Steps in doing a capstone paper or project:
Step 1: Select a topic area. See the "Selecting and focusing your research topic" tab above for suggestions on choosing a topic, narrowing your focus, and developing a thesis statement or research question.
Step 2: Do a literature review. The "Literature Review" tab will link you to helpful resources for planning a search and organizing your results. The "Start Searching" tab gives some examples for using article databases effectively.
Step 3: Conduct your research (for those students required to do so). Check the "Conducting research" tab for resources on creating surveys, finding tests, designing studies, etc.
Step 4: Present your results. The "Writing & Citing" tab brings together resources for writing the paper, citing your sources, and avoiding plagiarism. The "Presentation skills" tab will help you create effective visual aids and deliver a professional presentation.
The Capstone Project is a two-semester process in which students pursue independent research on a question or problem of their choice, engage with the scholarly debates in the relevant disciplines, and - with the guidance of a faculty mentor - produce a substantial paper that reflects a deep understanding of the topic.
Students are strongly encouraged to choose a topic in which they have some competence based on their academic work, professional experience, or exploration of future career options. The Capstone Project is both a valuable intellectual experience and also a vehicle through which students can demonstrate their research, analytical, and writing skills to either prospective employers or graduate and professional schools.
Note: Completion of the Capstone Project is required for graduation.
Capstone Framework & Guidelines
A Capstone Project must demonstrate the following characteristics. Each characteristic can be satisfied in different ways depending on the topic, discipline, and the approach taken. But, taken together, they represent the capstone framework.
Originality: You must reach your own deep understanding of a clearly defined and focused topic. You must formulate your own perspective on an issue and draw your own conclusions. The final project and form of presentation can also draw upon your originality and creativity.
Independence: Although you will have a capstone mentor as a guide and domain expert, you will work primarily on your own.
Appropriate Scope: The Capstone Project is equivalent to a six-credit course. Therefore, you should plan to spend at least as much time and energy on your Capstone Project as you have devoted to your most challenging courses. You will have just one semester to complete your research and writing. Therefore, you will need to keep your project within a limited and realistic scope.
Orderly & Objective Process of Inquiry: The Capstone Project demonstrates your facility with the methods of inquiry. These include the ability to ask the right questions, to synthesize ideas, to identify and use evidence, to draw and support conclusions, to recognize compelling research, to communication your ideas, or to solve a problem using a specific set of tools.
Intellectual Stretch: The Capstone Project should take you to a place where you have not been before, and perhaps, did not even think you could reach.
In addition to the framework, there are also some basic guidelines for the Capstone Project.
- The Capstone Project will take two semesters to complete. During the first semester, students enroll in Capstone I, develop the Capstone proposal, and secure approval of the proposal from a faculty mentor and the Capstone instructor. During the second semester, students enroll in the Capstone II.
- Separate grades are received for Capstone I and Capstone II. Each grade must be a C (2.0) or better.
- Enrollment in Capstone I takes place no later than the second to last semester and no earlier than the third to last semester prior to graduation.
- The faculty mentor is a member of the UVA faculty. Mentors are approved prior to enrollment in Capstone I.
- Students will submit a formal academic paper. Two simply bounded/covered copies and one electronic copy are required. One will be graded and returned; the other will be added to the BIS library of Capstone Projects.
- Students will make a presentation to an audience of students and faculty. These presentations are not graded separately.