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Honors in English

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When should I start thinking about my Honors Project? 

As soon as possible you should map out with your advisor when you plan to take your six honors courses and which courses you will take.  Although these needn’t be all planned out your first year at Calvin, it is important that you don’t put yourself in a situation where you don’t have enough honors courses to graduate with honors.  Consequently, each semester you and your advisor should check where you are in this process.

As far as the Honors Project itself is concerned, remember that any strong paper that you write has definite potential to be expanded into an honors project.  If you’ve written a paper that you think you might want to transform into a project, please talk to the professor for whom you wrote it and discuss this possibility.

2. I have some really neat ideas that I’d like to pursue.  Can’t I just write a new paper for my honors project?  Why do you recommend revising a previously written essay?

Generally speaking, the Honors Project is a time to deepen existing writing rather than create an entirely new project.  The goal is to take something good and take it to a higher scholarly level.  If you want to work on an entirely new project, taking an Independent Study course (English 390) is probably the more appropriate option for you.  As a rule, Honors Projects that have developed out of previously written papers have been much stronger than those that start from scratch.

3. I’m not planning to go to graduate school in English.  Why should I bother with an honors project?  

While interest in graduate school is a good reason to pursue an Honors Project, we urge students not to think that plans for graduate study are in any way a prerequisite for pursuing such a project. 

Consider the Honors Project a great opportunity for you to develop your gifts, pursue a special interest, take your studies to a higher level, and work with professors and other students who share your passion for learning. 

The Honors Project is an opportunity to glorify God by rising to what may be the most rigorous and rewarding intellectual challenge of your life so far.  In pursuing such intellectual rigor, you may well gain increasing direction in your own vocational plans. 

4. Why is it so important to take English 399 and write the Honors Project fall semester instead of spring semester?

Writing your Honors Project the semester before you graduate instead of the same semester that you graduate allows you to use the entire semester to work. (Spring semester projects would need to be turned in several weeks before graduation to make sure you graduate with honors.)

Completing the project in the fall also gives you the opportunity to make any necessary revisions that may require more time than a single semester.  Simply put, writing your Honors Project during the fall semester provides a sanity-saving safety net that is not there during the spring semester.

5. How do I know which professors to work with?  Don’t I also need a second reader in addition to my primary advisor?  Who should that be?

Usually your primary advisor for the Honors Project is the professor for whom you wrote the paper from which your project will develop.  You should consult with that professor about serving as the project advisor.  The advisor can then consult with you about which professor(s) would be appropriate to pursue as a second reader. 

Do not to be intimidated by this process.  Most professors enjoy the opportunity to work with motivated students who are interested in fields in which the professor can offer expertise. 


Do you have questions that should be added to this list? Please email them to Prof. Engbers.