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Researching Programs

Tips for Researching Academic Programs and Areas of Study

Evaluate your goals

If you are interested in the possibilities of the Pike Honors Program, the first step is to evaluate your goals and future plans. You may know of a field or major that you would like to pursue. Or you may have a career goal such as international journalism, international development, community sustainability, archaeology, museum curator, or urban planning. Investigate what educational background is required to begin in that field. Check also for prerequisite courses required for entrance to graduate programs in that field.

Managing multiple interests

If you have several areas of interest but are not sure how they would translate to a career or future educational plans, discuss your ideas with advisors and consider how your interests might be combined. For example, a student with diverse interests in economics and fine arts planned a program focusing on economic development through micro-businesses in the arts, with the future goal to work with agencies assisting communities to develop economic options for the arts. Not all interests can be combined; some may just remain avocations. But there are steps you can take to research career fields. Gordon’s Career Services Office has literature, catalogs and diagnostic tests which can help you focus on majors that might be of interest.

Research target areas of study

Once you have an idea of what you would like to do, the next step is to research your area of interest. We recommend that you proceed with a combination of the following:

  • Seek the input and advice of faculty at Gordon, many of whom have interests in specific areas within their discipline or could suggest programs based on your interests,
  • Browse through our Academic Catalog to see if any courses within your major or perhaps an interdisciplinary minor might suggest a unique concentration or a field that could be developed as a major, and
  • Research catalogs from other undergraduate academic institutions (many can be found online) for majors or programs not offered at Gordon, and
  • Check out graduate program admissions requirements in related fields.

As you look into a discipline, note what coursework is standard in majors at other institutions. A major should be crafted with broad introductory courses to introduce the foundations, philosophy or history of a major, and basic practices of the discipline. Then there should be advanced or upper-level study in the field—perhaps with a choice of concentrations. Undergraduate programs need to provide breadth as well as depth, and will not be as tightly focused as a graduate program. A major should conclude with a capstone or culminating experience such as an honors thesis, research project or interdisciplinary independent study.


Consider how your program could connect ideas across specific academic disciplines or entail creative programming elements that integrate concepts or practices from two or more areas of study.  

Asking a question like, “What are the limits, if any, on enhancing human physical performance?,” might combine human development, human anatomy and biology, with the sociological, philosophical and Biblical concepts of human dignity and potential. A major called “Human Development” might describe that area of study well and frame a program plan.

Take advantage of existing programs and check whether we have faculty on campus who could supervise independent learning opportunities. Consider what study abroad or U.S. programs would enhance your program, not just for the opportunity to be at another location, but to enrich your special program. We encourage you to include intermediate-level language, advanced writing, and statistics and research methods, especially if you are considering graduate studies.

Synthesizing a Pike proposal

Using catalog listings of Gordon majors as examples of typical curriculum outlines, show how you would anticipate your major developing. Then speak with your advisor and a Pike advisor. They will help you draft a preliminary proposal and perhaps suggest some additional resources.

Past Pike Honors programs

Past Pike Honors scholars have completed existing majors with special concentrations such as: 

  • A fine arts management concentration within an Art major
  • Nutrition and public health or sustainable development concentrations in Biology majors
  • Literary criticism within an English major
  • Hispanic literature or German/Russian combined languages within foreign languages
  • Public health concentration in International Affairs
  • Medical ethics and genetic counseling within Psychology and Biology majors

Pike contract majors have included majors such as:

  • Anthropology
  • Classical Studies
  • Community, International, and Domestic Economic Development
  • Environmental Studies
  • Gender Studies
  • Global Education
  • Journalism or Creative Writing
  • Neuroscience
  • Nutrition and Public Health
  • Public Policy
  • Romance Languages and Culture
  • World literature
  • Area Interdisciplinary Studies: Africa, Asia, Middle East, Latin America and America

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