Requirements & Procedures
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The following information is meant to establish basic guidelines and procedures for the Senior Honors Project. The nature of the work in some fields may demand a slightly varied procedure from that outlined below. In such cases procedures developed by the respective department will take precedence. Students must also consult the guidelines for the type of project under consideration: Senior Honors Research Project or Creative Senior Honors Project. Collaborative projects also entail additional requirements. Questions should be directed to the departmental liaison and/or the Honors Academic Advisor.
The Senior Honors Project is a three semester endeavor typically beginning in the middle of the junior year. Students enroll under a 499 course number each semester. Most students complete the project through the department of their major; however, it is possible to do a senior project in a related field or major (pending approval from the Dean of the college in which the student is majoring AND the Dean of the college in which the project will be completed).
The Honors Program requires the following basic elements for all senior projects:
- Completion of a 499 sequence for 6 hours of credit.
- Submission of Senior Honors Project Application and Proposal by the stated deadline at the end of the 499A semester.
- Public presentation of the project at the Honors Symposium or other professional conference. (Effective for students who begin 499A in Spring 2014.)
- Submission of the completed project to the Honors Program office and JMU libraries by the stated deadline at the end of the 499C semester.
Additional requirements exist for research, creative, and collaborative projects. Students must consult and follow these guidelines carefully.
Students must follow the specific guidelines of the department in which they are completing their project. Some departmental guidelines may vary from those outlined by the Honors Program. In such cases procedures developed by the respective department will always take precedence. Questions can be directed to the departmental liaison and/or the Honors Academic Advisor.
Students have the option of completing an interdisciplinary Senior Honors Project under the auspices of the Honors Program rather than through a department. These projects must be truly interdisciplinary, combining two or more kinds of approaches, knowledge bases, or skill sets. This may be especially suitable to students working outside of their major departments, or as a home for collaborations between students working in different disciplines. These projects are only appropriate in cases where the student(s) cannot form a senior project committee in their own discipline(s). HON 499 projects are not recommended for students working on a project in their own department or major, or students working by mutual agreement within the guidelines set by the faculty advisor's department. Guidelines for HON 499 projects are listed along with other departmental guidelines.
Students will complete one of the following types of project:
A traditional written research thesis reflecting substantial scholarship and demonstrating outstanding research and writing skills. This is the most common type of Honors project completed at JMU.
A creative work such as a performance, an exhibit, equipment design and construction, web design, business plan, or other "hands-on" activities. Includes a written essay and journal of progress.
Special guidelines exist for students wishing to work on a Collaborative Senior Honors Project, which can take the form of either a research thesis or a creative project. Students must indicate on the Senior Honors Project Application which of the project types they will be completing. Selection of project type must be determined in conjunction with the student's faculty adviser and department. Some departments may require completion of one or the other project types. Collaborative projects are always contingent on the approval of faculty advisers and second readers.
The following timeline is a suggested set of deadlines and tasks that will aid students in successfully completing the senior project in a timely fashion. The Honors Program encourages a variety of avenues in approaching the senior project and there may be variations and exceptions to this normal sequence. The student, the faculty adviser, the departmental guidelines, and the nature of the project itself will determine which of these steps--or additional steps--are necessary.
First Semester, Junior Year
Before starting the Senior Honors Project in the second semester of the junior year, students should strongly consider taking the following preparatory steps:
- Begin thinking about the project topic. Some students require a long period of time to identify a topic that is both interesting and doable. Start this process as early as possible. (See section on Choosing a Topic for more information.)
- If possible, identify a faculty adviser. (See section on Project Committees for more information.)
- Attend an informational meeting hosted by the Honors Program.
- Review the departmental guidelines and contact the department's Honors liaison early in the junior year for specific information about completing the project in that department.
- Decide whether to do a research project or a creative project and review the corresponding guidelines.
- Contact the office of the department in which the project will be completed to enroll in 499A. This can be done during the registration period in the semester prior to beginning the project.
Second Semester, Junior Year (499A)
- Register for 499A at the beginning of the semester, if this has not been done already.
- Identify the Project Committee: the faculty adviser--if this has not been done already--and two second readers.
