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FAQ | Group Projects

What about Group and Legacy Projects?

Students may elect to work in a group, with a maximum of 3 students from any of the three UMMS schools. Students may be from different curriculum years. All students in the group will have a shared Project, but each student will need to complete a distinct part of the Project to demonstrate their own learning. Each student in the group will submit individual reports throughout the course, although report content will typically be written collaboratively. In addition, students should be careful to plan group projects so that delay in one individual’s effort does not impact another’s substantially. Students may have one Advisor for the Project, or each student may have their own Advisors. Multiple Advisors must coordinate with one another.

Legacy projects are those projects which can be carried on by subsequent matriculating students after the initial work. Legacy projects must build on and may not duplicate previously completed projects, extending and supporting growth in the original project. 

As members of a group project, are we required to submit separate reports or can we submit one report with all of our names on it?

Because group projects often split into multiple projects, we do ask that each student submit his or her own initial project proposal. As well, each submission should be different enough that it begins to outline the different role each member will fill in the group project. Depending on how the work eventually splits across the group, the individual members may eventually submit collaboratively written reports; that is, each group member would submit the same report in his or her own name, with the member contributions cited in the body of the report. 

Contact Colleen Burnham if you have addition group-project questions

How do I find a Capstone Advisor?

One of the goals of the Capstone Scholarly Project is to develop and support your networking skills, which is an important piece of professional development. A good first step after identifying an area of interest is to visit the department website that fits best with your interest to identify its faculty who are doing work in the topic area. Spend time reviewing research described on the site, and contact any who share your interest. In addition, the Capstone Course has an Advisor Interest List which can be accessed on the Course website. You may also want to use the UMass Profiles Research Networking Software site at

What about Inter-professional (IP) Projects?

Students may work with other students to develop an inter-professional CSP, including those involved in the nursing and graduate programs at the university. Medical students participating in an inter-professional project are required to submit all CSD reports and present the CSP on behalf of the IP team. Interprofessional projects must also follow group project guidelines.

What if I want to change my Capstone and my advisor is the PI (co-PI)?

Occasionally students want to change their projects because of new-found interests or extreme difficulties with execution. Before any such change is made, it is important to consider the impact on the other individuals or group with whom you are working, the reason for the change and the feasibility of the change. When working on a project for which your Advisor is the principle investigator (or co-investigator), it is particularly important to consider your obligation to the larger project. Before proposing such a change, students should meet with a member of the CSD leadership team; you may also consider discussing this with your LC mentor. Once you have had these conversations, you must discuss and receive permission to change the direction of your project, or to leave the Project entirely, from the Advisor/PI (and submit related project change forms). Students should remember that they can complete independent study electives or a Senior Scholars Project in addition to the Capstone Project in order to meet multiple interests. 

Must my work be presented at conferences or be publishable?

While external dissemination is not required for the Capstone Scholarship and Discovery course, we anticipate that some students will have the opportunity to participate in public presentation, either through poster presentations, oral presentations, or co-authoring professional publications. While you may not have initially planned to disseminate your work, you may find as you near completion that you would like to consider these opportunities. We recommend that you consult with your Advisor as to the feasibility, and recognize that any such change may require IRB approval if you had not requested it initially.

Additionally, some projects incorporate a variety of innovative forms of scholarly distribution beyond the traditional methods; we encourage you to consider alternative forms of dissemination. These include, but are not limited to, video production, building internet resources, or authoring policy narratives. 

I’ve never given a public presentation, what should I do?

Public presentation is an important skill and one of the goals of the Capstone course. It is a useful exercise for improving one’s ability to communicate effectively and clearly. Students who have not given presentations before and or are uncomfortable in doing so have a number of options to assist them. Please consult with your Advisor and or CSD leadership for help. We additionally strongly recommend that you practice your presentation with family, friends or classmates to get feedback and hone your presentation. 

Do I need UMMS Institutional Animal Care and Use (IACUC) approval? Do I need to complete anything else beyond the UMMS IACUC paperwork in order to move forward with my project?

If you plan to conduct research involving animal subjects, a specific IACUC research protocol must be reviewed and approved by the IACUC prior to receiving animals or conducting any research on existing animals. The protocol review and approval process is comprised of three main phases that takes between 6-8 weeks to complete: administrative review, veterinary pre-review, and IACUC review. This proposal should be submitted to the IACUC as soon as possible after your FOM2 Spring Capstone Proposal has been approved; please plan accordingly. Students may be added as an additional person to an existing protocol, if your Capstone Advisor already has an approved protocol; please consult your Advisor to determine if this might be the case.

