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Capstone Process & Timeline: Overview

Welcome! We are glad you’re here. This page is intended to orient you to the “capstone,” which is an all-encompassing term that includes the various final doctoral projects. We’ll explain the capstone in a bit of detail here.

Please note: Capstone requirements and timelines will vary from program to program.  The information presented on this page is general; always refer to your specific program for requirements. See the program links at the top of the page for your specific program information.

 

Long before you begin writing your capstone study, there are things that you can start doing to set yourself up for success down the road. 

What is a capstone?

A doctoral capstone study:

  • is an independent research study or project,
  • contributes original research to your field,
  • demonstrates your competence in research and research design,
  • demonstrates your subject matter expertise,
  • demonstrates your command of critical thinking and academic writing, and
  • is required for a doctoral degree.

 

Types of capstones

Dissertations are required by the PhD programs. The average time to complete a dissertation is 2 to 3 years after all course work is completed.

Doctoral studies or doctoral project studies are required by the professional doctorate programs. The average time to complete a doctoral study or doctoral project study is 1 to 2 years after all course work is completed.

*Time to completion will vary by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable.  

Years 1-2: Coursework

Your courses are where you develop the knowledge and skills necessary to complete your capstone.  

At this point, it’s important to begin developing your skills in reviewing research. Maybe you’ve begun a course or two in research methods. Perhaps you’ve attended a residency. You’ll want to start honing your writing, reading, and critical thinking skills, to prepare yourself for the time when you’ll need to produce your own research. You’ll also want to start getting your ideas organized. Finally, reading Walden dissertations, doctoral studies, or project studies will help you understand the scope of the capstone.

 

*Time to completion will vary by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable. 

Year 3: Premise & prospectus

A premise:

  • is required by most doctoral programs,
  • identifies the capstone topic or problem,
  • conveys the initial investigation into the capstone research topic, and
  • helps identify the faculty members who will guide the development of the prospectus.

 

A prospectus:

  • is required by most doctoral programs,
  • builds on the premise,
  • is developed under the guidance of your committee chair, and
  • outlines the plan for your capstone agreed upon between you and your committee.

 

After you’ve finished your coursework, it is time to work on your capstone premise and prospectus. This is a significant shift for you, as you’ll no longer be completing shorter assignments based on an instructor’s syllabus or requirements. Now the timeline is essentially yours, and your progress is largely dependent on your ability to stay organized, disciplined, and dedicated toward your capstone. 

 

*Time to completion will vary by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable.

Year 3-4: Proposal

A proposal:

  • is usually the first two sections of a doctoral study or
  • the first three chapters of a dissertation,
  • establishes the rationale for your study,
  • includes a review and analysis of the relevant literature, and
  • describes the design and methodology you will use in your study.

The proposal begins the work of developing your research study. This requires a thorough familiarity with the relevant literature in your field and with research methodology. You will also become more engaged in the writing process.  MyDR will become an important tool for you to track your progress and share your work with your committee.

 

*Time to completion will vary by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable.

Years 4-7: Research, analysis, and iterative writing

After you finish writing your proposal, you’ll need to give a formal oral presentation, sometimes called a defense, to your committee members to gain their approval for your work. You’ll also need to submit your study proposal through the Institutional Review Board (IRB) to review the ethics of your proposal if you are proposing to collect any data.

Once you gain approval from your committee members and the IRB, it is now time to begin carrying out your capstone—to actually bring to completion what you have proposed.

 

*Time to completion will vary by student, depending on individual progress and credits transferred, if applicable.

Final approvals

After you have completed writing your capstone study, you will give another formal oral presentation, sometimes called a defense, to your committee members, wherein you demonstrate your finished product. You'll also submit your capstone to a form and style review, and submit an abstract for approval by Walden's Chief Academic Officer.  Once these final approvals are in place, it is time to publish your capstone and graduate!

Graduation and beyond

Congratulations! Completing your doctoral capstone represents a significant achievement that only a small percentage of people around the world have accomplished. Yet you are not finished.

Now that your capstone is written, it is time to promote your work, share your expertise, and reflect upon your professional brand. Your professional brand is an essential component of your online and offline networking efforts. It answers the question “Who am I as a professional?” and showcases your expertise. 

See resources from the Career Center to help you on your way: