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Senior Honors Project

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Requirements & Procedures

The following information is meant to establish basic guidelines and procedures for the Senior Honors 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: Senior Honors Research Project or Creative Senior Honors Project. Collaborative projects also entail additional requirements. Questions should be directed to the departmental liaison and/or the Honors Academic Advisor.

The Senior Honors 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 senior 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).

Basic Requirements

The Honors Program requires the following basic elements for all senior projects:

  • Completion of a 499 sequence for 6 hours of credit.
  • Submission of Senior Honors 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 signature, early in the final semester.
  • Submission of the completed project to the Honors Program office and JMU libraries by the stated deadline at the end of the 499C semester.

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

Credits & Grades

Students must register for a 499 course each semester through the department in which the student is completing the Senior Honors Project (contact the departmental liaison for more information). Students receive 6 credit hours for completing a senior 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 a Collaborative Senior Honors Project, which can take the form of either a research thesis or a creative project. Students must indicate on the Senior Honors 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.

Departmental Guidelines

Students must follow the specific guidelines of the department in which they are completing their project. Some departmental guidelines may vary from those outlined by the Honors Program. In such cases procedures developed by the respective department will always take precedence. Questions can be directed to the departmental liaison and/or the Honors Academic Advisor.

View departmental guidelines

Interdisciplinary Projects (HON 499)

Students have the option of completing an interdisciplinary Senior Honors Project under the auspices of the Honors Program rather than through a department. These projects must be truly interdisciplinary, combining two or more kinds of approaches, knowledge bases, or skill sets. This may be especially suitable to students working outside of their major departments, or as a home for collaborations between students working in different disciplines. These projects are only appropriate in cases where the student(s) cannot form a senior project committee in their own discipline(s). HON 499 projects are not recommended for students working on a project in their own department or major, or students working by mutual agreement within the guidelines set by the faculty advisor's department. Guidelines for HON 499 projects are listed along with other departmental guidelines.


The following timeline is a suggested set of deadlines and tasks that will aid students in successfully completing the senior project in a timely fashion. The Honors Program encourages a variety of avenues in approaching the senior 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 Senior Honors 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. (See page on Choosing a Topic for more information.)
  • If possible, identify a faculty adviser. (See section on Project Committees for more information.)
  • Attend an informational meeting hosted by the Honors Program.
  • 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 project 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 project 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 an Honors project, review the pertinent literature, and write the proposal for the project.
  • Submit the Senior Honors Project Application and Proposal by the assigned deadline (usually late November or late April). 
  • If working on a Collaborative Project, submit additional documentation to the Honors Faculty Fellows.
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 thesis document in journal or other alternative format, submit petition to the Honors Program 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 Program and the library.

Students who will be graduating in December, studying abroad, student teaching, or interning out of town for any of their final three semesters before graduation should consider starting the 499 sequence earlier than the middle of their junior year. Some majors even require an earlier start. A student who is unable to begin the sequence by the second semester of the junior year may be able to complete a condensed sequence starting in the summer before the senior year or the first semester of the senior year. Possible options include completing the 499A course during the summer, or completing both 499A and 499B during the first semester of the senior year. Approval is at the discretion of the supervising faculty adviser. In any of these cases, students should consult the Honors Academic Advisor and/or their departmental liaison for more information.

Project Committee

The Project Committee consists of a Faculty Project 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 Senior 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 meetings and communication between the student and the faculty advisor is essential for successful completion of the Senior Honors 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 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.

Senior Honors Project Application and Proposal

Students must submit the application form and a detailed proposal to the Honors Program office by the assigned deadline (usually late November or late April). Students will indicate the project type: Research or Creative. 

The proposal must include the signatures of the project committee, department head, and dean of the appropriate college. Approval is determined by the Honors Program Director. 

Download Senior Honors Project Application form

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 senior 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 Senior Honors Project work:

  • Honors Symposium: Hosted by the JMU Honors Program each spring featuring short lectures, panel presentations, and poster sessions. December and August graduates are invited, and encouraged, to present at the May 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.

