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Honors Program

1. Introduction

The Stanford Program in Science, Technology, and Society (STS) invites undergraduate students from all majors to apply for admission to its Honors Program. Since the program was launched in 1978, STS honors students have carried out a variety of innovative research projects that address the intersection of science, technology and society. Not only do honors students become experts in a specialized field of interest, but the honors designation signifies intellectual independence, analytical rigor, organizational skills, discipline, and perseverance. These skills and attributes are broadly applicable beyond the specific area of expertise, and serve individuals well after graduation. STS honors students have capitalized on their projects as a springboard for graduate studies and for careers in fields such as information technology, entrepreneurship, finance, public policy, media, education, law, medicine and the nonprofit sector.

2. Honors Program Eligibility and Admission Criteria

Eligibility and Admission Criteria for STS Majors

STS majors must meet the following criteria to be eligible to pursue honors:

1. Fulfill one or more of the following:

  • Attend at least one of the quarterly STS workshops offered for prospective honors students during their junior year.
  • Take STS 191: Introduction to Research in STS (offered in Winter).
  • Take an alternative course on research methods approved by the STS Honors Program Director.
  • Speak with the STS Honors Program Director about alternative avenues of preparation.

2. Submit a research statement (1-3 pages) – or a fully developed proposal (2,000-2,500 words) if you have had an opportunity to conduct preliminary research (e.g., in STS 191 and other methods courses) – and an application form by the end of Spring quarter of the junior year. Late submission is considered until the add/drop deadline of Autumn quarter of the senior year. (If you are expected to graduate off calendar, please speak with the STS Honors Program Director about your specific deadline.)

3. Find an honors faculty advisor and develop research questions, methodology and a plan – preferably by the end of Spring quarter of the junior year; at the latest by the end of Autumn quarter of the senior year.

Eligibility and Admission Criteria for Majors in Other Departments and Programs

Non-majors are encouraged to speak with the Honors Program Director as early as possible to ensure that you have sufficient background in relevant analytical and methodological approaches.

Non-STS majors must meet the following criteria to be eligible to pursue STS honors:

1. Fulfill one or more of the following:

  • Attend at least one of the quarterly STS workshops offered for prospective honors students during their junior year.
  • Take STS 191: Introduction to Research in STS (offered in Winter).
  • Take an alternative course on research methods approved by the STS Honors Program Director.
  • Speak with the STS Honors Program Director about alternative avenues of preparation.

2. Fulfill one of the following:

  • Complete STS 1, and two courses approved as Socio-Cultural Foundational courses in the Requirements and Approved Courses document.
  • Complete STS 1, and two alternative courses approved by the STS Honors Program Director as relevant to the proposed honors research in STS.
  • Complete three courses approved by the STS Honors Program Director as relevant to the proposed honors research in STS.

3. Submit a research statement (1-3 pages) – or a fully developed proposal (2,000-2,500 words) if you have had an opportunity to conduct preliminary research (e.g., in STS 191 and other methods courses) – and an application form by the end of Spring quarter of the junior year. Late submission is considered until the add/drop deadline of Autumn quarter of the senior year. (If you are expected to graduate off calendar, please speak with the STS Honors Program Director about your specific deadline.)

4. Find an honors faculty advisor and develop research questions, methodology and plan – preferably by the end of spring quarter of the junior year, at the latest by the end of autumn quarter of the senior year.

3. Honors Program Requirements

To graduate with honors, seniors in the honors program must meet the following criteria:

1. Attend required monthly meetings of the STS Honors Program, organized by the STS Honors Program Director.

2. Develop an original and complete thesis in consultation with honors faculty adviser.

3. Enroll in a minimum of 10 units total of STS 299, Advanced Individual Work, in the section with your honors faculty advisor, to receive credit for your research and thesis writing. Deliverables and deadlines should be negotiated directly with your honors faculty advisor. (You may enroll in up to 5 units per quarter of STS 299.)

