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Senior Honors Project

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1. What is the Senior Honors Project? Why is it significant?

The Senior Honors Project is the capstone requirement in the Honors program and is a major accomplishment in a student's academic career. Similar to a master's thesis, the project represents a significant body of research or a creative endeavor in which the student works independently throughout the final three semesters at JMU on a topic related to their major discipline, under the guidance of a faculty mentor and a faculty committee.

Because the project demonstrates advanced work, gaining extensive knowledge of certain aspects of a student's major discipline, students who choose this kind of academic challenge tend to be stronger candidates when applying for graduate schools or professional jobs following graduation.

2. What are the standards for my project?

Honors projects should be like a graduate thesis in your discipline. Consult with your departmental liaison and project advisor, who are the final arbiters of disciplinary excellence.

3. How original should the research be?

Your project 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.

4. Who is the audience for the project?

Because the project is like a graduate thesis, it should be addressed to specialists in your discipline.

5. Do the two readers on my project committee need to be professors in my major?

No. Typically, committee members are from your major discipline. But it may be more appropriate to have one or both readers come from another discipline, possibly your minor. Consult your advisor if you think there is sufficient reason to consider readers from outside your major department.

6. How soon should I prepare my 1st draft?

Discuss a timetable for completion of material regularly with your committee. Expect to do several drafts. At the latest, provide the primary advisor with the first draft EARLY in your last semester. Provide the readers with drafts according to the timetable agreed upon.

7. What style manual should I use?

The Honors Program does not require the use of a particular style manual. The decision of which manual to select should come after careful discussion with your project advisor. Specific manuals may be recommended for your discipline by your advisor. Many academic departments have a preference in style manuals; you should select your manual accordingly. 

8. Where can I obtain the application for the Senior Honors Project?

The application can be downloaded here.

9. Is help available for formatting?

See the document Formatting Your Senior Project. If further clarification is desired, schedule an appointment with the Honors Program staff. It is highly recommended that you e-mail your final draft (in a single Word document) to for an Honors Program staff member to review for formatting before submitting your final project. 

10. What tips should I keep in mind?

  • Communicate with your advisor! Find out what is expected of you and what you can expect in return.
  • Meet weekly with your primary advisor.
  • Stay in touch with your readers regularly.
  • Keep your committee informed throughout all three semesters.
  • Be aware of deadlines. Allow plenty of lead time to meet them. Remember that meeting those deadlines requires working with committee members' schedules; allow ample time for them to accommodate you.

11. What should I do about images or figures that are inserted into the text or appendix?

  • Provide a number and a title for each image or figure.
  • If you wish, include a brief caption.
  • Use "landscape" orientation to accommodate the size of large images so that margins can be maintained. Page numbers should continue to be in the usual location used for "portrait" orientation. If you have a combination of 5 or more figures, tables, symbols, images, charts, or graphs, include a List of Figures, grouping them according to type.  Indicate this list in the Table of Contents.

12. Should I use a copyright page?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, "Your work is under copyright protection the moment it is created and fixed in a tangible form." However, if you wish to file for copyright protection with the U.S. Copyright Office, you may do so for a small fee. Allow ample time to complete this process before the project is due, as it usually takes several months.

If you choose to obtain this protection, place your copyright protection statement on page 2 of your project. Examples of copyright protection statements can be found in any publication that has been recorded in the Library of Congress.

13. What/who should be included in the acknowledgements page?

It is professional practice to thank your supporters: all committee members, project grants from the Honors Program or other sources, entities or persons who funded conference presentation of your project, other professors who advised you, and persons outside JMU who helped in any way (i.e. friends, family).

14. What is included in a dedication page?

If you choose to include a dedication page, write a concise statement dedicating the work to one or several persons, institutions, etc.

15. What do I do if I want to change any of my 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.

16. How do I register for 499 classes?

Contact the office of the department in which you are completing your project. They will advise you on the procedure for enrolling in the proper 499 courses. Registration for 499 cannot be accomplished on MyMadison or through the Honors Program.

17. What is the Institutional Review Board and how do I know if it applies to my project?

The IRB is a JMU committee that oversees compliance issues related to the research of human subjects. Certain experiments, such as conducting interviews with people, may require IRB approval. See IRB's website:  Discuss the need for IRB approval with your project advisor.

18. How can I get financial assistance for my project?

The Honors Program offers some small grants awards, which provide funds for work on the senior project or conference participation. Download an application form here.

Funds may also be available through your major department. Ask your project advisor. The JMU Office of Sponsored Programs has information and applications for small grants that might assist Honors project work or conference participation.

19. What do I do with supplementary materials (i.e. audio/video files) that are included with my project?

These should be formatted appropriately (i.e. mp3), labeled according to the JMU Library’s instructions, and submitted as a separate file from your text file when you submit your project.

20. What do I do if my GPA drops below 3.25 while working on the project?

No final project is accepted if you do not have the required GPA. If your GPA drops, consider shifting your research project to an independent study course (490 course) in your major.

21. Where will my Senior Honors Project be kept?

Projects are housed within the JMU Library system and will be available to the public. Projects completed after December 2009 are available online through the JMU Library. Projects completed prior to that time may be checked out from Carrier Library.

22. What models exist for my project?

A file listing past senior projects, organized by major, is available here

23. I am not in the Honors Program. Can I do a senior project?

Yes, if you have a 3.50 cumulative GPA or higher, you may complete a Senior Honors Project through Track III. You must find a faculty committee to work with you, register for 499A, prepare a proposal, and submit the proposal and project application to the Honors Program office by the deadline. Once your application has been approved, you will officially be a member of the Honors Program.

24. Do Track III students receive special designations on their diplomas?

Yes, the indication of graduation With Distinction in their major is placed on both the diploma and the transcript. In addition, the Honors Program gives each Honors graduate a medallion to wear at graduation.