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Honors Contracts

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The Honors Contract enables you to construct a study project in lieu of a course, within a course, or in order to take a graduate course for Honors credit.

Honors contracts are independent projects guided by faculty mentors.  (See Appendix A for the guidelines for faculty mentors of Honors students.)  The contract forms are located outside of Dr. Spain's Office in the Lab room 128 or can be found online here.

Honors work may not be taken on a pass/fail basis.All Honors Contracts are initiated by the student.  They require filling out and completing the Honors Contract, link is above, supplying the complete supporting documentation and returning them to Dr. Diara Spain by the published deadline. We are limiting the number of contracts each semester to 15. Therefore students who do not meet the deadlines or requirements will not be eligible.

Requirements are as follows:

  •  Use the online Google document with appropriate information, the link will be sent out at the beginning of each semester
  • Turn in your cover sheet with your professor's signature by September 6th for the Fall semester and February 6th for the Spring Semester. No exceptions unless approved by Dr. Diara Spain with a thorough explanation.
  • You shall receive emails from one of Dr. Spain's Honors Administrative Assistants and are expected to respond within an appropriate length of time. These emails will entail:
    • The deadline of your assignment 
    • A summary of your project & photo showing a passion of yours for the Honors Contract Flier. 

If all requirements are not met your Honors Contracts will not be accepted. 

The Honors Director informs the student of approval of the Honors Contract or suggests necessary changes.A binder marked "Past Honors Contracts" containing successful and complete Honors contracts is available for your review in the office of the Honors Director.

There are four kinds of Honors Projects, each of which requires the completion of an Honors Contract:

  1. Independent Study (an independent course of study with a faculty member focused on a topic that is not part of the standard curriculum or independent travel that focuses on a course of study and is monitored by a faculty member.)

  2. Course-Conversion (taking a course offered in the regular curriculum, electing not to expand the unit total, but working with the instructor to transform the course requirements into a project(s) that further promotes the student's initiative and creativity and thereby designating the course as Honors on the transcript.)

  3. Graduate Course (An undergraduate student enrolls in a graduate course with approval of the instructor and the graduate program coordinator.)

The Honors Contract Process

The Honors Contract process involves five steps:

  1. Developing your project idea and finding a mentor
  2. Writing your contract
  3. Working on your project (research, writing, etc.) and meeting periodically with your mentor (outside of class time)
  4. Submitting your final product to your mentor
  5. Completing your self-evaluation form, attending the end of the semester’s Honors conference, and being evaluated by your mentor.

The Contract is an important document: it becomes part of your Honors folder and speaks to the quality and commitment of your work better than anything else can.


Step 1: Developing an Honors Project and Finding a Mentor

You can begin this process from three points: you may know the faculty mentor you wish to work with and not the project; you may have a project in mind but not a mentor; you may know only that you wish to/need to develop an Honors Contract.  In addition to yourself, you have excellent resources available to you for consultation about your work: the Honors Director, your academic advisor, the faculty, and your fellow students.  Successful projects grow in various ways, out of scheduling necessities as much as out of desire, inspiration or insight.

The Registration and Advisement Period of the prior semester is an excellent time to begin this process: you, the faculty, and other honors students are thinking about your schedule of work for the following semester.  It often takes time for your project to germinate; you can complete this form up to the contract deadline, which is three weeks into the semester.

Step 2: Writing the Contract

The contract is your plan for the Honors Project.  You will not always be able to anticipate at the contract stage where your research will take you.  However, in order to approve your Honors Contract, the Honors Board needs to review in as much detail as possible what you are proposing.  In addition if the Board is familiar with the field, it frequently proves helpful in making suggestions and offering additional resources.

The contract form has a front side of important information and a reverse side which requires you to submit two typed copies of the nine sections below:

  • Sect. 1. Basic Information (self-explanatory).
  • Sect. 2. Project Title (self-explanatory).
  • Sect. 3. Description.  Perhaps the most challenging and most telling portion of the contract is the description.  There you are asked to sketch in the nature and scope of your project as fully as possible: its central issue or theme, topic, problem or question.  It is often best to conceive of your project description as some question or problem that you wish to investigate or resolve.  The project description requires you to suggest both the breadth of your exploration and the focus (if you know it already) of your research.

    In order to fill this section out properly, you need to have several discussions with your mentor, think about the topic, and do some preliminary general research (in a textbook, or a specialized encyclopedia, or on-line) in order to get an overview.  What is your hypothesis as to the results of your work?

    If in the course of your research, you and your mentor substantially modify your project description, you should file an "Addendum to the Honors Contract" describing those changes and signed by both you and your mentor.
  • Sect. 4. Methodology. The project description tells what you are going to do, methodology tells how you are going to do it.  What kinds of research activities will be involved?  Solely library research in books and journals or other approaches as well?  What resources do you expect to use?  You are encouraged to use multiple methods in pursuit of your research question.  The use of interviews, field trips, experimentation, participant observation or surveys can provide a personal complement to your project.  Library research must always be a part of the process.
  • Sect 5.  Select Bibliography. While a full list of sources is not necessary at this point, you should give titles which reflect the scope of the topic and show that you have assurance of available printed materials on your topic.
  • Sect 6. Work Plan and Regular Contact with Mentor. Your mentor is your critical resource.  Establishing dates for progress reports and stages toward completion provides a supportive framework within which you and your mentor can work.  General Plan: begin work on your project no later than the third week of the semester; plan a due date that is no later than the last day of classes for the semester.  This leaves a maximum of ten weeks to research and write up your project.  Regular meetings with your mentor will keep you on schedule.  Although an incomplete is always possible, do not plan on it.
  • Sect. 7. Project Product(s). The product of your honors work may be of various sorts.  Your choice of product should be directly related to the nature and method of your project; it should be chosen as the best way to report your findings.  If you choose to write a paper, a first draft should be factored into your schedule.  Other kinds of final products might be: a journal with a final reflective essay, oral presentation, performance, creative work (paintings, photos, portfolio of poetry) with essays.  Your final product ought to reflect in every way the best work you are capable of and pride in your project.
  • Sect. 8 Honors Credits Requested. The total number of unit credits should be listed.  Please keep in mind that the California State Department of Education suggests approximately 45 hours of academic work for each unit of credit.
  • Sect. 9 Signatures. Have your mentor sign your contract before you submit it for approval to the Honors Director.

Step 3: Doing the Work

If you are loyal to your project, maintain your contact with your mentor, and talk about research with friends and faculty, keeping it in the forefront of your mind, you will find you are enjoying it and maintaining your work schedule.  One suggestion is to keep a "To Do" list of tasks that you cross off when you do them.  Update and revise your proposal weekly, by way of keeping yourself and your mentor aware of your progress and your work on target.

Step 4: Submitting your Project Product(s)

Completed projects should be submitted for evaluation to your mentor on schedule and to the Honors Director prior to the last week of classes.

Step 5: Evaluation

This step is an important part of your learning process and it comes in two parts: self-evaluation and evaluation by your mentor.  Directions for self evaluation are in Appendix C.  The evaluation should be turned in to the Honors Director (via campus mailbox or office). You can download your faculty evaluation form here.


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