4. Submit a first draft of thesis to honors adviser no later than April 10.

5. Submit the revised thesis to honors adviser by May 8 and have it approved and signed off by May 26.

6. Submit the final thesis to the Stanford Digital Repository by June 1.

7. Complete a thesis judged worthy of an honors program by the faculty adviser and STS adviser.

8. Have an overall Stanford GPA of 3.4 at the end of Winter Quarter, senior year, or demonstrated academic competence.

4. Steps to Apply for Honors

STEP 1: Talk to Us

Come talk to our peer advisors and STS Academic Advisor to find out more about the Honors Program. Then drop by during the office hours of STS Writing Specialist and STS Honors Program Director to discuss your ideas. (Check our website for all their drop-in office hours.) You do not have to have refined research questions or any ideas about research design – your interest in a phenomenon, puzzle, policy challenge or any social issue is enough to start the exploration. Given that no sphere of society is free from the impact of science and technology, most social issues can be studied from STS perspectives. We will help you turn your general interest into a productive STS research project to pursue, by brainstorming with you and directing you to various intellectual and institutional resources.

STEP 2: Meet Honors Eligibility and Admission Criteria

See the Eligibility and Admission Criteria both for STS Majors and for Majors in Other Departments and Programs (above). If you are concerned about your qualifications and preparations, please meet with the STS Honors Program Director as soon as possible to discuss your options and strategies.

STEP 3: Write a Research Statement or a Full Proposal

You can choose to write a short research statement (1-3 pages), or a fully developed proposal (2,000-2,500 words) if you have had an opportunity to conduct initial secondary research (e.g., in STS 191 and other methods courses). You are encouraged to speak with the STS Honors Program Director, STS Writing Specialist, and any relevant faculty members and teaching assistants for this step. Ideally, this writing should be completed by the end of the junior year, but you are allowed to tackle this during Summer and submit the document (with an application form – see STEP 4 below) until the add/drop deadline of Autumn quarter of the senior year.

Note that grants from Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) require a fully developed research proposal. The application for Major Grants, which can support a 10-week full-time immersive research during Summer, is due in early March. You can apply for a Small Grant every month between October 1st and May 1st. See more information about UAR Grants including elebilibity, grant types, and how to apply.

Either a short research statement or a fully developed proposal should include the following sections:

  • Research Objectives and Questions. What are your primary research questions and objectives? Why are they important?
  • Literature Review. How have others addressed your research question(s) or similar ones? Whose work are you building on, and why will your research be different? (Be sure to cite specific scholarly sources. These will be listed at the end of the proposal in the References.)
  • Methods. How will you do research that addresses your question? Be as specific as you can. You will likely need to address a small slice of your major question, for instance, by doing a case study or comparing a few case studies. Try to identify a specific research site (e.g., a specific scientific finding or technology, a particular geographic or political context, a company, an Internet forum, media coverage, a set of primary documents). Explain what methods you will use – for example, surveys, interviews, content analysis, archival research, experiments, ethnography, or something else entirely.
  • Conclusion. Restate the research contribution you hope to make. What sorts of things will we know after you have written your thesis that we didn't know before?
  • References. Full bibliographic information for all works cited in your proposal should be listed at the end of your research statement/proposal.

STEP 4: Submit Honors Application

Submit the application form together with the research statement/proposal. Students are encouraged to apply to the honors program during the Spring quarter of their junior year. Late application is considered up to the add/drop deadline of Autumn quarter of their senior year. (If you are expected to graduate off calendar, please speak with the STS Honors Program Director about your specific deadline.)

Apply for the STS Honors Program.

