The Honours+ Student Manual
Stay on track with this overview of deadlines!
Welcome to Honours+
Dear Honours+ Student,
It is our pleasure to welcome you to Honours+, Maastricht University’s interdisciplinary excellence programme for all Bachelor programme Honours students.
Over the course of six months, participating in the Honours+ programme will offer you plenty of opportunities to challenge yourself, further develop useful academic and professional skills, and explore other academic fields and disciplines in order to broaden your knowledge and expand your academic mindset.
Honours+ was specifically designed to bring Honours students from all faculties together and add value to your bachelor education by doing so.
We have been working hard to organize and coordinate a highly educational but also a fun programme for you and hope you are excited about participating as we are about creating an optimized learning environment for you to flourish in. Honours+ is centrally coordinated by EDLAB, Maastricht University’s institute dedicated to education innovation at UM.
In this student handbook, you will find everything you will need to make your Honours+ experience a grand success. We advise you to read it carefully and make sure you are familiar with the information at all times.
We wish you a fruitful and inspiring Honours+ endeavour and look forward to seeing you and all that Honours+ helped you accomplish at the Honours+ Closing Event in May.
The Honours+ Central Management Team
Guidelines to Being a H+ Student
First things first; in order to help you get the most out of your Honours+ experience, we wish to provide you with basic guidelines and an explanation of assets we believe will enable you to become an honours student truly worthy of the additional plus.
Participating in Honours+ asks more of you academically as well as in the “effective teamwork” department. Honours+ will offer you a chance to supplement your education in a highly valuable manner. However, you will only reap the benefits of the programme if you put in a certain amount of effort, dedication, commitment, and time.
In our view, the ideal Honours+ student:
- is able to make a serious commitment and willing to go the extra mile;
- has impeccable time management skills or the drive to develop them;
- is a flexible, exceptionally reliable, and people-oriented team player;
- is eager to learn, grow, and work on personal/academic development;
- sees problems as an exciting challenge;
- is able to apply creativity and innovative solutions to said challenges;
- is able to translate complex academic content into intelligent but accessible representations;
- is able to academically connect with others across disciplines and work together towards a common objective.
The Honours+ programme offers you plenty of opportunities to work on developing or fine-tuning this set of assets. Wrapping up your bachelor’s education as a true Honours+ student will give you a competitive edge as an excellent student, with not just outstanding academic achievements but also a set of useful skills that are valuable in any form of graduate education or professional occupation following your bachelor’s degree.
Throughout Honours+, you will be meeting and working with academic Supervisors, UM employees, fellow bachelor honours students, the Honours+ Central Management Team, and other (external) professionals. All Honours+ students are expected to behave in a polite and professional manner towards all parties involved with Honours+. You will soon find that maintaining a courteous and professional demeanour in both concord and conflict will go a long way and always enable you to achieve the desired results in the end.
Guidelines for professional behaviour:
- Communicate politely and respectfully with everyone at all times.
- Take your commitments seriously and be a reliable team player.
- Give and receive feedback in a strictly constructive manner.
- Always aim to resolve any sort of conflict in a fair and effective manner.
- Be honest and ethical.
Honours+ is part of your honours education. This means that each faculty has cleared 5 ECTS within their existing honours programme, to make room for Honours+. It is therefore an integral part of your honours education, not on top of your honours education.
Taking into account Honours+, your faculty honours education, your regular curriculum, as well as any other extracurricular or private activities that might fill up your weekly calendar, it is important to realize that participating in Honours+ will require your commitment and dedication.
Overall, Honours+ has been designed to require 140 hours (the equivalence of 5 ECTS) of your time, spread out over the course of approx. 6 months (November until Mid-May). It is important to note that poor time management will most likely not only affect you, but your team members and your Supervisor as well. Be sure to manage your time well and securely schedule your activities.
- ±10 hours for attending mandatory Central Events;
- ±6 hours for attending (mandatory) workshops;
- Remaining hours (±124) for the team challenge.
Honours+ offers a workshop on time management and stress management, to help you prioritise and manage your time and tasks wisely. However, if you ever feel that your commitments are too overwhelming, come and talk to H+ Central Management. We can help you prioritise structure and refocus your H+ related tasks, which may give you peace of mind and renewed energy.
An exception this year, are the Honours+ students from FHML, who are joining Honours+ voluntarily (on a pilot basis). The FHML students will participate only in the team challenge and events (no workshops) and will be rewarded with 3 ECTS, to be traded in for an elective course at their faculty’s honours programme.
Mandatory & Exceptions
You were selected by your faculty and deemed a suitable candidate for the honours programme (at your faculty and Honours+).
However, participating in Honours+ is not without obligation. Whereas you are entirely free to plan team meetings when they best suit you (and we will facilitate you as much as we can), your teammates and (on set occasions) your Supervisor, there are several programme components that require mandatory attendance. Some of these programme components are more flexible than others.
For example, you are required to attend at least 2 workshops. The workshops are offered several times on different dates and time slots to ensure that every student is able to attend. Your attendance is also mandatory at the Honours+ Central Events. These events are organized on set dates. For specific information on mandatory programme elements, see the section on ‘Assessment’.
In case a student is unable to 1) attend the required number of workshops, or 2) attend a Central Event due to a serious personal situation or highly important prior engagement, he/she may make up for missing a workshop or event by submitting a substitute assignment.
Students should email the Honours+ Central Management Team in case exceptional circumstances apply. Upon evaluation of their request, they may receive this substitute assignment.
In any case, students are advised to contact the Honours+ Central Management Team and their Faculty Honours Coordinator whenever private, personal circumstances (threaten to) get in the way of their participation in Honours+.
We understand life can throw a roadblock at you and we are always willing to look for a solution together if a student informs us in a timely manner.
Assessment occurs on the basis of 1) your Supervisor’s evaluation of you and of your team (both procedural as in your performance as a team player (in part based on peer review) and the quality of the end product), 2) formal requirements.
In order to successfully complete Honours+, all students must fulfil a number of requirements.
The student or the student team:
- Student: has attended at least 2 workshops.
- Student: has attended all mandatory Central Events: the Kick-Off, Midterm Peer & Expert Discussion Evening, and Closing Event.
- Student: has contributed sufficiently to the team challenge and has proven himself/herself a valuable team member.
