Senior Capstone Projects
The final stage in the Honors Program is a year long Senior Capstone program. The Capstone is a chance to immerse in a research subject of personal interest to the student. The Senior Capstone emphasizes breadth as well as depth of study and thus is different from Departmental Honors projects housed within a major.
Senior Capstone students are permitted the maximum amount of freedom consonant with the satisfactory development and completion of their personal projects. The students in the best position for success in the Capstone will have completed most major and Core requirements by the end of the junior year.
The essence of the Senior Capstone Program is responsible individualism. Within a reasonable academic framework, the student is offered an unexcelled opportunity for personal intellectual fulfillment.
Essentials of a Successful Senior Capstone:
Years of experience with Honors projects have shown that Hampden-Sydney undergraduates can produce honors work of very high quality. However, such honors work is not produced easily or automatically; a student must bring to the task careful planning, rigorous self-discipline, and the habit of perseverance.
The Honors Council has derived the following general principles regarding successful Honors projects, including Senior Capstones:
- Students must prepare extensively for the Senior Capstone before the actual project begins. Preparation may include the acquisition of bibliographic skills, laboratory skills, planning skills, and organizational skills appropriate for the particular study or project.
- Students need good advice in choosing and delineating Senior Capstone projects. Generally this means that a student should work in an area in which his faculty mentor or mentors are already knowledgeable if not expert. The academic calendar being what it is, the time available for the Senior Capstone project does not permit the leisurely pursuit of a project or topic not already carefully delimited; library resources and departmental equipment holdings are not able to support projects that have not been chosen with an eye toward institutional constraints.
- Students need regular supervision of their work throughout the time of the Senior Capstone. Ordinarily a student should meet with his project advisor at least once a week so as to report on project activities of the previous week, to evaluate the importance of those activities in relation to the overall project goals, and to plan project activities for the next week. We cannot overemphasize the importance of routine supervision of the Senior Capstone: time spent each week in summarizing the actual present state of the study and outlining the specific segment of study to be undertaken during the next week is the only sure way to avoid procrastination.
- Senior Capstone students will produce in the course of the year a coherent body of work, but that work normally will be divided into parts, each with its own deadline. The student, in consultation with his advisory committee, will define the nature, form, and extent of the written work expected of him. Every project will be notable for the ambition of the undertaking, though the formal results will vary in length and form depending on the student's discipline.
No matter what approach the student chooses, he must construct during the fall and spring semesters a carefully annotated bibliography that reflects the range and depth of his research. The overall project is expected to meet the standards of scholarly writing appropriate to the discipline(s) in which the work is done. Two bound copies of the report (as well as an electronic copy) must be submitted to the Honors Council, as described later in the list of procedures and deadlines.