The following information is meant to establish basic guidelines and procedures for the Honors thesis. 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: research, creative, or collaborative. Questions should be directed to the departmental liaison and/or the Honors Academic Advisors.

A Honors thesis is a three semester endeavor typically beginning in the middle of the junior year. Students enroll under a 499 course number each semester (except where the department has established their own courses). Most students complete the project through the department of their major; however, it is possible to do a thesis in a related field or major.


Honors thesis deadlines

If you expect to graduate in Fall 2022

  • Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021: Application and proposal due
  • Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022: Submission of final project material

If you expect to graduate in Spring 2023

  • Tuesday, April 19, 2022: Application and proposal due
  • Friday, April 14, 2023: Submission of final project materials

If you expect to graduate in Fall 2023

  • Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2022: Application and proposal due
  • Friday, Dec. 8, 2023: Submission of final project materials

If you expect to graduate in Spring 2024

  • Thursday, May 4, 2023: Application and proposal due
  • Thursday, May 2, 2024: Submission of final project materials
Senior Portfolio Project

Basic Requirements

The Honors College requires the following basic elements for all thesis projects:

  • Completion of a 499 (or other department-approved) sequence for 6 hours of credit.
  • Submission of Honors Thesis Application and Proposal by the stated deadline at the end of the 499A/first semester of thesis work.
  • Public presentation of the project at the Spring Honors Symposium, Fall Honors Colloquium, or other professional conference.
  • Submission of the completed project to the Honors College main office by the stated deadline at the end of the 499C/final semester.

Additional requirements exist for researchcreative, and collaborative projects. Students must consult and follow these guidelines carefully.

Departmental Guidelines

Some departments have their own specific guidelines for completing an Honors thesis that may vary from those outlined by the Honors College. In such cases procedures developed by the respective department will take precedence. Questions can be directed to the Honors faculty liaison and/or the Honors Academic Advisor.

List of departmental guidelines.

Honors Faculty Liaisons

Honors faculty liaisons play an important role in facilitating Honors projects within departments. Be sure to meet with the liaison in your department prior to beginning your project.

List of Honors faculty liaisons.

Credits and Grades

Students must register for a 499 course each semester through the department in which the student is completing the thesis (unless the department has its own courses - contact the departmental liaison for more information). Students receive 6 credit hours for completing 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.

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.

Project Types

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 thesis 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.

Special guidelines exist for students wishing to work on collaborative projects, which can take the form of either research or creative projects. Students must indicate on the Honors Thesis 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 thesis in a timely fashion. The Honors College encourages a variety of avenues in approaching the thesis 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 thesis, 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.
  • If possible, identify a faculty adviser. (See Project Committee section for more information.)
  • Attend an informational meeting hosted by the Honors College.
  • 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 or creative thesis 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 or creative thesis--if this has not been done already--and review the corresponding guidelines.
  • Develop, in consultation with the faculty adviser, a project topic that can be properly narrowed for adequate coverage within the scope of a capstone project, review the pertinent literature, and write the proposal for the project.
  • Submit the Honors thesis application and proposal by the assigned deadline (usually late November or late April). 
First Semester, Senior Year (499B)
  • Register for 499B.
  • Most of the research, writing, and creative work usually take place during this semester.
  • For creative projects.
Second Semester, Senior Year (499C)
  • Register for 499C.
  • 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 College.
Thesis Committee

The thesis committee consists of a faculty advisor and at least one reader. 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 thesis; 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 at least one reader 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 communication between the student and faculty advisor is essential for the successful completion of an Honors thesis. 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 thesis proposal application form (no need to include the proposal itself) must be submitted to the Honors College.

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 College must receive the revised documentation in order to confirm approval by the thesis committee and the department.

Application and Proposal

Students must submit the thesis application form and an attached proposal to the Honors College main office by the assigned deadline (usually early December or mid-April). Students will indicate the thesis type: research, creative, individual, collaborative. Approval is determined by the thesis committee, the department in which the project is pursued, and the Honors College. 


Public Presentation


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 thesis 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 thesis work:

  • Honors Symposium: Hosted by the JMU Honors College each spring featuring short lectures, panel presentations, and poster sessions. December and August graduates are invited, and encouraged, to present at the April 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 the venue and date of the public presentation on the Title/Signature Page.

Formatting the Thesis

The final format of your thesis is important; for reference, use this list of completed Honors projects.

Some departments have specific formatting requirements. Consult the departmental guidelines for your major. In some cases, students will be expected submit documents in alternative or special formats, as for example with journal articles. Approval of faculty advisor is required in these cases.

Basic formatting guidelines are:

  • Set all margins to 1 inch -- top, bottom, left, and right.
  • Set headers and footers to 0.5 inches.
  • Set font size to 12 point. Recommended font is Times New Roman. Other acceptable fonts are Cambria, Courier New, Garamond, or Century Schoolbook.
  • Left justify all text
  • Double space all text
  • Enable widow/orphan control. (In Microsoft Word, go to the Home tab > click arrow at bottom of paragraph group > click line and page breaks tab > check box for widow/orphan control.)
  • Use arabic numerals for pagination (... 2, 3, 4 ...); center page numbers in footer.
  • Do not put number "1" on the title page; begin numbering with "2" on page following title page.

