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Application Guidelines: BIS 399, Senior Project

BIS Index Page

A: Purpose

BIS 399, the Senior Project, is the capstone experience for Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies majors.  Its purpose is to provide a structure that enables you to integrate knowledge and skills from course work and related experiences with a research project, field experience, practicum, or a combination of these.  The project must be designed so that it allows you to demonstrate the relationship of subject matter, theory and practice.   You will describe what you learned as a result of what you did over the course of this project, which is equivalent to a full semester course at the senior level.

Research Project:
You might choose to do a traditional research paper or project in which you investigate a question or series of questions through library, experimental or applied research.  The results of this type of project might be presented in a research report, article or similar type of paper.  For example, you might choose to look at the effect of a school breakfast program on student learning.  You would investigate what research has already been done and organize a report on your findings.

Field Experience:
You might choose to volunteer in a community or other type of agency/organization with the purpose of observing the organization and relating its practices to what you learned in the classroom.  For example, you might investigate how the reorganization of an agency affects those in the organization and the services they provide.  You might reflect on what you learned in organizational theory, interpersonal relations, change theory, etc. and evaluate how successful this agency was in its reorganization.

You are strongly advised to locate an organization/agency other than the one in which you work.  It is very difficult for you to be objective in your own work setting.  Permission is rarely given for students to undertake a field experience in their place of employment.

Practicum Experience:
You might decide to undertake a specific project for an agency, such as developing its web site, designing a marketing campaign, redesigning its information systems, or writing one or more documents (such as a personnel manual or agency board manual).  In this case you will conduct research about the type of product you are going to develop and actually develop the product.  The purpose of the research component of this project is to engage in a critical conversation about this applied area.  For example, if you design a marketing campaign for a social service agency, you will need to look at the research about marketing, communications, graphics, audience perceptions, etc. 

You will describe what you learned and will provide a copy of the product you developed.

You are strongly advised to locate an organization/agency other than the one in which you work.  It is very difficult for you to be objective in your own work setting.  Permission is rarely given for students to undertake a practicum experience in their place of employment.

B: Planning for your Project

Planning for your project should begin well in advance of the semester during which you will actually do the work and will help assure that you have enough time for proper preparation.  Please see the attached BIS 399 Planning Schedule for a recommended time line.  Contact the BIS Coordinator who will help you locate a URI full-time faculty member as your project supervisor.  Discuss your ideas with them.  This planning will be reflected in the quality of your application.  Please note that you will not be allowed to register for BIS 399 until the BIS Coordinator has approved your application.

Review Your Needs and Qualifications

Begin by reviewing your previous academic work, experiences, qualifications and interests.  Consider these in view of your career goals and how they fit with your area of emphasis in your degree program.  Identify the themes that emerge.  These themes should be used to help you develop your ideas about what you hope to accomplish in your senior project.

Choose your project carefully.  Do you need practical experience in a work setting or would writing a research/term paper be more valuable?  Are you interested in a combination of library research and practical experience?  For which of these are you better prepared?  Which will provide you with greater satisfaction?  Which is more practical in view of your time and access to an outside agency? Which enhances your resume and your career prospects more?

Choose a Faculty Supervisor

Once you have identified the kind of project you want to do, you must select a full-time URI faculty member who knows you and your work.  Meet with that person to see if s/he is willing to supervise your project. You should work with your faculty supervisor to clarify what you expect the learning outcomes to be, what you will do, and how the project will be evaluated.  Contact the BIS Coordinator if you are having difficulty identifying a faculty supervisor.

If you are planning a field or practicum experience, you must also select a placement site and meet with an appropriate site supervisor there.  This person, too, should help you refine your project.  You, your faculty supervisor, and your site supervisor together must prepare a job description that accurately reflects what you will be doing during the field experience, what you expect to learn as a result of this experience, and what will be the product that is the outcome of your experience.

C: File an Application with the BIS Office

Once your project has been reviewed and approved by your faculty supervisor and your site supervisor (if appropriate), you must file your BIS 399 Application with the BIS Coordinator. Application is attached to these Guidelines.  We are concerned that your experience be a good one, that you accomplish what you plan to, that you adequately document the learning outcomes, and that everyone involved with your project knows and agrees to the plan.

Completing the Application

Your application must contain the following sections: goals, methods, and evaluation.

