The Capstone Project
Student comment on the capstone
The capstone project helped me return to being the active learner I was prior to stress about grades, exams, and papers.
Spring Impact & Research Day at UIC
About this Page
This page includes information about: Capstone expectations, an FAQ, links to the Capstone Student Handbook, sample capstone projects by Honors College graduates, and much more.
View or download the 2020-2021 Capstone Student Handbook in PDF format.
Purpose of the Capstone
A “capstone” is the final stone that unifies and protects an underlying structure. All Honors College students complete a Capstone Project—a scholarly experience that incorporates concepts and techniques learned throughout the undergraduate career, through which students can make original scholarly or professional contributions to their field. The Capstone may focus on a research problem, theoretical issue, new creative work, professional challenge, or novel application (such as design, technological, or social innovation).
Expectations for the Capstone are in line with honors quality departmental theses, senior design projects, and other senior research projects that enable students to carry out rigorous inquiry, writing, and public presentation. The Capstone Project is typically pursued in the final two semesters at UIC, building upon the knowledge and skills acquired throughout the undergraduate years.
Projects like the Capstone enable students to enhance critical abilities: working independently and as a member of a team; superseding obstacles; cultivating confidence and willingness to take risks; and contributing to a larger community of knowledge.
Ideally, Honors College students will start brainstorming early about what they want to experience and accomplish in their undergraduate careers; choose classes and co-curricular activities that support those goals; initiate a Capstone Project that feeds their unique intellectual passions; and, finally, carry what they have learned forward into life beyond college.
What is the Capstone?
Students may choose to develop a Capstone Project related to their major or another field in which they have sufficient coursework, supervision and experience. The Capstone Project involves two semesters of work and is supervised by a faculty member or, in rare instances, another Capstone Supervisor who must be approved by the Faculty Fellow and the Honors College.
Individual Capstones vary, but the final product always includes: (1) a written portion and (2) a public presentation of the results in an academic, professional, or creative forum. The Honors College encourages students to complete a Capstone Project that will simultaneously fulfill departmental or college requirements. Students in programs that require a culminating senior project or in disciplines where a senior thesis is required to graduate with distinction may use such projects to satisfy the Honors College Capstone requirement, though they may need to submit additional materials to meet Honors College expectations. Students should consult departmental academic advisors and the Undergraduate Catalog for additional information about options in their major. Use of these activities to satisfy the Capstone requirement is subject to approval of the Faculty Fellow and Capstone Supervisor.
Three Types of Capstone Projects
Capstone Projects can be grouped into three general types. Projects from different disciplines will vary in form and design, but the processes related to scholarly inquiry and research design allow for the following general groupings.
Honors students may complete a Capstone Project outside of their major discipline if they have taken sufficient coursework in the field of interest and are able to recruit an appropriate Capstone Supervisor.
An analytical or interpretive capstone project is inquiry-based research driven by the investigation of a gap in academic knowledge represented by the current peer-reviewed academic literature. Liberal Arts & Sciences capstones often feature this kind of “pure research”, but such analytical projects may be carried out in almost any field.
An applied or experiential capstone project is action-based research driven by an investigation of the state of academic, professional, and/or technical knowledge represented by current peer-reviewed academic literature, professional practice, and/or technical application. This category of capstone is inclusive of, but not limited to, the disciplines of Architecture, Business, Computer Science, Design, Disability Studies, Education, Engineering, Foreign Language Majors, Kinesiology, Nutrition, Nursing, Public Health, Public Policy, and Urban Planning.
A creative capstone project is an expressive exploration of a political, cultural, economic, and/or social issue. Students need to have sufficient previous experience within the artistic medium, by way of previous course work and independent artistic practice. Students also need to have sufficient knowledge of relevant practitioners whose work their capstone project engages. Students must recruit a Capstone Supervisor with an academic background in the creative field of interest (e.g., Creative Writing, Digital Art, Music, Painting, Photography, Print Media, Performance, Sculpture, etc.)
1. Written Portion
- Often takes the form of a written thesis, but may take other forms (e.g., action research, a performance, art work, an applied design project, a software program, a creative writing project) appropriate to the specific discipline.
- 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.
- Is more in-depth and demanding than a typical upper-division undergraduate paper.
Expectations for the written portion vary according to the field and type of project:
The traditional paper for analytical capstone projects typically includes:
- a statement of the research problem being addressed;
- background of the theoretical issue and past scholarship;
- discussion of the methodology used in tackling the research problem;
- presentation of the research results on analyzed data; and
- conclusions of the research.