STEP 5: Find Honors Faculty Advisor

You will need to find an honors faculty advisor who is a member of the Stanford Academic Council (e.g., Assistant, Associate or Full Professor). Faculty affiliations and ranks can be found in the StanfordWho directory. Your advisor does not need to be directly affiliated with STS but they should have expertise related to your project. Ideally, you will find an advisor during your junior year and work with the person in writing your research statement/proposal, but we will also work with you in your search for an advisor during Autumn quarter of the senior year. Here are some tips:

  • You should begin to identify an honors advisor as early as possible in your junior year. This person is ideally someone you have taken a class with in the past or for whom you served as a research assistant. If you are reaching out to a faculty member whom you do not already know, it is important to read some of their research and acquaint yourself with their areas of expertise before approaching them to ask if they are willing to serve as your advisor. If you are struggling to identify an appropriate advisor, look in Explore Courses for courses that relate to your area(s) of interest. Talk to your STS faculty advisor, who may know of other faculty who are well suited to advise your planned honors project. Take time to learn about both the research methods and mentoring style of your potential advisors.
  • The typical faculty member is exceptionally busy teaching, conducting research, writing articles and grant applications and advising students. You should do research to find out when the faculty member(s) you are hoping to work with have office hours, whether they require an advance appointment and arrange a meeting accordingly. When you meet with a faculty member for the first time, initiate a conversation with specific questions and use the meeting not only to gain direction in your research but also to get a sense of an advisor’s mentoring style. How often is he or she willing to meet with you? Does she or he offer a good mix of constructive criticism and guidance? It is better to take these steps at the beginning of your project than to struggle with less-than-satisfactory advising arrangements for the duration of your thesis writing. In managing an advisor relationship, aim for a balance: take the initiative in your research and writing, but do not hesitate to ask for help, from both advisors and peers.

STEP 6: Attend Monthly STS Honors Meetings, Enroll in STS 299, and Stay On Track with Research and Writing

Attend required monthly meetings of the STS Honors Program, organized by the STS Honors Program Director, from September to April. Complete the tasks assigned before the meeting each month. Additionally, stay on track with research and writing by meeting a series of checkpoints provided by the program throughout the year and also by adhering to a timeline you set with your advisor.

Make sure you enroll in a minimum of 10 units total of STS 299, Advanced Individual Work, in the section with your honors faculty advisor, to receive credit for your research and thesis writing. (You may enroll in up to 5 units per quarter of STS 299.)

STEP 7: Write and Complete STS Honors Thesis By Deadlines

Write and complete an original thesis (50-100 page, double-spaced) on the topic you proposed in your research statement/proposal, under the guidance of your advisor. The specific Spring quarter deadlines are as follows:

April 10, 2017 – Submit a first full draft of your thesis due to your advisor.

May 8, 2017 – Submit the revised full draft of your thesis due to your advisor.

May 26, 2017 – Honors faculty advisor must approve and sign off of your final thesis and provide evaluation and grade to the STS office. You need to earn at least a great B on final thesis to graduate with honors.

June 1, 2017 – Submit the final thesis in four forms: one copy to your honors faculty advisor, one bound copy turned in to the STS Office, one PDF copy emailed to the STS Undergraduate Advisor, and one submitted online at the Stanford Digital Repository.

5. Additional Resources

Students are strongly advised to learn about the following opportunities and research requirements:

  • STS Designated Writing Specialist, Kevin DiPirro, is available to assist with brainstorming, researching, organizing, grant proposals and drafting an honors thesis.
  • HWC Honors Writing Program. The Hume Writing Center (HWC) provides writing support during the entire thesis process, including brainstorming, researching, organizing, and drafting an honors thesis or other advanced writing project.
  • Working with faculty. Tips for choosing faculty advisors and establishing positive working agreements.
  • Grants for undergraduate research. If you will need to travel or pay other research-related expenses, consider applying for a grant from the Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR).
  • Human subjects research. If your research will involve people (interviews, questionnaires, experimental situations) you need to comply with University Policies on Research and may need to obtain approval of a research protocol.

6. Past Honors Theses

The STS online thesis collection can be found in the Stanford Digital Repository.

7. Honors Program Application

Apply for the STS Honors Program here.