Mentoring an Honors Thesis/Senior Project

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What is an Honors Senior Project?

The Honors Senior Project serves as the cumulative work of an undergraduate Honors student. Many students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln complete a capstone project in their major as part of a regular course. The Honors Senior Project is designed to ask students to go beyond their capstone efforts to produce research or a creative activity constituting Honors-level work (for many faculty it is helpful to think of the Honors Thesis/Senior project being equivalent to the semester project a Master’s student might produce in a one-semester seminar). Students may accomplish this either by building upon a capstone project or by completing a project related one of their areas of study but not connected to a capstone course. Many students build upon undergraduate research experiences when writing their senior project. This is perfectly acceptable and encouraged.

Students in some majors have access to an Honors version of their capstone. This is one that has gone through the curricular approval process and is offered regularly (i.e.: students may not contract a capstone that is not offered as an "H" version). For faculty who teach an Honors version of the major capstone, please skip down to the question below "How does an Honors capstone Senior Project work?"

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Who can mentor an Honors Senior Project?

Generally, UNL faculty members. More specifically, the best candidates are Professors (any rank) or Professors of Practice (any rank) in the project topic's field.

The student should identify a faculty mentor who holds the terminal degree in the senior project topic’s field and is employed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Co-mentors may be appropriate if the project is interdisciplinary or the student is in a college requiring co-mentors for distinction purposes. Students who are involved in research projects through other University of Nebraska campuses or with faculty at other institutions of higher education will likely be able to proceed with co-mentors, where one is a UNL faculty member in their home department.

In general, however, all Colleges and the Honors Program agree that it is not acceptable for graduate students to serve as faculty mentors. Likewise, students are strongly discouraged from asking contingent faculty (lecturers or adjuncts) to serve as mentors, as they are usually only paid for the classes they teach; additionally, in some Colleges, lecturers may be ineligible to serve in this role.

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What are my responsibilities as a Faculty Mentor?

We believe that faculty are in the best position to adjudicate that the amount and level of work for a senior project constitutes Honors quality, and faculty mentors are solely responsible for certifying that the final senior project is completed at an appropriately rigorous level. The Honors Program is always available to answer questions and help faculty through this process.

The following is expected from a Faculty Mentor:
  1. Discuss with the student the scope, format, and timeline of their project.

    The final submission date for the Honors Program is generally about half-way through the student's final semester, but individual college distinction requirements may place it earlier. Faculty and students should be sure to consult college distinction deadlines as they plan the senior project timeline.
  2. Approve or decline the student's Honors Senior Project Prospectus Form.

    When the student submits the Honors Senior Project Prospectus Form, the faculty mentor(s) will receive a copy of it via email. The faculty mentor(s) should respond to the email confirming agreement or declining the proposal the student has submitted. A faculty mentor with concerns or questions should contact Dr. Tamy Burnett at tburnett2@unl.edu.
  3. Give input and feedback throughout the project.

    Meet with the student as needed throughout the duration of the project. Give guidance, input, and feedback to the student regarding the goal(s) and execution of their project.

    Note: If the thesis/senior project changes in scope dramatically or the faculty mentor(s) change, the student should submit a revised Honors Senior Project Prospectus.
  4. Submit grades for 399H/499H/UHON 499H (only if student enrolls in credit for senior project work).

    The Honors Program does not require students to enroll in any specific courses or credit hours in order to complete the Senior Project. However, students may enroll in an appropriate UHON 99H (usually "research") for one term, or, with approval from the faculty mentors supervising the project, students may choose to enroll in independent study hours to work on the Senior Project. Generally, these hours are numbered 399H or 499H in the major, and students should contact their major department for permission to enroll. Students for whom a major-relevant 399H or 499H is unavailable may request to enroll in UHON 499H. Faculty mentors will be notified of such requests and should let the Honors Program know if they have concerns about UHON 499H enrollment.

    Students may request to enroll in UHON 499H.
  5. Sign the Honors Senior Project Evaluation Form when the project is completed to the satisfaction of the faculty mentor(s).

    When the Honors Senior Project is completed to the satisfaction of the faculty mentor(s), the Honors Senior Project Evaluation Form should be signed by the faculty mentor(s) and submitted to the Honors Program office by the student. Many students and faculty also find it helpful to consult the Honors Senior Project/Thesis Formatting and Submission Guidelines when preparing the final version of the work. Honors Program submission dates for the current semester may differ from college distinction dates.
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What are my responsibilities as a Faculty Co-mentor?

The faculty co-mentor is asked to support the student throughout their Honors Senior Project process. The type of support may vary based on the type of project and thus expectations should be discussed by the student, faculty mentor, and faculty co-mentor.

In general, the faculty co-mentor should expect to be available to meet with the student as needed, provide feedback about the project, and review the final project. The faculty co-mentor can sign the Honors Senior Project Evaluation Form when they are satisfied with the final product, but this is not required.

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How does an Honors capstone Senior Project work?

