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How to Create a Master's Degree Capstone Project

written by: •edited by: Noreen Gunnell•updated: 5/26/2010

A master's degree capstone project or leadership project creates a venue for students to create and facilitate a project that demonstrates their understanding of accumulated knowledge as well as their ability to implement that project.

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    What is a Capstone Project?

    A master's degree capstone project is often the final requirement for a master's degree. However, the initiation of the project is usually during the end of the first year of study or the beginning of the second year of study, allowing the student sufficient time to complete their research and implement their ideas.

    The capstone project or leadership project requires a written proposal, which must be accepted by the professor; a final paper describing the project in full detail; and the implementation of the project. Projects are in specific fields of study related to the student's degree. For instance, a student working on a master's degree in education in the reading and writing concentration might propose a capstone project on how classroom blogs are effective tools for English language students. The student would then research this topic, create a classroom blog that is utilized within an ESL classroom, and finally, write a paper detailing the entire process from beginning to end. They would also be required to create a presentation on their project.

    Some elements of a capstone project are:

    • it should be academically sound
    • research should be inclusive and holistic
    • it should culminate in a lasting project that can be carried on by others
    • it should scaffold on prior as well as recently acquired knowledge
    • the presentation should inspire others to participate or inquire
    • the final paper should be detailed, yet concise

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    Community Outreach

    Capstone or leadership projects might be viewed as a way to give to the community from which the student comes or in which the student is involved. The most effective projects are those that create new and innovative programs or processes that others might continue to use after the student has graduated.

    Finding an opportunity to fill a void is the best way to begin a capstone project. For example, a student (actually, this was my leadership project) might notice through their course work that there is a lack of resources for classroom teachers in international poetry. The student then proposes to create a wiki that will allow classroom teachers to not only access international poetry but also the ability to add to that content. The student then creates the wiki, writes a paper on the process and presents their findings to the class.

    The poetry wiki is an actual site that still can be accessed by educators. An example of the master's degree capstone project presentation can be found here.

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    Leaving a Legacy

    For many students, the completion of their master's degree capstone project is the beginning of their legacy to their alma mater. Many capstone projects have created new ways to look at old problems, or filled in voids within the campus or extended community with completely new processes or programs. A master's degree capstone project shows the world that the student has earned their degree.