The Honors College encourages creative capstone projects that allow students to present their work in a form other than the standard written thesis model. Creative projects include:

  • business plans
  • learning units, curriculum, professional development workshops
  • interactive or other new media, digital film, website designs, print media
  • music recitals or curated art exhibits
  • production of original art such as painting, photography, sculpture, musical or literary composition
  • dance or theatrical performances
  • screenplays or works of fiction
  • or other artistic or creative works


Creative projects offer students the ability to envision, plan, and construct their own senior Honors experience. Unlike traditional projects, which most often follow established disciplinary processes for scholarship, creative projects can vary widely in form, content, and process. Along with a freedom of choice and expression, this kind of project brings with it unique challenges for the student, the faculty advisor(s), and the Honors College. 

The expectations and guidelines listed below have been established for the following purposes:

  1. To provide a framework for students to undertake creative projects in such a manner that encourages creative freedom, intellectual reflection, and successful completion.
  2. To provide faculty advisor(s) with general expectations on the part of the Honors College related to the progress and completion of creative projects, expectations that allow for flexibility in implementation and do not supersede the advisor(s)’ primary role in guiding and assessing the project.
  3. To provide the Honors College with a documentable set of requirements that will ensure the quality and intellectual rigor of creative projects submitted for completion in Honors. 


Like traditional research projects, creative projects demand a high level of scholarship, intellectual engagement, careful documentation, long-range planning, and time commitment. The Honors student must go beyond the creative work itself, placing it within its proper scholarly context in the field or craft, and reflecting on the vision, process, and goals involved in shaping the creative experience. Creative projects involve writing, both in the form of a journal of progress and in a reflective/contextual essay.


A creative capstone project must comprise the following elements:

1.  Honors Capstone Project Application and Proposal

Submitted at the end of the 499A semester. See Honors Capstone Project Application for more information.

2. The Creative Work

Students should take ownership of their own educational process, showing leadership in meetings with the advisor(s). The assumption here is that a primary intention of the work is that it be an original creation which also demonstrates the technical competence of the creator. Although the project is creative, original work, the Honors student should display mastery of existing applicable scholarship or craft in the field or fields under investigation. 

Creative work, perhaps even more than traditional scholarship, is social activity. The words “author” and “authority” come from the Latin root augere, which means “to increase, to create, to promote.” Authorship necessarily involves developing an idea that can be communicated to others. Thus, a creative thesis is not solely the isolated goings-on of the originator, but comes into being through the sharing of your creative vision with other people. Likewise, feedback from other people can be a powerful tool in development of the creative project.

3.  Journal of Progress

Students must keep a project journal throughout the creative process. It should document, in an informal way, many of the following items: how the project unfolded over time; how ideas were generated and decisions made; actions, meetings, significant roadblocks and progress; overall themes, plans, and outcomes; noteworthy moments from the project. Careful documentation of the work will make writing the reflective/contextual essay much easier, and the journal should be used for this purpose. Since it is a journal, it will not be assessed for content so much as for evidence that the student engaged with materials and mentors and regularly reflected on his or her progress in a thoughtful manner. Journal entries should begin whenever the creative process starts in earnest. This is usually after the project proposal is submitted, at the beginning of the 499B semester (or the previous summer, if the student begins work at that point).

4.  Reflective/Contextual Essay

Students are required to compose a significant piece of writing that reflects on or contextualizes the creative work. The content and form of this essay may depend substantially on the student, his or her advisor(s), and the discipline in which it is produced. Significant flexibility is given to the Honors student and faculty advisor(s) in determining the essay’s aims and goals, and its content and length. In all cases, the essay should demonstrate ownership of the student’s own educational process, mastery of existing applicable scholarship or craft in the field of study, and display thoughtful analysis and intellectual rigor.

As with research theses, the reflective/contextual essay will be made available to the public through the JMU libraries.

5.  Public Presentation

Every student is required to present their work to the public at the Honors Symposium, departmental colloquium or symposium, or a professional academic conference. See Public Presentation for more information.

Submission of Materials

Students should submit the following four (4) items to the Honors College by the appropriate deadline. See Submitting the Project for additional instructions.

1.  Evidence of Creative Work

Some documentary evidence of the creative work should be submitted to the Honors College main office. For example: a video of a musical recital or theatrical performance; photo album of a painting, sculpture, photography exhibit; a hard copy of a business plan; learning unit, curriculum or professional development workshop; an active link to a website created by the student.

2.  Journal of Progress

This should be submitted in PDF form, with the file name as JMUEID_JOP (ex. "dienerjl_JOP"). In consultation with the advisor(s), the journal may be attached to the project as an appendix.

3.  Reflective/Contextual Essay

The reflective/contextual essay should be submitted in PDF form in the same format as traditional research projects. (See Formatting Requirements.) Once approved by the Honors College, the essay should be submitted to the JMU library’s ETD site where it will be made available to the public.

4.  Title Page 

This must be submitted in hard copy format to the Honors College main office and include signatures of all project committee members, and should include the date and the format of the public presentation or oral defense. 

Back to Top