This page contains a great deal of information about preparing a proposal for the Honors Research Symposium. Please read ALL of it carefully.
- Projects submitted to the Symposium must involve data gathered and/or research conducted during a community college course or Honors contract, under the supervision of an Honors mentor.
The proposal abstract should do the following in 100-150 words:
- Briefly describe the general content, driving question(s) and results of your research.
- Provide background information so the committee can understand your project.
- Give a sense of the significance of your results. Why are they interesting? What are their implications? Why should anyone care about this?
The Methodology & Special Resources Section
This sections should do the following, using a 40-50 word statement in the first person:
- Explain the methods of inquiry and analysis used to conduct your research. A good methodology explains both the process of data collection or generation AND the analysis of that data. Be sure to justify your method of analysis.
- Detail any special resources, internships, programs or equipment you had access to in conducting your research. Clarify who did the data collection -- that is, clearly state whether you are using data you collected or using data collected by others.
- Describe your methodology in standard, professional terms for the discipline(s) your project encompasses. Important: For more information, read Sample Methodologies.
Please cite up to five of your research’s most influential sources using a standard format appropriate for the discipline. For example, Psychology uses APA. History uses Chicago. Literature uses MLA. Get help from your Mentor to identify which reference format is used by the discipline you are working in. Citations must be complete. Any reference that has incomplete information or is written in a vague or non-standard form will be treated as equivalent to a missing reference.
An Important Note for STEM Focused Proposals
We welcome research proposals in science, technology, engineering and math disciplines, but please note that this is a conference for generalists. Therefore your proposal will be selected based on its ability to be understood and appreciated by an audience of educated laypeople. Use clear, jargon-free language that makes your research question and methodologies clear, and pay special attention to conveying the relevance and importance of your work.
Top Reasons Proposals are NOT Accepted
Much like any other competitive process, it is important to put your best foot forward. There are several common issues with proposals the committee has seen in the past -- if your proposal has one or more of these problems, it is much less likely to make it into the symposium.
- Poor Writing. Proposals with typos, grammar mistakes or unclear prose are usually quickly rejected. Each reader on our committee looks at hundreds of proposals, and yours is at a big disadvantage if it is difficult to make sense of, if the reader cannot discern clearly what your research question(s) is/are and how you went about investigating it/them. Above all, you should not submit a first draft. The best writing is typically the result of starting early and going through multiple revisions to get a clear and polished product. Have your mentor or Honors director, as well as fellow students, read your proposal cold and tell you honestly whether they can follow it and find it compelling.
- Poor Quality Resources. This is a research conference and the quality of your resources indicates the likelihood of a strong presentation. Not only do we look closely at your references to see whether the are recent, relevant and of appropriate academic value, we also check them ourselves to ensure they are credible.
- Information Regurgitation. Any proposal that simply feels like you collected information from a variety of sources and summarized it will likely not be accepted. You need to pursue your own analysis and inquiry in a way that contributes something new to the conversation.
- Sloppy Methodology. The particular way you went about answering your research questions is important. If you are conducting surveys, ethnographies or laboratory research, you need to be using discipline-appropriate protocols.
- Outdated or Uninspired Topics. Creativity and relevance are important. We expect over 200 proposals this year. If your project relates to a popular topic or one that has gotten a lot of recent attention in the news, consider that there will likely be several proposals in that area, and think about what unique twist or contribution your work can provide.
How the Selection Process Works
A committee of faculty from diverse academic disciplines and colleges has been selected to choose the 2018 student presenters. Here is their general process:
- A packet consisting of all the proposal content (title, abstract, methodology, resources) but without any identifying or demographic information is sent to each reader.
- Every reader reads every proposal independently and ranks it "yes", "no" or "maybe." In addition, if the proposal falls into the reader's academic discipline, s/he carefully reviews and checks the references to be sure they are of high quality.
- The committee comes together in person, and in a one-day marathon session discusses every proposal. Any proposal which received unanimous yesses is automatically accepted. Similarly any proposal which received unanimous nos is rejected. This process normally takes only about 30 minutes.
- The remainder of the day is spent discussing proposals which had split decisions and/or a lot of maybes. The committee aims for consensus about the 80-90 proposals which will be selected. This is a lengthy process -- last year's meeting took about 12 hours.
- Committee members recuse themselves from the discussion as necessary should they recognize a proposal which came from one of their students.