You already know what a Capstone course is.
You just have no idea what to do about it.
Many students get confused when it comes to the Capstone. Is it a research paper? Not exactly; it is much more than that. Although you are the researcher, the Capstone goes beyond the mere collection of information. Instead, you will demonstrate the skills learned in your undergraduate studies to solve a problem based upon certain assumptions related to your topic. That means you will conduct your own field research and collect primary source data to create a scholarly, academic project that supports an argumentative thesis statement or major question with new work and ideas.
In a nutshell: this is a course unlike any other you have taken.
Why? Because you will have a great deal of latitude over the direction and development of your project. Your mentor will serve as a facilitator, who will direct you toward your goal. At the end of the day, your project will allow you to follow your passion and create something that will add to the body of knowledge in your chosen field. All while exploring and applying your knowledge to something new.
Often, that amount of latitude can feel overwhelming. So, other than writing it for you, here are some common Capstone questions, answered:
Question 1: When should I take the Capstone course?
Answer: If you have 9 credits or less remaining for graduation, have completed any research courses required in your area of study as well as your composition requirement. So if you still have 30 credits to complete, or haven’t finished the composition requirement, wait to register for the course.
Question 2: How do I know if I should take the Capstone as an online course (OL) or a Guided Study (GS)?
Answer: If you like interaction with classmates, you may prefer the online format. However, if you prefer to work independently, you may like Guided Study better. With the Guided Study format, you won’t be required to participate in online discussions. However, the online course format offers the benefit of peer feedback as well as an additional influence toward your final grade.
Question 3: Can I take multiple courses during the same term I am registered to take the Capstone course?
Answer: Some students have found the pace of the Capstone course and an additional course to be manageable in the same term, while others have chosen to focus on the Capstone during any one particular term. To decide which course schedule is right for you, consider your personal and professional responsibilities. Will you have the extra time to commit to an additional workload? Can you manage two courses at once? Being honest with yourself about the answers will help guide your decision.
Question 4: I’ve already written a research paper in my area of study. How is the Capstone different?
Answer: This is anything but a typical research paper. Throughout your project, you will be an authentic researcher who explores and adds to the body of knowledge in your field of study. You are expected to present an ethically responsible, globally minded final project that will serve as a bridge to employment or future endeavors and prepare you for graduate-level study.
Question 5: Is there a lot of research involved in the Capstone or is it primarily writing?
Answer: Your Capstone project involves equal parts writing and research. For some degree programs, a Capstone may require a project and subsequent presentation; for others, it may include an assessment to test interdisciplinary skills. It may also involve a final research paper exploring a topic of interest, emerging from your individualized program of study. Your interests, academic field and area of study will influence the type of project you select and the direction you choose to go in.
Question 6: How do I accomplish my Capstone project?
Answer: You build your Capstone based on an inspiration for greater knowledge of certain subject matter, idea or concept. You research, collect, organize and produce an analysis of the information from both primary and secondary sources. The major part of this nonexperimental, qualitative study will involve field research through interaction with people who will be your study participants.
Question 7: How do I select a topic?
Answer: Select a topic you feel passionate about, something that has meaning to you either personally or professionally. You may also benefit from choosing one relevant to your work environment/field of experience. This will give you extra backup to be able to interpret and answer your research questions as well as use this project as part of your professional portfolio.
Question 8: What is involved in a Capstone project?
Answer: Your Capstone project consists of six modules including study assignments, discussion assignments and written activities. Study assignments consist primarily of readings in the course textbook(s) and in course documents and supplemental research. It also includes overarching major questions and subquestions to be answered. The major question should reflect the results of this entire endeavor and drive your subquestions, culminating in a strategic plan to answer your question or solve a problem.
Question 9: Do I have to present my Capstone project?
Answer: This is not a requirement, although a PowerPoint presentation or a video presentation of your work to share with your mentor and classmates is appreciated.
Question 10: What are some things I should keep in mind while developing my Capstone project?
Answer: Pay attention to the mechanics of your project, including grammar and punctuation as well as proper formatting, citations and author information consistent with academic, scholarly writing. Make sure your research does not stand alone, and that you have analyzed and explained how the research best supports your thesis argument and key points. Any error in either the organization or writing of your project detracts from the professionalism of your work.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated for accuracy.
Written by Thomas Edison State University