Purpose of the Capstone Project

Honors College students must complete an Honors Capstone Project before graduation. The Capstone requirement is intended to provide students with a scholarly experience that incorporates concepts and techniques learned throughout their undergraduate careers, as well as allowing students to make original scholarly contributions to their academic disciplines. The Capstone Project must focus on a research problem, theoretical issue, new creative work, or innovative area of application (i.e. design or technological innovation).

The Capstone Project is commensurate with the expectations of traditional departmental honors theses, senior design projects, and other senior research projects intended to prepare students for the rigors of research, writing, and scholarly presentation associated with postgraduate professional programs and graduate programs. Most students develop a project related to their major, but they may instead pursue a project in another discipline in which they have sufficient coursework and supervision. Typically involving two semesters of work, the Capstone Project is completed by students under the guidance of a faculty member who serves as the Project Supervisor, while also receiving input from the Honors College Fellow.

The Honors College encourages students to complete a Capstone Project that will simultaneously fulfill departmental or college requirements or optional opportunities for advanced undergraduate research and professional presentation. Students in programs that require a culminating senior project or research experience and students majoring in disciplines where a senior thesis is required to graduate with distinction may use such projects to satisfy the Honors College Capstone requirement, provided they meet the academic requirements of the Honors Capstone. Students should consult the Undergraduate Catalog or departmental advisors for additional information about options in their major. Use of these projects as the Capstone Project is subject to the approval of the Honors College Fellow.

Capstone Requirements

The Capstone Project consists of two components: (1) a written portion and (2) a presentation of the research in a public academic, professional, or creative forum.

  1. Written Portion
  2. The written work for the Capstone involves the creation of new knowledge or insights rather than simply a summary or synthesis of known facts or past work in the chosen area of study. It is more in-depth and demanding than a typical upper-division undergraduate paper. The written work usually takes the form of a written thesis, but the project may take other forms (e.g., a performance, art work, creative writing product, applied design project, or software program) based on the specific discipline.

    In standard research projects, the written work typically includes: (a) a statement of the research problem being addressed; (b) background of the theoretical issue and past scholarship; (c) discussion of the methodology used in tackling the research problem; (d) presentation of the research results on analyzed data; and (e) conclusions of the research.

    Students working on creative, design, or business projects in fields such as engineering, computer science, marketing, entrepreneurship, musical composition, art, creative writing, architecture, and theater may produce a somewhat different written product. The written presentation in such cases typically includes: (a) a clear statement of the design, creative, or business issue that the student is attempting to tackle through an original work; (b) background on the artistic genre or technological area in which the student is attempting to make a contribution (i.e. what has been done in this area of creative arts or technological design in the past and how this frames the student’s approach); (c) discussion of how the design, technological, business, or artistic product was conceived; (d) presentation of the results; and (e) an evaluation of its contribution to the discipline.

  3. Public Presentation
  4. Students are also required to present their research in the form of a lecture or oral presentation, a poster presentation, a reading or “unveiling” of a creative work, a concert or other type of performance, or a “defense” of the undergraduate thesis, preferably with the opportunity for questions, comments, and evaluation by the audience.

    The public presentation may take place in a variety of settings including (1) an academic symposium outside the university (e.g., a national/international or regional scholarly conference for a particular discipline); (2) a large university-wide event (e.g., UIC’s Student Research Forum in the spring semester); (3) the Honors College Research Symposium (held in the fall semester); or (4) a forum or symposium sponsored by the department or college (e.g., the UIC Engineering Expo in the spring semester). A presentation to other students in a class setting is not sufficient to satisfy the public presentation requirement. The project must be presented in a context or to an audience beyond the one in which it was developed.

    The Project Supervisor and the Honors College Fellow must approve the public presentation event as an academically appropriate venue. The Project Supervisor should attend the public presentation or otherwise verify that the presentation was completed in a professional manner. Honors College Fellows are also encouraged to attend the presentation whenever possible.

Roles of the Project Supervisor and the Honors College Fellow

The Capstone is a guided research project rather than something completed by the student with minimal input from the Project Supervisor. Students pursue their Capstone Projects under the guidance of their Project Supervisors and in consultation with their Honors College Fellows. However, students are ultimately responsible for developing the project, locating a Project Supervisor, and completing the project within the prescribed schedule.