- Student team: submitted the final report and outcome of the team challenge before the deadline.
To fulfil the requirements 3 and 4, each student will receive a grade (scale 1-10, with > 6 = pass) from their respective Supervisor, comprised of:
- 60%: The team’s performance with regards to the final report;
- 40% : The student’s own personal and individual contribution.
Your Supervisor will fill out an assessment form for each individual student, which includes feedback on the team challenge and the individual performance of the students. This assessment form includes five different criteria which the Supervisor will give points for. The criteria that will be graded are:
- Relevance – based on the choices you made;
- Logic – based on the structure of your reasoning;
- Added Value – based on the novelty and insights of your suggestions;
- Applicability – based on the feasibility of your suggestions;
- Communication – based on how you make yourself understood.
Upon successfully fulfilling the above mentioned assessment criteria, you will have successfully completed the Honours+ programme, and receive a ‘pass’ for the programme. A ‘pass’ for Honours+ is an integral part of the successful completion of your faculty honours programme. Please note that you will not receive a numerical grade for Honours+, due to the way the course appears on the transcripts of the faculties. You will be informed however of the numerical grade you were given by your Supervisor and his/her feedback on your team’s and individual performance.
H+ during Covid-19
At the start of Honours+, most components of the programme, such as workshops and central/informal events are planned to take physically place at EDLAB’s Tapijn X building or at external venues, while others might be organized in an online setting, depending on the preferences of the participants (such as team meetings).
Please be aware that Covid-19 can always throw us an unexpected curveball, which changes things again. Keep an eye on your UM email for any (last-minute) changes in the programme related to the Corona crisis, and the practical implications that might bring to your Honours+ experience. Rest assured, we will do our utmost to guarantee an honours worthy experience.
The Honours+ Student Team
The student team
“Teamwork makes the dream work.”
Before the Honours+ Kick-Off opening event on November 2nd, you will have learned already which team you have been assigned to and who your teammates are. At the Kick-Off Event, you will get an opportunity to get to know each other better.
You will be embarking on the Honours+ journey together, as a team of students from different disciplines and academic backgrounds. Not only does teamwork allow for brainstorming solutions much better than working by yourself ever will, working in a team also means that together you surely have enough time, resources, and mental capacity to get the job done right. We sincerely hope you are all able to experience working in your Honours+ team positively, and use this opportunity to learn from other faculties’ honours students.
Even though teamwork generally is a very rewarding experience, it can also be challenging at times. Especially in a situation with limited time, added pressure of researching a topic out of your regular curriculum, and dealing with team members from different disciplines/academic backgrounds.
This is all part of the learning experience, which Honours+ first and foremost is. The good news is that there is a solution for everything and since it is a learning experience, Honours+ Central Management will try to support you in any way possible.
However, if you feel your team is not functioning optimally or you as a person cannot function optimally, make sure to speak up in a constructive way and do it as soon as possible! Always try to prevent any issues from escalating. Give each other feedback and respect each other’s (cultural) difference. When things (appear to) go south, don’t be afraid or hesitate to contact the Honours+ Central Management Team.
How to be a team player and role of the student team
The student team is responsible for planning and execution of the challenge, under the guidance of the Supervisor. Most likely, team roles will be defined among you naturally, or perhaps the division of tasks is more of a guided process. Either way, it is good to be aware of the different team roles and what the varying responsibilities mean. Throughout the execution of the team challenge, the team leader will work closely together with the Supervisor to steer the team in the desired direction.
How to be a team player?
- Have an open mind and go into the teamwork experience with positivity and readiness to succeed;
- Commit to your team and all agreements made within your team;
- Schedule and manage your time wisely, so that none of your teammates are ever left hanging;
- Communicate, and communicate clearly. In case of conflict, take a proactive and effective approach toward solving the conflict and setting your team up to succeed in the future;
- Be reliable. Always be on time for team meetings and meet your deadlines.
- Do not be afraid to be vulnerable. You are all students and you are here to learn. Be open about struggles you are dealing with that might affect your work and thus you team. You will be surprised to see how open people are to offer help.
Effective teamwork has never been more important than it is today, as our world is facing new and complex challenges. Teamwork remains a key tool to face these challenges head-on, since working in teams — especially those with different skillsets and backgrounds — sparks innovation, enables agility, and leads to better outcomes.
However, when it comes to working in a team that is not able or allowed to come together physically, there are some things to take a bit extra care of to ensure efficient and effective team functioning.
- Different time zones: Some students are not (yet) able to come to Maastricht, which means that team members might be working from different parts of the world. Be aware of each other’s time differences, and plan your meetings on moments that accommodate different time zones. The scheduled H+ slot on Wednesdays from 18.00-20.00hrs for example.
- Communication tools: When it comes to tips for managing remote teams, nothing beats efficient communication. Virtual team communication can best be handled with the right communication tools, and it is vital that you discuss early on in your group work which tools to use.
- 🗨️ Chat tools – for asking quick questions and clarifying matters about your work.
- 💻 Skype or Zoom – for carrying out video meetings/brainstorm sessions with your team.
- 📧 Email – for the more official correspondence, like arranging the time for group reports and one-on-one meetings, or reporting to your Supervisor or communication with H+ Central Management.
- Management tools: There are plenty of free tools for managing your remote team work. Such a tool will greatly facilitate your project/challenge, task, and team management, as well as ensure you save time by working in one document at the same time. Some free examples are Slack, Clockify and Trello.
- Virtual team culture: Virtual team culture is just as important as a standard team culture – the group of people within a virtual team will still have to form some kind of understanding, as well as build mutual trust.
- Try to establish (virtual) friendships – if you all live in the same country, you can organize get-togethers every couple of weeks. Organize a team dinner, grab a movie together, and get to know each other beyond your Honours+ experience. If meeting in person is not possible due to Covid-19, try to arrange a virtual team dinner, join a virtual Pubquiz or other teambuilding activities. If you have a nice idea that you would need a little bit of funding for, ask H+ Central Management, we might just be able to help you out.
- Establish some ground rules for your virtual meetings. Basic things such as, turn your camera on so that genuine interaction with your team members is possible, take care to be appropriately dressed, do sufficient beforehand preparation of the meeting, be punctual, pay attention to others when speaking and make sure to look at your camera. If it is improper for a face-to-face meeting, then it does not work for video either. To avoid too many people talking over each other, it can be helpful to establish a host/chair for online meetings, and another team member to take notes.
