National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Spring 2012


Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, Spring/Summer 2012, Volume 13, Number 1, special issue on The Economy of Honors


Copyright 2012 by the National Collegiate Honors Council.


A potential source of useful information about undergraduate honors education can be found in doctoral dissertation abstracts that focus on honors. We sought to explore this resource by undertaking a bounded qualitative meta-study of such abstracts using document analysis. Three sub-questions focused our inquiry:

• What are the general attributes of dissertations on honors education?

• What are the thematic subjects and topics associated with the dissertations?

• Have these dissertation findings been published in higher education journals or books?

What follows is an account of our research, including information on the meta-study framework we used, our selection of the dissertations for analysis, and our methods and procedures for analyzing the dissertations. At the close of this article, we discuss our findings, summarize publication-related trends for dissertations on honors education, and provide recommendations for future research.


A meta-study framework explores and synthesizes research for the purpose of addressing specific research questions (Lipsey & Wilson). Most often, the meta-study is based on a quantitative approach (Glass) using effect size data to permit meaningful comparisons across a group of studies (Lipsey & Wilson). A qualitative framework can be an important strategy (Noblit & Hare; Major & Savin-Baden) when researchers seek to analyze studies for common themes. The qualitative framework can also be used to examine attributes of the research and researchers, as demonstrated in 2001 by Paterson, Thorne, Canam, and Jillings.