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Honors Projects

Spotlight

Meghan Moore '12Name: Meghan Moore
Title of Project: Beyond the Base: The Transition from Military Life in the Wake of Tragedy
Advisor: Kathleen Jenkins

Where the nature of loss provides a sense of transition to all those affected by it, loss under the microscope of the military is an interesting phenomenon. For my thesis, I plan to research how the family unit begins to cope with these drastic transitions, both figurative and literal, as they depart from a way of life far different than the normal progression of retirement.

The Honors Project has been an extremely rewarding opportunity. Through the program, I have been able to travel down to Ft. Hood, TX, the largest military institution in the U.S, to begin interviewing those involved in Survivor Outreach Services. I plan to build most of my research from the in-depth interviews I will conduct with survivors and program facilitators in the area. I feel very privileged to speak to these individuals in order to understand the process of transition first hand and understanding the commonalities, differences, and gaps in the U.S Army’s treatment of grief and bereavement.

Should I consider honors?

Departmental honors provides you with an opportunity to do independent research on a topic of your choosing, in consultation with a faculty advisor.

What are the eligibility requirements?

In order to be eligible to pursue Senior Honors in Sociology a student must: 1) have a 3.0 cumulative grade point average; or 2) a 2.0 quality point average in Sociology during the junior year alone; or 3) special permission of the Committee on Honors and Interdisciplinary Studies, which will consider appeals only when initiated by the Department as well as by the student in question. The student should meet with the major advisor during the spring semester of the junior year to discuss the nature of the Senior Honors project and plan the preparation of the thesis proposal. The student will be admitted to candidacy when: 1) eligibility is certified by the Office of the Dean, Arts and Sciences; and 2) the written thesis proposal is accepted by a departmental committee no later than the end of add/drop during registration for the first semester of the senior year. Six hours of credit in a course designated Sociology 495-496 shall be awarded upon satisfactory completion.

What is the process like?

Students interested in pursuing Senior Honors in Sociology should obtain and sign an "Intent to do Honors" form. The form is available in the departmental secretary's office. Students must declare before the end of the second semester of the junior year. Subsequent to the filing of intent, the student is encouraged to consult with faculty members in the Department to prepare a written project description. The project description must be submitted at least one week prior to the end of the add/drop period during the fall semester. Students accepted in the Honors program will be accepted for registration in Sociology 495 in the Fall, and Sociology 496 in the Spring. Students should pre-register for Sociology 495 during the Spring of the junior year.

During the Fall, the Honors candidate works closely with the faculty advisor to develop a formal thesis proposal. Students are encouraged to obtain a copy of "Preparing the Thesis Proposal" which outlines specific criteria for developing the document. An oral examination will be conducted in December in defense of the thesis proposal. The Examining Committee for the thesis proposal is to consist of the thesis advisor, and at least one other member of the Sociology Department. The examining committee for the thesis submitted in the Spring must include at least one person from some department other than Sociology. The candidate and advisor will jointly determine the Committee composition and a date for the thesis proposal conference.

How is it graded?

The grading of Sociology 495 is deferred until the defense of the thesis has been conducted in the Spring. The Committee will determine continuance status in the Honors Program into the Spring semester. During the first month the candidate's second semester senior year, the Dean of Undergraduate Studies, Arts and Sciences, will appoint an examining committee, consisting of three or more faculty members recommended by the Chair of the Department. Members of the examining committee will read the honors thesis and conduct a comprehensive examination. The comprehensive exam will consist of an oral exam, lasting approximately one hour. The main purpose of the examination will be to ask questions about the honors thesis, but the candidate may also be asked to discuss other historical problems related to his major field.

The examining committee will determine if an honors designation will be awarded and if so, at what level Honors. In reaching its decision about awarding honors, the committee will be guided primarily by the quality of the honors thesis and by the candidate's performance on the comprehensive examination. The Committee may also consider the candidate's overall record in the department.