Challenges and obstacles you may face
Participating in Honours+ will most often than not, be a pleasant experience. Working together with equally motivated and high performing students while picking up useful skills and knowledge will definitely expand your academic horizon and elevate your knowledge.
However, we cannot deny the fact that you will potentially also find yourself facing certain obstacles, when working with such diverse teams with different academic and cultural backgrounds, that we feel you need to be wary of.
- Honours students are in general extremely motivated and versatile, which leads them to dedicate their time to a lot of diverse activities to build up their curriculum, next to maintaining a high GPA. This might also lead to stress and too much pressure for some. We provide a workshop on Stress Management within Honours+ that we specifically recommend to these students, and as part of the H+ Care Package, students may schedule 3 wellbeing sessions with a professional coach.
- Trying to schedule team meetings with students from 5 different faculties is a challenge in itself. While it is an excellent planning exercise for students, and we try to facilitate you as much as we can by blocking a timeslot in schedules (Wednesdays 18:00-20:00), the reality is that many teams will find the planning aspect one of the greater challenges in the programme. Try to be as creative as you can in scheduling your team meetings.
- Team members may have different disciplinary backgrounds, different motivations and aspirations, and different cultural backgrounds. Effective collaboration relies in large part on interdisciplinary communication. Communication across disciplines is not always easy. For example, implicit misunderstandings may arise concerning what is deemed a valuable question, what are valid data, what kind of result should emerge from the project and so on (Menken & Keestra, 2016). When performing under pressure, these differences might be a cause for friction within the team. Try to avoid these frictions by careful communication.
- Over time, team members’ roles may change from being core (fully dedicated to the research goal) to peripheral (committed to this research goal, but also working in one or more other teams), and vice-versa. This may cause extra stress on students that stay fully committed.
Of course we all understand that in a team, everyone has different schedules and peaks in their workload. Since you are working in a team and every member needs to put in the required number of hours, it is vital that you communicate timely when you see an issue arising in your calendar with regards to availability and workload. Agreements can be made within the team to divide tasks accordingly and exchange and shift tasks in times of high pressure, if possible.
Also, the assessment of the Team Challenge by the Supervisor will take each student’s individual contribution to the team and their work into account, to avoid freeriding as much as possible. With Honours+ it cannot be stressed enough that this programme is an integral part of the students’ regular faculty honours programme. Failing Honours+ will lead to having to compensate for the missing credits at their faculty.
- In time, measurements related to the Covid-19 crisis, might again become more severe. This can have its effect on the well-being of certain team members. Please take care of each other, and if you feel that you are not feeling well or if you notice a team member not being well, contact H+ Central Management Team as soon as possible. These Covid-19 measurements might also have an effect on your team’s methodology of choice and possible approach. Take this into account beforehand when setting up your methodology.
If at any point you need support or advice on how to deal with a certain issue, please inform the Honours+ Central Management Team at email@example.com. We will gladly provide advice, help you out or intervene if necessary.
The Supervisor plays a crucial part in the team dynamics and the overall Honours+ experience. The main concern of your Honours+ Supervisor is your team’s learning experience during the programme.
Because of the supporting role of the Supervisor and the safe learning environment he/she provides within Honours+, we require the Supervisor to be physically present in Maastricht during November-May to regularly attend team meetings and be available for questions you might have. We also recommend Supervisors to be available during some evenings, to help facilitating team meetings.
- Because of the interdisciplinary character of Honours+, the main role of the Supervisor is to monitor an equal input from, and interaction between, the various disciplines and guarantee sufficient challenge and academic depth.
- The Supervisor doesn’t necessarily have knowledge to a detailed level on all disciplines, but needs to stimulate the students themselves to create links between the various disciplines in the team.
- The Supervisor is not a sole source of required knowledge, but a broker of knowledge throughout the execution of the challenge.
- Furthermore, throughout Honours+, the Supervisor will support the team in planning, developing, and completing the challenge. The Supervisor does not take over the role of the team leader. The students will appoint a team leader in their team. However, the Supervisor is asked to intervene when the team doesn’t display enough initiative and he/she stimulates the students to act pro-actively.
- The Supervisor takes the role of steering and guiding the group, provides for a safe learning environment, and is sensitive towards team dynamics.
- The Supervisor also initiates and chairs the team’s kick-off meeting and midterm feedback session.
- The Supervisor is in close contact with the Honours+ Central Management Team, in order to assure monitoring of the overall programme process and team development.
- The Supervisor is also responsible for assessing the interdisciplinary team challenge and as such, the team’s performance (see also section on “Assessment”). The final report will be assessed on relevance, creativity, logic, added value or novelty of insight and suggestions, applicability and communication. Students will be assessed by the Supervisor both on their team performance and their individual performance and input, to avoid freeloading within the teams as much as possible.
The Supervisors is a determining factor in your overall Honours+ experience, and H+ Central Management takes this very seriously. In order to be as transparent as possible, students ought to be aware of the fact that Honours+ requires not just an honours mentality from students, but from the Supervisors as well. They are required to invest a certain number of hours of supervising Honours+ students, partake in a training programme to support the students to their best ability and communicate regularly with Central Management on their team’s progress.
If any time during your Honours+ experience, you feel that there is an issue with your Supervisor, come and talk to H+ Central Management about this, which will always be confidential. We can help clear up misunderstandings and put you back on track.
Team Meetings & Team building
In order to successfully work on the Honours+ team challenge, we advise students to regularly meet up (offline or virtually) as a team (at least once a week). It is also advisable to meet with your Supervisor at least once every 2 or 3 weeks (preferably in person or online), and keep your Supervisor otherwise updated on your progress. The initiative to schedule these meetings lies with the students primarily.
Try to be creative with these meetings as much as you can. Schedule a (virtual) meeting over dinner, for example. It is not just beneficial for the execution of your challenge, but for team dynamics as well. When scheduling meetings with your Supervisor, try to be sensitive towards the times of the meetings. Many Supervisors have family obligations, so try to inform your Supervisor in a timely manner and avoid making appointments with him/her at very late hours or during the weekend.
