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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.
Decide on Your Topic
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 Office of Research and Doctoral Services. 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.
Need more help?
Use Walden Templates & Rubrics
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. See the links below for further guidance, depending on your program:
- Professional Doctorates Information,
- PhD Dissertation Process and Documents,
- Program-Specific Writing Templates and
- the Doctoral Template Demonstration YouTube playlist from the Writing Center.
You’ll find other helpful resources on articulating your topic within the Office of Research and Doctoral Services’s Institutional Review Board website, such as:
Form Your Capstone Committee
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:
- Be specific. The more you can describe and articulate your proposed study ideas, the more likely it is that faculty will consider being your mentor.
- Proofread your writing. If your email and attached premise or prospectus contains inaccuracies, typos, or grammatical errors, faculty will be less likely or unwilling to accept your invitation for mentorship. You may seek assistance from the Writing Center on this matter prior to sending out your prospectus.
- Be cordial. Address each faculty member by “Dr. [Insert Last Name]”, thank them for their consideration, and welcome their constructive feedback. The more you can showcase yourself as a mentee who is willing to learn from the experts, the better your doctoral experience will be.
Learn to Accept Feedback
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:
Track Your Progress via MyDR
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 Office of Research and Doctoral Services has a variety of MyDR guides to keep you educated.
Develop the Literature Review
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:
- survey the scholarly landscape
- provide a synthesis of the issues, trends, and concepts
- possibly provide some historical background
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:
Consider a Writing Workshop
If you’re seeking guidance on your writing, consider one of Walden’s writing workshops, offered within the Office of Academic Support, 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.
Learn More About Each Doctoral Writing Workshop
Formulate Your Methodology
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.
- The Office of Research and Doctoral Services’s tutorials on research methods,
- The Writing Center’s webinar on Discussing Procedure and Justifying Design: Writing about Methods and on Presenting Data and Describing Analysis,
- The Library’s resources on methodology, including directions on how to search for an article by method and instructions on how to find a particular instrument for your research, and
- Workshop on Revising and Editing the Methods Section from the Academic Skills Center.
- Methodology Advice Office Hours
Remember, too, to continue using the Historical Alignment Tool to ensure that your capstone elements stay aligned.
Prepare for the Proposal Defense
You will have two formal presentations for your capstone: once for your capstone proposal and once for your completed capstone. See below:
- Oral Defense Information from the Office of Student Research and Administration, including several audio-recorded presentations from past Walden students.
Get IRB Approval
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.