Oxford Tutorial
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Oxford Tutorial

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rev. August 14, 2007 Oxford Tutorial and Honors Thesis Each student in the Honors College, in order to complete a minor in interdisciplinary studies, must complete a one-semester Oxford Tutorial (which may be repeated for a total of two semesters), which will eventually culminate in a Senior Honors Thesis. The purpose of the Tutorial is to provide an opportunity for a student and a faculty member to explore a topic one-on-one. The topic of the Tutorial should be worked out between the student and the professor, with a written contract specifying the topic, goals, and meeting schedule to be submitted to the Honors College. The student is simultaneously enrolled in an Honors College course, for which attendance and occasional writings are required. Approximately one hundred tutors are needed each year to accomplish our undergraduate research goals. Tutors receive $300 in departmental travel money for each three students they advise to successful completion of the thesis. Students should select their tutors and begin planning their Tutorial before the term in which they enroll in the course. The student directs the Tutorial as much as possible, and should take primary responsibility for finding sources on the subject. The student should prepare a list of readings in consultation with their tutor as soon as possible, so that research can begin immediately. The reading list should function as a guide for the student and tutor; as the student explores ...

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rev. August 14, 2007
Oxford Tutorial and Honors Thesis
Each student in the Honors College, in order to complete a minor in interdisciplinary
studies, must complete a one-semester Oxford Tutorial (which may be repeated for a total
of two semesters), which will eventually culminate in a Senior Honors Thesis. The
purpose of the Tutorial is to provide an opportunity for a student and a faculty member to
explore a topic one-on-one. The topic of the Tutorial should be worked out between the
student and the professor, with a written contract specifying the topic, goals, and meeting
schedule to be submitted to the Honors College. The student is simultaneously enrolled in
an Honors College course, for which attendance and occasional writings are required.
Approximately one hundred tutors are needed each year to accomplish our undergraduate
research goals. Tutors receive $300 in departmental travel money for each three students
they advise to successful completion of the thesis.
Students should select their tutors and begin planning their Tutorial before the term in
which they enroll in the course. The student directs the Tutorial as much as possible, and
should take primary responsibility for finding sources on the subject. The student should
prepare a list of readings in consultation with their tutor as soon as possible, so that
research can begin immediately. The reading list should function as a guide for the
student and tutor; as the student explores the subject, however, he or she may find the
need to make changes to the reading list to incorporate new angles. Students are
responsible for their own discoveries and for making choices regarding materials
necessary for the research. You are their sounding board.
The Tutorial is a weekly meeting, generally one hour, of one or two students with a tutor.
In these meetings, the student acts as teacher, presenting the results of the week’s work
and assessing the assigned readings. The student should be presenting more than
summaries of findings; s/he should develop critical approaches to the topic, evaluate
evidence, and establish priorities. The student should be critical in his or her approach to
the data, using appropriate and rational means of evaluation, organizing ideas, finding
similarities, and locating essentials. The tutor, in turn, should be critical of the student’s
efforts—asking questions, guiding the student, and pushing the student to do his or her
best to master the material. The tutor’s essential role in the Tutorial is to act as a
pedagogue—to “walk with” the student by providing an example of how to ask insightful
questions. The tutor need not necessarily be an expert on the topic, but have some
knowledge of the field and the kinds of questions and answers that are appropriate.
Tutors may find that they learn a great deal from their students.
The student will not write the thesis during the Tutorial, but may begin by writing a series
of short papers or oral presentations. By the end of the tutorial, students should have
defined a focused topic and developed a possible outline for the thesis. As the student
moves into the writing stage, the student may retain the tutor as a primary reader for his
or her thesis. The student and tutor should work out any scheduled meetings or deadlines
set for the writing period.
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The tutor assigns the student a grade for the course, based on his or her progress and
effort in accomplishing research goals. The instructor of the Honors College Tutorial
course will contact the tutor near the end of the semester, at which time the tutor will
recommend a grade. If the student has not accomplished the objectives that are part of his
or her enrollment in the Honors College course, the instructor should discuss this problem
with the student. The course instructor submits a final grade for the student.
Goals of the tutorial include:
Guiding students towards making an argument; a commitment to the best possible
viewpoint
Giving students confidence in their own authority and ability to present and be
accountable for their findings
Teaching students how to draw reasonable conclusions on their own, without
being either cynical of conclusions or too reliant on others’ conclusions
Supporting students as they cross disciplinary boundaries as they establish their
authority on a subject
Tutorials are not (and should not) be easy. The difficulty, however, should lie in the
mastery of the material, and not in problems that interfere with the progress of the
research itself. Whenever problems occur, the student and tutor should try, to the best of
their ability, to discuss the problem openly. In some cases the tutor or student may need
to contact the instructors of the Honors College Tutorial course, Phillip Melton and Doug
Corbitt. In situations that remain unresolved a special committee—composed of the tutor,
tutorial instructor, and at least one member of Honors College administration—is
convened to resolve the matter. Any problems should be addressed as soon as possible;
it’s best to recognize these problems before too much of the semester has passed. Here
are some problems that may arise in the tutorial, and possible solutions.
The student loses interest in the topic before the tutorial is complete.
This may happen for several reasons. The student may find out that s/he has tackled a
topic that is too broad, that s/he doesn’t have a grasp of basic concepts important to
the topic, the student may switch majors, or simply find out that the subject did not
yield the results or research possibilities s/he had hoped. When this happens, the
student and tutor may need to regroup, finding new approaches that might stimulate
questions that excite the student anew. Any tutorial will involve some kind of
redirecting and adjustment. However, if the student and tutor cannot find a new
approach to the subject, the student may need to find a new subject and new tutor.