We would like to facilitate you to meet up, as much as we can. All participating faculties were requested by the Executive Board and Management Team to block a timeslot especially for Honours+ in every participating student’s schedule. This time-slot is blocked every Wednesday, between 18:00-20:00 hrs. We encourage students to make use of this timeslot for team meetings, as much as possible.
There are rooms and a Common Room to reserve at Tapijn X, should you wish to meet. In case you wish to use the facilities, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will check the availability.
Team Kick-Off Meeting & Team Charter
Team Kick-Off Meeting
The actual working on the Team Challenge starts with a Team Kick-Off Meeting with the entire Honours+ team (Supervisor and students). During this meeting you not only get to be more acquainted with your fellow students and Supervisor, but you will also need to discuss at least the following issues as a team, to make sure you are off to a good start:
- Introduction: Make sure each student introduces himself/herself and explains their academic background and what added value his/her discipline could potentially bring to the challenge.
- Expectation management: What do you expect from each other, what can the students expect from their Supervisor and the challenge? The team can also set rules for behaviour, how to proceed if someone last-minute cannot attend a scheduled meeting, how often the team wishes to meet to work on the challenge etc.
- Team roles: In addition to knowledge, experience and skills, individuals have different behavioural traits or characteristics they bring to the way they carry out their work and these can be aligned to particular roles in the team: some are very good at seeing a big picture, others very good at detailed work. Some are very oriented towards action – good at just getting things done; others are natural communicators and networkers. The need for these different roles will emerge at different times and it is worth considering the composition of your team to ensure you have a balance of strengths.
- Communication: Discuss and agree upon how you as a team will work together during the Honours+ programme. This can vary from practical issues (use of email, phone, dates of meetings, etc.) to the way you will interact with your Supervisor (how often does he/she expect an update and in which way) and how to provide each other with feedback (how to deal with conflicts, free-riding etc.)
A checklist was drawn up in order to facilitate this meeting, and to use to support the team and the Supervisor. You can find the checklist on the website.
The team charter
Before the first team meeting, we would like you to think about your ideas with respect to the performance of your team, and fill in the individual part of the team charter. During the first team meeting, you will fill out the rest of the team charter together with your team members.
Research on team performance shows that high-quality team charters, a.k.a. written plans for how the team will manage its activities, are positively related to team performance. Drafting a team charter increases team members’ knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses within the team, helps to create shared expectations, and facilitates the establishment of effective group practices for dealing with high and poor performance.
You can find the team charter here.
Midterm Feedback Meeting
To improve as a team, and have a better team dynamics, it is important to regularly evaluate and share information about the different situations and processes faced by the team. Within Honours+, we aim to facilitate this process by means of a Midterm Feedback Meeting.
During this meeting, all students and the Supervisor are present, and by means of providing feedback, the team will identify the gaps between the ideal standard of functioning as a team and the current situation, and then work towards bridging these gaps.
In Honours+, we use reflective practice as a method of assessing one’s own thoughts and actions, for the purpose of personal learning and development. For many people, this is a natural and instinctive activity. Reflective Practice can be used for your own development and/or to help others develop.
The H+ Supervisor assesses the students’ reflective determination to improve the team’s process and learning experience during project execution.
In order to achieve and facilitate this, students are to work on their reflective practices individually, and will evaluate their own work on the project as well as the team process by filling out a self-assessment form (based on Gibbs reflective cycle, see above) and use Feedback Cubes as means for peer-feedback.
How to proceed?
The Supervisor guides the students through the process of reflection and facilitates their practices during the Midterm Feedback Meeting:
- The Supervisor schedules a Midterm Feedback Meeting with the students (taking place preferably between 01.03.2023 and 31.03.2023). Please note that students ought to make sure as well that this meeting is planned. You may remind your Supervisor of it.
- Students will have prepared and sent their self-assessment forms (based on Gibbs reflective cycle, see below) to the Supervisor before the actual session. You can find the Gibbs Reflection Practitioner form on the website.
- During the session, the Supervisor discusses with the students the self-assessment forms on reflective practices in order to improve the process and content of the second part of the Challenge;
- During this session, the students are also requested to provide peer to peer feedback by means of the Feedback cubes:
- Feedback³ is a set of 7 cubes that will help make your Midterm Feedback session easier, more natural, less confrontational and fun! Each of the cubes addresses a topic that should be addressed when talking about the team process, ensuring that all of the important issues will be discussed. The cubes each have 6 statements written on them, which will provide a baseline for the discussion. This tool provides you with a new way of doing your feedback-sessions, but it is up to your team to decide how to use them. You can find more information via this video: https://youtu.be/9oIhQg7jQhs
- The actual 7 cubes, and a booklet that provides you with the rules and guidelines for this session, can be found on the Honours+ website (current student section under “Documents”). You can either assign every team member to prepare a cube (cut and glue it) and bring it to the meeting, or make them on the spot, which provides for a teambuilding moment as well.
- In total, the Midterm Feedback Meeting should take approximately 1-1,5 hour. You may request to reserve a room at EDLAB (email email@example.com to do so), use the EDLAB common room, or use an alternative location. Of course, this meeting can also take place online.
Team Closing Session
At the end of the programme, after the Closing Event has taken place, we request that students schedule one final meeting with their Supervisor to openly discuss their challenge outcome, group functioning and overall evaluation of the past months.
The H+ Interdisciplinary Team Challenge
The Team Challenge
Once entering the labour market, the majority of you will have to work in an interdisciplinary context, whether it will be in academia or otherwise. Even more important, expectations are that your generation will be faced with unprecedented complex (global) challenges, such as access to health care, social cohesion, safety and security, and climate change. Exactly these type of challenges especially requires an interdisciplinary research approach and the involvement of multiple parties in order to be solved or at least dealt with. These complex issues are typified by conflicting values, mounting political pressure, and major economic interests.
In Honours+, we aim at offering you a first research experience to approach/tackle such (global) challenges in an interdisciplinary setting, under the professional guidance by staff members from Maastricht University, the so-called Supervisor.