Expectations for length vary by discipline and project type. For instance, in some disciplines you might find that the expected length of an analytical capstone paper is 25-40 pages, but in other fields the expected length may be less—or considerably more. You will determine what is expected in direct consultation with your capstone supervisor and faculty fellow.
Individual applied/experiential projects, creative projects, or projects not written in English may culminate in a final paper similar to the above, or may include a written product called a Scholarly Report. (For instance, an art major who produces a gallery show that is the main product must also turn in a Scholarly Report.) This report should be minimum 5 pages long and will typically include:
- a clear statement of the design/creative/business/social issue that the student is attempting to tackle through original work;
- background on the artistic field 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);
- discussion of how the design, technological, business, or artistic product was conceived;
- presentation of the results;
- an evaluation of its contribution to the discipline; and
- a critical self-analysis of the student’s overall UIC academic experience and how the Capstone Project is a culmination of this experience
Team Projects: Projects produced in a team setting (such as a faculty member’s ongoing research project or lab, an Engineering Senior Design Project, or the Business Scholars Capsim) must always be accompanied by an individually authored Scholarly Report. The student must carve out and take responsibility for a distinct portion of the group project in order for it to qualify as a Capstone. This usually includes producing a segment of a team’s written product as well as a Scholarly Report that delineates their own individual contributions. This type of Scholarly Report should be minimum 3 pages long and will typically include:
- an explanation of how their individual contribution to the team-based research differs from the what is required of non-Honors undergraduate peers and thus is worthy of Honors College recognition;
- an examination of how the Capstone Project is the outcome of their passion, curiosity, and aspirations; and
- a critical self-analysis of the student’s overall UIC academic experience and how the Capstone Project is a culmination of this experience.
2. Public Presentation
Students are also required to present their research publicly in some form. Depending on the project discipline, the presentation could be in the form of:
- A lecture
- A poster presentation
- A reading or “unveiling” of a creative work
- A concert or other type of performance,
- A “defense” of the undergraduate thesis, preferably with the opportunity for questions, comments, and evaluation by the audience
The presentation may also take place in a variety of settings, including:
- an academic symposium outside the university (e.g., a national/international or regional scholarly conference for a particular discipline);
- a large university-wide event (e.g., UIC’s Impact and Research Day in the spring semester);
- the Honors College Research Symposium (held in the fall semester); or
- 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 or lab 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 Capstone Supervisor and Faculty Fellow must approve the public presentation event as an academically appropriate venue. The Capstone Supervisor should attend the public presentation or otherwise verify that the presentation was completed in a professional manner. Faculty Fellows are also encouraged to attend the presentation whenever possible.
Roles of the Capstone Supervisor and the Faculty Fellow
Students pursue their Capstone Projects under the guidance of their Capstone Supervisors and in consultation with their Faculty Fellows. However, students are ultimately responsible for developing the project, locating a Capstone Supervisor, and completing the project within the prescribed two-semester schedule.
Any potential Capstone Supervisor who is not UIC faculty must be approved by the Honors College within the first three weeks of the first semester of Capstone. The student is responsible for seeking permission via the Capstone Supervisor Nomination Form. See the Capstone Student Handbook for more information.
The Capstone Supervisor is knowledgeable in their area of research and is a resource for the student. More specifically:
- Students need to ascertain that the prospective Capstone Supervisor has expertise in the area of study and is willing and able to devote the time required to supervise the project effectively.
- The Capstone Supervisor is expected to enthusiastically mentor the student throughout the project, including by
- being available to check-in with the student on a recurring basis, ideally in person
- identifying appropriate research methods and obtaining background reading materials
- reading and critiquing drafts in a timely manner
- consulting with the student regularly on the scope and methodology of the project.
- helping the student find appropriate public presentation venues and forms of presentation
- evaluating the project to determine whether it meets academic standards and disciplinary requirements
- attending the public presentation, if possible
The Faculty Fellow ensures that the student successfully fulfills the Capstone Project requirements. More specifically:
- The Fellow may assist the student in finding an appropriate Capstone 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 Capstone Supervisor.
- The Fellow is expected to comment on the quality of the Capstone Project and must certify that it meets the Honors College requirements.
- Some Fellows also serve as Capstone Supervisors for one or more Honors College students, while others do not.
Research Involving Human Subjects - Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval
Early in their first semester of working on the Capstone Project, students should check with their Capstone Supervisor to see if they may be required to apply for IRB approval to conduct and present their Capstone Project. The Capstone Supervisor should consult the Capstone Supervisor Handbook for information about the IRB and Honors Capstone Projects.
