How to Write a Capstone Project With Ease
How to Write a Capstone Project: Definition
A capstone project is an academic paper that serves as a summary of a student’s experience. This type of paper is written in the last year of middle or high school or as a part of a college or university course. It can be assigned for nursing, engineering, IT, business, and other courses.
How to Do a Capstone Project: What’s So Special About It?
A capstone project is another way to sum up skills and competencies the student has gained during the course. This kind of paper may be presented in various forms: case studies, research papers, surveys, outcome-based evaluation, focus groups, and more. The type and complexity will depend on the tutor’s requirements and course. The student needs to pick a topic related to the course or specialization and write a paper. Typically, a capstone project will be connected with the future specialization and require strong skills in teamwork, public speaking, and critical and analytical thinking.
How long is a capstone project? This will depend on the tutor’s requirements and usually is approximately forty pages long or more. You will be given plenty of time to write it.
Along with the writing process, students are frequently required to make a presentation (also known as a defense) of their project. The aim of such presentation is to improve public speaking skills and help students clearly express their thoughts. Along with a presentation, you will need to create a portfolio of your project that will accompany your presentation with additional materials and help the listener understand how you have come to your conclusions.
How to Write a Capstone Research Paper: Step by Step
1. Think of the topic. It is advisable to think about the topic from the very beginning of the program. Take notes and write down the ideas that come up during the classes. Think about the topics that interested you the most and seem manageable. Talk with your classmates or faculty members who have faced the topic before.
Focus on topics connected with your own experience and life. Think about situations where your knowledge from the course can be applied. Your capstone project should highlight the knowledge and skills you obtained during the course and how you can apply this in a prospective workplace. For example, it may be a business plan including a market investigation in a particular area, or the development of a new product or program aimed at a certain need.
2. Create a capstone project proposal. Before you start writing your paper, you will need to submit a proposal to your tutor. Usually it is a paper of 200 words or more. How to write a capstone proposal? Include the following points in your proposal:
- Tell about the topic you want to choose and why you want to write about this particular topic.
- Write about your experience or background in the particular topic.
- Highlight the scope of information available and sources.
- Tell about the research that you plan to do in your project and what methods you plan to use: analyze a certain process, pick certain products, etc.
- List the required workplace and human subject approvals.
- Set the aims that you wish to achieve with this project.
If you are required to write a broader proposal, you will need to develop a literature review and methodology that you plan to use in your writing. Make sure that you have included everything that will assure the tutor that you are interested in the topic and he or she will accept your proposal.
3. Gather information. Identify the sources and search for information related to your topic. Look through textbooks from your course; you can find a list of recommended literature and use it as a basis for your project. Create a folder on your computer and save all references and helpful links in one single place. Structure information in various files, name them appropriately, and add tags to ease the navigation. Highlight the key articles related to your topic that you will be discussing in the literature review section. Group the articles by categories.
4. Come up with a structure. The structure of every capstone project may vary. A clear structure will help you logically divide your work and concentrate on each part. Here you can see the typical structure of a capstone project:
- Title page.
- Literature review.
- Results and Discussion.
- Conclusion and Recommendations.
- References list.
5. Make a timetable. As a capstone is quite a voluminous paper, you will need to involve your time-planning skills. The best decision will be creating a calendar with tasks and deadlines. Correct the schedule over time, as one task you can complete faster, while the other one may take more time than you have planned. Use organizers in your phone or computer to keep track of your progress any time.
6. Get to the writing. The basis of your capstone project is the thesis statement. Come up with a strong thesis statement that is specific and narrow enough. If your thesis will be too broad, you won’t be able to cover all of the detail. You can write your project from any point you like; the only thing you need to remember is that the introduction is written last. You won’t be able to create a good introduction when you are not deep in the matter of the issue. Don’t forget to state the major problem (or issue) and list the limitations of the study.
In the literature review summarize your findings of the existing information on the topic. Make general conclusions and a brief analysis of each source that is valuable for your research. Keep being critical of the sources and note the gaps in the information. Add quotes to add value to your review, but don’t overuse it.
In the methods paragraph, analyze the process of your research. The reader should understand what you have done and how: collecting data, analysis, evaluation, etc. Justify the methods you chose and discuss the positive and negative sides of the chosen method.
In the results section, describe the data you received during the research. If you have statistics or other data, visualize it in tables and charts. Add descriptions and an interpretation of the data.
