The Review Process

Honors proposals in Human Biology are subjected to expert review in a process that mirrors peer review of grant proposals or journal articles.

Each proposal will be evaluated by at least two qualified experts from Human Biology or elsewhere in the University. Reviewers consider the following questions:

• Is the research question important?
• Is the background for the research plan adequately presented?
• Is the proposed methodology appropriate?
• Is the student prepared in terms of coursework, experience, understanding of methods and statistics?
• How adequate and appropriate is the supervision? Are there other readers who should be added to the committee?
• If the student is doing fieldwork, is there someone in the field who can give guidance if the need arises?
Based on the reviewers’ recommendations, the Honors committee assigns each proposal to one of the following overall evaluations:

Accept as is – The student should pay attention to the recommendations of the reviewers, but the proposal does not need to be resubmitted.
Conditional accept – The committee found significant merit in the proposal but the student must allay certain concerns before the proposal can be accepted. The committee members presume that they will accept the proposal once the student resolves the apparent problems. The student must address the reviewers’ remarks specifically and resubmit the proposal.
Revise and resubmit – The committee found merit in the proposal but also had serious concerns about the project in its current form. The student may revise the proposal, taking into full account the reviewers’ criticisms, and resubmit it for a new review.
Reject – The research is not suitable for an Honors thesis in Human Biology.

Responding to the review

Both the student and the first reader will receive copies of the reviews along with a summary of the committee’s recommendations highlighting areas that need special attention during the revision. At this stage, faculty guidance is essential for a successful project. We urge students to seek advice from their readers, and we are counting on faculty to help translate the reviews to their students. Sometimes the most fundamental and significant criticisms of a proposal are presented in the most abstract terms. For example, a reviewer may feel that a proposal does not properly frame the research question or does not explain the methodological purpose behind specific experimental procedures. In some cases, a reviewer may see flaws in a project without precisely identifying the underlying problems. Abstract comments can be extremely difficult for students to interpret and address without the help of experienced faculty. By contrast, minor criticisms tend to be very specific and easy to correct, and they naturally draw disproportionate attention in the revision. With the help of their readers, students are generally able to use the reviewers’ comments to improve the proposal and, more importantly, their conception of the overall project.

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