Sophomore Project FAQ

This page is a resource for students and advisors looking for answers to specific questions about the Sophomore Project. If you cannot find an answer to your question, contact the program director Margaret Tongue at (518) 388-8311, or by e-mail at tonguem@union.edu.

Learning Outcomes for Scholars Sophomore Projects

By the end of the Scholars Project, the Scholar will be able to:

  • formulate a compelling project question and a plan to investigate that question.
  • communicate with a faculty supervisor about the progress and process of project.
  • work independently to see the project through to the end.
  • reflect on the project and be able to articulate the benefits and shortcomings of various elements of the plan and project.
  • present the project in a public forum.

Individual faculty oversee the projects and will decide how best to achieve these learning outcomes based on the needs and skills of the specific students. 

FAQ for Students

FAQ for Faculty Supervisors

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FAQ for Students

Details on Sophomore Project
All Union Scholars are required to complete a two-term, one-course-credit Sophomore Project during their second year. This project may be on the topic of your choice, either related to your future major or something completely different. Early spring term of your first year, you should begin the process of choosing a topic and supervisor. If you have an idea about what you want to do, try contacting the Union professor you feel would best supervise your project. If you have no idea, you may talk with your advisor, the program director Margaret Tongue, or with other Scholars. The aim is to come up with a project you really want to do. There will also be a meeting held spring term that will give first-year students a chance to become better acquainted with their Sophomore Project options.

The work load expected from a sophomore project is roughly equivalent to that of one course. The project does not have to end in a written paper; it may involve a performance, film, presentation, or other product(s), provided you have chosen an appropriate supervisor who supports the project.

The Sophomore Project is usually carried as an extra course over two terms, either fall-winter or winter-spring (or even fall-spring if need be). All sophomore Scholars are strongly encouraged to present their projects at a Steinmetz symposium either sophomore or junior years. The Steinmetz symposium is an annual event at Union every spring where students formally present their projects and theses to their peers.

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Should it be in my major field?
You do NOT have to do your sophomore project in your major field although you can do so if you wish. In the past, many students have used their sophomore project to explore a field unrelated to their major. A computer science major, for instance, worked with a philosophy professor to explore different theories of aesthetics. The key is to choose a topic you can be enthusiastic about.

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Should it be OUTSIDE my major field?
You are free to do a sophomore project in your major field if you so choose. The important thing is to find a topic that interests you since you will be devoting considerable time and effort to the project. Such a topic could either be closely related to your major or completely unrelated to it.

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How do I set it up?
You should work closely with a faculty supervisor to develop a project. You may already have a topic in mind. If so, you can set up an appointment to talk the topic over with a faculty member with related interests. Many students, however, do not immediately know what topic they would like to work on. In this case, a good strategy is to think about a course that you enjoyed, or a professor whose ideas you like. Then make an appointment to talk to this professor about possible topics for a project. You should also feel free to go talk to your academic advisor, or to Margaret Tongue (Becker 102) to brainstorm about ideas for projects.

Before signing up, you must first ask the professor if he or she is willing to work with you.
The professor you prefer may not be available for this kind of supervising at the time you've requested, and in any case it is a very important courtesy to ask.

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When should I set it up?
Ordinarily, students set up their sophomore projects during the spring term of their first year. In a few cases, however, students who have worked on projects in the winter and spring of their sophomore years have set these projects up in the fall of their sophomore year. If you have scheduling difficulties with the fall-winter project, please contact Margaret Tongue.

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What is the procedure for registering?

You must be a Scholar in good standing with at least the minimum Scholars GPA to sign up for your project.


Students doing Sophomore Projects sign up for courses numbered 295H and 296H in the department of the professor they are working with.  For instance, a Scholar working with a History professor will sign up for HST 295H one term and HST 296H the next.  295H is a zero-credit, pass/fail course.  296H is a one-credit graded course.  By signing up for both courses the Scholar gets one course credit over two terms.

You will need to obtain the signature of the professor who will be supervising the project on your preregistration form (on the line for the signature for professors supervising independent projects).

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How much time will I have to put in?
The sophomore project carries one course credit spread over two terms. You should expect to put in about as much time total as you would spend on one course.

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How long should it be?
The length of projects varies greatly from discipline to discipline. The write-ups for science projects are often shorter while those for humanities and social science projects are often longer. You need to bear in mind that you will be receiving a course credit for this project so it should be a substantial piece of work reflecting the amount of work that you would normally put into a course.

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Does it need to be a paper?
Normally, students produce one final paper summarizing the results of their sophomore project. However, in a few cases, students have written several shorter papers summarizing the results of individual experiments or analyzing particular books. Some students have also produced photography portfolios or videotapes instead of a written work.

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Should I have taken a course in a particular department first?
In most cases, students will have taken a course in a particular department before doing a sophomore project in that field. However, there are no hard and fast guidelines here: the important thing is to reach an agreement with a faculty member about a project which seems feasible and interesting to both of you. For a project in the visual arts you will likely have to take a course in that department first (see next question).

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Can I do an art project?
You are welcome to do an art project. However, the Visual Arts Department has stated that in almost all cases, students wishing to sign up for a sophomore project in Visual Arts will not be able to complete a reasonable project unless they have already taken an introductory course in that field. So if you feel, for instance, that you might like to do a photography project, you must be sure to take Introductory Photography before you start working on your project.

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FAQ for Faculty Supervisors

Do I need to assign grades for both terms?
Students receive a P/F grade for the first term of their project and a letter grade for the second term.

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Should I require written work first term?
Specific arrangements about deadlines are made between you and the student. It is normally a good idea, however, to require the student to hand in something during the first term of the project.

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Should I meet with the student weekly?
Again, specific arrangements about meeting are made between you and the student. It is normally a good idea to touch bases regularly in order to make sure that the student works consistently instead of leaving everything to the end.

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Does the student need to do original research?
Sophomore projects do not require original research though many do involve original research. Students can do projects based entirely on library sources if appropriate.

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