Junior Honors Seminar (2 units)
Winter Quarter 2008-2009, Stanford University
Instructor:  Todd Davies
Meeting Time: Mondays 4:15-5:30 PM (holidays on 1/19 and 2/16)
Location: 460-334
Course Website: (this syllabus)
Instructor's Office: 460-040C (Margaret Jacks Hall, lower level)
Phone: x3-4091; Fax: x3-5666
Email: d-a-v-i-e-s-@-c-s-l-i-.-s-t-a-n-f-o-r-d-.-e-d-u
Office Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 10:30 AM - 11:55 AM

(This version: March 9, 2009; check back for updates each week)


This course is designed to help students approaching a senior year of honors research in symbolic systems.  It is primarily aimed at juniors in SSP, although sophomores and students from other majors may be admitted if the circumstances warrant it.  To some extent, the content and structure of the course will be a function of the students who take it, and the schedule below should be viewed as quite tentative for that reason -- it is meant as an outline of the likely progression over the quarter.  The guiding idea behind the course, though, is that students may benefit from reflecting systematically on what they hope to get out of doing an honors project, what the topic will be, the commitment that will be required, and the means by which the project will be done (research and writing methods, milestones, logistics, and human relationships).  It should ideally be of use to students across a wide range of project types and stages.

SCHEDULE (all links are .doc files unless otherwise noted)

Session 1 (1/12) - Introductions and "SquareZero"
Reflective listening exercise for introductions.  Goal clarification exercise.
Assignment 1: "Grading your transcript"

Session 2 (1/26) - Overview of the Honors Thesis Process
Structure of the Symbolic Systems Honors Program.  Philosophy of the honors thesis. Working with faculty. Components of an honors thesis.  Student funding opportunities.
Handout: Pursuing an Honors Degree in Symbolic Systems at Stanford: Advice, Guidelines, and Policies for 2008-2010 (from the Symsys website)
Handout: Some Components of an Honors Thesis
Handout: Stanford Research Grants Descriptions and Deadlines (from UAL website)
Handout: How to Obtain Human Subjects Approval (from UAL website)
Handout: Applying for Research Grants (from UAL website)
Handout: Writing a Research Grant Proposal (from UAL website)
Handout: Constructing a Budget (from UAL website)
Handout: Planning Research (from UAL website)
Handout: Guidelines for Faculty Mentor Letters of Support (from UAL website)
Handout: Working with Faculty (from UAL website)
Handout: Working with Faculty Honors Advisors (from UAL website)
Assignment 2: "The Student Strikes Back"

Session 3 (2/2) - Topic Development I
More on human subjects and working with faculty. Relating your topic to your goals.   Getting ideas. Scoping.
Handout: Example Goals for an Honors Project
Handout: Stages in Early Topic Development
Assignment 3: "Developing an idea for your honors project"

Session 4 (2/9) - Methodologies I
Questions that emerge from topic development.  Introduction to different research methodologies: philosophical, formal, experimental, observational, and computational.
Assignment 4: "Considering different methodologies"

Session 5 (2/23) - Topic Development II 
Searching the literature. The camera metaphor. Learning to ask "why".  Individual review of topics.
Handout: "Searching the Literature"
Assignment 5: "Write something down!"

Session 6 (3/2) - Methodologies II
Choosing a method/methods for your project, and comparing it/them with other methods.  Methods, lifestyles, and personalities exercise.  Learning to operationalize.  Individual review of methods.
Exercise: Project Characteristics
Handout: "How to Write - and Edit - a Paper" by Barry Wellman
Assignment 6: "A plan for your project"

Session 7 (3/9) - Resources, Logistics, and Project Management
Resources at Stanford: information, consulting services. Resources outside Stanford.   Getting organized.  Overcoming the planning fallacy. Attacking larger writing projects.  Tools for organizing information, keeping notes, and developing an outline. Writing strategies.
Exercise: Peer Review


Center for Teaching and Learning (many resources for more effective learning, including the Oral Communication Program for training in speechmaking)

Social Science Data and Software (SSDS) Group (a group within the Stanford University Libraries & Academic Information Resources (SULAIR) that provides services and support to Stanford faculty, staff and students in the acquisition of social science data and the selection and use of quantitative (statistical) and qualitative analysis software. SSDS staff provide these services in a variety of ways that include consulting, workshops and help documentation)

Department of Statistics Consulting (free drop-in service for researchers seeking advice from Statistics Department Ph.D. students)

Honors at Stanford (Undergraduate Research Programs site - many helpful links; read the stuff for faculty too, and note that faculty grants can cover honors projects that are faculty-initiated)

Pursuing an Honors Degree in Symbolic Systems at Stanford: Advice, Guidelines, and Policies for 2008-2010 (from the Symsys website, same as 1/26 handout)

Research Compliance Office and IRB (for everything related to getting approval for human subjects research at Stanford)

Stanford University Libraries and Academic Information Resources (SULAIR) (portal for library services at Stanford, including the catalogue Socrates, research databases, and services like Social Science Data and Sofware)

Undergraduate Research Programs (URP) Student Grants (for everything related to funding student-initiated work, including summer earnings replacement! See 1/26)


ACM's Online Guide to Computing Literature (database for computer science literature, requires Stanford access)

Boote, D.N. & Beile, P. (2005). Scholars before researchers: On the centrality of the dissertation literature review in research preparation. Educational Researcher, 34(6):3-15. (Good article on the purposes of literature review)

CiteSeer.IST (citations and text database for computer and information science papers)

ComIndex (database for communication literature, requires Stanford access)

Bibliographic Management Software (Stanford Library guide to EndNote and RefWorks)

Databases and Articles (list of databases available through the Stanford Library)

Google Scholar (Somewhat haphazard, automated culling of scholarly papers and citations on the web.  Very useful, but only as a rough initial literature search - it's missing a lot of older work. Try regular Google as well.)

Levine, S.J. (2005). Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Disseration. Learner Associates. (online book, also available in print form)

LLBA: Linguistics and Language Behavior Abstracts (database for linguistics literature, requires Stanford access)

** Palmquist, M. (2006). The Bedford Researcher. Bedford/St. Martins Press. (free companion website to book, lots of excellent material and extensive weblinks of use to student researchers)

Philosophers Index (database for philosophy literature, requires Stanford access)

Philosophy in Cyberspace; Section 5: Student Resources (annotated list of links about philosophical argument and writing)

PsycInfo (database for psychology literature, requires Stanford access)

Resources on Research, Writing, and Careers in Computer Science (list of sites put together at Iowa State University)

Young, M. Undergraduate Philosophical Writing (online manual created by a graduate student at the University of California, Irvine)

"How to Write - and Edit - a Paper" by Barry Wellman (same as Session 6 handout)


Levine, S.J. (2005). Writing and Presenting Your Thesis or Disseration. Learner Associates. (online book, also available in print form)

Palmquist, M. (2006). The Bedford Researcher. 2nd edition. Bedford/St. Martins Press.

see A Selection of Books to Help With Your Thesis or Disseration (Joe Levine's annotated listing)

Sternberg, R. (2005). The Psychologist's Companion: A Guide to Scientific Writing for Students and Researchers. 4th edition. Cambridge University Press.


1. Project plan (50%)
2. Other assignments (30%)
3. Attendance and participation (20%)