The Project Supervisor is a scholar who is knowledgeable in his or her area of research and is a resource for the student. More specifically:

  • Students need to ascertain that the prospective Project Supervisor has expertise in the area of study and is willing and able to devote the time required to supervise the project effectively.
  • The Project Supervisor is expected to guide the student throughout the project, from identifying appropriate research methods and obtaining background reading materials, to reading and critiquing drafts in a timely manner, to consulting with the student regularly on the scope and methodology of the project. The Project Supervisor is also expected to help the student find appropriate public presentation venues and forms of presentation.
  • The Project Supervisor evaluates the project to determine whether it meets academic standards and disciplinary requirements. The Project Supervisor reads and assesses the written component of the work and should also attend the public presentation, if possible.

The Honors College Fellow ensures that the student successfully fulfills the Capstone Project requirement. More specifically:

  • The Honors College Fellow may assist the student in finding an appropriate Project Supervisor.
  • The Fellow may periodically check with the student to ensure that the project is progressing as expected and that the student is working well under the Project Supervisor.
  • The Fellow is expected to comment on the quality of the Capstone Project and must certify that it meets the Honors College requirement.
  • While some Fellows elect to work as Project Supervisors for one or more Honors College students, the Fellow is under no obligation to do so.

Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval

Research involving human subjects, unless exempt, requires IRB approval. Students should check with their Project Supervisor to see if they may be required to apply for IRB approval to conduct and present their Capstone Project.

  • Students should begin the IRB process at the proposal stage, prior to engaging in the Capstone Project.
  • Students may download and bring the Determination of Whether an Activity Represents Human Subjects Research form
  • Projects that meet the definition of human subjects research require submission of appropriate forms to the IRB office for exempt, expedited, or full review.
  • Before submitting appropriate forms for IRB approval, students should complete Investigator 101 training (available both in-person or online).
  • Students working with protected health information (PHI) must complete HIPAA Research IRB training at UIC.
  • Students who are working directly with faculty on research that has been previously approved may be included in the IRB approval for the larger project, but this should be confirmed before the research is presented in public.
  • Research conducted as part of a course-related activity is generally exempt from IRB requirements. However, the use of the information outside the classroom (i.e., the public presentation of the research) negates this exemption and may require IRB approval or an exemption determination. Failure to receive required approvals will preclude students from presenting their research in public.
  • For more information, visit http://tigger.uic.edu/depts/ovcr/research/ or contact the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects at 312.996.1711 or uicirb@uic.edu.

Team Projects

Students working on larger projects involving faculty, graduate students, and other undergraduates as a team filling various roles (such as an Engineering Senior Design Project) may work together, but students must individually produce their written portion of the Capstone emphasizing their particular role in the project. Students should consult with the Project Supervisor about what data can be included in their written Capstone and how the work of the larger research group should be represented.

In such cases, background research and theoretical discussion may overlap and be quite similar among the student members of the team. Because this may involve issues of both “intellectual property” and appropriate citation, it is important for students to clarify their roles in the research and how their contribution and the contributions of others can be recorded and publicly presented. Students working in teams may present their work together in one presentation, but all students must be present for the entire presentation and for questions and evaluation from attendees. Being part of a team project, however, does not reduce the amount of work an Honors College student must exert to successfully complete an independent Capstone Project.

Registration and Paperwork

Students are expected to complete the Capstone Project over two semesters, and they must enroll in HON 322 (0-credit hours) for each of those semesters. HON 322 replaces HON 222 as the required Honors College course registration. Students who complete a Capstone prior to their last semester at UIC should enroll in HON 222 for subsequent semesters and resume Honors Activities until graduation.

In addition to registering for HON 322, students are encouraged to enroll in research or independent study courses during their work on the project. Since Capstone research may require a significant amount of the student’s time during the semester, it is often advisable for students to substitute an independent research course for one of their major courses during one or both semesters of intensive work on the Capstone Project. Departmental advisors, Honors College Fellows, Project Supervisors, and Honors College staff can help identify such courses.

