Date of this Version
Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Spring/Summer 2016).
During the sixteen years since JNCHC came into being, research in honors has steadily shifted its focus and approach. In the early days, essays represented a wide variety of disciplines and, in order to qualify as research, needed only to root themselves in previous literature on a topic. As honors, along with the culture in which it is practiced, moved into the era of accountability and assessment, “research in honors” has increasingly come to mean quantitative studies rooted in the formats, methods, and terminology of the social sciences. The purpose of research in honors has also shifted, more subtly, from advancing an internal discourse that took the value of honors for granted to proving the value of honors through quantitative analysis. In the current climate, previous research in honors often ceases to seem like research at all as essays in this issue call for real or serious research on topics that have long been discussed in the honors literature.
A look at the previous issue of JNCHC devoted to “Research in Honors” in the spring/summer of 2004 reveals a stark contrast with common assumptions about today’s scholarship in honors but also contains clear signs of the emerging change. The first three essays in that issue were republished from the Forum for Honors, the predecessor of JNCHC, and were written twenty years earlier, in 1984, by Sam Schuman, Ted Estess, and Robert Roemer. All three write from the perspective of the humanities and argue for quality of thought and writing as essential to honors scholarship along with a theoretical context that extends beyond an individual program. Schuman argues for what he calls “abstraction”: “the necessity that the content be ‘generalized and generalizable’ beyond a specific time and place.” Estess argues that an “otherconnecting” intellectual appeal is the ideal for any publication in an honors journal. Roemer summarizes these ideas in the importance of what he calls “the theoretical moment.”