Professional Project Proposal

College of Journalism and Mass Communications Professional Project

Student working on laptop

It's time to show us your skills. The professional project is the capstone experience in the professional journalism specialization and an optional experience for other students. Throughout the project process, you will draw upon the entirety of your educational and professional experience to propose and produce a substantial piece of high-quality journalistic work.

Eligibility and Requirements

The professional project is a two-semester 6-credit-hour project required for students in the professional journalism specialization and available for IMC students. Professional project topics and formats are flexible and should be tailored to best approach the students' topic. Past projects have included long-form written works, websites, documentaries, multimedia pieces and more. 

Students should be in their third to last semester when they prepare to enroll in the professional project. The project will take place over the last two semesters in the program. Professional Journalism students should have either completed the 900-course series or be ready to enroll in the final 900 series course. IMC students should speak with the graduate student services coordinator before initiating the professional project. 

Professional Project Process

The graduate professional project process occurs over no less than two semesters. While students may begin the process earlier, they should enroll in the course no later than the end of their third to last semester before graduation to complete the project in their final two semesters. Students are encouraged to speak with the graduate student services coordinator before beginning their professional project.

Professional Project Timeline

Getting ready & enrolling in the project

These steps should take place in the last month of your third-to-last semester. Students who wish to begin their projects in the fall semester are encouraged to identify a committee and complete their topic approval at the end of the preceding spring semester.

Step 1: Develop Topic Idea & Identify Faculty Adviser/Committee Chair

Identify a topic and a CoJMC faculty member with interest or expertise in the area. The graduate student services coordinator and grad chair can help you narrow your topic and identify faculty who may be a good fit for your interests. You should contact the faculty member to request their service as your project adviser and committee chair. You will work with your project adviser to finalize your topic. Your committee chair must be a member of the graduate faculty in the CoJMC. 

Find Faculty

Step 2: Identify your Committee

The faculty adviser identified in step 1 will serve as your committee chair. You must identify 2 additional CoJMC graduate faculty members to serve on your project committee. If you are considering more than three faculty for your committee, please contact the graduate student services coordinator. You should contact your additional committee member(s) to request their service before moving on to step 3.

Step 3: Submit your topic approval form

Submit the topic approval form. The form will be reviewed and approved by your committee, and an electronic copy will be returned to you. The finished document will include the permission code required to enroll in the professional project course in MyRed.

Submit Topic Approval

Step 4: Enroll in MyRed

Using the permission code in your approved Topic Approval Form, you must enroll in 3 credit hours of JGRD 992 during your penultimate (second to last) semester in MyRed.

Enroll in MyRed

Penultimate Semester - 1st 6 weeks

Step 1: Prepare your Proposal

Working with your committee, draw up a rough draft of your proposal for your professional project. You should complete the draft before moving on to step 2, as you will upload the final proposal when completing your approval form. You can download a proposal template by clicking the link below. 

Get the Template

Step 2: Meet with your committee

At the beginning of the 4th week of your penultimate semester, arrange a meeting of your professional project committee to present your professional project proposal and get feedback. The meeting should be scheduled by the end of the 6th week of the semester. All committee members must attend the meeting, which can be held in-person or virtually. Incorporate all committee feedback into your proposal before moving on to step 3. 

Step 3: Submit your Professional Project Proposal

You will have until Friday of the 9th week of the semester to submit your project proposal for approval. The proposal will be reviewed a final time by your project adviser and committee members, and then you should resubmit the final proposal no later than Friday of the 11th week. A grade of pass or no pass will be entered for your first three credit hours of JGRD  992. The approved proposal document will include a permission code to enroll in an additional 3 credit hours of JGRD 992 during your final semester.

Submit the Proposal

Step 4: Enroll in MyRed 

Using the permission code in your approved proposal form, you must enroll in an additional 3 credit hours JGRD 992 in MyRed during your final semester.

Enroll in MyRed

Penultimate Semester - last 12 weeks to Final Semester - 1st 2 weeks

Work on your professional project

During this period, you will work on and complete your professional project. Your faculty adviser will be available to assist you during this time. It would help if you stayed in contact with them to ensure you are making adequate progress on your project. 

Final Semester - Weeks 8, 9, 10

Step 1: Schedule your oral defense

At the beginning of week 8, you should schedule your oral defense with your committee members. All committee members must participate in the defense. Your oral defense should take place before the end of week 11 of your final semester to ensure adequate time for your graduation to be processed by the university.

Step 2: Attend your Oral Defense

You should attend your scheduled oral defense and defend your professional project. Following your oral defense, your Faculty Adviser will submit your final examination report documenting your professional project's completion and making a recommendation for graduation. You will receive a final copy of the approved form. A grade of pass or no pass for your second JGRD 992 course will be entered by the Graduate Chair based upon this document's completion. 

Your faculty adviser/committee chair will contact the graduate student services coordinator to initiate your final examination report form. 

Step 3: Get Ready to Graduate

Congratulations! You've completed the professional project process. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What topics do these usually cover? 
Professional projects cannot be opinion pieces, but journalistic topics are open. Students should identify an area of interest and a faculty member working in that area to serve as their adviser. Students should contact the faculty member about their willingness to serve and work with their adviser to refine their topic. The graduate student services coordinator can assist in identifying an appropriate faculty member. 

Where can I find example projects? 
Past professional projects can be found in the UNL Digital Commons. 

See Past Projects

What is a project committee, and what role do they have in my project? 
Your committee is composed of three graduate faculty from the College of Journalism and Mass Communications, one of whom serves as your adviser and committee chair. Your committee chair should have expertise in your area of interest.

The responsibility for completing the professional project falls to you, the student. Your faculty adviser/committee chair will be your primary project mentor and oversee the project from inception to execution. They are available to assist you in developing and refining your topic, completing your proposal and ensuring you stretch your strengths in completing your finished project.  

Additional committee members lend their expertise throughout your proposal development and project process. It is important to keep your committee members informed of your progress and ensure they are on board with your proposal and project. 

Who can be on my committee? 
Your committee chair and at least two additional members must be graduate faculty in the CoJMC. If you are considering additional faculty, please contact the graduate student services coordinator. 

Why do I enroll in two courses?
The professional project is intended to be a substantive journalistic work developed in close coordination with faculty mentors. Students should expect to put in the equivalent of two three-credit hour classes over the course of their final year in the program. 

What are the requirements for collecting data from human subjects?  
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Institutional Review Board governs all research and creative project that use human subjects. While there are some exemptions to IRB protocols for journalistic work, you should work with your faculty adviser to determine your project's IRB requirements. 

Is there funding available to support my project? 
The college does not cover expenses associated with the completion of professional projects. However, students may apply for a Hitchcock Fellowship to help defray expenses associated with completing their project. Click the button below to learn more about Hitchcock Fellowships. 

Hitchcock Fellowship

Carly Morse
Contact Carly with Questions

Carly Morse
Graduate Student Services Coordinator