The meaning of ‘research’ in this context is, to have students actively finding information new to themselves. Underlying this notion is the ‘degree of knowness’ of knowledge: whether research involves developing knowledge that is commonly known to humanity, commonly unknown or totally unknown. We see that even inquiry into the commonly known is all part of a process of research skill development. And to overlook the development of skills in earlier years of education is to miss the potential development of skills required of researchers or by industry and employment. (Willison, John; O’Regan, Kerry; and Kuhn, Sara K., “Researcher Skill Development Framework”, 2018).
The Challenges you will be working on in Honours+, are based upon and linked to the Dutch National Research Agenda, and the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Furthermore, the setup of the Honours+ Challenge is aimed at building bridges between education and research, and at fostering closer links between researchers, students and disciplines.
We now call upon you as honours students, the brilliant minds of the future, to make a start to this plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.
A true Honours+ Team Challenge:
- Is a challenging, academic and current case, issue or problem, with societal relevance;
- Is linked to UN’s SDG’s and the Dutch National Research Agenda;
- Pushes students outside their comfort zone;
- Calls for an innovative solution, exploration or approach;
- Allows and facilitates an interdisciplinary approach, with an equal input of the involved disciplines;
- Requires a time investment of 125 hours per student;
- Can be approached along the lines of the scientific method(s);
- Either calls for a solution (applied research), or aims to advance knowledge on the phenomenon (theoretical research).
The fact that the H+ Challenges are interdisciplinary means that the disciplines are not the focus of attention here. The focus ought to be the problem, issue, or intellectual question that each discipline is addressing. The disciplines are merely a means to that end. In Honours+, we require that students explore a complex problem by drawing on their disciplinary insights, and integrate them.
Applied Research or Theoretical Research
The definitive research question that your team will be working on depends on the team’s interpretation of the challenge and your plan for tackling it. Honours+ Challenges may imply doing either applied research or theoretical research.
With a theoretical research focus, your aim for the Challenge is to contribute to the advancement in scientific knowledge for the complete understanding of a topic or certain phenomenon. It is completely theoretical, and focuses on basic principles and testing theories. These Challenges are aligned towards collecting information that has universal applicability. Therefore, it aims to adding new knowledge to the already existing knowledge.
With an applied research focus, your Challenge is directed towards providing a solution to specific problems or an attempt to solve these problems. The research is not done for its own sake, but with the specific aim of solving the problem. It is research that can be applied to real-life situations. It studies a particular set of circumstances, so as to relate the results to its corresponding circumstances.
The category your Challenge most adequately belongs to was made clear at the time of requesting your Challenge preferences in order to ensure all students were able to best choose the Challenge of their preference.
Whether your Challenge has an applied research focus, or a theoretical research focus, there are certain fixed steps every type of research goes through, upon which the structure of Honours+ is based as well. The most common steps your research will go through, are the following, and the deadlines in the H+ checklist are based on these steps as well.
1.Question formulation & Clarifying research focus.
Many students often underestimate the importance of this first stage in the research process. However, it is of high importance to have a clear eye on what the goal of your research is. The choice between the formulation of research questions and the development of hypotheses depends on your research approach. In order to avoid problems at this stage, get your research questions or hypotheses confirmed by your Supervisor before moving forward with the work.
Do not underestimate the time you will dedicate to literature review, because more often than not, it will be the longest stage in your research process. It is advisable to do literature review even before the formulation of research aims and objective (you will want to check if exactly the same research problem has been addressed before and in what way, is your topic relevant and complex enough or do you need to look in a different direction). Narrowing down and formulating a more specific research problem is quite often not possible without reviewing relevant sources. However, the majority of your literature review will be done after you have formulated your research question, or at least after you identified the direction and some keywords necessary for further inquiry. Don’t be too worried either when your literature review causes you to revise or reframe your research question, it is a fluid process.
2. Select your research methods & Collect data
Once you know the aim of your research and your final research question, you have come to the stage where collection method(s) need to be selected, based on the advantages and disadvantages associated with several alternative data collection methods. What method works best, given your Challenge topic and research question? You will need to come up with a plan on how to collect data with maximum efficiency, and effectiveness, and draft up a plan on how to best organize the information and make sense of the collected data.
Topics that you may need to tackle during this step:
- What is the required information to answer your research question and what potential data sources for each piece of information do you need.
- Specify how you will sample these data sources (process of selecting units, e.g. people, from a population of interest so that by studying the sample you may fairly generalize your results back to the population from which they were chosen.)
- Select data collection methods.
- Design data collection instruments/forms/questionnaires and procedures corresponding to each data collection method.
- Specify data collection, coding, and analysis procedures.
- Plan how you will address validity and reliability issues together with your Supervisor.
Once you have a detailed methodology, it is time for the most demanding part of research. Collecting and analyzing information will require extensive brain capacity of the team.
Usually, each type of scientific research, has to go through the ethical review committees within the university. However, the research done within Honours+, was cleared from this. We would like to recommend however to always carefully reflect on whether/how anonymity and confidentiality can be guaranteed for the study participants.
3. Analysis & Interpretation of data.
Analysis of data plays an important role in the achievement of research aim and objectives. It means that you are going to convert quantitative and qualitative data into information that has meaning and value in light of your research question and goals.
In qualitative research using interviews, focus groups, experiments etc., data analysis is going to involve identifying common patterns within the responses and critically analyzing them in order to achieve research aims and objectives. Data analysis for quantitative studies, on the other hand, involves critical analysis and interpretation of figures and numbers, and attempts to find rationale behind the emergence of main findings. Comparisons of primary research findings to the findings of the literature review are critically important for both types of studies.
4. Reaching conclusions.
Now that you have gathered and analyzed your data, and have tried to find patterns within the responses, or have looked for a rationale behind the emergence of main findings, it is time to draw your conclusions. You will have to justify why you believe that your research aims have been achieved or what limitations were involved and potential suggestions for future research. Do not overlook the fact that you are doing interdisciplinary research in Honours+. You should indicate where insights from different disciplines are brought together and list the benefits of the combination of these insights. After all, it is the synergy of using perspectives from multiple disciplines to tackle the H+ Challenge, which we are looking for here.
5. Share your work.
The most common end products of research are a report and a presentation, that allow for you sharing your knowledge. Next to these two, Honours+ also requires you to visualize your findings into a poster, to exhibit during the Closing Event. Make sure you hand in drafts of every above-mentioned step to your Supervisor on time, to avoid not having enough time to implement his/her feedback at the very end of the programme.
Defining a good Research Question
As indicated in the previous paragraph, doing literature review and defining a good research question might be one of the biggest challenges ahead. It is the most basic step in your research and often takes considerable time and effort because you do not know much about the problem yet, or even know if it is researchable in an interdisciplinary way. For this reason, you should expect to revisit your research question as your research progresses. Take heart from the fact that even the most seasoned scholars struggle with this, and that you are here to learn.
A research question is the question around which you center your research. It should be:
- Clear: it provides enough specifics that one’s audience can easily understand its purpose without needing additional explanation.
- Focused: it is narrow enough that it can be answered thoroughly in the space the writing task allows.
- Concise: it is expressed in the fewest possible words.
- Complex: it is not answerable with a simple “yes” or “no,” but rather requires synthesis and analysis of ideas and sources prior to composition of an answer.
- Arguable: its potential answers are open to debate rather than accepted facts.
Researchable in an interdisciplinary sense: this means that authors from multiple disciplines have written on the topic or at least on some aspect of it. (How to Write a Research Question, the Writing Center, 2018)
Steps to developing a research question
- Choose an interesting general topic, related to your H+ Challenge. Ideally, choose a broad topic about which you genuinely would like to know more as a team, and that validates input from the disciplines present in your team;
- Do some preliminary research on your general topic. Do a few quick searches in current periodicals and journals on your topic to see what has already been done and to help you narrow your focus. What issues are scholars and researchers discussing, when it comes to your topic? What questions occur to you as you read these articles?
- Consider your audience. You will be writing an academic paper, so your audience will be academic, but always keep your audience in mind when narrowing your topic and developing your question. Would that particular audience be interested in the question you are developing?
- Start asking questions. Taking into consideration all of the above, start asking yourself open-ended “how” and “why” questions about your general topic.
- Evaluate your question. After you have put a question or even a couple of questions down on paper, evaluate these questions to determine whether they would be effective research questions or whether they need more revising and refining.
- Is your research question clear? With so much research available on any given topic, research questions must be as clear as possible in order to be effective in helping you to direct your research.
- Is your research question focused? Research questions must be specific enough to be well covered in the space available.
- Is your research question complex? Research questions should not be answerable with a simple “yes” or “no” or by easily found facts. They should, instead, require both research and analysis on the part of the writer. They often begin with “How” or “Why.”
- Does your research justify using an interdisciplinary approach? Determine that important insights concerning the problem are offered by two or more disciplines. Determine as well that no single discipline has been able to explain the problem comprehensively or resolve it satisfactorily so that you may indicate the relevance of an interdisciplinary approach. (Repko & Szostak, 2020)
- Draw on the disciplinary perspectives present in your team: Ask of each discipline “Does it illuminate some aspect of the problem, topic, or question and in what sense?” This will then help you further in your literature research and the paths your research could take.
- Begin your research. After you have come up with a question, think about the possible paths your research could take. What sources should you consult as you seek answers to your question? What research process will ensure that you find a variety of perspectives and responses to your question?
Examples of Research Questions
Unclear: How should social networking sites address the harm they cause?
Clear: What action should social networking sites like Facebook take to protect users’ personal information and privacy?
The unclear version of this question does not specify which social networking sites or suggest what kind of harm the sites might be causing. It also assumes that this “harm” is proven and/or accepted. The clearer version specifies sites (Facebook), the type of potential harm (privacy issues), and who may be experiencing that harm (users). A strong research question should never leave room for ambiguity or interpretation. (How to Write a Research Question, the Writing Center, 2018)
Unfocused: What is the effect on the environment from global warming?
Focused: What is the most significant effect of glacial melting on the lives of penguins in Antarctica?
The unfocused research question is so broad that it could not be adequately answered in a book-length piece, let alone a 6000-8000 word report. The focused version narrows down to a specific effect of global warming (glacial melting), a specific place (Antarctica), and a specific animal that is affected (penguins). It also requires the writers to take a stance on which effect has the greatest impact on the affected animal. When in doubt, make a research question as narrow and focused as possible. (How to Write a Research Question, the Writing Center, 2018)
Too simple: How are doctors addressing diabetes in the U.S.?
Appropriately Complex: What main environmental, behavioral, and genetic factors predict whether Americans will develop diabetes, and how can these commonalities be used to aid the medical community in prevention of the disease?
The simple version of this question can be looked up online and answered in a few factual sentences; it leaves no room for analysis. The more complex version is written in two parts; it is thought provoking and requires both significant investigation and evaluation from the writer. As a general rule of thumb, if a quick Google search can answer a research question, it is likely not very effective. (How to Write a Research Question, the Writing Center, 2018)
Team Challenge outcome
By working on the Challenge during the Honours+ programme, following the scientific method, you will get a grasp on the interdisciplinary collaboration, together with all the opportunities and challenges it provides. This learning process is vital, and the results of it are to be put in an academic report.
Furthermore, Honours+ requests each student team to translate their findings into an A0 poster, and a presentation during the Closing Event.
These formats aim at teaching you how to present results to non-expert audiences and peers. This process of transfer of knowledge begotten during the Honours+ programme, and using it to make an impact and impression, is something we wish our Honours+ students to gain further experience in.
Additionally, since multiple teams will be working on the same Challenge topic (but on their own specific research question), it means that teams will be able to compare each other’s progress throughout Honours+, are able to exchange knowledge and experience on the topics during the events. Additionally, they will be competing for the most value adding findings during the Closing Event, thus creating a system of peer support.
Honours+ defines general guidelines for the outcome of the team Challenge. The further refinement of the style of the academic report needs to be defined in close interaction between Supervisor and students. Honours+ requires the following outcome (1-3):
1. Academic report, that:
- displays an interdisciplinary understanding of the researched subject, reflecting all involved disciplines and clearly shows what the added-value was of every discipline involved in tackling the challenge;
- includes a proposed potential solution to the problem (applied research challenges); or
- includes new and value-adding knowledge to the already existing knowledge on this topic (theoretical research challenges);
- contains between 6000-8000 words;
- is written in accordance with the APA guideline;
- is sent to the Supervisor and firstname.lastname@example.org, before the deadline (Monday May 8th 08:00hrs).
Based on the outcome of the scientific exploration of the team Challenge, each team visualizes their outcome in an A0 academic poster, to be exhibited and presented during the Closing Event.
