Research Capstone Instructions

Please read and be sure that you understand these guidelines before submitting your proposal. In developing your project and filling out all forms, ensure that you (and your mentor) are complete and descriptive to avoid delays. If you have any questions, contact the capstone coordinator.

You can download and print a checklist with due dates and abbreviated step by step instructions by clicking here.

A complete list of the required forms can be found by clicking here.

Research Mentor

Start the process of identifying a research mentor early – it is best if you can begin the process at least a year before the semester during which you want to perform your Capstone. As lab space is finite, it is not unusual for some labs to fill up months in advance. An early start can also allow you to start in the lab before you want to begin the Capstone project, and gain more experience from your research.

In identifying your research mentor, try to find someone who works in a field that interests you or is part of your career goals, and who seems to be enthusiastic about mentoring you. Situations where either the mentor or mentee are less than enthused about the project are not likely to result in a worthwhile experience for either. If you start early, you may also want to discuss with your mentor the possibility of gaining some Independent Study credit in the semesters before you start your Capstone.

Research interests of faculty in the Department of Biological Sciences can be found by clicking “Research” above. Most Research Capstone mentors will be faculty in this department, but under some circumstances mentors from another department or even from outside the university may be approved. If you wish to do your Capstone with a non-BSC mentor, discuss your reasons for this with the capstone coordinator before beginning the application.

Furthermore, if your mentor is not BSC faculty, be sure that he or she sees and agrees to the conditions of a Research Capstone project as outlined in the Mentor’s Agreement Form. The mentor will be required to sign this form before the project begins, but it is advisable to make them aware of the form and requirements early in the process. The agreement form can be found by clicking here, or on the “Forms” page. If your mentor is not Marshall faculty, be sure to get full contact information including mailing address, email, and phone number to include on the proposal form. For Marshall faculty, only the email is necessary.

Once you have identified a mentor, it is critical that both you and your mentor fully understand the guidelines and due dates for any project you wish to perform. The project must focus on an engaged, supervised research experience in a lab, field, museum, or other active research area. When developing a proposal, ensure that clear expectations are set down between you, and written on the proposal form. The project description should make it clear to the Capstone Administrator exactly what activities you will be involved in, and how completion of the project will be assessed. Assessment must be included,  with some deliverable like a research paper, poster, or oral presentation as part of the requirements. Fine details of the activities  themselves (e.g. a list of methods) are not necessary at this time.

Time Commitment

Research Capstone projects require that a minimum of 90 hours of active research work be performed, in addition to any outside reading you must do and the time spent preparing your final report. A final report of some sort is required, and it can take the form of a written research summary (much like the scientific paper), or an oral or poster presentation. The detailed expectations for the final report should be arranged with your mentor, together with a timeline for completing it.

  Start early enough to leave sufficient time to complete required paperwork before the due date for that paperwork.

Project Approval

The process of project approval works as follows:

1. After working out the details of your project with your mentor, including the plans for the final report, you fill in the Online Project Proposal form and submit it to the Department of Biological Sciences for approval.
2. After review, you may receive a notice that your proposal needs changes before it can be approved, in which case you will have to follow the instructions you receive to address the deficiencies, and resubmit. Once you receive a notice of preliminary approval, you take your notice and a copy of the Mentor’s Evaluation Form (along with the Mentor’s Agreement Form if the mentor is not BSC faculty), to your project mentor for signatures. The mentor’s agreement form is not required if your mentor is a faculty member in BSC.
3. You return the signed forms to the capstone coordinator BEFORE the start of classes. At that time you will receive final approval, and receive permission to register for BSC 491.


  Once you have begun your project, you must keep a notebook of your activities that you will use to complete your final report. This notebook may take the form of your formal lab notebook (which is required in any research setting), or it may be an additional notebook you keep for your own use. If your mentor is BSC faculty, the final report or presentation will be given to them for assessment. If your mentor is not BSC faculty, the report or presentation will be given to the mentor, then submitted to the department. The report must be submitted BEFORE the start of final exams for the semester during which you performed your Capstone. If your report takes the form of a poster or oral presentation, an abstract together with details on where the work was presented will be sufficient.

  Your research mentor must also, before the start of final exams, submit the Mentor’s Evaluation Form to the Department of Biological Sciences. This form is necessary for you to receive your grade, so be sure that your mentor has a copy with sufficient time to complete it before the deadline. The evaluation form can be found by clicking here, or on the “Forms” page.

  Once both the report (if necessary)and evaluation form have arrived, a final grade will be determined. If any of the required items are late it may jeopardize your grade and graduation, so work to ensure that everything arrives on time.

Online Project Proposal

Once you have read and understood the above information, and developed your project plan with your mentor:

Click here to access the Online Project Proposal form.