Capstone Project

Capstone ProjectCapstone Project

Relax! All the hype about writing a "capstone" project is overblown. It's kid stuff.

You can look forward to doing it, and feel energized about this exploration that is about to begin.

The time has come to review everything you've learned in this degree program and prove you learned something. You changed during this degree program. You gained some mastery of the subject matter, and one topic has become especially important to you.

With your mastery of the subject matter and your unique perspective on this topic, you can do something other people cannot do:

Create a capstone project that provides useful new ideas for other people who share your interest in this topic.

What Is a Capstone Project?

Nobody really knows. The people in the education industry make this stuff up as they go along.

They give it a fancy name to add to the perceived value of your insanely overpriced education. After this "capstone project," maybe you'll write a thesis paper and get a degree called "master" (as though you are a Jedi Master from Star Wars), and then you can write a doctoral dissertation and everybody will have to call you "Doctor".

For now, you are at the part where they use a "capstone" image to suggest the idea of completing a structure being build from stone. Sure, whatever. I'll just give you the...

Rules For Writing a Great Capstone Project

Read some recent, professional journal articles about a topic that interests you. You don't have to read the whole article. Just read the introduction to get a sense of what they are saying. If there is a literature review, read it to find out all about the other research findings associated with your topic.

Paste the capstone project requirements into a Word document. If they give you a grading rubric, assignment instructions, etc., paste it all. Try to think of a way to approach your topic that will enable you to easily fulfill all of these requirements.

Put two concepts together to create a project that is unique, meaningful, interesting. This is the secret: Don't choose one research topic, choose two! Students struggle when they choose a single topic and try to make an interesting capstone project just be researching it and writing something about it. That's a tough gig. It's much easier to put two related concepts together. Examples:

You are getting a business degree, so you write a capstone project about Servant Leadership and Overcoming Resistance to Organizational Change. These are to completely different concepts, but I bet you can find interesting articles about each of them and look for a way they go together.

You are getting a degree in English, so you write a capstone project about Shakespearean themes and the language used in popular modern films. Again, you can find a connection, and it is going to be interesting.

You are getting a degree in psychology, so you write a capstone project about Albert Ellis's "Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy" and best practices in relationship counseling. You get the idea, right? It's just as easy to write about addiction and best practices in relationship counseling, or about relationships and best practices in addiction counseling, or Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy and addiction. It will always be interesting if you put two topics together.

After choosing two concepts to relate/compare to one another, search a database of professional journal articles to see if you can find one that already has been written about these two concepts. If you don't find anything, try a Google search. If you still don't find anything, that's great because it means you are comparing two concepts that no one else has compared. That's great, and maybe it can be your topic.

If you do find an article that compares your two concepts, check to see if it is interesting and if you understand it. If you like this article, use it as your starting point for the capstone project. Write a few paragraphs about the most important ideas in that article.

Then look for other articles about your two topics. Write a paragraph about each article, and gather all the information as a cluster of paragraphs in your word document. Cite the author in parentheses every time you write a paragraph about an article.

When you have written a lot of paragraphs about articles that give good information about your topics, you'll start to see what is useful about comparing/relating these two topics.

Go Back to the Capstone Project Requirements

Now you know the two topics you want to explore together, and you know what is useful about comparing/relating them. Now check your capstone requirements and grading criteria, and write an introduction that includes a summary of what will be included in the project. Be sure that this summary makes it obvious that you are going to fulfill all requirements.

Go to the end and write a conclusion that reflects on the useful and meaningful ideas that you gained by comparing/relating the two topics. Make sure the conclusion also reviews the parts of the project that fulfill the requirements from the project instructions. And that's it! If you offer meaningful ideas and fulfill all requirements in the Capstone Project Instructions, everyone will agree: you learned what you were supposed to learn and earned this degree.