National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version

Fall 2018


Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 19.2 (Fall/Winter 2018) ISBN 978-1-945001-01-7 ISSN 1559-0151


© Copyright 2018 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


In the field of composition studies, a core pedagogical objective is to familiarize students with types of argumentation strategies, such as causation, evaluation, narration, rebuttal, and definition. Introducing definition arguments in their textbook Good Reasons: Researching and Writing Effective Arguments, Lester Faigley and Jack Selzer state that “[d]efinition arguments set out criteria and then argue whatever is being defined meets or does not meet those criteria. Rarely do you get far into an argument without having to define something” (97). They identify three categories of definition—formal, operational, and by example—and then apply these to sample documents. For my honors composition course, I begin class discussion of definitional argument by writing this thesis statement on the board: “Honors programs are not a good fit for gifted students.” Initially, students are resistant: “Aren’t gifted and honors the same thing?” “Don’t all gifted students go into honors anyway?” I explain that we must examine definitions for gifted and honors to identify the similarities and differences, not only in intellectual ability but in other areas such as motivation and emotionality. I also admit to them that the idea that gifted students might not naturally fit into honors had not occurred to me until I attended Anne N. Rinn’s 2004 NCHC conference session, “Should Gifted Students Join an Honors Program?” Rinn acknowledged a lack of empirical research supporting the premise that gifted students fit well into honors programs and used her dissertation as an occasion to contribute needed empirical support in favor of their joining.