What It’s Like to Pursue Honors

The Moravian College Honors Program provides valuable opportunities for academic research to seniors. If you are interested in research in your discipline, the Honors Program provides opportunities to pursue it. You can even pursue an honors project in multiple disciplines as well.

Around this time last year, I was preparing an application for an honors project in economics. To briefly describe it, my project concerned how individuals in Bangladesh valued cholera vaccines and how certain socioeconomic variables could affect their valuations. I was unable then to see how challenging, time consuming, and yet rewarding an honors project could be.

An honors project is a lot of work. It takes the place of one of your classes, so if you usually take four classes, you will instead be taking three classes and have your honors project. And the honors project takes as much work as a class, if not more.

The first few months of my honors project were spent understanding the data I was looking at and figuring out ways to analyze it. During this stage, I was also busy drafting chapters of what would eventually become my thesis.

After understanding my data set, I moved on to analyzing relationships and correlations in the data. By the middle of fall semester, I had done some analyses and typed out the drafts of some chapters.

To me, at least, the data analysis was the easy part. Having taken both statistics and econometrics, running regressions is like second nature to me. Writing the chapters of my thesis and understanding the regression output was slowly becoming the more difficult part of the project.

While you may start an honors project using a process you are familiar with, you could end up changing that process or using an entirely different process halfway through the project. I started with a basic linear regression, but I soon started using a more complex regression that was outside my knowledge. Analyzing data became a bit more uncomfortable, but I was learning about the model as I went along.

By the time spring semester started, I was mostly done working with the data and was working fully on writing my thesis. During the process of writing my thesis, I would occasionally go back and tweak my analyses or try something different. However, the thesis was where most of my time was going.

Writing the thesis became difficult. I had to get out of the mindset of a college student and get into the mindset of an economic research writer. Even though I struggled with writing about some of the technical portions of my research, I did find some similarities between writing for a newspaper and writing for an economic audience. To paraphrase the words of my advisor, economists like short sentences that are to the point. I was already used to writing in short sentences for The Comenian, so once I took that advice to heart, writing my thesis became easier.

After submitting my thesis, though, I faced another obstacle: defending it. I would have only ten minutes to present a summary of my research, then face up to forty minutes of questions and discussion before leaving the room to allow the committee to take ten minutes to decide if I passed with honors or not. This became a great source of anxiety, no matter how much I practiced and no matter the words of encouragement from my advisor.

The day of the defense soon came, and I was anxious up until I started the presentation. From there on, though, that whole hour went by quickly. My presentation felt like it barely took five minutes, and despite constantly looking at the clock, the discussion period went by quickly as well. Before I knew it, I was told that I had honors. I was overjoyed, both proud of myself and glad that all the hard work had paid off.

Pursuing an honors project isn’t for everybody. There were times when I felt discouraged, but I persevered. An honors project can be a difficult thing to pursue, but I am glad I had difficulties. It makes graduating with honors feel all the more worth it.