The capstone project is becoming more frequent these days; sometimes one semester, sometimes an entire year, it’s the final project a student must complete before they graduate. The capstone got its name from the architectural stone that is fixed on top of a wall or pyramid or tomb. Just as the capstone is the “crown” of whatever it rests upon, so the capstone project is the crowning achievement of a student’s academic career.
While the specifics of a capstone project will be different depending on what college or university you’re attending, in almost every case you’ll need to write some sort of paper or case study as part of the project.
Don’t be intimidated if you’ve been assigned a capstone project. Break it down, step by step, into manageable pieces, and before you know it, it’ll be done!
The last thing you want to do is wait until the last minute. If you know you’ve got a capstone project in your future, start planning right away. Look at the requirements of the project, and write any hard deadlines – such as the outline, rough draft, final draft – into your calendar. From those deadlines, you can backtrack and give yourself smaller goals to meet along the way.
The next step is to decide the subject of your project. We have two pieces of advice: first, choose a subject that interests you, because you’re going to be living it for the next four to eight months. Second, make sure that your chosen subject has resources readily available to you; you don’t want to choose a topic only to find that all of the sources and information you need have to be obtained from Interlibrary Loan because they aren’t available locally.
Start some preliminary researching before you begin outlining your paper. This is key, since you may find your idea and topic shifting as you start to learn more about the topic. Researching and learning more about your topic will also help you focus in on what it is you want to say – and it will point you in the direction you need to go with your in-depth research.
This is the starting point, the seed from which your capstone project will grow. Remember, while one of its purposes is to inform the reader of the subject of your paper, its secondary purpose is to give your paper a direction. It’s a guide for you as you write.
With a project this important, you definitely want to outline your paper before you begin. The more detail you put into the outline, the better; a detailed outline will make the writing process easier. Put in citations to the research you intend to use as you go
As you create the outline, always go back to your thesis statement. Everything in your paper must be directly related to that thesis statement.
For each subsection, summarize the main argument or point; like the thesis statement does for your paper overall, these summations will guide you later in writing each section of the paper.
With the outline done, you can write the first draft. Try and stick as close to your outline as possible. You might come up with some new ideas or thoughts – use the comment function in your word processing app to make note of them – and then keep on writing.
Once you’ve gotten through the first draft, give it a day or two, and then read it, start to finish. Look at any comments you left for yourself, and decide whether they’re worth pursuing. One thing you should consider before deciding about any new ideas – particularly ones that mean major rewrites – is whether you have the time to re-work the paper.
Most often, you’ll turn in a rough draft and receive feedback from your professor/s; be sure that you incorporate and respond to that feedback when writing your final draft. Rest assured, if your professor took the time to write a comment or leave feedback, they will be looking for a response to it.
NerdPro Writing has lots of experience with capstone projects across all fields of study. So if you’re stuck or feeling overwhelmed, we can help a little – or a lot! To find out more about how we can help, get in touch!