- Decide whether to do a research project or a creative project--if this has not been done already--and review the corresponding guidelines.
- Attend a 499A workshop offered by the Honors Program.
- Develop, in consultation with the faculty adviser, a project topic that can be properly narrowed for adequate coverage within the scope of an Honors project, review the pertinent literature, and write the proposal for the project.
- Submit the Senior Honors Project Application and Proposal by the assigned deadline (usually late November or late April).
- If working on a Collaborative Project, submit additional documentation to the Honors Faculty Fellows.
First Semester, Senior Year (499B)
- Register for 499B.
- Most of the research, writing, and creative work usually take place during this semester.
- Attend a 499B workshop offered by the Honors Program.
- For creative projects, begin keeping a journal of progress.
Second Semester, Senior Year (499C)
- Register for 499C.
- If submitting thesis document in journal or other alternative format, submit petition to the Honors Program at the beginning of the semester.
- Complete the writing or creative work, make the necessary revisions after consultation with the faculty adviser and readers, and prepare the final document(s) and materials.
- Present the work at the Honors Symposium or another professional conference.
- Submit the completed project to the Honors Program and the library.
Students who will be graduating in December, studying abroad, student teaching, or interning out of town for any of their final three semesters before graduation should consdider starting the 499 sequence earlier than the middle of their junior year. Some majors even require an earlier start. A student who is unable to begin the sequence by the second semester of the junior year may be able to complete a condensed sequence starting in the summer before the senior year or the first semester of the senior year. Possible options include completing the 499A course during the summer, or completing both 499A and 499B during the first semester of the senior year. Approval is at the discretion of the supervising faculty adviser. In any of these cases, students should consult the Honors Academic Advisor and/or their departmental liaison for more information.
The Project Committee consists of a Faculty Project Advisor and two readers. The committee supervises the project and provides guidance and feedback as the project progresses. The faculty advisor must be a full-time tenured, tenure-track, or RTA faculty member; readers can be adjunct, part-time, or non-JMU faculty.
The faculty advisor provides most of the supervision and is the person with whom the student works the closest. The advisor must be someone with whom the student works well and should have expertise in the subject area of the project. The role of the faculty advisor is to guide the student's research, provide constructive criticism and feedback, and assign grades for the 499 courses.
Ideally the student/advisor relationship will have been established prior to the first semester of work on the Senior Project; however, most students have ample opportunity to find an advisor after beginning the 499 course sequence. The advisor is often a professor with whom a student has taken a class, but this is not a requirement. It is normal for students to approach faculty who they have not previously met to inquire about the possibility of serving as an advisor. Even if they are unable to take on this role, they may be able to provide recommendations. For help identifying potential faculty advisors, students should consult the faculty liaison in their major and/or the Honors Academic Advisor.
In conjunction with the faculty advisor, students will also identify two readers to help guide the project. The readers are typically from the student's major discipline, but it may be appropriate in some cases to have one or both readers come from another discipline, possibly the student's minor. Students should consult the faculty advisor when considering readers from outside the major department.
Regular meetings and communication between the student and the faculty advisor is essential for successful completion of the Senior Honors Project. Students should keep their committee informed throughout all three semesters.
Changing Committee Members
Sometimes situations arise that necessitate a change in membership on committees (i.e. faculty travel or professional leave, student begins to work with new JMU faculty, faculty member accepts a position at another school, etc.). Students should discuss this situation with the faculty advisor. If a change is appropriate, a revised project proposal application form (no need to include the proposal itself) must be submitted after obtaining all five of the necessary signatures.
If the project itself is changing, a new application and proposal are required ONLY if the project is completely unrelated to the prior submission. The Honors Program must receive the revised documentation in order to verify that all signatories are aware of and approve of the change.
Finding a topic is a process--often a lengthy one--and will more than likely grow out of conversations with friends, fellow Honors students, and professors, in and out of class. Students should start thinking and talking about ideas as soon as possible. It is not uncommon for this process to begin as soon as the freshman and sophomore years.
A Senior Honors Project should be interesting and engaging to the student undertaking it. This is one of the most important factors in determining the success or otherwise of a project. When thinking about project topics, students should reflect on which courses they have found interesting, and why. Often, a project topic grows from a persistent question a student has studied or written about in a course that he or she valued. Honors seminars often provide a unique forum for students to develop and test ideas that may grow into project topics.