In some majors, Honors students may enroll in an Honors version of the capstone class. These classes have gone through the curriculum process and are offered regularly. Students may not simply contract a capstone that is not offered as Honors. For students completing a capstone, instead of the process outlined above for a traditional thesis or an applied knowledge or creative project, students will submit the following forms.

In place of a traditional prospectus form, students will submit an Honors Capstone Intention Form, which tells Honors which capstone the student intends to take and when they plan on graduating. This is due mid-way through the semester one year prior to the graduating term (or at the start of the capstone course, whichever comes first). Mid-way through the capstone (or the final term, if the capstone involves two sequential courses), the student should submit the Honors Capstone Anticipated Completion Form.

Since faculty teaching these capstones may be overseeing several projects, Honors will communicate directly with faculty via email to confirm that all enrolled students are on track to successfully complete the course mid-way through the term. Students are then responsible for completing assigned work, and upon receiving faculty approval, submitting it to the Honors Program no later than Tuesday of Final Week for the term. Students should consult the Honors Senior Project Submission Guidelines prior to upload to ensure they have followed all steps.

Faculty with last-minute concerns about a students' performance should contact the Honors Program (uhon-office@unl.edu) as early as possible. To successfully earn Honors credit for the course and have to coursework accepted for the Senior Project requirement, students need to earn a B- or higher in the capstone class. It may not be taken as pass/no pass.

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What does the typical Honors Senior Project timeline look like?

The Honors Senior Project is a long-term project that will require students to plan ahead. The average student spends at least a year from project inception to completion, although you may certainly invest more time and some projects can be successfully completed in a little less than a year.

Generally, the due date is midway through the semester that they are graduating in. Generally, this means just prior to Spring Break for May graduates, mid-July for August graduates, and just after Fall Break for December graduates. However, please see the timeline on the student Honors Senior Project Page for a more specific look at the process.

The only standing exception to the timeline applies to students submitting the course project from an approved Honors capstone course (Raikes, Business, CIVE, and CSCE/SOFT majors).

Other exceptions to this timeline are extremely rare, as the timeline is set in conjunction with other campus processes related to graduation and commencement. If the student believes that they have a truly exceptional situation that might warrant a timeline exception, please encourage them to contact the Honors Office as early as possible to discuss.

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What information and support do students have access to? The University Honors Program works to support students in a variety of ways. For an overview of the Honors Senior Project Process, students can review this webpage. For a more in-depth look, students or faculty mentors can request to join the Honors Senior Project Resource Canvas Page by emailing uhon-office@unl.edu. For additional support, the student can request a meeting with an Honors advisor via MyPLAN.

Submitting for Distinction (Optional)

Also, for students in colleges that offer the opportunity to graduate with a level of distinction, based upon a thesis or creative project, the Honors Senior Project can count towards both Honors requirements and distinction requirements. Please consult individual college distinction requirements for details and note that college distinction deadlines may differ from Honors Program deadlines. Please note that students submitted a project to both the Honors Program and their college(s) will be required to complete separate prospectus and evaluation paperwork for each.

Types of Honors Senior Projects Include the Following:

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Research Thesis

In the traditional research thesis, the student conducts research appropriate to their field of study and writes a paper. This option is most popular for students applying to professional or graduate schools, or those entering professions where traditional research is a key skill set. Expected scope will vary by discipline, but it exceeds a regular undergraduate research paper or class project. It may build on research like UCARE or a non-Honors capstone project.

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Applied Knowledge Project

Students create a real-world output that demonstrates synthesis and application of learning, usually in the major. Examples include creating a resource (videos, website); writing a curriculum; compiling a themed cookbook; or similar. The project is accompanied by a written explanation of the output and situating it within discipline-appropriate research. Scope varies by discipline, but it should represent a substantial investment of time and intellectual energy.

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Creative Project

A creative project involves research and creative output in a relevant discipline, usually in the fine arts, such as a recital or art show. The output is accompanied by a written explanation of the output and situating it within contexts of various artistic styles or movements. Expected scope of the creative project will vary by discipline, but it exceeds a senior show or recital expected of every graduating major in the field.

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Approved Honors Capstone Course Project

A few majors offer an Honors version of their capstone course for which the major project of the course can be submitted to the University Honors Program to fulfill the senior project requirement. These include and are limited to:

  • CIVE 489H for Civil & Environmental Engineering majors
  • MNGT 475H for all College of Business majors
  • Raikes Design Studio for Raikes students and associates (either junior or senior level)
  • CSCE 486H/487H for Computer Science majors
  • CSCE 488H/489H for Computer Engineering majors
  • SOFT 403H/404H for Software Engineering majors
  • MECH Engineering Capstone for Mechanical Engineering majors

Students completing Capstones follow a slightly different process than students completing the typical Honors Senior Project. Instead of submitting the Honors Senior Project Prospectus Form, students are expected to submit the Honors Capstone Intention Form. Additionally, rather than completing the Honors Senior Project Evaluation Form, students completing Capstones are expected to submit the Honors Capstone Anticipated Completion form.