Criteria for the poster:
- The standard format of a poster follows that of an oral scientific presentation and includes Introduction, Methods, Results, Conclusions; Recommendations/New knowledge, Names authors. A poster, like an oral presentation, cannot (and should not) contain all information you have on the topic. Scientific posters should stimulate interest rather than provide a detailed presentation. More detailed information ought to be provided in your presentation of the poster.
- One member of the student team emails the digital file of the poster to email@example.com and the Supervisor, before the deadline (Monday May 8th 08:00hrs).
- One member of the student team hands in the printed poster at EDLAB, Tapijn Building X, room 0.003, before the deadline (Tuesday, May 9th 16:00).
- A0 format (118,9 cm x 84,1 cm).
- Consistent and aesthetically pleasing layout;
- Effective use of images, colours, and fonts;
- Limited use of large text-boxes;
- Source citations in proper APA-style.
- Honours+ will reimburse printing costs for the poster. In order to do so, keep the original receipts, and download and fill out the reimbursement form on the H+ website. Then hand in the signed form and the original receipt at EDLAB.
General guidelines and tips for your poster:
- Artistry does not substitute for content, although display of creativity is highly appreciated. The relevance of the poster and your research project should always be apparent to viewers.
- Place the title at the top.
- Use short sentences, simple words, and bullets to illustrate your points.
- Text should be broken up by including graphics or photos.
- Self-explanatory graphics should dominate the poster. The success of a poster directly relates to the clarity of your illustrations and tables!
- Avoid using jargon, acronyms, or unusual abbreviations.
- Use a non-serif font (e.g., Arial) for the poster.
- The poster (text and graphics) should be easily readable from a distance of about 2 metres. As a thumb rule, the text should be readable if the poster is printed out on an A4 sheet (e.g. Arial >24 points).
Based on the outcome of the scientific exploration of the team Challenge, each team presents their outcome during a 5-minute presentation during the Closing Event, in front of a jury and other Honours students.
Your poster, will be the basis of your presentation, and will be the basis of your PowerPoint slides (slides zooming in on parts of your poster).
Picture yourself with your poster. Someone says, “So, tell me about your research.” What do you say? What would you tell them about your research in 5 minutes? Your research question, its relevance, the data you sought, the results you found, the conclusions you drew. What information can you convey that is complementary to the poster that is on display?
Challenges with a focus on applied research will focus on presenting their recommendations or proposed solutions to the proposed problem. Challenges with a focus on theoretical research will focus on presenting the added value of the new insights they gathered on the topic, contributing to the already existing knowledge.
The best presentation within every Challenge topic will win a prize.
Submitting the slides:
- Your presentation should not cover more than 7 slides in PowerPoint.
- Each slide zooms in on a separate part of your poster.
- One slide may be dedicated towards an introduction of your team members.
- One member of the student team emails their PowerPoint file to firstname.lastname@example.org, and the Supervisor before the deadline
(Monday May 8th 08:00hrs)
- When submitted, your presentation has a duration of max. 5 minutes.
The Workshops & Care Package
In order to help you develop practical applicable academic skills that will be useful to you now as well as in your academic and professional future, Honours+ offers you a number of workshops. All workshops will be conducted in English, and take approximately 3 hours.
All Honours+ students are required to attend at least 2 workshops out of the many different workshop topics that we offer (see “Assessment” section for specific requirements). Attendance is registered using signup sheets at the workshops. Please make sure to always sign the attendance sheet, because your attendance cannot and will not be verified otherwise. Attending more workshops than the required amount is allowed, provided there are spots open.
- How to Formulate a Good Research Question;
- Creative Problem Solving;
- On Fire Without Burning Out
- Stress Management;
- Time Management;
- Science of Wellbeing;
- Debating Skills;
- Presentation Skills;
- Speed Reading;
How to sign up
To sign up for workshops, go to the workshop registration page. This page includes the workshops’ description, preparation material if applicable, and a link to the signup sheet.
Please note that once you are signed up it is not possible to cancel your registration yourself. If you must cancel your registration please email email@example.com with your request. Registration or cancellation of a registration is allowed up to 24 hours in advance of the workshop date and time.
Honours+ Care Package
Honours students are naturally driven and high-performing students, always looking for a new challenge. However much we appreciate this attitude and ability, it might also sometimes be the cause of certain issues. Especially when deadlines start adding up, pressure is building and a lot of new information comes your way, students might feel overwhelmed at times. We also will still be dealing with the aftermath of Covid-19 and the flexibility that requires from all of us, which might cause you to feel a bit disconnected or overwhelmed at times.
Therefore, Honours+ decided to provide our Honours+ students with the H+ Student Care Package this year, which includes workshops, sessions and activities related to (mental) wellbeing. Please note that this is optional, on a voluntary basis, and merely meant for those of you that feel they would benefit from a bit of extra support.
Central & Informal Community Events
Over the course of the programme, Honours+ organizes several activities for all Honours+ students, Supervisors and coordinators. These events contain educational and/or assessment elements and offer opportunities for students and UM honours staff to meet, connect and create an honours community.
Remember! Your attendance at the Central events (Kick-Off, Midterm Peer & Expert Discussions, and Closing) is mandatory and a necessary requirement to fulfil if you want to successfully complete the Honours+ programme.
Mark your calendars! If you cannot attend a central event, please refer to the section on ‘Exceptional Circumstances’. The informal community events are free to join if you wish to spend more time with fellow Honours students.
Please refer to the Honours+ website, your student email account, and Facebook for official invitations and definitive dates, places, and times.
Pictures might be taken during the Honours+ events, to use for promotional purposes. In case you object to your picture being used, please send us an email via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Central Event: Kick-Off of the programme
We want to officially welcome you to Honours+ and kick-off the programme together with a bang! Students will get an opportunity to first meet and get to know each other.
Additionally, there will be an inspiring lecture on interdisciplinary teamwork and how to lift your group work from multi-disciplinary to interdisciplinary. Lastly, we have organized an enjoyable group activity to facilitate the formation of excellent team dynamics within your team right off the bat. We hope to inspire you to go into the Honours+ experience with an enthusiastic approach and a good foundation for pleasant and effective teamwork.