A Senior Honors Project is not the place to explore a discipline for the first time. Students must have some background experience in the topic. While it is not required to take place within the student's major, it ought to involve some coursework in the proposed area of study, almost certainly beyond a single introductory level class. Taking elective courses in areas that involve possible project topics is a great way to initially explore those topics. It is never too early to start taking those classes. Students who are unsure of the best courses to explore their interests can talk to their major advisor, professors who teach in that area, or the Honors directors.
Once a student has determined an appropriate topic, the next task is to focus it, to pare away the excess material and bring it down to a size that is achievable within the context of a Senior Honors Project. It is common for students to start out with a big question or set of questions, only to then scale down to a smaller, more manageable topic. This is part of the process. The faculty advisor can help students work through these issues and offer suggestions and guidance on focusing the project topic.
Students must submit the application form and a detailed proposal to the Honors Program office by the assigned deadline (usually late November or late April). Students will indicate the project type: Research or Creative.
The proposal must include the signatures of the project committee, department head, and dean of the appropriate college. Approval is determined by the Honors Program Director.
Honors students receive 6 credit hours for completing a Senior Honors Project which are divided between the three semesters of the project. Most departments award credit hours as follows:
- 499A: 1 credit hour
- 499B: 3 credit hours
- 499C: 2 credit hours
However, some departments configure this differently, adopting a 3-2-1, 2-2-2, or 1-2-3 division of hours. Departmental procedures take precedence in all cases.
Students must register for a 499 course each semester through the department in which the student is completing the Senior Honors Project--not through the Honors Program. Students should contact their departmental liaison for more information.
The faculty adviser is responsible for assigning a grade at the end of each semester that reflects the progress made during that stage of the project.
Public presentation of the scholarly work is required of all Honors students. The aim is to provide a forum through which students successfully communicate with others about their work, their vision for it, their experience with the research or creative process, and their goals. Some senior projects lend themselves easily to presentation as a lecture or poster. In fact, for some the public aspect of the work is an integral part of the creative work itself (music lecture and recital, photography exhibit, film screening, etc.). For other projects, public presentation may require some accommodation. Students may give a public presentation either before or after the completion of the project itself.
The following are acceptable venues for presenting Senior Honors Project work:
- Honors Symposium: Hosted by the JMU Honors Program each spring featuring short lectures, panel presentations, and poster sessions. December and August graduates are invited, and encouraged, to present at the May Honors Symposium.
- Departmental colloquia, symposia, exhibits, screenings, performances, music lectures/recitals.
- Academic or professional meetings such as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR), Colonial Academic Alliance (CAA) Undergraduate Research Conference, or a discipline-specific conference.
Presenting material during a course seminar does not count as a project presentation. Honors students are expected, when possible, to give the public presentation in the presence of the project advisor(s), reader(s), or other extramural evaluators. A separate oral defense in the presence of the advisor(s) and reader(s) is highly recommended, but not required.
Students will indicate on the Title/Signature Page of their project document(s) the date and venue of the public presentation.
Public presentation is a mandatory requirement for all students who begin 499A in Spring 2014 or later.
Research theses and the reflective/contextual essay component of creative projects should follow the standard thesis formatting requirements (download below). Some departments may have different or extra requirements; these should be followed in all cases.
- Download instructions on how to properly format the Senior Honors Project (PDF)
The first page of the submitted document must be the Title/Signature page (without signature). A signed hard copy of the title page will ALSO be submitted to the Honors Program office by the same due date as the completed project (see below). Use this title page entry form and drop the completed project document into this template (no special paper is required for the title page).
It is highly recommended you have your project reviewed prior to submitting your final copy. E-mail your draft to email@example.com and a director will respond with comments.
It may be appropriate in certain cases for students to submit project documents in a format other than the standard thesis, such as a journal article. In this instance, students should petition the Honors Program at the beginning of the 499C semester. The professional guidelines that the document will adhere to must be indicated (APA Style, ACS Style Guide, etc.). Approval of the faculty advisor is required.
