Honors Capstone Project Guidelines
Research and Creative Activity in the Honors Program
The honors capstone project is the culmination of the Honors experience. Ultimately, we encourage students to make use of the honors education they have experienced. We encourage students to be open and imaginative, and pursue new paths and desires as much as possible. For some students, the honors project is a great opportunity to dig deep into a specific area of their major. For others, the honors project may be a great opportunity for an intellectual adventure. Ultimately, deciding on what might be an appropriate project comes down to deciding on the kind of honors experience that the student values.
We strongly encourage students to think about the broader impacts of their projects. The Honors capstone project should be one that reaches beyond the university. We want students to strive to identify and reach an audience that could be impacted by the project. The final form the project takes is as significant of a choice as the topic itself.
Honors Capstone Project Tracks:
The research thesis is an extended analysis based on an original research question. Working with a thesis advisor, students will explore the relevant literature of a subject and develop a research question based on the scholarly conversation. Students then collect and analyze evidence in the pursuit of an answer to the question. The student should produce an original interpretation of the evidence that contributes to the field of study.
The research thesis is most common in the sciences and the humanities. The form of the thesis will vary according to discipline. Theses in the humanities are based on written interpretations of primary source evidence. In the sciences, students may write an empirical thesis, in which they conduct original research based on their scientific question. They may also write a theoretical thesis, in which they analyze a new problem or seek a new way to solve an existing problem.
The Online portfolio is certainly open to all majors, but students in business and journalism might find this project form particularly appealing.
The online portfolio is more than a collection of work. The development of the online portfolio is an integrative experience through which students establish meaning for their education. Working with an advisor, students will develop objectives. Students then collect artifacts that demonstrate their path to meeting those objectives. As part of this project, students should practice critical reflection as they track their progress. The portfolio is an exercise in design, critical analysis, professionalization and self-awareness, making it one of the more interdisciplinary projects.
The experiential project has two essential components: experiential learning and critical reflection. While this project is not discipline specific, majors such as international studies, education, business, pharmacy, nursing and engineering would be well-suited for this type of project.
There are many experiential learning opportunities that can serve as the basis for this project. Some examples include study abroad, service learning, community outreach, fieldwork, internship and student teaching. Essentially, the experience serves as the student’s primary research. For example, students in education can conduct action research to reflect on and improve their teaching methods while completing their student teaching. Students can utilize their internship experience build a project. This could include areas of future exploration, an analysis of a particular skill, technique, aspect of the field or even a design project; all of these are aimed at building professional competence.
Creative/performative projects are characteristic of disciplines such as theater, music, creative writing, art and architecture.
While the creation/performance itself comprises much of the work of the thesis, a critical introduction is required for all such projects, be they in theater, music, creative writing, art or architecture.
The critical introduction includes much more than "how I came to this topic" and/or "what I would do next time." Instead, the critical introduction to a performative project demonstrates knowledge of prior work in the discipline and the dialogue about the issues the project confronts.
The honors program also encourages students to develop projects that might not fit neatly within any of the above categories but are rooted in a drive for innovation. This could mean students engage in interdisciplinary projects that are team advised. Or, an interdisciplinary team of students works on a single project. Students could work on a design project in an effort to create a new product or idea in response to a specific problem. Students can take advantage of the 3D printing opportunities available at NDSU for product development. It could also mean projects that push students beyond the walls of the university. Students can participate in national innovation challenges and/or pitch competitions, as part of their Honors capstone project.
This type of project is open to anyone. In fact, interdisciplinary teams could be particularly effective on a project such as this. An innovation project will be particularly appealing for students in the design fields, engineering and business.
Building on an existing project:
Students can build their Honors capstone project on a project they complete for their major requirements. Students should plan carefully to make sure that the project meets both sets of requirements. As long as the project meets the above requirements for an Honors capstone project, students are encouraged to build on the work they are doing for their major requirements.