects should address questions or issues for which no known or generally accepted answers exist. Students must think independently and creatively to design and carry out the exploration of their hypothesis/proposal. They work with primary materials, synthesize existing information and theory, and analyze the result of the experiment/study. The thesis should demonstrate the student’s command of the research techniques, conceptual frameworks, and intellectual skills appropriate to the field or fields within which the topic falls. Significant individual effort may involve laboratory research, library research, or field research.Opportunities exist to work with faculty from across the campus. Most commonly, the project will usually relate to the subject matter in your major. Interdisciplinary areas of research may be desirable for the student who has an interest in more than one field and has developed the understanding and background at a depth needed to complete a worthwhile project.When to begin your research/thesis experience is a matter of judgment, determined not only by various deadlines and application processes, but also by the educational preparation and readiness of each student and the availability of an appropriate faculty advisor. There are several advantages of starting early: 1) you can usually develop a close working relationship with your faculty research advisor, who is then able to provide a strong letter of reference for graduate/professional school and/or scholarship applications; 2) if your research is well underway, or even nearing completion early in senior year, this strengthens those applications and may even turn out to be an important topic during admission or job interviews; 3) you could enjoy the research process more and get more out of your experience; and 4) you might finish early, which can lessen your stress levels in your final quarter prior to graduation. We encourage you to meet with an honors advisor right before you start looking for research, as they have advice and experience that will be helpful.There are a few other questions you might want to consider, as they can impact how and when you will do your final honors project. For example, do you want to do research on/off-campus? While studying abroad? These options often require advanced planning and sometimes special approval from the Honors Program Director in order to meet the Campuswide Honors graduation requirements.