After the Comprehensive Exam the Committee may instruct the candidate to correct any errors discovered during the evaluation process. A candidate who successfully completes Honors 495 in the fall will receive a grade of "G". Following the comprehensive examination in the Spring, a final grade for both Honors 495 and 496 will be determined by the thesis director in consultation with the examining committee.

What resources does the Department have available?

The first place to start would be in The Resource Room in Morton Hall (Room 210).  The Resource Room houses the Department's collection of completed Honors and Masters theses, as well as other valuable tools, such as the Honors Guidelines Binder, various writing guides, and copies of application forms. The room provides a quiet area for students who wish to learn more about the Honors process; there are even desks so that students can relax and examine past theses (as all copies must not leave room 210).

The Honors Guidelines binder is a great resource; not only for those interested in doing Honors, but also individuals who have already been approved to do a thesis and need information about deadlines, forms, grading, etc.  A quick examination of the binder is a great place to start because it includes information pertinent to both individual departmental expectations as well as the College-wide guidelines set by the Charles Center. Departmental application forms for Honors can be found in this binder, along with the required forms regulated by the Charles Center.

Faculty members are another great, but often overlooked resource.  Students interested in doing an Honors Thesis should definitely set up an appointment with a faculty member, whether it be someone with whom the student is familiar with or perhaps even someone who may specialize in the student's potential topic. It is a good idea to sit down and discuss the expectations and rigorous process of an Honors Thesis.

Any other advice?

Sara McDonough (2005), a recent graduate and Honors student offers the following advice:

"It’s important to keep in mind how rigorous the Honors process is. There is no doubt in my mind that every student at William and Mary is intelligent enough to do an Honors Thesis—otherwise they wouldn’t be here. However, not everyone here does an Honors Thesis. Why? Because although honors students have to be smart, the process is almost more about being self-motivated, disciplined, and willing to dedicate A LOT of time during those two semesters. Looking back, I, personally, probably put more work, time, and energy into my Honors Thesis during those two semesters than everything else combined.

"It is my belief that the topic one chooses for an Honors Thesis must be something that truly interests you or something that you are passionate about. For me, I think that sincere interest might have been the most important, galvanizing force behind the completion of my thesis. My thesis examined racial identity development in multiracial (mixed) individuals; because I am multiracial, I felt personally invested in my study, and when it came down to the last couple weeks it was that passion that really pushed me to the very end.

"If I had to offer any advice to future honors students, it would have to stress organization and simply being aware of the resources available--issues I believe are most critical during the first semester. I share this not to intimidate or scare students,  but because I had to learn all of this first hand and WISH someone had been there to tell me all these things.

"During the first semester expect to be spending a lot of time researching the preexisting literature. Sometime early in the first semester, (the first week) I suggest the following:

  • Go to the library and make an appointment with our departmental liaison. When I did my thesis this person was Mary Molineux. From this individual learn how to use RefWorks, interlibrary loan, how to search databases; get comfortable with the research process.
  • The library also offers Honors students something called a Thesis Library card. Although I didn’t know about it until the very end, it allows honors students to check out books for something like six months—which is a lot easier than having to remember to renew, renew, renew every couple weeks.
  • Sit down with your advisor and a calendar. Set solid deadlines and create a semester long schedule which includes weekly or bi-weekly meetings. Plan which books you’ll read and by when. Take good and thorough reading notes and perhaps even turn them into your advisor to look over.
  • Know when your deadlines are and make sure you give your self plenty of time (and then some extra time) to meet them.
  • Also keep in mind that if your study involves human subjects, you will have to prepare a proposal to be approved by the College’s Human Subjects Committee. Assume it will take them at least three weeks to approve your proposal and that you may have to submit revisions to them before being allowed to carry out your study. I strongly encourage honors students to get this proposal to Human Subjects as soon as possible and definitely during the first semester. I didn’t get mine in until the second semester and it was something like 4-5 weeks into the semester before I could start my data collection!
"Most importantly, have fun! Enjoy this experience. Believe me, when it’s over…the feeling is simply...euphoric."