Honors Symposium

The JMU Honors Symposium provides a forum for Honors students to share their work with the public and is open to any Senior Honors Project student that would like to present. Registration occurs via the senior project Pre-Submission Form, which you will submit early in your final semester. Students who are presenting elsewhere are strongly encouraged to present at the Honors Symposium as well, but this is not required. 

Most students participate in the poster session, a kind of open house where participants display posters which describe their scholarship and interact with people in attendance. Limited space is available for oral presentations. You can indicate your preference on the Pre-Submission Form.

2016 Symposium

The 2016 Honors Symposium will take place on Friday afternoon, April 15 in the Madison Union Ballroom (Warren Hall, 5th floor). 

Poster Design Workshops

March 29, 4-5 PM in Hillcrest House
March 30, 4-5 PM in Hillcrest House

These informal workshops will provide an overview of how to design a poster showcasing your scholarship. Information on campus resources for poster printing will also be discussed. Students will have time to ask questions specific to their own projects. Pre-registration for these workshops is not required.

Resources for Designing Posters

The following resources provide guidelines and information on designing posters. Posters should be 36x48 in dimension. The East Campus Copy Center can print posters for as little as $12. Instructions are included in first link below.

Pre-Submission Form

Students submit this form early in the final project semester. This form indicates your plans for publicly presenting your senior project and gives you the opportunity to notify Honors if you will submit your final project in an alternative format. This form also confirms that you are making satisfactory progress towards completion of your senior project. Signature of faculty advisor is required.

Spring 2016 Deadline: February 26

Download Pre-Submission Form

Formatting Requirements

Research theses and the reflective/contextual essay component of creative projects should follow the standard thesis formatting requirements (download below). Some departments may have different or extra requirements (check Departmental Guidelines); these should be followed in all cases.

The first page of the submitted project must be the Title/Signature page without signatures and public presentation information. (Students will submit an additional Title/Signature page in hard copy, with signatures and public presentation information, to the Honors Program office by the same due date as the completed project; see the "Submit" tab for details.) Use the title page entry form below and drop the completed project document into this template (no special paper is required for the title page).

It is highly recommended you have your project reviewed prior to submitting your final copy. E-mail your draft in a Word doc file to and a director will respond with comments.

Alternative Formatting Options

It may be appropriate in certain cases for students to submit project documents in a format other than the standard thesis, such as a journal article. In this instance, students should petition the Honors Program at the beginning of the 499C semester. The professional guidelines that the document will adhere to must be indicated (APA Style, ACS Style Guide, etc.). Approval of the faculty advisor is required.

Regardless of the formatting guidelines, ALL projects submitted must contain a title page, table of contents, list of figures, acknowledgements, and bibliography, and must maintain consistency of formatting style throughout the text.

Submitting the Project

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

  • To the Honors Program 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
  • To Scholarly Commons – all files associated with the Senior Honors 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 projects 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 thesis or dissertation document electronically through the JMU Scholarly Commons. Here is what to expect in the submission process. The more you have prepared properly before entering the submission site, the easier your submission will be.

  • IMPORTANT: Submit your project to the "Honors Program," not your department or major.
  • You will need to establish an account with the JMU Scholarly Commons.  Use your JMU email address for this account.
  • Select the link to "Submit Research" on the left navigation under “Author Corner”.
  • Scroll to the bottom of the list to "Undergraduate Research" and select Senior Honors Theses and Projects, 2014 - .
  • 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.
  • 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 Program with a compelling reason for an embargo.  Do not select this option without advanced permission.
  • Know what degree you are earning.
  • Enter the name of your department exactly as it appears on your title page.
  • 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.

Before you submit your document(s) to the library, The Honors Program should have received a hard copy of your signed title/signature page.

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.)

Ready to Submit to the Library?

Refer to the following checklist before beginning your submission.

  • I have turned in a signed copy of my title/signature page to the Honors Program.
  • I have all documents 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 college my program is housed.
  • I have selected key words for my document.
  • I have my abstract available to be inserted into the submission form.

Public Access & Copyright Issues

Two essential websites to check: 

Completed senior 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 JMU Copy Center can advise students on these issues and help with the Copyright Clearing House. Students should also consult their faculty advisors and the Copy Center 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 that impacts the publication process in any way.