Strategies for a Successful Capstone Project

Dr. Benjamin Washington
Dr. Benjamin Washington
High School Assistant Principal; Ed.D. Educational Leadership
A smiling man works on a project, writing down information in a notebook.

Capstone projects allow students to showcase what they have learned in a particular academic program. While exams can be a summative way to gauge a student’s knowledge of the material, a capstone project allows for showcasing expertise and applying it to solve real-world issues.

A capstone project for action research is a primary tool used at the collegiate level, particularly in a graduate program. In order to know what makes a successful capstone project, it is essential to understand the specific intent of the project and what components the capstone project consists of.

What is a Capstone Project?  

For students in graduate education school, there are multiple forms of culmination projects. At the master’s degree level, a student may have to write a thesis or capstone. They will be writing either dissertations or capstone project for doctoral programs. It is important to know the difference between doctoral capstone and a dissertation for aspiring researchers and scholars.

A capstone project for graduate school is a culminating project that has students apply their knowledge, skills, and training to a real-world problem. Many graduate degrees in the field of education, liberal arts, public health, and communication utilize capstone projects for a student’s final work to graduate.

Components of a Capstone Project

Generally, there are five to six components in completing a graduate-level action research project, and the names of the components may vary depending on the degree, university, or college.

Although the terminology of capstones will differ from one university or college to another, there is a central theme to the research project which shares common components. These themes focus on research, application-based components, and expectations.

In education degree programs, the components are:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Literature Review
  • Methodology
  • Findings
  • Discussions

To understand your journey into completing a successful capstone project, let’s dive into the various components.

Abstract

The abstract section is a condensed overview of the capstone project. In this section, there will be details about the project’s purpose, what specific research questions will be asked, and how the students will facilitate learning through research methods. Furthermore, this section gives a brief explanation of how the research findings were collected, validated, and what conclusions were drawn.

Introduction

The introduction portion is where the researcher details the beginning parts of their project and what the intent of the project is.

Literature Review

This section puts together a detailed and comprehensive analysis of the research that is relevant to the research topic. Within this section is evidence found in research articles, books, and information specific to the content of the project and the vital need to find a successful methodology.

Methodology

The methodology section is the section of the project where the researcher and scholar explain what methods and materials they will use to collect and analyze data and what specific instrumental they will be using to gather their findings.

Examples of this could be using specific data collection techniques such as:

  • Surveys
  • Frequency distribution tables
  • Statistical analysis tools

Findings

For this section, the research findings are articulated, and the explanation of statistical and data analysis is explained. This is where the scholar speaks directly about the participants in the study, the knowledge, and experience shared with the project.

Discussion

The discussion or conclusion section is where the researcher writes about future implications and recommendations for the project. This is also when the scholar or researcher emphasizes how the particular project adds to the current body of work by others and how they can apply the research findings to a real-world need.

Strategies for a Successful Capstone Project 

Completing a capstone project successfully comes from being well-prepared, setting goals, and being open to feedback and constant review. The following are strategies that will help you complete a capstone project:

Find a Topic You’ll Enjoy Researching 

Whether it is education, public health, or an MBA program, finding a topic interesting to you is vital. A capstone project has high expectations for academic research that will add value to the current career field. Be sure to consider multiple ideas to research and narrow down the specific topic of interest.

Find a topic you are passionate about at the beginning of the program. Although you may have multiple ideas, finding a topic you are passionate about early will save you time and allow you to gather more effective resources.

Find Effective Resources

When researching your capstone project, finding adequate resources adds credibility and substance to your project. The types of resources and references used in the project should be a combination of conversations with experts in the current field, peer reviewed articles and essays, and common researched-based studies specific to the topics. Doing this will help you formulate your thoughts and outline the tools and methods you will use for your methodology and later findings.

Time Management

A successful capstone needs to have time management as a priority. Consider creating a schedule of when to do work on your project. These can be long-term goals you and your professor set, but they also needs to include personal goals for weekly and daily time management.

During your project, you will get feedback from your professors, conduct interviews, and edit your materials. Protecting your time with family and friends and balancing time to research are equally important. This gives you a balance of both personal, professional goals, and wellness.

Collaborate with Others 

Colleges, universities, and research institutions are places where students collaborate with others, discover new passions, and find ways to enhance their career and professional development. While completing your capstone, be sure to collaborate with other like-minded individuals.

These could be students in your current graduate program, professionals in the career field that add knowledge and value to your project, and can also include students from other specialties and degree programs. This will give you the perspectives of others while completing your work, while also developing the necessary communication, technical, and academic skills to be successful.

A capstone project is a comprehensive way to do action-based research and give the student the skills they need to be successful in their career field. Finding the right project for you, a consistent support system, and a network of scholars and professionals will ensure your success and a project that will positively influence others.

Are you interested in taking the next step in your career and pursuing a graduate degree? Check out our available graduate education programs and get started today!

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