Registration and Paperwork - HON 322
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 may also enroll in research or independent study courses during their work on the project. Departmental advisors, Faculty Fellows, Capstone Supervisors, and Honors College staff can help identify such courses.
Registering for HON 322 also involves the following paperwork:
- Capstone Agreement Form
- Students must submit a signed Capstone Agreement Form to the Honors College front desk by the third Friday of the first semester in which they are enrolled in HON 322.
- The form includes a section for the student to include a project proposal. The project proposal should include the following elements:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Capstone Supervisor and Faculty 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 by the third Friday of the semester.
- Capstone Progress Form
- At the end of the first semester, students submit a Capstone Progress Form indicating the progress made on the project and must be signed by the Project Supervisor
- The Capstone Progress Form is due, signed and submitted to the Honors College front desk, by the last day of classes.
- Capstone Proposal Update Form
- At the beginning of the second semester of the Capstone, students must submit a Capstone Proposal Update Form to describe any changes to the original proposal and to outline a schedule or timeline for completion of the project. Both the Capstone Supervisor and the Faculty Fellow must sign the Capstone Proposal Update Form. In the cases when the Capstone Supervisor is different than the Faculty Fellow, this midway review is another opportunity for the Fellow to ensure the proposed work is meeting Honors College standards.
- The signed Capstone Proposal Update Form is due to the Honors College front desk at the end of the third week of the second Capstone semester.
- Capstone Completion Form
- Both the Capstone Supervisor and the Faculty Fellow must approve the final project and sign the Capstone Completion Form at the conclusion of the project. While no formal grade will be given by the Honors College on either the written portion or the public presentation of the project, the Capstone Supervisor indicates that the project is acceptable, and the Faculty Fellow certifies that the project meets the Honors College Capstone requirements.
- The Capstone Completion Form is due by the last day of classes.
- Submission of the Capstone Project
- Along with the Capstone Completion Form, students must submit a copy of the completed project in the Blackboard course site HON 322. Students must also include in this submission a copy of their poster or PowerPoint slides used in the presentation. Paper submission will not be accepted.
Students should consult their Capstone Supervisors and Faculty 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.
- Capstone Agreement Form
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 Capstone Supervisor by the end of the semester preceding the formal initiation of the Capstone Project.
Note: students who might graduate early must plan to complete their Capstone Project early so as to allow two semesters of HON 322.
See a graphic representation of the recommended Capstone timeline.
Capstone Video Guides
Introducing the Honors Capstone Project: General information; a sample timeline and the steps to completing a Capstone; registration and paperwork; and tips about using the Capstone Project to pursue other opportunities like fellowships and graduate school admissions.
Abstract Writing Guide: How to write a clear, concise, and effective conference abstract.
Poster Design and Presentation Guide: How to design a good research poster and present it to your audience.
Capstones in Specific Disciplines/Areas of Study
See discipline-specific information for your Capstone.
Students may explore faculty expertise and find a match for their area of interest by visiting the Undergraduate Research Experience website. Students interested in science projects may also consult UICollaboratory Research Profiles.
Examples of presentation venues include:
Below is list of sample capstones from former Honors students.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the purpose of the Capstone requirement?
The Honors Capstone Project is intended to provide a challenging experience for students, one that builds on their Honors College training in the “art” of research and independent scholarship and allows the production of an original contribution to a discipline or field. It involves in-depth examination of a research problem, theoretical issue, new creative work, professional challenge, or innovative area of application (i.e., design or technological innovation) supervised by a faculty member chosen by the student in consultation with their Faculty Fellow. The Capstone Project is commensurate with the expectations of traditional departmental honors theses, senior design projects, and other senior research/inquiry projects intended to prepare students for the rigors of research/inquiry, writing, and scholarly presentation associated with postgraduate professional programs, graduate programs, and careers post-college.
2. What types of projects are suitable as Capstones?
Depending on your discipline or field, the project may be prepared in any appropriate form (such as a written report, performance, software, artwork, applied design project). However, whatever the form, there must always be a corresponding written discussion or analysis of the project. In addition to the written portion, you must also present your research in a public academic or professional forum. These are the two major components of the Capstone Project.
Can I write a Capstone Project outside of my major discipline?
Yes. Students must have taken sufficient coursework in the field they wish to produce a Capstone Project, and they must locate a faculty member or practitioner from that field to serve as their Capstone Supervisor.
4. I am working on an advanced undergraduate research project for departmental distinction. Can I use that for the Honors Capstone Project?
