By now, you are likely finished with your coursework and are working on your capstone proposal. 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.
Have you decided on your capstone topic yet? Maybe you’ve known what you’d like to research for a long time, or perhaps you’re still searching. No matter what stage you’re at, you will benefit from the Research Planning and Writing Resources from the Center for Research Quality. These resources include the Litmus Test, which should help you decide whether your topic is of doctoral quality, and the Historical Alignment Tool, which should help you brainstorm how all the elements of your potential topic are aligned.
Before you search for your committee members, it is important that you’ve articulated your topic of interest via university-approved, program-specific writing templates and rubrics. Depending on your program, you will either be required to write a premise or a prospectus to draft up your initials ideas for your capstone study. Here is an explanation on the differences between the premise and the prospectus. See the links below for further guidance, depending on your program:
You’ll find other helpful resources on articulating your topic within the Center for Research Quality’s Institutional Review Board website, such as:
Once you’ve articulated a rough draft of your topic, it’s time to start looking for a committee. Have you worked with a faculty member at Walden who shares your professional interests, or have you worked with someone whose work you admire? If so, that person might be a potential candidate for your capstone committee.
The best place to start in your committee search is first to consult with your Student Success Advisor, who will help direct you to either your program’s director or senior research coordinator. You may also want to talk to your Program Director.
When you contact prospective faculty, emphasize your shared interest area, content and/or methodological match so you can “sell” faculty on your proposed research idea. Here are some additional tips:
You’ll also want to start practicing your writing when you communicate with potential faculty members. Even more important, you’ll want to start practicing how you respond to faculty feedback on your writing. The best mentor-mentee relationships in the capstone are facilitated on a strong foundation of respect and openness, particularly to the mentor’s feedback. The Writing Center offers some helpful blogs and podcasts about this topic, with the following lessons:
If your program has migrated to MyDR—a system that tracks your progress and serves as a central location for your capstone work—you should familiarize yourself with that system. The Center for Research Quality has a variety of MyDR guides to keep you educated.
One of the most time-intensive endeavors of the capstone proposal is writing the literature review. This large time commitment makes sense when considering the purpose of the literature review: to give your readers a full understanding of the evolution of scholarly research on your topic.
In your literature review you will:
Throughout the literature review, your emphasis should fall on the current scholarly conversation. This is why the rubric often specifies that you need resources from peer-reviewed journals, published within the last five years of your anticipated graduation date. It's in these recent, peer-reviewed journals that the scholarly debate is being carried out.
The literature review also shows the "gap" in the conversation, and how your own capstone study will fill that gap and contribute to the scholarly knowledge. This is where you make the case for the importance and usefulness for your own work. The current Writing Center capstone webinar geared toward students writing their lit reviews is “Reviewing the Literature and Incorporating Previous Research.”
Additional Literature Review Resources:
If you’re seeking guidance on your writing, consider one of Walden’s writing workshops, offered within the Center for Academic Excellence, where you’ll receive writing-related guidance from writing faculty that is catered toward your scholarly interests and the general timeline of your doctoral work.
Doctoral students who have a working draft of their dissertation, project, or doctoral study proposal but find themselves needing writing guidance and support
Doctoral students who have a working draft of their introduction, are committed to an area of research for their dissertation, project study, or doctoral study, and are unclear as to how to introduce and articulate its importance to a scholarly audience
Doctoral candidates who have a working draft of the Literature Review of their dissertation, project study, or doctoral study but need writing guidance and support
Students who have a working draft of their methods section and feel like they need some extra help or support with the writing component of their dissertations, project study, or doctoral study methods section.
There’s no particular order to writing your capstone. Some students choose to write their literature review before they consider the methods they’ll use to study their topic; others write those sections or chapters (roughly) simultaneously. Whatever your choice, it’s good to know some of the university expectations on writing about methods.
Remember, too, to continue using the Historical Alignment Tool to ensure that your capstone elements stay aligned.
You will have two formal presentations for your capstone: once for your capstone proposal and once for your completed capstone. See below:
Review by Walden’s Institutional Review Board (IRB) ensures that your capstone proposal meets university ethical requirements and U.S. federal regulations. Once site approval and IRB approval are obtained, data collection may begin, although be careful to follow the instructions you receive from the IRB office, as the approved protocol for your study may differ depending on the particular nature of your program or your capstone study.