See the UMMS IACUC website for more detailed information.

Do I need UMMS Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval? Do I need to complete anything else beyond the UMMS IRB paperwork in order to move forward with my project? How long does the IRB process take?

The UMMS IRB must be consulted for any research involving human subjects. The IRB will make one of the following decisions:

  • The project does not meet criteria for definition of research with human subjects and thus does not require review
  • The project meets criteria for definition of research with human subjects but is exempt due to educational nature
  • The project meets criteria for definition of research with human subjects and requires expedited or full IRB review and approval before research may begin

All human subjects research requires that investigators complete CITI training; this is linked on the left navigation of the IRB website. Students complete this work as part of the PoP course, but may need to renew certification in the course of their Capstone work as original certification is valid for only 3 years. Faculty advisors for projects requiring IRB approval must have CITI training as well. In addition, all students must follow HIPAA guidelines.

IRB proposal submissions are assigned to pre-scheduled IRB committee meetings as soon as the pre-review process is complete. IRB committees meet twice monthly, the review can thus take several months depending on when your forms are submitted and the specific comments of the reviewers. Please plan accordingly.

Please see the UMMS IRB website and Investigator Manual for detailed information.
Of note: Students may not be named as Principle Investigators (PI) on IRB protocol submissions. Other determinations regarding project leadership and authorship on related presentations and publications should be discussed openly by the project group.

What is the Students as Study Subjects (SAS) committee?

The SOM Ad Hoc Students as Study Subjects (SAS) Advisory Group (SAS Advisory Group) will provide constructive feedback to investigators conducting scholarly projects in medical education that may recruit student participation. Operating in the best interest of the student body and the SOM curriculum, and representing institutional stakeholders, the SAS Advisory Group has an advocacy role, and will:

  • provide constructive feedback to investigators conducting scholarly projects in medical education, to enable their work and assist with identification of common pitfalls
  • serve as an adjunct to IRB review, reviewing a brief statement of intent in advance of IRB submission, in order to facilitate the subsequent IRB applications for projects that involve students as study subjects 
  • facilitate successful pursuit of educational scholarly work in the SOM
  • facilitate and support survey work, to maximize the chances of success, in the context of concurrent investigator and institutional survey tools 
  • provide a contextualized assessment of the proposed study, from the perspective of educational curriculum content experts


What is the process for requesting a project review by the Students as Study Subject (SAS) committee?

All scholarly projects or surveys in medical education that will recruit SOM students as study subjects will be referred to the SAS Advisory Group for review. This review will occur in advance of IRB review for those projects that may require IRB review.

  1. Investigators conducting the scholarly effort will prepare a Statement of Intent to Conduct a Study Involving Students.
  2. SAS Advisory Group review may provide general feedback on feasibility, design, and implementation to facilitate success within the framework of institutional guidelines and concurrent curricular work.
  3. The SAS Advisory Group will meet every 2 months to review proposed projects, with additional members to be added as determined by the scope of the individual proposed study. Additional meetings may be scheduled depending upon the need for more urgent/timely review.
  4. SAS Advisory Group Reporting Process
    1. The SAS Advisory Group will provide feedback to the study investigators with general recommendations regarding revision of content, as appropriate. It may also recommend that the researcher(s) consult with content experts in epidemiology and study design. Feedback will be provided within a 4‐week period in most cases.
    2. The SAS Advisory Group will provide a report of its activity on a quarterly basis to the Dean or to the Dean’s designee.
    3. The SAS Advisory Group will provide a report of its activity on an annual basis to the Faculty Council.

My project is really "just a case study". Are there guidelines for that kind of writing?

Case studies or case reports are valuable to ... medicine practitioners as they contribute to the evolving evidence base and disseminate important clinical information. The format of these reports differs from journal to journal; however they normally contain the following components: introduction, case presentation, discussion and conclusion (Frawley & Finney-Brown, 2013). The following articles describe the publication format for reporting a case study.

Frawley J, Finney-Brown T (2013). Writing for publication: Case studies. Australian Journal of Herbal Medicine 25(3). Retrieved May 16, 2016 from

Budgell B (2008). Guidelines to the writing of case studies. The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association 52(4): 199-204. Retrieved May 16, 2016 from