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Master’s Practicum

About the Project

The SILS Master’s Practicum Project is designed for students who wish to gain practical experience for their capstone experience in lieu of writing a research paper. This project gives students the opportunity to apply the professional skills and knowledge they have gained at SILS in a team-based environment to a real-world problem or area of need while under the supervision of a faculty member and an internal or external project sponsor.

The practicum project option might be a good choice for you if:

  • You do not wish to propose, research, and write a lengthy paper.
  • You are interested in going into a professional practice directly after graduation. The project option is intended to help you demonstrate and build practical skills that are transferrable to LIS work environments.
  • You want an opportunity to address a real-world need and work with organizations and people outside of SILS.
  • You want some structure to your 992 experience. Student teams will be advised by the same faculty member. Project sections of 992 will meet several times through the semester to address any issues of concern and to ensure all teams remain on track.
  • You would like to build on your communication, collaboration, and project management skills.

Required Coursework

INLS 779: Practicum Project Development (3rd semester; fall only)

During their third semester, students enroll in the Practicum Development course where they will:

  • Identify their strengths and skills,
  • Form balanced teams based on their skills and interests,
  • Choose from an existing list of approved projects or develop their own project,
  • Learn best practices for effective project design and collaboration,
  • Identify and investigate an information problem in a real-world setting,
  • Identify and communicate with a project sponsor,
  • Develop a feasible plan for addressing the information need within a one-semester time window, and
  • Develop a comprehensive project proposal and sponsor agreement.

INLS 992: Practicum Project (4th semester; spring only)

During their fourth and final semester, students enroll in the practicum project course during which they will work with their teams to complete their project as designed in the previous semester.

This class will meet three to four times during the semester to check in on progress, address any concerns, and provide guidance on completing the final project. The culmination for the project track will be the SILS Scholar Showcase where students will present a poster about their project and/or a demonstration of their work along with a brief oral synopsis. The event will be open to project sponsors, faculty, staff, and students to attend.

Picking a Project Sponsor

Project ideas will be submitted to SILS in advance by potential sponsors, and student teams will be encouraged to choose a project from these options during their 779 semester. In some cases, it may be possible for student teams to propose and carry out a project of their own design. In those cases, students will need prior approval from the 779 instructor and would need to secure their own project supervisor.

Practicum projects must be feasible for a small team of students (3-5 people) to complete within about three months, with each student working approximately 12 hours per week on the project. Project proposals must include clear deliverables and reasonable expectations.

A project could be many things and is not limited to the creation of some physical or digital artifact. For example, a project might be something like:

  • Designing and implementing a library program or service,
  • Conducting a usability evaluation of a tool, website, or app that your organization maintains,
  • Conducting assessment of an existing library service or collection,
  • Creating a professional development experience for practitioners in your organization,
  • Developing a database or web-based tool to organize and/or share data,
  • Spearheading an advocacy or marketing campaign, or
  • Creating data visualizations to communicate with organizational stakeholders.

Please note that while projects should be specific and achievable, the sponsoring organization is not obligated to implement any initiatives or programs suggested by students. This opportunity is meant to be a way for students to practice and develop their skills and gain hands-on experience while working collaboratively.

Some project-oriented papers may involve coordinating with the work of other people (possibly other UNC students, faculty, or staff, or even members of outside organizations) who are not being evaluated for their final Master’s requirement. If you are coordinating with others who are not being evaluated for the final Master’s requirement, you should all agree in advance on expectations about time commitments, work commitments, and goals. Developing expectations around such division of labor will be part of the work completed in your 779 semester.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Practicum Project

Can I complete a practicum project individually?
No. Part of the goal of the practicum project is for students to gain experience working effectively as part of a team. Project sponsors have developed ideas that require more than one type of expertise and more than one person’s effort to successfully complete. One focus of the INLS 779 course will be helping students identify potential teammates and ensuring that each team has a strong mix of skills and knowledge represented. If you want to work on the capstone alone, consider the research-based master’s paper option instead of the practicum project.
How much work should a practicum project involve?
During your final semester, you should expect to spend approximately ten hours per week on work related to your project. You will enroll in INLS 992 to receive credit for these hours. This estimate is in line with UNC’s definition of a credit hour: one hour of in-class instruction plus at least two hours of out-of-class work per week, which translates to a total of approximately 135 hours over a 15-week semester for a three-credit course like 992. During your project semester, you will keep an individual work log of your time to ensure that all team members are contributing appropriately to the project.
What is the role of my project site supervisor/sponsor?
Once a student team has chosen a project from the list of submitted opportunities, they will contact the project’s listed sponsor to get additional information about the project parameters. Student teams can expect that their site supervisor will meet with the team regularly, communicate with the team as needed, review the project proposal document at the end of the third semester to ensure that your plans are feasible and will meet the organization’s needs, as well as provide students with the resources necessary to complete the project as designed.
How is project work evaluated?
Your project work will be evaluated by multiple people and will involve consideration of both the quality of your project deliverables and the individual performance of each team member. You will receive feedback on your project work from the INLS 992 faculty supervisor, your site supervisor, your peers and teammates, and other SILS faculty who view your work at the culminating event.
Will my project work be paid?
No. You will receive course credit for your project work, but no monetary compensation. This is due to several considerations: 1) we want to make these project opportunities available for all types of organizations – private businesses, government organizations, non-profits, etc. – many of which may not have funds to pay students for project work; 2) having some paid and some unpaid project opportunities may create equity issues among our students, and 3) student compensation for project work would be considered “financial aid” by the university, which may cause problems for students with other sources of funding.



Courtney LewisContact Courtney Lewis
Practicum and Alumni Engagement Coordinator