Guidelines for Preparing an Honors Proposal and Final Paper


The Proposal for your Honors project should be written only after a long period of preparation.  It is not the first step, but rather a summary of your preparatory steps.  The Psychology Department strongly recommends that any student considering an honors project take a one-hour tutorial during the second semester of the junior year.  During this tutorial, you should determine a general topic for investigation, read current literature on your topic, explore the resources available for research, consider the questions you might want to answer, limit your focus to a manageable project, and work out the methods you intend to use.  At each stage in this process, you should be consulting with the faculty member who with the faculty mentor who will be serving as your honors sponsor, so that you both clearly understand the direction in which you are heading.  Only then will you be in a position to write a strong Proposal.

Before writing your Proposal, ask yourself the following questions:  What do I want to study?  How does my research fit into ongoing Psychology discourse?  Will my research contribute in a novel and substantial way to the field of Psychology?  Is there room to improve upon the scholarship in this area?  What is the best way to explore the subject? Can the questions I’m asking or the hypotheses I’m testing be answered or tested within the time and space constraints of the Honors paper?  Do I really want to devote the required time to this project? What are the major obstacles in me being successful? 

The Proposal itself serves several purposes.  First, it communicates your intentions to the Department and to your readers.  The Proposal includes your research questions and your predictions. Second, it serves as a plan of action, outlining your methodology, the statistics you plan to perform, the problems you expect to confront, and a detailed timeline for each aspect of the Honors project.  Third, the approved Proposal becomes an understanding between the student and the Psychology Department, and serves as one of the bases on which the final project will be judged.  To those ends, you must construct the Proposal carefully, so that you, your faculty sponsor, your readers, and members of the Psychology Department all understand the proposed project in the same way.  Any major revisions in the proposed work made after approval by the committee require notification to, and approval by, the Department.


The Proposal

1.     You should begin with an introduction that establishes the area of research and conveys any information necessary to understand your research questions and plans. 

2.     Discuss the background of the problem.  While you should not allow a historical summary to overshadow the importance of the proposed study, you do need to demonstrate that you are aware of the current state of research in the field.  Briefly explain what is already known and how your study will supplement or advance that knowledge.

3.     Clearly state your research questions and your hypotheses/predictions. Explain why the results are of importance.

4.     Explain the methodology in detail. Where will you get your data?  What instruments or measurement techniques will you use?  How will you analyze your data (discuss the statistical test you will perform). How will you evaluate your results?  Be as specific as possible in this section. 

5.     In a table, provide a detailed timeline that delineates when each phase of the research should be completed (e.g., IRB submitted, data collection, data analyzed, first draft completed, etc.) and how long each phase will take. Each credit requires a minimum of 46 hours of work. The

6.     The body of the Proposal should be written in current APA format and should not exceed 12 pages, excluding references and appendices.


Dos and Don’ts at the Proposal Stage

1.     Don′t propose the impossible.  Be realistic about your time constraints, sources of information, and abilities.

2.     Do take the feedback from your faculty sponsor and readers seriously.  You will undoubtedly submit several versions to them before you submit your Proposal to the Department.

3.     Do read and re-read the Proposal for grammatical and typographical errors.  If the Proposal is poorly written, the Department will have little reason to hope for improvement in the final version of the project.

4.     Do include all the information in your Proposal so that the Department will have a clear understanding of your research project.  

5.       Do adhere to the page limit.  You will have time and space to elaborate upon your ideas in the final project.  Keep the Proposal succinct.

The Department will meet to discuss your Proposal. Proposals may be approved or returned for revisions and resubmission.  The Chair will convey the Department’s feedback to your in writing. On behalf of the Department, the Chair may ask questions concerning the scope of the project, methodology, analyses, or other issues.  If revisions are necessary, the Department will meet to render a final decision on the revised Honors Proposal.  If a Proposal is rejected by a majority vote of the Department, the student may still earn credit for the project by registering the work as a Directed Inquiry.


