Academic leaders agree that authentic undergraduate research is a high-impact educational practice for achieving excellence in liberal education. JMU’s strategic plan highlights the centrality of undergraduate scholarship as it takes different forms in its seven colleges. Research capstone projects are among the most rewarding and significant activities for students in the Honors College. The College is dedicated to the advance of problem-based Honors undergraduate research at JMU, and raising the academic bar for all students on campus. In the traditional research project, students will design and produce an integrated research project in an appropriate disciplinary or interdisciplinary context which results in a substantial written thesis.


The research project affords students the opportunity to use the many skills and experiences they have acquired over their academic career. The project also gives them a chance to build new skills, such as

  • Reviewing the pertinent literature or materials that form the scholarly foundation of the project
  • choosing an initial research question
  • integrating diverse knowledge, perspectives, and skills into arguments and strategies
  • evaluating how content is shaped by the context in which it is created
  • learning the procedures required for exemplary work in departments
  • demonstrating ownership of one’s education process
  • managing a complex, multi-semester project
  • formulating and developing claims with sufficient support, including reasoning, evidence, and persuasive appeals, and with proper attribution
  • communicating results effectively in writing and in the public square
  • supporting peers as they pursue the same or similar objectives
  • responding to societal needs through community-based research and engagement

Faculty advisors are critical to the success of the research project. They inspire, challenge, and learn from the students who participate. Each year more than one hundred students form partnerships with JMU faculty across the campus. Students work with faculty whose creativity, teaching, and scholarly interests inspire them to launch mentored projects of their own. Honors students benefit from this experience by gaining a toolbox of skills and practices that prepares them for graduate school, professional programs, and the workforce. Students sometimes present the results of their research at regional and national conferences, and faculty gain energetic research partners.

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

  1. To provide a framework for students to undertake research 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 research 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 research projects submitted for completion in Honors.


Research projects demand a high level of scholarship, intellectual engagement, careful documentation, long-range planning, and time commitment. The research experience is grounded in the individual research proposal developed by the student with assistance from one or more advisors.

Research capstone projects should be like a graduate thesis in a particular discipline, a blending of disciplines in the case of multidisciplinary projects, or in the style of an academic journal article. Some departments have their own specific guidelines for completing the project that may vary from those outlined on Honors College website. In such cases procedures developed by the respective department will take precedence. Questions can be directed to the departmental liaison and/or the Honors Academic Advisor. In all cases, the research capstone project entails the production of a substantial written thesis.

No final project is accepted without the required 3.25 cumulative GPA. If the student’s GPA drops below the required level, he/she should consider shifting the research project into a 490 independent study course.


1.  Honors Capstone Project Application and Proposal

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

2.  Research Thesis

The senior thesis should demonstrate that you know the literature on your issue and that you have some original insights or contributions as determined by your advisor and specialists in your discipline. There is no recommended page length. In general, a thesis should be however long it takes to adequately address the topic. This could be anywhere from 40 to 100 pages or more, depending on the topic, student, faculty advisor, and discipline. Check departmental guidelines for specific information.

The default format is that of the traditional graduate thesis. The option to present research in the form of a journal article is available upon petition. See Formatting Requirements for more information.

3.  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 two (2) items to the Honors College by the appropriate deadline. See Submitting the Project for more information.

1.   Research Thesis Document

Submitted in PDF form to the Honors College AND to the JMU library.

2.  Title Page

This must be submitted in hard copy format to the Honors College 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