Registering for HON 322 also involves the following paperwork:

  • Capstone Agreement Form
    • Students must complete a Capstone Agreement Form at the beginning of each semester in which they are enrolled in HON 322.
    • The Capstone Agreement Form, signed by the Project Supervisor and Honors College Fellow, must be submitted to the Honors College by the end of the third week of the semester. The Form must be filled out properly and completely.
    • The form includes a section for the student to include a project proposal. The project proposal should include the following elements:
      1. Title
      2. Purpose and Goal of the Research - A brief summary of the issues to be addressed and/or questions to be investigated. The issues described should be as specific as possible, and the student may wish to include a summary of preliminary background research.
      3. Methodology and Data/Materials Collection - An explanation of what data or other materials are to be collected to answer the research question(s) and how.
      4. Analysis and Anticipated Results - An explanation of how the data or materials will be analyzed and the potential scholarly contribution of the results from the study.
      5. Preliminary Schedule - A tentative schedule for completing the above steps in two semesters, including plans for preparing and conducting the public presentation. For example, students will likely carry out the necessary background literature review and conduct the bulk of their research during the first semester of the Capstone and then devote the second semester to writing up research and preparing a poster, a PowerPoint presentation, and/or a lecture for public presentation. The venue for public presentation should also be identified.
      Students should provide the Project Supervisor and Honors College Fellow with an initial draft of the project proposal so that they are able to address their concerns prior to the student submitting the proposal formally.
  • Capstone Progress Report Form
    • At the end of the first semester, students submit a Capstone Progress Report Form indicating the progress made on the project during the first semester.
    • The Progress Report Form must be signed by the Project Supervisor.
    • The Progress Report Form is due at the end of the fifteenth week of the semester, which is the last day of classes.
  • Capstone Completion Form
    • At the conclusion of the project, students submit a Capstone Completion Form.
    • Both the Project Supervisor and the Honors College Fellow must approve the final project and sign the Capstone Completion Form. Note that no formal grade will be given by the Honors College on either the written portion or the public presentation of the project. However, by signing the Capstone Completion Form, the Project Supervisor indicates that the project is acceptable, and the Honors College Fellow certifies that the project meets the Capstone Project requirements.
    • The Capstone Completion Form is due at the end of the fifteenth week of the semester, which is the last day of semester classes.
  • Along with the Capstone Completion Form, students should submit their completed Capstone Project to the Honors College; more specifically:
    • Along with the Capstone Completion Form, the student is responsible for submitting a copy of the completed project for archiving in the Honors College. In addition to the written portion, students may also include copies of their posters or PowerPoint slides used in the presentation. The Honors College database for the Capstone Project may be archived in digital form, so digitized formats (i.e. the final written product as a PDF) are acceptable.
    Students should consult their Project Supervisors and Honors College Fellows regarding whether they prefer to receive the project in paper or digitized format. In some circumstances, it will not be feasible to copy the entire project, as in the case of art work or a technological prototype accompanying a written portion. In those cases, only the portions of the project that can reasonably be reproduced need to be submitted. However, photographs of such parts of the project should be included, if feasible.

Recommended Capstone Timeline

Students following a four-year graduation plan typically complete the Capstone Project during the first and second semesters of the senior year. Students should begin thinking about the capstone project during the junior year and ideally have selected a topic and a Project Supervisor by the end of the semester preceding the formal initiation of the Capstone Project.

  1. Topics and Project Supervisors
  2. Two of the most critical elements of a successful Capstone Project are a clear definition of the topic and an appropriate choice of the Project Supervisor. Students should begin discussing topics, potential plans of actions, and potential Project Supervisors with their Honors College Fellow as early as possible. The Honors College Fellow will be able to discuss and help solve any potential problems. In addition to an Honors College Fellow, students may also seek advice from the academic department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies or Academic Advisor, or consult with staff at the Honors College.

    Students should then meet with potential Project Supervisors to discuss possible projects, to evaluate the feasibility of the proposed project, and to obtain advice on preliminary background research. For some students, Capstone Projects may be a continuation of research and a mentoring relationship with a faculty member that is already underway. For others, the Honors Capstone may involve new research with a Project Supervisor with whom they have not worked before. Initial discussions with the Project Supervisor are good opportunities to better define the project and find an appropriate scope that can be thoroughly addressed within two semesters.

  3. Seeking IRB Approval
  4. Once a student has decided on the Capstone Project topic, he or she should consult with the Project Supervisor or the Office for the Protection of Research Subjects to see if IRB approval is needed before conducting the research and/or presenting it in a public forum. If IRB approval is required, the student should prepare the appropriate paperwork as soon as possible.

  5. Proceeding with the Research
  6. Once the student has received IRB approval, he or she should proceed with the Capstone Project according to the timeline agreed upon between the student and the Project Supervisor.

    See a graphic representation of the recommended Capstone timeline.