Please refer to your email accounts to stay informed about the Honours+ Kick-Off event. Your attendance is mandatory.
Central Event: Midterm Peer & Expert Discussion Evening
Halfway during the Honours+ programme, all students are required to attend one of the Midterm Peer & Expert Discussion Evenings (a schedule will be drawn up for when, which team needs to be present).
During these sessions, students will present their results thus far to an expert on the Challenge topic, by means of a 2-minute pitch, after which they will be able to ask input from the expert on a content related issue they are dealing with.
After that, students are grouped with fellow honours students from other teams that are working on the same challenge, and are able to get input from fellow students on issues or problems that are facing. These problems can be related to the content of their research or related to the process of working in an interdisciplinary team.
Please refer to the Honours+ website and your student email accounts to stay informed about the Midterm Peer & Expert Discussion Evenings. Your attendance is mandatory.
Central Event: Closing Event
The Honours+ programme is concluded with a festive Closing Event, focused on bringing the Honours+ experience to a close together. During the Closing Event, each student team will present their findings concerning the team Challenge to the other Honours+ students, and a jury. The best presentation within every Challenge topic will win a team prize. We challenge you to impress your peers and UM’s academic staff!
Inform the H+ community and us what potential solution you found (applied research Challenges) or what new and value-adding knowledge to the already existing knowledge on this topic your team uncovered (theoretical research Challenges). More information regarding the criteria for your team’s poster and presentation during the Closing Event, can be found under “Team Challenge Outcome”.
Please refer to the Honours+ website, and your student email accounts to stay informed about the Honours+ Closing Event. Your attendance is mandatory.
Informal Community Events
Besides the formal Central events, we also host a variety of fun and informal community events, where you can meet and connect with fellow honours students in an informal setting. These events are aimed at building bridges across faculty borders and aspire to create a community of honours students.
To sign up for the community events, go to the events page.
Attending these events is optional, voluntary and free of charge. However, once you sign up for such an event, we count on your presence an expect you to actually attend these events. Not showing up, or cancelling later than 24 hours in advance, without a valid and documented reason, will affect the activity for your fellow students and leads to extra costs for the organisation. You will, in that case, be faced with a no-show fee of € 25.
Please note that once you are signed up, it is not possible to cancel your registration yourself. If you must cancel your registration please email email@example.com with your request. Registration or cancellation of a registration is allowed up to 24 hours in advance of the community event date.
Please refer to the Honours+ website, Facebook, and your student email accounts to stay informed about the informal community events.
The mighty Honours+ Checklist
Below, we provide you with an overall checklist for every task you need to complete in order to successfully complete Honours+. To be specific, if you stick to this checklist, nothing can go wrong and you should stay on track just fine.
Ready? Set? Go!
1) Honours+ Kick-Off (Deadline: Wednesday November 2nd)
- Attend the Honours+ Kick-Off event, during which you will meet your team and Supervisor;
2) Team kick-off Meeting (Deadline: Friday, November 18th)
- Schedule your first team meeting together with your Supervisor to set ground rules for teamwork;
- Complete the individual section of the team charter and bring it to the team meeting;
- Attend the meeting; Check the Kick-Off Meeting checklist for this meeting to see if you discussed all important topics;
- Complete the team section of the team charter together;
- Send the completed team charter to your Supervisor.
And we're off!
3) Schedule regular team meetings throughout the programme.
- Schedule weekly sessions with your student team;
- Schedule sessions with your Supervisor and keep him/her updated on your progress on a regular basis.
4) Step 1: Question formulation & clarifying research focus (Deadline: Friday January 20th)
- Complete your team’s literature review on the topic of the challenge;
- Define your final research question;
- Send a draft to your Supervisor for feedback.
- Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your team’s research question.
5) Attend 2 workshops of your choosing.
- Sign up on time for two workshops (limited spaces);
- Attend two workshops.
6) Honours+ Midterm Peer & Expert Discussion Evenings (Wednesday March 1st or Thursday March 2nd)
- Prepare for the Midterm Peer & Expert Discussion Evening by preparing a 2-minute pitch (if you would like to use slides, bring your own laptop with VGA/HDMI connection to connect to the beamer) on the status quo of your Challenge and a problem your team is facing that you would like input on from an expert;
- Attend the evening your team is scheduled for;
7) Schedule the Midterm Feedback session (Between: March 1st and March 31st)
- Schedule the Midterm Feedback session with your Supervisor;
- Prepare for the meeting by filling out the Gibbs Reflection Practitioning form and send it to your Supervisor prior to the session;
- Prepare for the meeting by watching the instructional video: https://youtu.be/1edcpsI2wdI and reading the information booklet;
- Prepare the cubes (cut-outs);
- Attend the actual meeting as a team, with the Supervisor present, and make agreements for the second half of the team challenge and your team’s functioning;
8) Step 2: Select research methods & collect data (Deadline: Friday March 11th)
- Design the actual study, define the methodology;
- Collect the necessary data;
- Send a draft to your Supervisor for feedback.
9) Step 3: Analysis & data interpretation (Deadline: Monday April 17th)
- Organize the collected data;
- Analyze the results;
- Send a draft to your Supervisor for feedback.
Wrap it up!
10) Step 4: Conclusion (Deadline: Wednesday April 26th)
- Generalize your results. Relate what you have learnt on a small scale to the bigger picture;
- Provide potential suggestions for further research;
- Highlight the potential solution you are offering (a.pplied research challenges), or the new knowledge you added to the already existing knowledge on this topic (theoretical research challenges);
- Send a draft to your Supervisor for feedback.
11) Step 5: Share your work (Deadline: Monday May 8th, 08:00hrs)
- Send the final report to your Supervisor and to email@example.com;
- Send your PowerPoint slides for your pitch to your Supervisor and to firstname.lastname@example.org;
- Send the digital file of the poster to your Supervisor and to email@example.com;
12) Honours+ Closing Event
- Hand in the printed poster at EDLAB, TAPX, room 0.003 (Deadline: Tuesday May 9th 16:00);
- Attend the Closing Event on Wednesday May 10th;
- Hand in your poster reimbursement forms and original printing receipts at EDLAB.
13) Team Closing Session (Deadline: Friday May 26th)
- Schedule a team closing session together with your Supervisor to evaluate and discuss the results of the team challenge.