Special Studies Capstone Guidelines

Special Studies Capstone | PS 47000 (3 credits) | Standard Grading A-F

If you intend to enroll in the Special Studies Capstone Option, please follow the guidelines below one semester prior to taking the course.

1)    Identify a project advisor and obtain their consent to supervise your work. This person should be selected from the list of affiliated faculty members. In exceptional circumstances, the person best able to assist you may not be a faculty member at Notre Dame.  In this case, you must seek approval of your choice from the PSIM director before proceeding to develop your proposal. Please note that all project advisors must be members of the local community, can meet with you on a regular basis, and have credentials that align with the topic of your project.

2)    Discuss with your chosen project advisor the nature of the work you would like to do in this course.  Come to agreement about your approach.

3)    Compose a draft of your proposal and share it with your project advisors.  Give your advisor sufficient time to carefully consider your proposal and suggest meaningful revisions. 

4)    Submit your proposal to the PSIM Director adhering to the following timetable.

a)     If you wish to enroll in the Special Studies Capstone the Fall Semester of your senior year, you must submit your proposal accompanied by a letter of endorsement from your project advisor to the PSIM Director no later than the Friday of the tenth week of the semester in the Spring term of your junior year. 

b)    If you wish to enroll in the Special Studies Capstone the Spring Semester of your senior year, you must submit your proposal accompanied by a letter of endorsement from your project advisor to the PSIM Director no later than the Friday of the tenth week of the semester in the Fall term of your senior year.

c)     If you cannot meet these deadlines, you should enroll in the Capstone Seminar, PS 43000.

5)    Apply for internal funding if you will incur expenses when conducting your research.

Numerous Notre Dame Departments provide financial support for undergraduate research.  Grants from the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE) are available to all undergraduates regardless of College or major. In addition, most colleges have their own funding programs for undergraduate research as do other funding entities, such as the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Glynn Family Honors Program, the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, and other entities as appropriate for their project.  Note that these programs have their own due dates that you must satisfy.  These may force you to submit your proposal to the PSIM director well before the deadlines identified in 4) above.  PSIM itself does not provide funding for the Capstone.

6)    Check with your project advisor and the PSIM Director to determine if you must submit your proposal to Notre Dame’s Institutional Review Board. Research that involves human subjects, even when conducted by undergraduates, must be approved by IRB.  For an overview of the review process visit the complaince page. Questions specific to undergraduate research are answered at on the CUSE undergratuate page. Note that you must build time into your research schedule for the IRB to respond to your proposal and that you cannot move forward until your hear from them, so plan accordingly. If your project qualifies for expedited review you might receive approval is two weeks.  If full review is required, approval may not be forthcoming for a month or more.  In addition, the IRB frequently returns proposals to students requesting either more information or revisions before the official review commences.  The IRB meets only once a month.  If revisions to the proposal are required, the entire review process can easily become two or more months.

If your research proposal requires approval by the IRB, you must complete the following steps:

a)     Complete the web based training program administered by the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI).  See http://or.nd.edu/research-compliance/education-and-training/.

b)    Submit your proposal to IRB using eProtocol (http://or.nd.edu/research-compliance/on-line-protocol-submission-gateway/) once it has been endorsed by your project advisor and approved by the PSIM director.  If you intend to interview human subjects or engage them in experiments, note that you must submit not only a description of your project, but also your survey questionnaire and appropriate consent forms (http://or.nd.edu/research-compliance/).

If you submit a proposal to the IRB, this proposal may be submitted to the Director in lieu of the proposal described immediately below.

Proposal Guidelines

Guidelines for your proposal adapted from the UROP website (http://isla.nd.edu/for-undergraduate-students/) are provided below.  If the format of the UROP proposal guidelines is inconsistent with the guidelines for independent research published by your discipline or by your college, please seek permission from the director of PSIM to substitute a proposal following these alternative guidelines.

The proposal should consist of (1) no more than five typed double-spaced pages with minimum margins of one inch top, bottom and sides, and minimum font size 12; (2) a letter of endorsement from the supervising faculty member; and (3) the following six elements.

1) The introduction should provide a statement of the objectives of the proposed work and the anticipated significance of the work in lay terms. It should describe the project to be undertaken, the problem to be investigated, the hypothesis to be tested and /or the creative endeavor to be undertaken.

2) The background section should provide a brief discussion of the reading you intend to do as part of the project. For example, if your work were to be a research effort, this part of the proposal would refer to the type of literature review you will read. Any previous research you have done or experience you have had that is relevant to your proposal should also be noted in this section. If you intend to do a project in visual arts, music, theater or film, you may include two examples of previous work in the form of slides, photos, audio, or video.

3) The methods section should give a detailed description of the way you will precede toward your aims. For example, if you are doing a research project, here you will refer to the research methods to be used. If your desired outcome is a creative project, explain the techniques to be employed. If you intend your work to contribute to a local organization that is attempting to mitigate poverty related challenges, explain how you intend to make this contribution. Include a justification for your specific approach: how do your methods answer the questions that have been posed, test the hypothesis, or lead to the desired goal?

4) The schedule should include specific dates for the initiation and completion of each phase of the project.  Your final product should be submitted to your project advisor no later than the last day of classes.  Your project director must submit a grade to the PSIM director no later than the last day of final examinations.

5) Close collaboration with the faculty supervisor is essential. This section of the proposal should provide information on how you and the advisor will work together on the problem and how often you will meet. Please also explain in this section how the project relates to the advisor’s work.

6) A clear description of your intended output or product must be provided. What do you intend to be the outcome of this work? Do you expect it to contribute to a senior thesis or other class-based research paper? Do you expect to present your findings at a conference? Do you intend for the work to enhance the organizational capacity of a local non-profit or contribute to some other way to community improvement? Do you intend to submit your work for publication in a journal? Are you planning a public performance or presentation of your work?

Summary of Important Dates for Special Studies Capstone (PS 47000)

In the semester prior to the one in which you plan to conduct your research:

1)     Submit your proposal and a letter of support from your faculty advisor no later than the Friday of the tenth week of the appropriate semester.

2)     Apply for internal funding according to the due dates of the possible funding entities or as soon as the PSIM director approves your proposal, whichever date is earlier. 

3)     Complete and submit an eProtocol to Notre Dame’s Institutional Review Board at least two months prior to the beginning of the semester in which you plan to conduct your research.

In the semester in which you plan to conduct your research:

1)     Make an appointment to meet with your project advisor during the first week of the semester and hit the ground running!

2)     Reserve the last Sunday preceding the last day of classes for the public presentation of your results.

3)     Submit your final product to your project advisor and the PSIM director no later than the last day of classes.

4)     Instruct your project advisor to submit a standard grade (A-F) to the PSIM director no later than the last day of final examinations.

Past Capstone Projects

Examples of past captone projects can viewed on our Capstone Projects page.