The Final Paper

Your finished project will be housed in Barret Library, where it may be consulted by general readers, parents, alumni, and fellow students.  Therefore, the Final Paper must be written in a manner familiar to psychologists in your particular subfield, yet also be written so that educated, non-specialist can appreciate the work.  All technical terms should be defined and all acronyms should be identified.  There is no substitute for clear and well-edited writing, no matter how complicated or specialized the research may be.

There is no page limit for the body of the Final Paper, and there is not specified minimum length. In preparing the Final Paper, please observe the following guidelines:

1.     The faculty sponsor and the two readers should provide feedback on each draft of the Final Paper. After all of the feedback from the sponsor and the readers has been addressed, the Final Paper should be emailed to the Department Chair.

2.     The Final Paper should be written in current APA format including a title page, abstract, methods, results, discussion, and references.  The Final Paper should also include all of the additional pages specified in the College Honors Guidelines.

a.     The abstract should be no longer than 250 words and double spaced. The abstract will be printed in the Commencement Program.

3.     All figures and tables should be in APA format. 

4.     Once all corrections are made and the Final Paper has been approved, a clean copy is submitted to the Dean of Academic Affairs for Curriculum.  Do not submit your paper in any type of binder that requires you to punch holes in the paper. A  PDF copy of the paper on a CD must accompany the print copy. The Honors paper must also be accompanied by a statement signed by the department chairperson, the sponsor, and the other designated reader(s) indicating that it has been approved for Honors, by those persons. Papers that are late, incomplete, or that do not fulfill the form outlined in these instructions may not be considered in time for recognition on the Commencement program or on your transcript.  Some of the College Guides for formatting the Final Paper are provided below.

Formatting the Honors Paper

a.     Paper and Printing

Cream colored 8 ½ by 11 inch 20 lb. bond paper is to be used for the final copy of  the paper.  Bond paper is provided to the student by the College Archivist.
Use a letter-quality printer; photocopies are unacceptable.
Printing should be on one side of the paper only.
There should be no obvious marks of editing or use of correction fluid or tape.
Printing should be in black or gray scale; color inks should be avoided.
Figures are to be drawn neatly in ink or other suitable medium. 

b.     Font Style and Size

Select a font that is easy to read, such as Times New Roman or Courier.
The body of text should be 12 point. 
No text should be smaller than 10 point.
Font size of captions, titles and other headers should not be overly large

c.     Page Layout and Spacing

Margins at the top, right and bottom of the final copy must be at least 1”.  
The left margin must be 1.5” to allow for binding.
Text should not be right justified.
Text should be double spaced, except for:  Table of Contents, List of Figures, List of Tables, Block quotations, notes, captions, footnotes and long headings which are single spaced.
Footnotes, tables, maps, or illustrations should fall within the limits of the page margins. 
A variety of style manuals are available in the Reference Collection of the Library as well as on-line.

d.     Page numbering

Page numbers are positioned in the upper right hand corner in line with the right text margin. The number stands alone without “page” or any phrase or punctuation.
Every sheet in your paper will be counted in page numbering, however, not every page will show a number. The title page counts as the first preliminary page, but it does not carry a number. 
Preliminary pages are numbered with lower case Roman numerals (e.g. i, ii, iii, iv).  The first page of the body of the text uses Arabic numerals.

Additional Tips

  1. You should meet weekly (at a minimum) with your faculty sponsor and periodic meetings with your readers. You should be receiving ongoing feedback on your ideas and progress.
  2. Consult with as many other people in the discipline (in the Department and at other institutions) as possible.
  3. Use the language of your research area, but avoid unnecessary jargon. 
  4. Make a realistic timetable and stick with it.  This will ensure that you have time to complete all that you want to, without coming to the end with little time and much work still to be done.  It is important not to feel rushed in order to ensure your best effort. In particular, give yourself ample time to analyze data and write the Final Paper.
  5. Write the Final Paper as a researcher in psychology would write for publication in a research journal. This will save you a great deal of work when you submit the work to a journal.
  6. Ask other psychology majors to read your Final Paper and provide you feedback.
  7. Make certain you read the College Honors Guidelines regarding the formatting of the Final Paper.