** Due to disruptions caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, please be aware of changes to procedures, requirements, and deadlines, outlined below in red. **

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

The Honors Capstone 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 capstone 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).


For students submitting in Spring 2020

  • Friday, April 12, 2019: Application and proposal due
  • Friday, Jan. 31, 2020: Pre-submission form due
  • Tuesday, April 7, 2020: Submission of final project materials
    ** Extended to April 30, 2020 **

For students submitting in Fall 2020

  • Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019: Application and proposal due
  • Friday, Sep. 25, 2020: Pre-submission form due
  • Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020: Submission of final project materials

For students submitting in Spring 2021

  • Friday, April 10, 2020: Application and proposal due
    ** Extended to September 4, 2020 **
  • Friday, Jan. 29, 2021: Pre-submission form due
  • Tuesday, April 6, 2021: Submission of final project materials

For students submitting in Fall 2021

  • Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020: Application and proposal due
  • Friday, Sep. 24, 2021: Pre-submission form due
  • Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021: Submission of final project materials

Basic Requirements

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

  • Completion of a 499 sequence for 6 hours of credit.
  • Submission of Honors Capstone Project Application and Proposal by the stated deadline at the end of the 499A semester.
  • Public presentation of the project at the Spring Honors Symposium, Fall Honors Colloquium, or other professional conference.
  • Submission of Pre-Submission Form, with faculty advisor approval, early in the final semester.
  • Submission of the completed project to the Honors College main office and JMU libraries by the stated deadline at the end of the 499C 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 the Honors Capstone Project 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 Honors Capstone Project (contact the departmental liaison for more information). Students receive 6 credit hours for completing a capstone 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 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 collaborative projects, which can take the form of either research or creative projects. Students must indicate on the Honors Capstone 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 capstone project in a timely fashion. The Honors College encourages a variety of avenues in approaching the capstone 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 Honors Capstone 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.
  • 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 thesis 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 thesis or a creative project--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 capstone project 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, begin keeping a journal of progress.
Second Semester, Senior Year (499C)
  • Register for 499C.
  • If submitting your project document as a journal article or in an alternative format, submit petition to the Honors College 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.
  • Submit Pre-Submission Form.
  • Present the work at the Honors Symposium or another professional conference.
  • Submit the completed project to the Honors College and Scholarly Commons.
Project Committee

The Project Committee consists of a faculty 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 capstone 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 communication between the student and faculty advisor is essential for the successful completion of the Honors capstone 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 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 project committee and the department.

Application and Proposal

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

** Fall 2020 Update **

These procedures have changed substantially to reflect a new electronic submission format. Signatures are no longer required, and hard copies will not be accepted by the Honors College.

Detailed instructions regarding application submission, proposal format, and approval process can be found within the application form document. Please read this information carefully.

We will continue to accept proposals using the old application form (with the signature lines) for students submitting for the Sep. 4, 2020 deadline.

Pre-Submission Form

Students submit this form via email to the Honors College main office early in the final project semester. This form indicates your intended project deliverable(s), your plans for publicly presenting your Honors project, and confirms that you are making satisfactory progress towards completion of your project. 

Approval of faculty advisor is required. The Honors College will send a request for confirmation to the faculty advisor after receipt of the pre-submission form. 

** Fall 2020 Update **

These procedures have changed to reflect a new electronic submission format. Signatures are no longer required, and hard copies will not be accepted by the Honors College.

Download Pre-Submission Form

Public Presentation

** Fall 2020 Update **

The Honors College strongly encourages students to present their projects this semester. Possible venues include the Honors Symposium and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference of Undergraduate Scholarship (MARCUS).

If you are unable to present your project for any reason, please contact the Honors College for a waiver from this requirement.

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 capstone 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 capstone project 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 Pre-Submission Form and the Title/Signature Page.

Formatting Your Capstone Project

The final format of your capstone project is important, as it will become a publicly downloadable file in the JMU Libraries permanent collection. You may find it helpful to search the library website and Scholarly Commons for examples of prior projects formatted, and with citation styles, for your discipline. 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.

