When a student reaches the final year of a degree course, one of the tasks that he or she needs to complete is a capstone project. It brings together the most important knowledge one has learned in an entire degree course. A capstone project is sometimes thought of as a thorough investigation of one or more areas of the program being studied, as well.
A valid capstone project should collect the skills learned from a number of different topics and subjects, and result in a final product that demonstrates what a student has understood and taken on during a degree program. The unique aspect of a capstone project is that it must propose and solve a distinctive problem.
Steps for Writing a Capstone Project
- Think back to the beginning of your freshman year and make a list of all the papers and essays you wrote, projects you presented, exams and courses you took.
- Flesh out the list by writing a brief description of each examination, quiz, test, essay, and paper.
- Understand that a capstone project is similar to a research paper. Seek out the research papers you have already done and keep them handy.
- Choose a topic and get it approved by your instructor: it must be cleverly worded to include as much of the work you have covered as possible.
- Collect a solid number of up-to-date references in the form of books, articles, journal entries, websites, and other scholarly material.
- Set aside a generous period of time to do necessary reading: this will cover familiar ground and some of the references will be books you have already read and used as sources.
- Take notes and start to draft the capstone project using revised material with a fresh slant and taking new perspectives on covered ground.
- Write the conclusion and the introduction last: this gives you an opportunity to announce the gist of your work in an appropriate way and devise an effective thesis statement.
If you are free to choose any subject you want for your capstone project, select the one that you feel most passionate about. While writing a capstone project, you must demonstrate methodology and research skills which are appropriate to the subject. The topic should be of practical and scientific use, and the results of your research must contribute to the knowledge of this topic.
Key Points to Consider
- A capstone project is like a thesis—that is, it brings a course of study to a close, shows examiners the work you are capable of, and demonstrates what you have learned.
- The capstone should not be less than about 45 pages in length, with a substantial number of references, which for that length (about 12,000 words) should never contain less than 12–14 sources.
- Including a table of contents, abstract, list of references, and cover sheet means this is a significant task for which you should allow plenty of time.
- Use a chart or a software program such as Papyrus to organize your references. Use paper folders to keep your notes in one place and word-processing folders for your written work.
Do and Don’t
- Rushing the work, or squeezing all researching and writing into a short period.
- Repetitive work. Never cut and paste from your previous papers or projects.
- Lack of focus. Sometimes students include so much material in their capstone that the project lacks emphasis on the main elements learned during the course.
- Forgetting the importance of the project. Your capstone project will be retained by the college or university and it bears your name—so it must present your best work.
- Not gathering data in a systemic manner. If you are scattered and disorganized, the result will be chaotic and jumbled.
- Lack of analysis. Describing what you have read in the primary sources is not enough. You must interpret and analyze what you read and apply critical thinking.
- Not presenting a planned project. You need to answer your capstone question by reading, summarizing, and synthesizing the research materials properly. It is essentially analyzing the work of others to create an original work of your own.