TESU Capstone

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TESU requires a capstone class in order to graduate with a bachelor's degree. This class is designed to be an intensive research study program that requires the student to integrate knowledge learned from throughout the student's undergraduate studies.

This page attempts to gather some information about the capstone, including student insights, into one location.

For more information on what a capstone course is, see TESU's blog post on the topic.

Overview of the capstones

Each discipline (e.g. science, liberal arts, professional studies, business administration) requires a capstone. The science and liberal arts programs both require the Liberal Arts Capstone (LIB-495). The professional studies program requires the Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies Capstone (BPS-495). The business administration program requires the Business Administration Capstone (BUS-421). Each capstone requires a research project completed by the student, however each course has its own methods and approaches.

For example, the liberal arts capstone can be considered similar to an independent study course with a thesis requirement -- students select their own topic with approval of the instructor, research the topic independently, and write a research paper (thesis) one chapter at a time over the course of the semester. This will require the student to self-select a topic of choice, narrow the scope to one that is broad enough to be interesting but focused enough to be covered in a single paper, construct a major research question and 3-4 supporting questions, and follow a specific format for the paper. The liberal arts capstone allows students to choose between writing a research paper and developing a creative project.

Conversely, the strategic management capstone is fundamentally a senior level management course with a textbook that teaches strategic-level concepts such as leadership, global business management, etc. This course proceeds much like the student's previous business courses, with textbook readings and regular papers analyzing business case studies, and culminates in a research analysis of a particular (assigned) business topic. For example, given a case study of Google's involvement in the Chinese mobile phone market, evaluate Google's current situation as if you are writing a report to the CEO on Google's options, and make strategic recommendations for how Google should address changing market conditions. (i.e. attack a rival, withdraw from the market, etc.)

What This Topic Covers

Most of this page will address the liberal arts capstone, since it is the most common capstone taken by Degree Forum members, and requires the most creative thinking in topic selection, research, and writing. However, there is a link at the end containing example module papers and an example final capstone paper for the BSBA Capstone course as well.

How The Capstone Is Structured

Over the course of 12 weeks the student will identify a topic and research questions, and upon approval of the instructor will write a five-chapter research paper consisting of the following:

  1. An introduction defining the research topic and research questions.
  2. A literature review, showing the student has thoroughly researched existing literature that gives background information on each research question.
  3. A methodology chapter, showing how the student plans to actually address each research question.
  4. A results chapter, showing the student has performed the study and reports the findings.
  5. A discussion chapter, in which the student synthesizes the information from the results, shows how the results address the research questions, and derives new knowledge from the findings.

Capstone papers may be quantitative or qualitative, but most are expected to be qualitative in nature. They may include surveys, or may largely consist of reviewing existing literature and drawing conclusions. In that sense the capstone project can be considered a significantly larger and more structured version of the typical undergraduate research paper.

Students who choose creative projects will proceed similarly, but since the majority of the work will be of a creative nature the above will provide an outline of the project rather than be the final result. For example, a student may choose to compose a piece of music for the course, or construct a photography journal, or write a series of short stories. Each of these is a valid project, but throughout the course the student will demonstrate how the project addresses each of the above chapters in some fashion. i.e. if the student chooses a photography project, the student may pose research questions regarding how best to photograph the night sky, conduct a literature review of historic photography techniques, define a process for researching sky photography specifically, discuss photographic best practices according to research, and culminate by presenting the photos and describing how the student gained from the research process.

Several mentors will provide example papers from previous students as guidelines to follow. See the links below for more specific information. In particular see the mentor feedback link.

Liberal Arts Capstone e-Book

As of July 2017 the liberal arts capstone has an e-book written specifically for the course. It outlines in detail the expectations of how the capstone paper should be written, chapter-by-chapter. Note that due to individual mentor discretion some deviation should be expected. For example, while the e-book states in some cases that chapter introductions should not have a heading, at least one mentor requires them. Always check with your mentor and conform with your mentor's feedback and expectations. Generally speaking they are supportive and helpful. Again, be sure to review the mentor feedback link below.

The e-book can be downloaded from the LIB-495 syllabus.

Choosing A Topic

Many students are stressed and confused regarding the topic they should choose. One suggestion given above is to treat the course as an independent study semester. Another suggestion, which appears to be endorsed (and even expected) by the capstone e-book, is to consider some form of research project that ties into one's current job or current or future career. For example, if a student works in a non-profit supporting the local community they may choose to research the impact of a particular program impacts a particular segment of the community, e.g. how an educational support program for elementary schools impacts student grades during a particular period. Such a topic is large enough to be interesting but focused enough to be approachable.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Students generally are not restricted in the topics they can select. If a student in a science program wants to conduct history research or a creative writing project, generally it is perfectly acceptable as long as the student can justify how the topic is relevant to the student's personal goals. Be sure to check with the instructor.

Liberal Arts Capstone Example Topics

The following list of example topics were provided by Dr. James Cody during a LIB-495 class. Note that these are high-level topics -- actual papers will ask and answer specific research questions within a particular topic. Also note that these topics were all identified by students -- there is no list of topics from which the student is expected to choose. These are only examples meant to guide students in how to think about their project.

-Professional Relationships in Hospitals

-Repetitive Strain Injuries Among Musicians

-Reading's Influence on Learning

-Alternative Learning Ed Program Website (Creative Project)

-Relationships between Pharmacists and Physicians' Offices

-Impact of Online Marketing on Local Elections

-Starting Up a New Business

-Impact of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire Tragedy of 1911

-College Basketball Recruitment

-A Digital Retrospective Photography Portfolio (Creative)

-Effectiveness of Computer Based Math Education 

-Anorexia Mirabilis: Miraculous Starvations

-The Effects of Texting on Communication

-Aging Adults' Access to Healthcare

-Whole Foods vs Process Foods Diets

-Domestic Violence Interventions

-Causes of School Shootings

-Literature Therapy for Children Recovering from Unresolved Trauma

-Music's Impact on Learning

-The Role of Magic in Young Adult Fiction

-Introverts as Effective Leaders

-Slam Poetry

-The Value of Nutrition & Homeopathic Supplements in the Treatment of Autism

-Organ Donation

-Bipolar Disorder

-Pseudoscience

-Literature's Role in Combating Ego-centrism

-The Revitalization of Paterson, NJ

IDEA: Given how vital the Degree Forum network has been to so many students, and given the constant participation and feedback provided by previous students who continue to support new members, perhaps it is time for a research project on the effect of the Degree Forum network on non-traditional student outcomes and graduation rates. :)

Example Capstone Papers

The following links to example capstone papers were provided by students in various threads on the Degree Forum site.

DegreeForum Resources

The following threads on the Degree Forum site discuss capstone courses and may be of use to students seeking information.

Liberal Arts Capstone

BSBA Capstone