Your thesis should be arranged from start to finish in the following order.

  • Title page (required)
    • A title page template is available HERE.
    • Be sure to include details of your public presentation requirement at the bottom of the title page.
  • Copyright page (optional)
    • Place your copyright statement at the top of the page.
    • If statement exceeds one line of text, double-space the statement.
  • Dedication page (optional)
    • Place your dedication at the top of the page.
    • You may want to create a concise statement dedicating the work to one or more people and/or institutions and/or sponsors.
  • Table of contents (required)
    • List all sections that follow
    • Sections may include bulleted items below and/or chapter headings.
    • Include a right-justified page number where each section begins.
  • List of figures (required if 5 or more are used)
    • Number all figures.
    • Figures may include symbols, tables, graphs, charts, images, etc.
    • If you use prepared figures, make sure you have secured rights or determined that they are in the public domain.
    • Include a right-justified page number where each figure is located in final document.
  • Preface (optional)
    • The preface is a section where you provide information or background significant to the reader’s understanding of the main text or body that follows.
    • The preface might include an indication of the scope of the project or your intentions.
  • Acknowledgements page (required)
    • It is good professional practice to thank all project committee members and any other mentors who have given their time and effort to this project.
    • Mention any grants, scholarships, awards that aided in the completion of your project.
    • Mention any conference presentations and/or public performances of the project.
  • Abstract (required)
    • The abstract is a brief summary of your capstone project.
    • Your abstract will help readers find your project online and also quickly discern its purpose.
  • Main text or body (required)
    • Begin all sections, including the introduction and individual chapters, on a new page.
    • Chapter titles and section headings should be centered and in bold text; double space (hit enter once) to begin text after titles or headings.
  • Appendix or appendices (optional)
  • Glossary (optional)
  • Bibliography (required)
    • List all sources used in the creation of your project.
    • Consult your advisor for appropriate reference style.
  • Index (optional)
Submitting the Thesis

No later than 4:00 PM on or before the stated deadline, the following items must be submitted to

  • A PDF of the full thesis document. The first page of the document MUST be the title page. You are NOT required to obtain signatures from your advisor or reader(s) at this time.
  • Any materials associated with the thesis that cannot be easily included in a PDF (ex. audio, video) should be attached as additional files. If these files are too large to send via email, contact the above email address for instructions.
  • Emails directly from project advisor and reader(s) confirming final approval of the thesis.

The primary PDF document must be named accordingly:

  • JMUeID_project.pdf (ex. smith2kl_project.pdf, all lower case).
  • Accompanying files such as audio or visual should replace “project” with a description of the file (ex. smith2kl_video; smith2kl_audio; smith2kl_powerpoint).

Theses submitted after the due date will not be eligible for consideration for the Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa best thesis awards.

After submitting to the Honors College, we strongly encourage (but do not require) students to upload the project to Scholarly Commons, if appropriate (see below).

Scholarly Commons

The Honors College strongly encourages students, when appropriate, to publish their thesis projects to Scholarly Commons, an open repository service of the JMU Libraries. These collections showcase research and scholarship at JMU. This is an excellent way to publicize your work and engage a broader audience with your scholarship. 

Unlike in previous years, the Honors College no longer requires students to submit these projects to Scholarly Commons. This is an optional decision made jointly by student and faculty project adviser.

In order to publish an Honors thesis to Scholarly Commons, permission of the thesis adviser is required. The adviser should email to declare approval (or not). 

Reasons to publish to Scholarly Commons

  • Easy and stable online access to your thesis for years to come.
  • Share your scholarship with others and reach a broad audience. One Honors thesis submitted in 2016 has been downloaded 16,537 times as of February, 2021.
  • Showcase your scholarship to prospective employers or graduate schools.

Reasons not to publish to Scholarly Commons

  • You plan to seek publication of your thesis, either in its entirety or in part, in an academic journal. When seeking publication, it can be a disadvantage for the work to be openly available in another format.
  • Your thesis includes sensitive data, proprietary information, or preliminary research findings that your thesis adviser does not want disclosed to the public.
  • The quality of the finished project is not to the standards of you or your project adviser.
  • You would rather not share it publicly.

In all cases, students should discuss publication to Scholarly Commons with their project adviser.

How to Submit to Scholarly Commons

Before beginning your submission, refer to the following checklist.

  • I have submitted the full PDF project to the Honors College.
  • I have all files that I plan to upload ready using the same file naming convention used to sumbit to the Honors College (see above).
  • I have the title of my document exactly as it appears on the title page.
  • I know in which academic department my program is housed.
  • I know which degree I am earning.
  • I have selected up to six (6) keywords for my document.
  • I have my abstract available to be inserted into the submission form.
  • If requesting an embargo, advanced permission has been obtained by your project advisor, with a clear understanding as to the length of an embargo (1 year or 2 years).

The more you have prepared properly before entering the submission site, the easier your submission will be.

When you are ready to submit, please consult this document for detailed instructions on how to submit your Honors thesis to Scholarly Commons.

Scholarly Commons Public Access and Copyright Issues

Two essential websites to check: 

Honors projects submitted to Scholarly Commons 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 Head of Digital Collections can advise students on these issues and help with the Copyright Clearing House. Students should also consult their faculty advisors 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 this impacts the publication process in any way.

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