Yes. The Honors College encourages students to complete a Capstone Project that will simultaneously fulfill departmental or college requirements/opportunities for advanced undergraduate research and professional presentation, subject to approval by the student’s Capstone Supervisor and Faculty Fellow.
5. I am working on a senior group project, and our final product will be collaboratively created. What do I need to do to make the written component fulfill the Capstone requirements?
Consult with your Capstone Supervisor to see if your department already requires a written document for Honors College students who wish to use their contribution to a senior group project to satisfy the Honors Capstone Project. The written document in such cases typically includes: (a) a clear statement of the student’s specific contribution to the design, creative, or business issue that the group project is attempting to tackle; (b) background on the artistic, professional, or technological area in which the group is attempting to make a contribution (i.e., what has been done in this area of creative arts, professional practice, or technological design in the past and how this frames the group’s approach); (c) discussion of how the design, technological, business, or artistic product was conceived; (d) presentation of the results and how they contribute to the field; and (e) an analytical self-reflection about the student’s overall capstone experience. In addition, note that any team-based Capstone Project will require the submission of a Scholarly Report. More information about the Scholarly Report can be found in the Capstone Student Handbook. Students in this situation would submit three components to the HON 322 Blackboard course site at the end of their second semester of Capstone to satisfy the Honors Capstone Project requirement: (1) their team-authored final project (2) their individually authored Scholarly Report; and (3) their public presentation.
6. How long does my paper need to be? Is there a word count? How many references do I need to cite?
Every discipline or field has different conventions regarding sufficient page length and number of citations. Your Capstone Supervisor will speak to conventions of your field and what’s appropriate for the Honors Capstone Project.
7. Are there examples of completed Capstone Projects I can look at?
Yes. Look above the FAQs on this page for examples of recently completed Honors Capstone Projects.
8. I understand the written requirement. Why should I present the project in public?
Presentation of the results of your work in some form of public academic or professional forum allows you to showcase your accomplishments. It is a great opportunity to share ideas and receive constructive feedback from your colleagues. And it is an important chance to network with academics, professionals, alumni, and others in your field interested in similar lines of inquiry. Overall, it will be a proud moment for you, your Capstone Supervisor, your Faculty Fellow, your family and friends, and of course, the Honors College.
9. What are some possible public forums where I can present my Capstone?
The public presentation may take place:
- In a forum/symposium sponsored by the department or college (e.g., an “undergraduate research day” scheduled at a department or college level);
- At a large university-wide event (e.g., the annual UIC Impact and Research Day held in the spring semester);
- At the Honors College Research Symposium (held in fall semester); or
- At an academic symposium outside the university (e.g., a national or regional scholarly conference for a particular discipline).
The presentation may be a lecture or oral presentation (including PowerPoint-aided talks), a poster presentation, a reading or “unveiling” of creative work, a concert or other type of performance, or a “defense” of the undergraduate thesis. Consult with your Capstone Supervisor to identify an appropriate outlet and form for your presentation.
10. Must I register for HON 322 for two semesters?
Yes. Given the amount of work involved, except in unusual circumstances, you should carry out your project over two semesters in order to allow enough time to successfully complete all the necessary components of the Capstone. This will also allow you to incorporate the Capstone research into your academic load with less stress and provide more time for close mentorship by your Capstone Supervisor and the Faculty Fellow. Keep in mind that in addition to any departmental research credits, you should be registered for HON 322 for each semester you are working on the Capstone. Finally, please note, if it is possible you will graduate early, you must proactively plan to register for HON 322 for two semesters of Capstone work.
11. When should I start working on the Capstone?
You should begin thinking about the Capstone Project and initiate discussion of your research interests and possible Capstone topics with potential Capstone Supervisors in your sophomore and junior years. Usually, the project should be completed during the last two semesters of your senior year at UIC. You may also begin the Capstone Project as early as your junior year and complete it prior to your last semester. Note that if this does happen, you will need to continue to register for HON 222 and complete an Honors Activity up until graduation.
12. I have decided to extend my Capstone Project into a third semester. What do I need to do?
Students are expected to complete their Honors Capstone Project within two semesters. Be sure to plan accordingly so that you meet this deadline. Should extraordinary circumstances require you to need a third semester to complete the Honors Capstone Project, you need to meet with your Honors advisor as early as possible to review whether a policy exception can be made for you.
If due to extraordinary circumstances you are given approval by the Honors College to use a third semester, you will submit a Capstone Progress Form at the end of your second semester and you will receive a deferred grade in HON 322. For the following semester, you must create a new Capstone Activity in HARS and thus fill out a new Capstone Proposal Update Form, in which you map out your plans for completion. You must also register again for HON 222, and you must complete an Honors Activity, for which you will submit a separate Honors Activity Form and Honors Completion Form.
