While a traditional honors option may take many forms, the Faculty Advisory Committee of the Honors College has approved a standardized model based upon a review essay. This model has wide applicability across disciplines and majors, and guarantees honors-appropriate enrichment.
This model of the honors option is required when the instructor is not eligible to offer the traditional honors option. It is strongly recommended for eligible faculty who are relatively new to Penn State, or have not previously offered honors options. It can be an attractive option for faculty who are eligible and experienced, but who are concerned about the time commitment of traditional honors options involving research or project supervision.
What is a Review Essay?
A review essay is a comparative analysis of several pieces of scholarly literature on a particular topic. It is a free-standing version oof the "literature review" that is typically an early chapter of the undergraduate honors thesis. The pieces reviewed, typically journal articles, should be related rather than random, but they should be sufficiently different in questions posed, approaches used, or findings/results, to make for interesting comparisons in the review essay. The review essay should demonstrate the student's ability to summarize multiple works efficiently, analyze and critque them (going beyond "compare and contrast" to assessing the extent to which they ask the most important questions and get reliable answers), and suggest next steps for research.
The choice of scholarly articles is key to the successful and intellectually worthwhile completion of the honors option, so the student should discuss this extensively with the instructor. The selected articles should be related but not redundant, keeping in mind that multiple people may be working on nearly identical things and getting them published in different journals.
Specific Expectations for the Review Essay Honors Option
While review essays can be of varying length and can be about varying numbers of works, for the honors option review essay we require the following:
- 4 to 6 scholarly articles under review
- Uniform overall organization: statement of overall topic or question, discussion of articles, summary with directions for future research
- Appropriate page length as determined by the instructor and honors advisor, subject to review by the Honors College
The honors option proposal for review essays does not have to list the specific articles, because that level of detail may not be possible by the submission deadline. It should, however, specify the topic of the review essay, the number of articles to be reviewed, examples of journal titles, the expected length of the review essay, and a deadline within the semester for finalizing the articles to be reviewed.
Each year, the Schreyer Honors College requires potential Scholars to answer three essay questions. These questions change on a yearly basis and are meant to elicit well-written, comprehensive responses. Essay responses do not have word count or formatting requirements.
The essay questions are posted here a few months before the Penn State and Schreyer Honors College application is made available on September 1. We strongly encourage you to begin working on your essays immediately after they are posted.
2018 Essay Questions
- It has been said that art imitates life, which implies that what we see depicted in entertainment is merely a reflection of what is happening in real life. Review this video clip and tell us if you believe it reflects experiences of teenagers in the world today. In your response, address the ethical issues presented in this clip and how you would address them.
- Following the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England in May of 2017, the artist and her management team decided to hold a benefit concert to raise money for those injured and killed during the bombing and to spread a message of love and unity after the attack. Do you think the arts can play a role in solving international conflicts? Please cite examples to support your perspective.
- In the last few years, youth around the world have gravitated toward podcasts, YouTube, blogs and social media for educational and entertainment purposes. Please list one or two of these different types of media that you follow or subscribe to and explain why you identify with and consume their content. Note: please be mindful that some application readers may not be familiar with media platforms you mention in your response.