Regardless of the formatting guidelines, ALL projects submitted must contain a title page, table of contents, list of figures, acknowledgements, and bibliography, and must maintain consistency of formatting style throughout the text.
Students must submit the Senior Honors Project to both the Honors Program AND the JMU libraries by the stated deadlines. Check the Honors website for dates.
The following must be submitted to the Honors Program office in hard copy by the deadline:
- The title page signed by all members of the Project Committee.
- Additional hard copy materials as required for creative projects.
The following electronic file(s) must be submitted via email to firstname.lastname@example.org by the deadline:
- A PDF version of the research thesis or, for creative projects, the reflective/contextual essay, named according to "Instructions for Naming Your Files" below, and all other related files (in the correct file format). The title page in the PDF does not have to be signed.
- PDF versions of additional electronic materials (such as the journal of progress) as required for creative projects.
Research projects and creative projects have different requirements for submitted materials. Follow the guidelines carefully.
On submission day, the hard copy and email materials must be submitted by 4:00 PM on the day designated on the website. Shortly thereafter, you will receive a response either granting approval or for changes to be made. Once the project is approved, you will then be directed to submit your project to the JMU library's ETD (Electronic Thesis & Dissertation) site.
Once your electronic file(s) are approved by an Honors staff member, you will be directed to upload the file(s) to the library's ETD site.
- You are required to upload the identical file(s) approved by Honors staff to the library's site. If a revision must be made after final approval, the entire project must go through the approval process again. Unapproved changes detected in the files submitted to the library will cause the entire project to be rejected.
- Files uploaded to the library's ETD site before they have been approved by the Honors Program will be rejected.
- Failure to submit your project to the library's ETD site will cause the entire project to be rejected. See below for detailed instructions on uploading files to the ETD site.
All library submissions must be completed before midnight (11:59 PM) on the designated submission date to be considered on time.
Projects submitted after theses due dates will not be eligible for consideration for the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa awards.
Two essential websites to check:
Completed senior projects will be available to the world through public access internet. Therefore, it is essential that any use of copyrighted material is in the domain of "fair use" or that permission to use copyrighted material has been requested and received.
The JMU Copy Center can advise students on these issues and help with the Copyright Clearing House. Students should also consult their faculty advisors and the Copy Center as to whether they should copyright their own work.
In addition, if students plan to submit the work for publication, they should discuss JMU's dissemination of the project via public access with that publisher to see if that impacts the publication process in any way.
JMU libraries now require students to submit the Senior Honors Project electronically through their ETD site. To make this process easier, students need the following items in preparation for submission.
- JMU eID and password
- Total number of files that will be uploaded
- A printed copy of the title page (does not need to be signed)
- Key Words (these would help find the project in a search - typically subject related, specific to the body of work; it is suggested to have at least 2 key words, although only 1 is required)
- The abstract (if applicable) (may cut and paste from the original document)
- Project named in the correct file pattern
Naming the Files:
The primary text document must be converted to PDF and named in the correct file pattern. The Honors Computer Lab is capable of converting the document. Secondary files, (i.e. videos, audio files, photos) which need to accompany the primary text document can be uploaded in their original format. Acceptable secondary file formats are: JPEG, mp3, WAV, etc.
1. Name the file(s) in the following pattern:
Primary text document:
All accompanying files:
2. Explanation of file name:
- Underscores: Be sure to include all underscores _ as shown in the examples.
- Level: Use "honors" if you an honors student; use "masters" if you are a masters student; use "doctorate" if you are a doctoral student.
- Date: The date must be expressed with hyphens and a 4-number year (mm-dd-yyyy). The date should reflect the date of your most recent or final revision.
- Version: This is only required if you are uploading more than one file. It is to label or distinguish the file from the primary text document. (Examples: If you are uploading an audio file of an interview, type "interview" in the version field. If you have an audio file of a musical performance, type "performance" in the version field.)
Ready to Submit to the Library?
Have your JMU e-ID and password
Name your files in the correct format
- Write down some key words to identify your project in a search
- Have a copy of your title page in front of you
- Have your Abstract available to copy and paste (if applicable)
- Know how many files you're going to upload