James Madison University

Honors Program Considerations

Students who enter the honors program at the freshman or sophomore level, and who declare nursing as a major, should become familiar with the JMU Honors Program  guidelines, along with the following special considerations: 

  • Students who enter the nursing program will have a full semester load of nursing courses each semester. For this reason, it is wise to complete all General Education and elective course requirements, including the Honors General Education and Seminars courses, prior to entering the junior level of the nursing program.  This means that students will need to take more than one honors designated course per semester during the freshman and sophomore levels.
  • In the nursing program students enroll in skills laboratory and practicum courses in clinical settings and these are time intensive. This is a second reason why it is wise to complete all honors course and seminar requirements prior to entering the nursing program.

Nursing Honors Project


Please review the general JMU guidelines for all seniors honors projects. The following guidelines include special considerations for completing an Honors Project in Nursing.  

Who should consider an Honors Project?


In addition to meeting JMU qualifications for the Honors Program, you should determine that you have the following characteristics in order to successfully complete an Honors Project in the Nursing major: You are motivated and self-directed; you organize and manage time well; you have a strong desire for independent in-depth scholarly inquiry into a specific area of relevance to health care and to your own professional interests and goals; and you are a competent writer. If you bring these qualities, completing the Honors Project can be a realistic and highly rewarding goal for nursing students.

The Honors Project is not for everyone.  Nursing is a rigorous and time-intensive major that includes learning a large body of knowledge and skills in the classroom and laboratory setting, and applying those to patient care in varied clinical settings. Because students engage in a clinical “capstone” – 8 weeks of full time practice with a nurse preceptor – during the final senior semester (4th nursing semester), an Honors Project should be largely completed by the end of the first semester of the senior year (3rd nursing semester).  It is wise to seek advising and to begin planning for the Honors Project in the Sophomore year, as soon as you receive a guarantee of admission to the junior level of the Nursing program.

How do I begin to plan for an Honors Project in Nursing?


First, read the project information on the Honors website. Every student must schedule an appointment with the Nursing Honors Counselor (Honors Liaison).  The Nursing Honors Counselor will assist you to explore project ideas and possibilities, to consider a realistic time frame for your project, and to identify faculty resources persons who might assist you to refine and frame your ideas. You will continue to work with the Nursing Honors Counselor until you have identified and obtained consent of a faculty Project Advisor and the 2 members of your Project Advisory Committee (readers). The number of honors projects that can be supervised in Nursing may be limited by faculty availability and/or expertise in the student’s area of interest.

There are many ways to approach an Honors Project in nursing. First, identify an area of interest, and then think about what you would like to learn. Then you can discuss with the Honors Project Counselor and your faculty Project Advisor the best method to use for your project. Several examples of past Nursing Honors Projects include: 1) An analysis of stereotypes of nurses in several fictional novels; 2) An integrated review of literature about spiritual needs and spiritual care in nursing.

NOTE: If your project involves working with human subjects in any way, you may need to submit a proposal and receive approval from the JMU IRB (Institutional Review Board (IRB) on the Use of Human Subjects in Research. For example, you will need IRB approval if you conduct interviews with people and then analyze their responses. Discuss this possibility with the Honors Counselor and/or your Faculty Advisor.

Honors Project Advisory Committee


Your Project Advisor and the additional 2 Advisory Committee members will supervise your project, and provide you with guidance and feedback as your project progresses. These faculty should have professional interest and expertise in the topic and substance of the project.  While the Nursing Honors Counselor may assist you to identify appropriate nursing faculty, it will be your responsibility to discuss your project ideas with potential faculty committee members and to request their participation on the committee.  Identify your Project Advisor as early as possible, as this person can help you to begin important planning activities prior to enrollment in NSG 499A. The Project Advisor, who will provide most of your supervision, should be a member of the Nursing faculty; and this person may assist you to identify other potential faculty committee members from inside or outside the Department of Nursing. Participation as a committee member is voluntary on the part of the faculty member.

Special Considerations for Nursing Majors


The Honor’s Project involves 6 credits of guided work across three to four semesters. Nursing is a time-intensive major because it includes clinical practice, so early planning for the Honors Project is important. Although there may be variations, students should plan to use the following timeline:

Sophomore year prior to entry into the Nursing program: Meet with the Nursing Honors Program Counselor (Honors Liaison) at least a semester prior to entry into the junior level semester of the nursing program.

Junior I Semester:  Most nursing courses at the Junior I level are classroom courses, and you will be learning considerable new nursing knowledge and skills. During this semester you will complete the first Honors Project course, NSG 499A (1 credit). Prior to or during this semester the Nursing Honors Counselor will assist you to focus your idea and/or to find faculty resource persons who can assist you to focus and refine your idea. Along with the Counselor, you will identify a Faculty Advisor and two faculty readers for your project. During the semester you enroll for NSG 499A you will develop your project proposal, discuss it with your Project Advisor, and make recommended revisions. The project proposal is typically a three to five page paper that outlines and briefly describes the following elements: 1) Question or topic of exploration; 2) Project objectives and outcomes; 3) Project activities and time frame.

