Undergraduate Research

To complete the major in Communication, students take three courses during the senior year to fulfill the capstone requirement: Research Methods, Senior Research and Senior Readings. The Senior Capstone experience takes students to new heights in their learning, and most say that they accomplish more than they ever dreamed they could do in terms of academic achievement. Students create an original research project by asking an unanswered question, doing a thorough scholarly literature search, designing a method and carrying out the research, and orally presenting and defending the project in a public forum.

Because this is a year-long project, it helps students see that they have the ability to plan and organize an enormous project with attention to details; they learn self discipline and perseverance when unanticipated problems emerge, and how to work through those challenges.

Some recent graduates' thoughts on their Senior Seminar Projects

Francesca Danby, class of 2008

"The Senior Research project was the most challenging course I took at Hiram, in addition to the most rewarding. I learned how to work independently from my professor and classmates. This was due to the specialization of my topic, which forced me to find all of my own articles, and determine what I thought was relevant. By the end of the semester I felt like a communication scholar. I found myself reading scholarly journals with more ease, and even found it enjoyable.

The most rewarding aspect of the project was the presentation. It was truly a unique experience because it was the first time I spoke to a group about not only what others studied, but also my own research and findings. Throughout the year, my professors had only high standards for my work, but as I progressed I found that my own standards grew and exceeded any level I thought possible. The culmination of this was presenting a project that, after devoting an entire year to, I was unbelievably proud of.

Lastly, my year will be forever shaped by the professors and students who went through the same experience I did. Although I learned to be an individual thinker, I don't think I would have made it through the year with out their support and encouragement. We challenged each other through discussion, class activities and constructive criticism. The professors acted more as a guide while my peers and I discovered our own ideas and conclusions about the practice of communication. It was an unforgettable experience that instilled a confidence in me as a member of the academic community."

Anuj Gurung, class of 2008

"For me, my undergraduate senior research included all my academic interests - communication, political science and history. But my paper is also a product of my passion, the guidance of my teachers and a personal will to create something worthwhile. My paper represents what communication can be under a given situation - a desperate cry for help, a guilt of failure or a predicament in transporting people to their potential deaths. It is unbelievable the kind of frontiers we can surmount once we put our minds at task in hand. I consider my paper to be an example of what we can do and achieve in life - anything."

Sarah Heiss, class of 2006

"The research project I completed my senior year at Hiram College was a challenging, but worthwhile, process of recognizing my strengths, ambitions, and even my future.

For my senior research project, I completed a quasi-experimental exploration of the relationship between how people use health labeling on canned food products and their need for cognition, a variable that describes how much a person likes to think. My advisor taught me how to dig into theory and previous research to develop well-supported hypotheses and then how to develop a study that would adequately test my ideas. Though this process was demanding, I indeed developed a set of hypotheses that were supported by the data I collected.

I'm proud of this project because the results have significant implications on how people use information to negotiate healthy eating choices."

Colin McCormack, class of 2007

"The capstone of four magnificent years of education at Hiram College, the Communication department's senior-year project, had me utilize not only lessons learned in the classroom, but real world skills as well. As an avid learner, I was able to apply theories and concepts to my project that my professors taught me along the way, as well as critically analyze artifacts that I came across in my daily life. I learned how to take the theoretical and make it practical. Not reserved just to the classroom setting, my learning branched outwards and gave me the confidence needed to form a greater understanding of myself and what I am capable of.

Now a graduate, I look back at my time at Hiram and am grateful to the college for instilling within me a strong foundation of determination and fortitude. As my mentors, motivators, and friends, the Communication department watched me grow in both mind and in spirit. My time at Hiram was a unique opportunity that I am fortunate to have been a part of and will undoubtedly treasure for the rest of my life. I am truly thankful for the education that I received and the experience that I lived."

Andy Neiss, class of 2006

"My senior seminar was such a unique and rewarding experience to be a part of at the undergraduate level. It took great dedication, patience and some occasional advice and guidance from professors in the department in order to have the feeling of satisfaction I had at the conclusion of my project. The fact I chose a topic of keen interest made it easy to stay focused and always want to learn more. It taught me that what you take away from something is certainly dependant on what you put into it. The lessons learned and skills crafted and honed by being a part of the senior seminar program are invaluable to any undergraduate, regardless of the direction they choose to go after their studies at Hiram are complete."

Audrey Wagstaff, class of 2005

"Although it is considered one of the most daunting assignments among communication students, the senior capstone project always ends up eliciting responses such as "I'm really glad I completed it" or "I'm so proud of this accomplishment." My independent research project, "U.S. Media's Role in Shaping Public Opinion of Cuba" enabled me to get a taste of what graduate school would be like. I identified a problem: Is U.S. press coverage of Cuba biased, gathered relevant information, and implemented the methodological approach that would best help me answer this question. When I entered graduate school in the fall following my graduation from Hiram, I was light years ahead of my classmates. I felt confident and capable of conducting original research. As I've grown as a researcher and thought about what I would like to do in my academic career, my return to Hiram as a faculty member was inspired in part by how much I believe in the educational experience communication majors get here. The senior research project truly puts our graduates ahead of the pack in graduate school and in the professional world."

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