Elon University honors theses digitized in Belk archives

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It began with a request from Romania.

There has been an increasing demand from outside the university for access to student research — including interest from other countries, according to Maureen Vandermaas-Peeler, professor of psychology and director of the honors program at Elon University,

In response, Belk Library has digitized every honors thesis dating back to 2007 for use on the Internet. The transition to the digital collections website allows for greater access to the public.

Katie Nash, archivist and special collections librarian, worked on the project with Teresa LePors, coordinator of library public services.

“The digitized theses do a great job of highlighting the research students are doing at Elon on such unique topics,” Nash said. “The nature of research is that it is available for reference, so this is a big step.”

Honors Fellows’ reactions show that students see the advantages of having their work online as well.

“In the same way that the presentations of progress in the fall give rising juniors and seniors an idea of the scope of an honors thesis in different disciplines, having the final product online gives students examples of successful theses,” said senior Shannalee Van Beek, an honors fellow. “Hopefully, this can contribute to the success of future honors theses.”

Vandermaas-Peeler said she sees the digital theses similarly. She said students just entering the honors program may look to the digital archives to start off strong. But  she also sees the advantage for all university students, especially as they consider choosing a major.

Although honors program participants said high quality work is always a priority, some recognize the greater visibility of their work, motivating them to work harder toward perfection.

“Now more than ever, it’s important for all of the Honors Fellows to be sure that their thesis reflects their best work, and that they are extremely careful in their writing and editing process because they know that their paper is going to reach a larger range of people,” said Grace Foster, an honors fellow.

Foster said she is happy her work will be available to the Elon community as well as a larger audience. She presented her research on single-sex schooling at the Midwest Economics Association annual meeting, where she won best undergraduate paper.

This honor is exactly why Vandermaas-Peeler said she believes the theses belong online. She said she believes the undergraduate research associated with the Honors program is the most rigorous at the university, and should therefore be shared.

“Wouldn’t it be nice for students and faculty to see the work our students are doing,” she said. “Regardless of digitization, we’re requiring high quality work. This is just another piece of that.”

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