Honors Work in Your Major: Joys and Pointers

From the desk of Kathryn Andringa:

When I applied for the Honors program, I saw that little piece called “HON 399” otherwise known as “Honors Work in the Major.” Now I think that if I just avoided that piece, it would just disappear (I have tried this with other homework and it hasn’t worked, so I don’t know why I thought this would work.) However as my junior year approached, I realized that due to my studying abroad the last semester, I only had 3 semesters left to do this in. I had no idea what I wanted to do in the summer, so that cut out the Fall 2012 semester. So now I was down to 2 semesters. Needless to say, I was nervous and didn’t have any idea what direction to take.

After a class in Communication Criticism, I fell in love with Rhetorical Analysis (Communications nerd alert). In laymen’s terms this means looking at a rhetorical text (anything that is public and persuasive), its context and what other scholars have written about it. You then analyze the text from your own perspective. One day in class we watched a scene from “Beauty and the Beast” looking at the rhetoric of the opening scene and what it said about the ideals of romance in our society. That’s when it hit me. I love rhetorical analyses. I love Disney. Why not combine these into a paper for my Honors research to be done Spring 2013? (Well it didn’t all come into my head like that, but you get the idea). Finally feeling confident in my idea, I went on to talking to professors and applying to do the research.

I have now been working on this project all of this semester. Looking at the rhetoric of Disney princess films specifically, I am looking at how the Narrative Paradigm (a communication theory of Walter Fisher) applies to Disney Princess films and being able to determine whether they are successful or not. I have looked at the need for a balance of maintaining the princess narrative viewers desire also known as narrative coherence with changing with the values of the time (narrative fidelity). I am truly a scholar. I am able to add my voice to the learned voices of Communications scholars that have looked at Disney in the past. One of my sources is Dr. Annalee Ward, a former Trinity professor in the Communications department.

Being a student currently in my research, I have some pointers for those of you who haven’t figured out what you will do your research in yet.

  • Do something you love and are passionate about: You work on this for a semester, so make sure it is something you care about.
  • Use your professors: Your professors are knowledgeable and especially those in your department have had you in class and may be able to make suggestions about what you may be interested in studying.
  • Use students who have already done this before: Upperclassmen who have (or are doing) research were once in your shoes. We know the stress of trying to figure out a topic and what you want to look at. Use our struggles to learn so your experience can be a joyful semester of scholarship and growing.

Grace and Peace

Kathryn Andringa


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