Most projects are submitted to the library as PDF documents. If you wish to submit project components in other formats, please contact the digital collections head Grace Barth at barthgl@jmu.edu or (540) 568-5167 for specific guidance.

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 project 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.
    • Paper copy of title page only, with original committee signatures, is submitted to Honors College main office.
    • Electronic copy of title page is submitted to library without signatures.
  • 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 Project

** Students submitting projects in Spring 2020: please make note of the modified instructions below. **

No later than 4:00 PM on or before the deadline date, students must submit the following:

  • To the Honors College main office – a hard copy of the title page signed by all members of the project committee which includes information on the public presentation of your work
    ** Spring 2020: Do not submit anything in hard copy to the Honors College office. In lieu of a signed title page, individual emails from your project advisor and readers will be accepted as signatures and should be sent to Beth Chenault (chenaumb@jmu.edu). **
  • To Scholarly Commons – all files associated with the Honors Capstone Project (PDF, iBook, audio, video, etc.). See section below for instructions.

DO NOT SUBMIT A HARD COPY OF THE PROJECT ITSELF.  The entire project should be submitted to Scholarly Commons only.

Research theses and creative projects may have different requirements for submitted materials. Follow the guidelines carefully. 

  • Failure to submit your project to the library's Scholarly Commons site may cause the entire project to be rejected.
  • It is the responsibility of the student to ensure the formatting is correct.  Please proof your work prior to submission to Scholarly Commons.  It cannot be changed without approval once submitted.

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

Scholarly Commons

The library requests that you submit your project document(s) electronically through JMU Scholarly Commons. Refer to the following checklist before beginning your submission.

  • I have turned in a signed copy of my title/signature page to the Honors College.
  • I have all files that I plan to upload ready.
  • 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 Senior Project Advisor and the Honors College, 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. The submission process is as follows:

  • Go to the Senior Honors Projects section of Scholarly Commons.
  • Select “Submit Research” in the "Author Corner" section in the left column to begin the submission process.
  • You will need to establish an account with the JMU Scholarly Commons. Use your JMU email address for this account.
  • You will login using your Scholarly Commons account.
  • REVIEW the Policies and Submission Guidelines as linked on the left navigation.
  • Enter the title of your document exactly as it appears on your title page.
  • Add any additional co-authors to the author field.
  • If you have a preferred name that you anticipate publishing under, or that you choose to be known by, enter it in the “Preferred Name” field. Do the same for any co-authors.
  • Under the "Date of Award", although winter is shown as an option, JMU does not award degrees in winter. Choose only Fall, Spring, or Summer.
  • You must be granted permission in advance from your Senior Project Advisor AND the Honors College with a compelling reason for an embargo. Do not select this option without advanced permission.
  • Select your degree name from the drop-down listing. If your degree is not listed, please contact the Honors College for assistance.
  • Select your academic department name as it appears on the title page. If your academic department is not listed, please contact the Honors College for assistance.
  • Enter you’re the name(s) of your Senior Project Advisor(s).
  • Have up to six (6) keywords prepared ahead of time. Enter them per the instructions.
  • Drill down under the "Subject Categories" in order to find the most appropriate subject category of your document. You may have to drill down through a few layers.
  • It is easiest to copy and paste your abstract into the form. Have your document ready to be able to do this easily.
  • Your document will be archived as a PDF. It is best that you upload your document in this form from your computer. You do have the option of uploading a document from a remote location, and is best that these documents be preserved in PDF form before upload.
  • If you have additional content in addition to the document, check the box for “Additional Files”. Once you have submitted the form, you will be taken to the page where additional content may be entered.
  • Some file types may take a while to upload into JMU Scholarly Commons. Files are not uploaded until you are directed to a new web page where you will receive a confirmation message of the successful upload of your content. If you encounter difficulties uploading content, please contact the Honors College for assistance. 
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:

(Example: allis2kl)
all lower case

All accompanying files:

(Example:  allis2kl_interview; allis2kl_performance; etc.)
all lower case

2. Explanation of file name: 

  • Underscores: Be sure to include all underscores _ as shown in the examples.
  • 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.)
Public Access and Copyright Issues

Two essential websites to check: 

Completed Honors 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 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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