Dive In: The New Honors Study Topic is Here

red telephone booth

It’s the start of a new decade, a new year, and a new Phi Theta Kappa Honors Study Topic! Get ready to turn up the dial on intellectual curiosity as your chapter explores the 2020/2021 topic.

Every two years, Phi Theta Kappa launches a new Honors Study Topic that serves as the focus of the organization’s honors program Honors in Action (HIA). Each new topic is developed by the Honors Program Council, Phi Theta Kappa’s very own “think tank” which is comprised of chapter advisors, consultants, and PTK staff.

The 2020/2021 Honors Study Topic is To the Seventh Generation: Inheritance and Legacy. To help you find the approach that speaks to you, your team and your community, we’ve organized the topic into seven thought-provoking themes that are sure to spark not only discussion and investigation, but action.

Theme 1: The Heirs of our Ways
Theme 2: Natural and Constructed Environments
Theme 3: Trade, Craftsmanship, and Industry
Theme 4: Expressions of Truth
Theme 5: Resistance – Reform, Rebellion, Revolution
Theme 6: Perceptions of Progress
Theme 7: Life and Death

Each of the themes offers an interdisciplinary lens through which to investigate the all-encompassing Honors Study Topic. Each theme also has an overarching question located below the theme title to clarify the theme and help facilitate your selection.

To help chapters learn more about the new topic, start with the 2020/2021 Honors Program Guide. The Guide includes:

  • HIA-at-a-Glance graphic, your of big-picture view of Honors in Action from 30,000 feet
  • Recommendations for using the Guide, to help you get the most benefit from your “textbook”
  • Introductory essay, for a first look at how the themes connect with real-life and the big picture
  • Introductions to each theme, to drill down a little deeper and zero in on what interests your group most
  • Resource suggestions, to help you know where to look when you are ready for a deeper dive into a particular theme
  • HIA Planning Rubric, a guide to make sure your project is ready for Hallmark Awards entry
  • Academic sources guidance, to guide your group in identifying, analyzing and selecting academic sources
  • Steps to developing a research question, a key component leading to your project
  • HIA journal prompts, to help you keep notes of your project as you go
  • Sample HIA project, for a peek at what a finished project entails before you get started


New and Improved for 2020

The HIA Workbook: This new resource was developed to help HIA teams work through and document their work as they move through the HIA process.

“The HIA workbook is an excellent tool for chapters, especially those with brand new PTK members who are in charge of working on the new year’s project,” says Honors Program Council member and chapter advisor Lara Romer. “It can assist students in not only completing the project but in understanding why they are working through the process in the ways we have outlined.

“Additionally, the workbook can be used as a record keeping tool, which will aid in the completion of Hallmark award entries, which are the culmination of the HIA process for many chapters. The workbook also has tips that can help chapters to do things they might otherwise overlook in the HIA process.”

Research Edge: Officially launching later this week, Research Edge is a game changer. It is a course that will inform and inspire you to grow in your knowledge of HIA.

This self-paced course is free for all members and chapter advisors and includes readings, short videos, learning exercises, and short quizzes to guide participants through all aspects of the HIA process.

The great news is the course that can be revisited throughout the year as team members develop and implement HIA projects. Plus, members and chapter advisors can earn three electronic badges and the opportunity, once the course is successfully completed, to purchase a Research Edge pin.

The Bibliography: This comprehensive list goes beyond the resources listed in the 2020/2021 Honors Program Guide. For each theme, you’ll find academic sources as well as resources that can help chapters determine directions in which they’d like to go with their Honors Study Topic investigations. TED Talks, newspaper and magazine articles, and podcasts, while not academic sources, can facilitate discussions that lead to determining which theme to research and which direction to go with academic investigation.

The Film List: The Film List is another great way to get discussions going about the overarching topic and themes that may interest your chapter. The list is broken into themes, though you may find films that fit with more than one of the themes. Hosting a movie night and discussion can generate interest in the topic, the theme your team selects, and the HIA project.

Something for everyone

“The reason I believe so strongly in the HIA model is that it creates an opportunity for all chapter members to shine. Because HIA is interdisciplinary and has so many components it allows for participation of members with various skill sets and makes it so everyone can be a valued member of the team,” says Roemer. “To this end, it also creates a very realistic modelling of what many students will encounter when they leave academics and enter their careers. They must learn to work together in teams, find ways to utilize both their strengths and the strengths of others, and be responsible for a project from start to finish.”

“Honors in Action has been the great equalizer for Phi Theta Kappa. All chapters, small, medium, and large, have designed and completed robust, successful, and, quite frankly, amazing projects,” says Susan Edwards, Associate Vice President of Honors Programming and Undergraduate Research. “We are so proud of the exemplary work being done by PTK members. The Honors Study Topic and Honors Program Guide are the places to begin the HIA journey. The sky is the limit!”

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