In the conclusion, sum up your findings and make recommendations for further researches and applications. Find the connection of your results with the initial issue.
7. Proofread the text. Reread the first draft and make corrections. Firstly, look through all sections and make sure that they are complete and logically right. Cut sentences without meaning, and add important sentences so the text will be complete. When you will be done with the context, look through for incorrect grammar, typos, and other mistakes. Make sure that the tone of your work is totally academic. And at last, format the text in accordance with the requirements to make it look neat and well structured. Ask someone experienced in academic writing to look through your writing and ask for feedback.
8. Prepare for the defense. Most of the project should be defended before the project committee. The quality of your presentation will influence the evaluation of the whole project. Initially you will need to reveal the essence of your topic, discuss the project research, and tell about your findings. Along with your presentation, the committee usually asks questions connected with your research and findings. Usually, committee members are familiar with the text of your project, as they have already looked through your proposal and drafts, so keep in mind that your defense will look more like a discussion than a presentation itself.
Capstone Project Sample
Here you can read one of our examples of capstone projects for nursing. We have commented on this paper with essential notes that you need to consider while writing. The paper was written in APA style and can serve as a great example to follow, especially if you are writing a capstone project for the first time. Please, note that the capstone project sample may differ from your requirements; we are giving you only a general view on how a written capstone project looks. Also, check out other capstone paper examples on our website.
Click the images to see their full size.
Tips to Write a Capstone Paper
- Strictly follow the given instructions. If the tutor requires you to use a particular structure or to organize text using bullets – do it. All these recommendations are given to make your text readable.
- Make sure that you have applied the right structure. Capstone projects are usually voluminous and require a clear structure.
- Create a powerful thesis statement that will show you potential.
- Plan your time wisely. Create a time schedule for completing your paper.
- Pick reliable sources only. The quality of your work will depend on the sources you use.
- Pay attention to the layout. Follow the required style and format, as the presentation is vital.
- Stick to one single style of writing and tone. The paper should be written using an academic style of writing – avoid a narrative or personal style.
- Constantly contact your supervisor to make sure that you are going the right way.
Mistakes to Avoid in a Capstone Project
- Don’t pick the topic that requires tons of calculations or complex concepts. If you will need to make a presentation of your project, the listeners will get bored from the numbers.
- Avoid repetitions and self-plagiarism (copying parts of text from your previous researches).
- Don’t underestimate the meaning of a capstone project – it may be as important as a thesis or dissertation.
- Don’t use long sentences. Make your writing laconic and to the point. A capstone project doesn’t require narrative skills, only academic writing skills, and involves accurate sentences which present a certain idea.
- Don’t skip doing proper proofreading and editing. Even a single grammatical or punctuation error may spoil the impression from a good capstone project.
How to Choose Capstone Project Topics
Choosing a topic is crucial for your capstone project—it has to be interesting, engaging and at least be somehow connected with your interests or hobbies. If you are wondering why, just imagine you need to write 45 pages on a topic you feel deadly bored about. Is that convincing enough?
1) The difficulty with choosing a topic for your capstone project is that it actually can be related to two or even more disciplines, not only one. So take your time and think what has fascinated you during your studies the most. If you have some notes left from previous years, you can look them through (of course, if you have a habit of writing questions that come to your head during a lecture). This is still not a topic, but at least you will find the direction to move in.
2) Now it’s time to actually choose the topic. You have the field of studies – let’s lay, literature and language. What do you need to do here is have a quick look at what you have been studying the whole course and form a related topic. To make the task easier, ask your counselor to give you a list of topics or review the works written previously in your department. You can base your topic on those you’ve found or come up with a completely unique one, but remember that you need it to be confirmed by your project counselor.
3) Don’t be afraid of changes. In the process of the research, most students find that their topic doesn’t quite suit the scientific reality they encounter. For example, if your topic was “symbols in Celtic love poetry,” you initially find out that the Celts weren’t very fond of writing love poetry, and most of their poems were about battles, power and might. But don’t be afraid, as this doesn’t mean you have to conduct new research or something—simply adjust the topic. If you have found reasons why the Celts didn’t write about love, then your topic should include this important discovery. It will read like this “Main reasons for avoiding the love topic.”
Do you have a better idea on how to write a capstone project? Share your opinion in the comment section below. The best and most useful secrets will be added to the article.
We hope that our guide and tips have given you a basic understanding of how to write a capstone project. All of this information is general, as every capstone project depends on your department requirements and program. We wish you to write a capstone project with ease!