Mentoring or Advising a Student's Honors Project
Completing a Tier 3 advanced project can be one of the most rewarding and significant learning experiences of a students' undergraduate career. The role of the individual faculty member in guiding and mentoring students through this process in invaluable. The University Honors Program is grateful to Miami faculty for their generosity and willingness to take part in this important process.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Tier 3 Honors Project:
What is an advanced or Tier 3 honors project?
Because University Honors students come from a wide range of majors – spanning most departments of the university – honors projects will necessarily vary greatly. In many cases, students are able to expand on projects from coursework, independent studies, internships or other undergraduate research experiences and develop those into their Tier 3 project. Not all of these projects follow the standard 100-page, library-based research paper format. Here are some of the different forms they can take:
- critical or textual analysis
- case study
- novel or series of short stories
- scientific article based on a laboratory or field experiment that the student conduct alone or with other researchers
- business plan
- problem-solving argument
- interpretation of a text or art object
- teaching portfolio or curriculum
- description and evaluation of a service-learning experience
- assessment report of an existing program on campus
- action-based research project
- legacy project in which students apply knowledge to benefit Miami or Oxford
- service or internship project with significant reflection
- student-initiated project within a capstone course
- leadership project with significant reflection (such as founding and leading a new student organization or making a significant improvement to the organization)
- creative performance or exhibit
- creative or multimedia product such as a web site, portfolio of recent artwork, sculpture, musical composition.
What does the project advisor do?
All honors students working on projects must have a faculty or staff advisor who has expertise in the topic area. Advisors are usually (but not always) full-time, tenured or tenure-track Miami faculty members. Depending upon the nature of the thesis or other project, it may be appropriate for two or more Miami educators to serve as co-advisors on a single project.
Besides offering expert advice on the content and process of the project, the advisor helps students troubleshoot problems and celebrate unexpected findings. Although most students choose faculty members who they know through courses, independent study or other experiences, some students have great success approaching a faculty or staff member who they do not know to advise their project.
Generally, the advisor meets with the student at regular intervals (weekly, biweekly) to discuss the work in progress, reads drafts and revisions, and helps to ensure that the student is making timely progress.
Is the advanced Tier 3 project required?
University Honors students who entered in fall 2009 and thereafter are required to complete a major research, creative or service project as part of their Tier Three requirements. This project must be designed, implemented and reflected upon by the student, and it may be completed within the context of a course, independent study or out-of-class experience. The student proposes and reflects on the project in their honors e-portfolio.
What are the guidelines for the proposal?
The honors advanced or Tier 3 project proposal is available on the Tier 3 Experience Worksheet which is located in the student’s honors e-portfolio. It consists of a statement of the topic of inquiry, the scope of the study, the methodology or plan of investigation, the resources or materials to be used as well as a statement explaining the significance of the project to the field and to the student personally. It also includes a brief bibliography of some of the key sources to be used. The proposal should be ideally developed in close consultation with the faculty advisor and submitted through the student’s honors e-portfolio system.
What is the expected project length?
The length and scope of the Tier 3 project should be in keeping with a high-quality undergraduate project in the proposed area of study. Some projects in the past have been over 100 pages in length, but others, such as those that are modeled after scientific journal articles, have been only 25-30 pages. Projects involving an original creative product (e.g., a portfolio of poems, paintings, or photographs) or substantial field or experiential work (e.g., helping organize a political organization, conducting a scientific investigation, or developing a new educational curriculum or business plan) can include less writing (e.g., approximately 20 written pages). This writing should discuss the process of investigation or creation and should be grounded in the relevant professional literature. The length should be determined by the desired outcomes of the project. The faculty advisor and student should communicate openly and set clear expectations about length, scope and tone. Many students are under the perception that longer projects are better. However, each year, we have found that projects of moderate length (40-50 pages) often are superior in quality because they contain less “padding” and forge a tighter argument.
What are the evaluative criteria, and who evaluates it?
In general, the University Honors Program believes that an honors project should demonstrate a student’s capacity for quality research, creative work or investigation and should give evidence of mastery of the material. Because the criteria for quality work vary from discipline to discipline, the faculty advisor should work with the student to set the criteria to be used in evaluating the completed project. The advisor should offer regular feedback on work in progress and on the final product. The project is completed once the advisor and student agree that it meets the criteria set forth for the project.
When the student completes the project, he or she will reflect on the learning that was gained in his or her honors e-portfolio. In particular, the student will reflect on the extent to which the following Tier 3 honors outcomes were met through the project:
- Identify the student’s own style of communicating within a given disciplinary or other context;
- Design and implement a professional or scholarly project, either individually or in small groups;
- Integrate knowledge gained throughout many of the student’s experiences at Miami to shape and complete the project;
- Negotiate thoughtfully with other learners (through seeking feedback, collaborating, coordinating insights) to complete and improve the project;
- Reflect on the student’s process of inquiry and the personal, academic or social value of the project.
The reflection on these outcomes will be reviewed and approved by the honors staff, using a rubric.
Does the Tier 3 project need to be related to the student’s major?
Not necessarily. Some students write theses or create projects that are related to their minor field of study or to a longstanding interest or hobby. We do ask, however, that prior to writing the thesis or embarking on the project, the student complete some substantial background work on the topic of study (in the form of courses, independent study, lessons, internships, directed readings, etc.) and that the student selects a faculty advisor who has expertise in that area of study.
Where can students publicly present their work?
University Honors students are required to present a portion of their project findings in a public venue. Many honors students present their findings orally or in poster form at Miami’s Undergraduate Research Forum which is sponsored by the Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship each April. Some students elect to present their findings at a regional or national conference, departmental colloquium, concert hall, or class. The faculty advisor usually attends the presentation.
Do students need IRB or human subjects approval for their project?
Students completing a Tier 3 project are required to follow responsible conduct in research and all guidelines connected with human subjects or animal research. For more information on the training and approvals necessary for research that involves human subjects or animals, contact the Office for the Advancement of Research and Scholarship.
Can students work collaboratively on a Tier 3 honors project?
Tier 3 projects can be done individually or in small groups. Collaborative projects are beneficial when the project has scope or complexity that requires more than a single author or when it demands perspectives from different disciplines. The student should be prepared to explain the reasons for the collaboration in the proposal.
Is there funding available for the Tier 3 project?
The University Honors Program provides small grants from $100-$800 for undergraduate research projects. For a list of funding opportunities for students engaging in research, students may consult the research funding page on the Honors Program organizational site.
What happens if a student is not making progress or fails to meet deadlines?
It is the student’s sole responsibility to maintain contact with the advisor and make timely progress on the project. If a student falls behind, loses communication, or seems to be making little to no progress, we encourage the advisor to have a frank conversation with the student. Depending on the circumstances, the advisor may elect to create a strict timeline with the student, articulate more clear expectations for progress, or (in extreme circumstances) discontinue the advising relationship and encourage the student to locate a new advisor or cease working on the project.
Where can advisors turn for more information?
The University Honors Program staff is here to assist you. If you have any questions about the Tier 3 project or the advising process, please contact the honors director at 513-529-2021.