What Is a Capstone Paper and Why Is it Important?
The capstone paper or culminating project is the final piece of work that you will be asked to do on your course. It is your opportunity to show what you have learned and prove that you are worthy of the degree that you are studying for. Often the result of your paper will decide whether you will graduate. Selecting the right culminating project ideas is vital at the start of your graduate level capstone paper. Get things wrong at this stage and you could be in for many problems as you progress through your project. You also have to ensure that your scientific writing is done to the correct standard and that you use the correct referencing styles throughout. It is vital that you follow all of the instructions that you are provided to get your paper finished and the end result that you need for your graduation.
Tips for Writing a Capstone Project: What to Avoid
Knowing what you should not do within your capstone project can be of great value. The following is a list of the things that you should always avoid when doing your capstone project:
- Not following the instructions: every program has very specific requirements for their capstone projects and these can vary considerably. Always carefully review what is being asked of you and clarify anything that you are not sure of.
- Leaving things to the last minute: many capstone projects are run over a 2 semester period which leaves some students feeling that they have plenty of time in which to get their paper done. You do not: always plan your project from start to finish.
- Choosing capstone project ideas that are not feasible: you only have a limited amount of research time and other resources. You must be able to complete your work with what you have available to you.
- Selecting capstone project ideas for masters in information security that are not relevant: you must choose a topic that allows you to show off what you have learned through your course. If the capstone does not reflect your learning you will not pass.
- A topic that is too broad: you must have an issue that is something that you can actually focus on. Simply “investigating bullying” is not going to provide you with a clear goal to achieve.
- Too narrow a focus: this may result in a paper that is simply too short and of little interest to anyone.
- Using the wrong structure: every program will have a specific capstone paper structure that must be used. More often than not your tutor will be able to provide you with a template to guide your writing.
- Poor data collection: you must ensure that your methods for collecting data are appropriate for the study that you are conducting. For instance, if you are conducting a survey who will you give the questionnaires to, how will you define the questions, etc.
- Lack of analysis: scientific writing will require you to prove your results. This often means using significance to show significance rather than just making a guess based on gut feel.
- Not using an outline: it can be difficult to understand what should be included in a paper, especially if you have never written a capstone before. An outline will show you right from an early stage what belongs where in your writing and may even highlight issues at a much earlier stage.
- Failing to use reliable sources for research: Google is not the only search engine or source of information. Make use of scholarly search engines and make use of your library and other sources of information.
- Not formatting your paper consistently: always ensure that you know the specific academic style that is expected of you and uses it correctly within your paper.
- Failing to proofread: simple mistakes with your writing can have a significant impact on your grades. Always proofread your work carefully before submitting it.
What Do Poor Culminating Project Ideas Look Like?
The following are some examples of poorly thought out culminating project ideas and why they are not going to lead to a successful project:
|Topic Idea||Why it is not good|
|Should we have morning prayers in school||Because it can be too controversial and your tutor may have very set prejudices in this area.|
|School Bullying||Too broad a topic area.|
|The effect of TQM on NGOS||Too many acronyms that the reader may not recognize.|
|The effect of space exposure on Elon Musk’s car: will it still drive||Its heading for Mars so you are not likely to be able to examine it.|
|Creating a spreadsheet for creating management reports||Not a challenge as there are many already in existence.|
|Will infecting patients with STDs prevent HIV||Not a very ethical project to run!|
|How well will different production cars perform on a formula one circuit||Are you really going to have access to all of those cars?|
|Factory reorganization to achieve flow improvements in the automotive industry||Will you be allowed to actually reorganize a factory?|
|Leadership styles and motivation||Too broad a study|
|Should abortion be available to teens without parental knowledge||Too controversial and may suffer the wrath of prejudiced tutors|
|How close to the ground is safe when bungee jumping||Potential safety concerns|
|Was the last election influenced by Russian interference||It is unlikely that you will be able to access the evidence that you require|
|Manufacturing performance improvements over the next five years||You don’t have 5 years to run your project|
|Observations on steel manufacturing in South Korea vs US manufacturing||Will you be able to view the manufacturing plants that you will compare?|
|Will food deprivation starve cancer before healthy cells||Some ethical considerations|