Masters Practicum Project

Master's Practicum Project

Overview

Required Coursework 

Picking a project sponsor

Practicum project registration 

Practicum course requirements

Frequently asked questions
 

Overview:
The practicum was created for students who wish to gain practical experience for their capstone experience lieu of writing a research paper. This gives students the opportunity to apply professional skills in a team-based environment with an external or internal supervisor; and to be evaluated by the supervisor, the faculty 992 instructor, peers, and faculty reviewers at culmination event.

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

  • you are interested in directly going into a professional practice 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 do not want to write a lengthy paper; and/or
  • 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.

Required coursework: 

-INLS 779: Practicum Project Development (3rd semester) 

You will form a team and choose from an existing list of approved projects or develop your own and will develop a comprehensive project charter as the final assignment in INLS 779. While taking the practicum development course, students must complete the following: 

  • Form a team based on similar interests
  • Identify and investigate an information problem in a real-world setting,  
  • Identify and communicate with a project sponsor (could be an outside organization, academic department, library, business, etc.; could also be a faculty member)
  • Develop a feasible plan for addressing the information need within a one-semester time window, and 
  • Develop a practicum “charter” and sponsor agreement (the final assignment for the course). The charter will explicitly spell out each team member’s responsibilities within the project. 

-INLS 992: Practicum Project (4th semester) 

During your project semester, you will work with your team to complete your project as designed and present your work in the form of a poster or demonstration at the end-of-semester culminating event.

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. 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 assessment of an existing library service or collection, 
  • Creating a professional development experience for practitioners in your organization,  
  • Spearheading an advocacy or marketing campaign, or 
  • Creating data visualizations to communicate with organizational stakeholders.  

Project sponsors may include local or national / international businesses, information and cultural organizations such as libraries or art museums, non-profits, governmental bodies, UNC departments or other units, SILS labs, individual faculty members, or other entities. We want project sponsors to propose projects that will be valuable for their organizations and communities, and we also want to be able to offer students a wide variety of options that will allow all our students to find a project that aligns with their professional interests and skills. However, all projects must share one feature: they must be feasible for a small team of students (3-5 people) to complete within about three months, with each student working approximately 10 hours per week on the project.  

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.

Practicum project registration:

Registration for INLS 992 (Master's Paper or Project) is required for both MSIS and MSLS. Students must register for INLS 992 for 3 credit hours. The registration for the Master's paper or practicum is handled electronically. To register for the practicum students must:

  1. Fill out the SILS Class Enrollment Request Form.
  2. Attach the required learning contract. Your learning contract should include a tentative schedule for completing your practicum, a tentative schedule of meetings with your team and your project sponsor. This should be agreed upon with your team and your project sponsor.
  3. Attach a copy of your INLS 779 project charter to your form. The charter should explicitly spell out each team member’s responsibilities within the project.
  4. Once you have uploaded all the required documents, finish completing the form.
  5. Agreed to the honor code statement and hit submit.
  6. The form will be routed to the appropriate people for approval.
  7. Once your request is approved, you will be registered for INLS 992.

Practicum course requirements:

Students registered for the practicum will complete their projects under the direction of their project sponsor. This class will meet 3 to 4 times during the semester to check in on progress, address any concerns, and provide guidance on completing the final assignments. The culmination for the project track will be project fair event 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.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Practicum Project Approach: 

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 the course of a 15-week semester for a 3-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.

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.

What will the role of my project site supervisor / sponsor be?

Once a student team has chosen a project from the list of submitted opportunities, they will contact the project’s listed supervisor to get additional information about the project parameters. As a student, you can expect that your site supervisor will:

  • meet with the student team in their third semester to discuss the project parameters and their organization’s needs.  
  • communicate with students as needed in the third semester as you develop your project charter document, which will represent your detailed plans for the project implementation phase.  
  • review the project charter document at the end of the third semester to ensure that your plans are feasible and will meet the organization’s needs, and sign the charter document once these conditions are met.  
  • serve as the primary point of contact for the student team during your project work in the fourth semester, or designate someone else in the organization as the primary contact person.  
  • provide students with the resources necessary to complete the project as designed. This may include things like access to data or software, or opportunities to meet with members of the organization or the communities it serves. 
  • evaluate the project deliverable and the students’ work at the end of the project semester.

At the end of the project semester, you will present your work in the form of a poster or demonstration session at a culminating event. All project sponsors will be invited to this event, though they are not required to attend.  

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.