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University Honors Program

Thesis Spotlight: Lauren Durham

By Kaitlin Lewis

One of the added benefits for students in the University Honors Program is the opportunity to complete an Honors-supported thesis project with a faculty mentor. Completed thesis projects cover a diverse range of fields, from creating solar-powered equipment to writing a series of short stories. Each student has the opportunity to undertake independent research while contributing new knowledge to their field. In addition, students earn six academic credit hours for their research time. 

The Honors Program asked a wide range of senior thesis writers, from health sciences to English, to share about their research and how it applies to their future goals in their field.

Lauren Durham | English and Communication

Lauren Durham is a senior at UD double majoring in English and communication. Her thesis is quite unique: it involves an intertextual analysis of tweets -- a medium well-known to most students, but not typically studied through an academic lens.

“Since I want to work in public relations or corporate communications, social media knowledge is crucial,” Durham explained. “My honors thesis is allowing me to learn about social media practices in a new, analytical way that most students don’t get to experience.”

More specifically, Durham is looking at tweets between Sept. 18 and Oct. 26, 2020, that talk about the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Amy Coney Barrett. This six-week time period is the space between Ginsburg’s death and Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Durham said that she is using Twitter because it acts as a primary text for a recent and very politically charged time. 

“Using data scraping software, I’m pulling tweets from the time period, filtering out what isn’t related to the project, and then coding the tweets based on themes,” Durham said. “It’s interesting to see how the two women are rhetorically connected even though they are characterized as polar opposites from one another.”

During the six weeks in 2020 she is studying, Durham was working on a congressional campaign, which had her very “tuned-in” to current events. Durham said she found it fascinating to see Ginsburg’s name trending on Twitter following her passing; even when the news was about Barrett’s nomination, Ginsburg was still mentioned.

“The idea that the two figures are connected through position and discourse on Twitter felt powerful to me, so I wanted to explore it further,” Durham said.

When her analysis is complete, Durham plans to share her findings in a podcast. 

After graduation in May, Durham does not plan on going to graduate school immediately. However, she still wanted to pursue an honors thesis where she could work closely with a faculty member and be challenged in her work, and she said that her thesis experience has fulfilled just that.

“My mentor, Dr. Patrick Thomas in the English department, has been so helpful and supportive from day one,” Durham said. 

“The Honors program as a whole has provided a lot of support and encouragement from the time I decided to do an honors thesis to now," Durham continued. “I’ve really appreciated the communication and transparency about what the project entails.”

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