Depending on when this problem occurs, this may involve an immediate change, or
the student may need to take an incomplete in the course until he or she is able to
follow through on a research topic.
The tutor and student develop fundamentally opposing viewpoints that impede
progress.
Certainly, the tutor should differ with the student at times, and part of his or her job is
to push the student to look at a number of viewpoints. Students and tutors should be
open about these differences and use them for discussion. However, if the student or
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tutor feels that philosophical differences may impede the student’s progress or the
tutor’s evaluation of the project, the student and tutor should be frank about the
differences, and the student may opt to find another tutor.
The tutor dominates the Tutorial meetings.
The tutor, no matter how enthusiastic about the topic, should allow the student to take
the leadership role and to do most of the talking. The tutorial does not exist for the
student to discover the tutor’s wisdom, but to provide a setting for conversation in
which the student tries out a position on a listener. If the student feels the tutor is
being domineering, the student should tell the tutor so. Sometimes, students feel shy
about this; if so, the instructor of the Honors College tutorial course may call a
meeting with both student and tutor to try to resolve the problem. The problem can
best be alleviated by setting up a format for meetings that ensure ample time for the
student to present his or her findings.
Either tutor or student fails to meet weekly.
Sometimes schedules simply conflict for a week or two; this is often unavoidable.
However, if either tutor or student misses a number of weeks in a row, the tutorial is
not working. If the tutor finds that s/he is unable to devote an hour a week to the
tutorial, the tutor should be frank with the student about the problem, and suggest that
the student find a new tutor. If the student fails to come to meetings, it is probably a
sign of another problem: research malaise, a bad relationship with the tutor,
unhappiness with the topic. If this happens, tutors should try to discover the problem,
or contact the Honors College tutorial course instructor.
The student fails to accomplish a significant amount of reading, or to make
progress in answering his or her research question.
This can happen if the student fails to find a narrower focus within the topic, or for
one of the problems mentioned above. Because the students receive a grade for the
course, the tutor should evaluate the student based on the effort and progress he or she
has made. Both tutor and student should be frank about this; often acknowledging that
both feel little has been accomplished can be a relief to both and lead to a new
direction in the research. However, if the tutor genuinely feels that the student has not
put effort into the research and has not reached the goals established at the beginning
of the term, the tutor should feel free to evaluate the student accordingly. If the
problem is not one of effort or enthusiasm, but the volume of research or the problem
of narrowing the topic, then the student and tutor may agree to continue the work
through a second tutorial, and the tutor should evaluate the student’s progress
according to what s/he has achieved.
The tutor and student simply do not work well together.
Sometimes personalities do not mesh. If this happens, the student and tutor should
discuss the problem openly. The best solution for this is for the student to find a new
tutor as soon as possible.
The student may go directly on to the Thesis course, or may continue with tutorial
research by enrolling in the course for one more term. Students enrolled in Honors Thesis
should complete the thesis during the semester, regardless of whether they intend to
graduate that term.
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This is a two-semester commitment. The Honors Thesis may take many different forms.
Usually, it is a research essay, but a good thesis could also be a novel, fundamental
research, a performance, or an artistic creation. If the Honors Thesis is a research project
or creative endeavor, the student must also provide a written presentation or
interpretation of it. This may be an introduction, an interpretation of the applications of
research, or an addendum that sets the research in interdisciplinary context. The Honors
Thesis must be different from any departmental thesis the student completes. While the
Honors College accepts theses that rely upon the same body of research as the
departmental thesis, the advisor and student should also check the requirements of the
individual departments, which vary. The Honors Thesis should have an argument that is
significantly different from that of the departmental thesis; it should highlight different
interpretations in the research material. The Honors College Thesis must also be
interdisciplinary. It must bring the perspectives of more than one field of inquiry to bear
on the material. This is generally the basis of distinction between the two theses.
The advisor’s role during this semester is primarily as reader and consultant. The advisor
and student should agree upon dates for written sections of the thesis to be turned in for
reading and for meetings. The student and advisor need not meet every week, but it is
highly recommended that meetings take place regularly throughout the semester. If the
advisor feels that the student is not progressing with work, he or she should contact Philip
Frana (
pfrana@uca.edu
) in the Honors College. Students should hand in a polished draft
of the thesis at the midterm break, at which time the advisor will read and make
recommendations for revisions. The student should hand in a final draft of the thesis no
later than a month before graduation, at which time the advisor can submit that the thesis
be approved, approved on condition of minor revision, or rejected. The student should
also choose one other reader for the Thesis, who may or may not represent another
discipline.
The Presentation is scheduled when the Honors College is informed by the Thesis advisor
that the student’s Thesis is ready for the Presentation. But the final decision for this
scheduling rests with the Director or his designee. Normally, invitations to the Thesis
Presentation are sent out by the Honors College to all Honors College students and
faculty and to a list of persons designated by the student. The Thesis Presentation
generally lasts half an hour, with twenty minutes for the presentation and ten minutes for
questions. The advisor and the Honors College thesis representative are given first
opportunity to question the student. Given the fact that they have worked with the student
and approved the Thesis, the questions should reflect questions already discussed in
previous conversation. A representative from the Honors College serves as the Thesis
Presentation moderator.
If the presentation and Thesis meet with the readers’ approval, both readers will sign a
hard copy of the Thesis, which the advisor or student should turn in to the Honors
College, either by giving it to the moderator or to Glenda Middleton, our administrative
assistant for student services. One copy of each Thesis will be placed in the UCA
Archives for use by students and faculty, and a digital copy will be uploaded to HCOL
(Honors College Online).
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