During proposal development, you will consult other committee members only if their expertise is needed. Following the completion of your proposal, discuss with your Faculty Advisor how you will share the proposal with committee members and obtain their feedback. It may be wise to schedule a meeting of the committee for this purpose. Members of the committee can reject the proposal, approve it pending revisions, or approve the proposal as written. At the end of NSG 499A, submit your project proposal and the Senior Honors Project Application to the Honors Program office.  You should follow the outline provided on page 2 of the Senior Honors Project Application.

NOTE: You must have the permission of your Faculty Project Advisor to enroll in NSG 499A. You will not receive a grade for NSG 499A until your proposal is completed and approved by your Faculty Advisor and your Honors Project Committee members.

Junior II Semester:  You will begin NSG 499B (3 credits), the primary “work” of the project, during this semester. During NSG 499B, it will be crucial to establish regular communication/ meetings with your Faculty Advisor and Committee, and to follow your honors project timeline carefully.

Most of your nursing courses this semester are clinical practicum and course activities are time-intensive. You will have nursing clinical practice activities during 4 days of each week, and classroom courses on the 5th day. For this reason, you may not be able to fully complete your project work during the semester; however, it is important for you to make substantive progress on the project. Depending on when you enter the nursing program, you may need to plan to use the summer or part of the next academic semester to complete your work. Work with your Project Advisor to consider whether you can present your project (when it is completed or near completion) to student peers and/or other professionals who may have interest, for example at Pi Mu Professional Development Day or at the Virginia Nursing Student Association annual meeting.

NOTE: If you know you will not complete all work on your project this semester, you can wait to register for NSG 499B until next semester, when you actually will complete it. However, regardless of when you enroll in the course, it is important for you to make substantive progress on your project during the Junior II semester. Determine with your faculty advisor when you should enroll in NSG 499B. You will not receive a grade for this course until your Advisor agrees that the work is at a satisfactory stage of completion.

Senior I or Senior II Semester: You will enroll in NSG 499C (2 credits). During this semester you will finish up any loose ends from your project, including writing up the project, receiving feedback from your Project Advisor and your Project Committee members, revising and editing your written work, and formatting it using the Honors Program guidelines. You will distribute the written project to all committee members for final review and determine with your Project Advisor how you will receive feedback from the Committee. The Committee can approve the project, approve it pending revisions, or reject the project. All committee members must sign documents certifying successful project completion.

Senior II students spend 7 weeks of the final semester of the nursing program (either first block or second block) in Clinical Capstone activities, working a 40-hour week with a nurse preceptor. The alternate block is practicum intensive. For this reason, we strongly recommend that students complete NSG 499C and finish the project during the Senior I semester. Students who graduate in December may choose to use the summer preceding their final semester to complete NSG 499C. The project must be completed and approved by the Committee and the Honors Program prior to the completion of the Senior II semester in order for you to receive a grade for NSG 499C and to graduate with honors. Use the guidelines in powerpoint to format the final written project.

Summer Project Work


Even though you are not enrolled in a 499 course during the summer, experience shows that students who continue to make progress on their project during the summer are more likely to be successful in completing it. Before the summer begins, work with your Project Advisor to plan summer project activities.

Submitting Your Completed Project  


Read the instructions “How to Submit Your Completed Project to the JMU Honors Program and the JMU Libraries You will need to submit a PDF version of your project to the Honors Program, along with a hard copy of your signed title page by late November or early April, depending on which semester it is completed. Extensions of the deadline are rarely permitted; requests for extension must come from your advisor, through email communication with the Honors Program Director.

Discontinuation of the Honor’s Project 


You may choose to stop the Honors Project and to leave the Honors Program at any time. Credits earned will remain on your transcript. If you do not successfully complete your project, your academic record will not state that you earned a bachelor’s degree “with distinction.”
If you decide to leave the Honors Program while enrolled in any NSG 499 course, inform your faculty Project Advisor immediately.  If you make the decision before the last day to withdraw from a class during the semester in question, it is your responsibility to withdraw from the course.  If you make the decision after the last day for voluntary withdrawal from a class, you should discuss with your Project Advisor whether you will be allowed to Withdraw Passing (W/P) or Withdraw Failing (W/F). You should also inform the JMU Honors Program you wish to be removed from the Program by completing the online form.

If a student does not complete the final course, NSG 499C by the time grades are due, the thesis advisor will assign a grade of “I” and will notify the Honors Program that the project is not complete.  When the necessary work is completed, and the approved project is submitted to the Honors Program, the “I” grade will be changed to a letter grade. 

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