Goals

Begin by listing your learning goals for the project.  Precisely, what do you want to learn as a result of this project?  What questions will you raise and answer in this project.  Be as specific as you can.  Also, when drafting the goals, keep the following in mind:

  1. Be clear about new knowledge, skills, and attitudes you plan to gain.  List them.  Remember that there is a distinction between what you will do and what you will learn as a result of what you do.  You must be able to list what you will learn during this project.
  2. Clearly state the relationship among (a) your academic program, (b) your career goals, and (c) your senior project.
  3. If you are doing a field experience or a practicum experience, explain what you will be doing in the same way a job description explains what an employee does.

Methods

How do you plan to achieve the goals of your project?  If you plan to conduct a research project, this section should describe the kind of study you will conduct (e.g. literature, historical, empirical, evaluative, or longitudinal).  Explain how you are selecting your subjects (if you are using them) or what theories or models you will be testing.  (Check carefully with your faculty supervisor if you are using research subjects to see if you need to have your proposal approved by the university’s research committee.)  If data are to be analyzed, what techniques will be used?  You must include a bibliography.
 
If you plan to do a field experience or practicum experience, this section of your application should explain where you will be working, what your tasks will be, what your job title will be, and the days and hours you will be there.  You must include a bibliography of materials that will provide the framework for the questions under study in the project.

Evaluation

This section must explain how the quality of your senior project will be assessed.  This section of the application is very important. 

Some examples are offered below.  You should select or design evaluation methods that are appropriate to your particular project.  Your explanation should be explicit about what is being evaluated (your learning, your research, your work), who will do the evaluation (e.g. faculty advisor, site supervisor), and how the evaluation will be reported.

Examples:
If you are doing a research project or paper, you could rely on conventional means of assessing research such as:

  1. The paper/project will be evaluated by your faculty advisor and the site supervisor.
  2. Results of the study will be described in an article, which will be submitted to a refereed journal in the field for publication.

If you are doing a field experience or a practicum experience, you could rely on standard methods of assessing job performance such as: 

  1. Learning will be evaluated by the site supervisor using the appropriate employee evaluation methods currently used at the work site.  A copy of this evaluation methodology should be attached to your application. 
  2. Learning will be evaluated by an exam designed jointly by the faculty advisor and site supervisor. A description of this exam should be attached to your application.
  3. The quality of the final product (in a practicum experience) will be evaluated by the appropriate agency personnel and site supervisor.  A description of the evaluation strategy should be included with your application.

Note:  Maintaining a daily journal of both your experiences and your reflections on those experiences is helpful, but will not be accepted as the sole final product.  Your faculty supervisor and site supervisor might evaluate the journal if appropriate.

D: Final Product

Whether you choose to do a research paper/project, a field or practicum experience, a combination of these two, or something different, you must submit a final product to your faculty supervisor.   While there is no set length for the final product, the length and depth of your report should adequately cover the material.

This product is the basis upon which the faculty will assess whether you have achieved the learning outcomes you defined at the start of this project.  Describe the learning that has taken place as a result of your project.  Present some evidence of this learning, whether through research, practical experience or a combination of these.  Relate this to what you have learned through your degree coursework.  Prepare a one-page abstract that describes the contents of the report.  This will be the second page of your report, following the title page.

You must prepare at least two copies of your final product.  One is to be given to your faculty supervisor who will evaluate it and assess a grade.  The second copy is to be submitted to the BIS Coordinator on a computer disk, in a word processing format.  Also submit a paper copy of the one-page abstract.  These materials will be kept on file in the BIS Office.  In order for you to receive a grade, you must turn in both copies a week before the last day that grades are due.

If you are conducting a research project, your final product will probably be the report of that research.  It should answer the questions you raised in your application.

If you are doing a field experience, your final product should be in the form of a report that directly addresses the learning outcomes outlined in your application.  If you are doing a practicum experience, your report will include the product you designed and a report that directly addresses the learning outcomes outlined in your application.  In both of these situations, your report should discuss the literature that addresses the issues you were investigating.  You should also describe the organization or part of the organization with which you were working.  What happened during the course of your project?  If you developed a product for use by the agency, was it successful?  Were the results you observed surprising, based on the literature you read?  Are there reasons you could identify for these results?  What are your recommendations for future action on the part of this organization?

E: Conclusion

The Senior Project can be a powerful learning tool for you to synthesize and integrate a body of knowledge and to test your theoretical and conceptual knowledge against the practical application of this knowledge.  It is also an opportunity for you to use analytic and written skills in raising and answering a series of questions within your discipline. 


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