The information presented below is intended to help Honors students through the process of successfully completing their research project.
So, you have been accepted into the Honors College and have chosen a degree program in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science; congratulations! You should schedule a meeting with the Department’s Honors Advisor, Dr. John Peck (firstname.lastname@example.org) at least once a semester. During your first semester, Dr. Peck will give you a tour of our facilities and introduce you to the other faculty in the Department. In addition, he will help you complete both the Honors College and Departmental Major contract forms. These degree contracts contain an item called the Honors Project, which forms an exciting part of your education. In order to graduate with a high-quality Honors Project that you can bring on interviews for graduate school or employment, the following guidelines should be followed:
First, you need to identify an Honors Project Sponsor from among the faculty members in the department. The Sponsor plays the key advisory role in your research project. He or she will help you design the research project, complete the Honors Project Proposal, identify readers to serve on your committee, guide you through the data acquisition and report writing phases, and finally assign a grade to your research project. Because you may not be likely to meet certain faculty until you take upper-level courses, it is important to get to know the faculty early. Dr. Peck is always willing to introduce you, though, you should feel free to introduce yourself to each faculty member and learn about their research.
Second, now that you have a Sponsor and research topic, you need to consider the following details about the project:
- You will enroll in Honors Project in Geology 3370:497 for between 2 and 6 credits total. You are advised to spread your Honors Project over two semesters. Previous Honors students who have taken two semesters to complete their project have had sufficient time to produce a high-quality, substantial research report. You do not have to wait until your senior year to start your Honors Project. By beginning your research early, you will likely have good draft figures and text at the start of your final semester. If you are considering graduate school, then you may be visiting potential graduate schools at this time. With draft Honors Project results in hand, you can bring proof of your ability to do graduate-level research and increase the likelihood of graduate school offers.
- You must produce a written research paper. The research can be pure or applied geology or environmental science, and it must yield new, original information. There is no page limit to the research paper, although 40-80 pages is the typical length. You are to follow the format of a scientific journal (e.g.., Geological Society of America Bulletin) although your sponsor will determine the final paper format and style. The typical research paper is composed of the following sections; title page, acknowledgements, table of contents, abstract, introduction, methods, results, discussion, conclusions, references, and appendices. Figures and tables are included in the body of the report and there are no restrictions on the use of color or map foldouts. You need to include references to the published literature. Typically, at least 10 references are used, most often in the introduction as you explain the significance of the problem and in the discussion as you support your interpretations.
- You are encouraged, but not required, to present your research project at a professional meeting. The regional Geologic Society of America meeting is often held in March somewhere in the Midwest and provides a great opportunity to show your research to professionals from outside Ohio. The Department often takes a van to this meeting. In addition, The University of Akron holds an undergraduate research day on campus each spring. This venue provides an easily accessible opportunity to publicly present your work. Our Honors students often win “Best Presenter” awards at this conference.
- Your project readers serve the important role of providing peer-review to assess the quality of your research. With guidance from your sponsor, you select two readers with expertise in your research area. Although most readers come from faculty in the department, students have included readers from other departments, the Ohio Geological Survey, or industry. After your sponsor has edited your research paper and you have made the corrections (three rounds is typical), you submit the paper to your readers for review. They have at least one week to edit the paper and you should allow yourself one week to make their corrections. Therefore, you are required to submit your research paper to the readers at least two weeks before the final acceptance deadline by the Honors College.