Upon the successful completion of the Honors Capstone Project, you will email your Honors advisor and request that you be added to the Blackboard course site HON 322 so that you can submit your final Capstone Project. You will also submit the signed Capstone Completion Form to the Honors College front desk. Soon after, the Deferred grade for HON 322 will be changed to passing.
13. I am graduating but I have not finished my Capstone Project yet. Can I finish it after I graduate and then submit it in order to retroactively earn Honors College graduate recognition?
No. All students must complete their Capstone Projects by the time they graduate if they wish to earn Honors College graduate recognition on their transcript. Failure to fulfill all Capstone Project requirements by the time you graduate means Honors College graduate recognition on your transcript will not be possible.
15. Can I change the Capstone Supervisor and the Capstone Project after one semester?
Unless your Capstone Supervisor decides not to continue their supervision or unforeseen difficulties make it imperative for you to find a different supervisor/project, it is not advisable to make such a change. First, both the Capstone Supervisor and you have already committed to the project and put much work into it. Second, you will need to put in extra effort to ensure the new project fulfills Capstone requirements. Third, your potential new Capstone Supervisor may not feel comfortable supervising your Capstone Project when another faculty member has already guided you through work on the project. Should you find yourself in a position where you are thinking about making a change, reach out to your Honors advisor as soon as possible to discuss.
16. Does my research need to be approved by IRB?
Possibly, depending on your project’s use of human subjects and whether you intend to present your work beyond the UIC community. Early in your first semester of working on the Capstone Project, you should check with your Capstone Supervisor to see if you should apply for IRB approval to conduct and present your Capstone Project. The Capstone Supervisor should consult the Capstone Supervisor Handbook for information about the IRB and Honors Capstone Projects.
17. I am an Engineering Senior Design student, and I’m not assigned my actual project until after the Capstone Agreement Form deadline. What do I do?
Fill out the Capstone Agreement Form to the best of your ability with as much information as you have, explain the situation to your Faculty Fellow and your Capstone Supervisor, and submit the signed Capstone Agreement Form by the deadline. Then, at the start of your second semester of the Honors Capstone Project, update the project information on the Capstone Proposal Update Form.
18. I was required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) as part of my research. What do I submit to the Honors College if I believe that submission of the Capstone would compromise the NDA?
If you have signed an NDA and you believe submission of the Capstone written portion and public presentation would compromise this NDA, you should first consult with your Capstone Supervisor on this matter. If your Supervisor agrees with you, they should email email@example.com to notify the Honors College. Regardless of the type of capstone project you are completing, you must also write a Scholarly Report of 3 to 5 pages that includes at least: (a) a critical self-analysis of your overall UIC academic experience and how the Honors Capstone Project is a culmination of this experience; and (b) an examination of how the Honors Capstone Project is the outcome of their passion, curiosity, and aspirations. More information about Scholarly Reports can be found in the Honors Capstone Student Handbook. You should submit the Scholarly Report in the Blackboard course site HON 322 by the end of the second semester.
18. What if I want to Study Abroad?
There are numerous ways to coordinate a study abroad experience with the Capstone Project. In addition to staggering Capstone work before and after a semester abroad, or conducting an Applied project based on a study abroad experience or internship, there are opportunities to conduct research abroad.
Honors College students may apply to conduct research abroad through EuroScholars, a consortium of five major universities in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, that enables 3rd- and 4th-year students to join existing research projects for a semester or full academic year, while earning up to fifteen credit hours per semester. Projects are available in disciplines ranging from humanities and social sciences to biological sciences, engineering, and more. Foreign language skill is not necessary. The Honors College and the UIC Study Abroad Office are collaborating to support students through the nationally-competitive EuroScholars application process. If you are interested in this program, reach out to honors advisor Kathryn Burns-Howard at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more at http://euroscholars.eu.
Conducting an Independent Study Project with SIT Study Abroad is another option. Examples of independent research projects completed by students in these programs is available at the SIT website. (Projects are listed alphabetically by country).
For more information on the SIT Study Abroad Programs and other study abroad programs, visit the Study Abroad website.
18. Who can answer my questions about the Capstone Project?
Your Capstone Supervisor can provide you with guidance and support, and Faculty Fellows can be extremely helpful. You can also bring questions and concerns to your Honors College academic advisor or make an appointment with the Capstone specialist in the Honors College, Dr. Kathryn Burns-Howard.