In order to successfully finish graduate school, most master's programs require students to either write a thesis or complete a capstone project. Capstone projects, while they vary from university to university, are usually more "experiential" projects where students take what they've learned throughout the course of their graduate program and apply it to examine a specific idea. Here is a comprehensive overview of what exactly a capstone project is.
Which programs usually require capstone projects?
Typically, it is very common for master's programs in social services, public administration, mass communications and liberal arts to require graduate students to complete a capstone project. This is because these programs are usually geared towards working professionals and capstone projects give students the ability to take knowledge and theory they have learned and apply in a real-world setting.
Prerequisites for a capstone project?
Before an individual can complete a capstone project, one must take a series of undergraduate or graduate courses that will give one the theoretical and skills-based knowledge necessary in order to formulate an idea for a capstone proposal. Classes that usually are required before taking a capstone course usually center around research statistics, ethics, program theory, leadership and other relevant courses based on the master's program. Also, many programs have a GPA requirement before actually completing a capstone course.
Before a student can actually take capstone course to begin implementing their capstone project, many students would need to come up with a comprehensive proposal that will be reviewed by a professor or instructor. This proposal usually contains an introduction, theories, hypotheses, scholarly literature review, research methods, proposal alternatives and any other issues relevant to the project proposal. Each capstone requirement is unique to the student's program, so it is best that a student continuously consult with a program advisor to make sure their capstone proposal meets the necessary requirements.
Different types of Capstone Projects
There are a variety of capstone projects. Some include case studies, program evaluations, outcomes-based evaluations, surveys, focus groups, etc. Each master's program has a different set of capstone projects that students can complete for graduation. Nonetheless, case studies and program evaluations tend to be the most popular forms of capstone projects completed by students.
How long does it take to complete a Capstone Project?
Although this will vary from school to school, generally a capstone project will be as short as a 10-week quarter to as long as two semesters depending on the rigor and requirements of the graduate program. However, it is common for most graduate programs to require students to take a capstone project course that generally only lasts around a semester.
If you are currently enrolled in a graduate program and you have the option of completing a capstone project, it is best that you start formulating an idea of what you would like to investigate. Waiting to the very last minute to study a particular problem or issue in relationship to your graduate program can derail your capstone project. You would need to have a sufficient amount of previous research in order to complete a capstone project proposal.
Additional Resource: Writing a Graduate Capstone Project