Typically, a master's capstone project is practical, problem-solving research which addresses a real-time policy or management concern faced by a particular agency or a community of your interest. If you take this option, the expectation is that you would apply the knowledge and intellectual skills acquired at the KDI School, and the field experience you have gained at work or in practicum, toward a resolution of the concern in question. The concern you choose to look at maybe about an aspect of public policy or of an administrative and managerial nature.
For example, a policy concern may entail an analysis of policy needs; an evaluation of policy options; an assessment of policy outcomes (related to goals and objectives); or an analysis of policy impacts (intended or unintended).
In contrast, an administrative and management concern may involve
- a critical assessment of the decision-making process (e.g., groupthink problem) involved in a particular policy decision
- an analysis of policy implementation
- an assessment of the ethics and integrity of an administrative policy or rule-making process
- an assessment of administrative and managerial accountability
- an analysis of disincentive and moral hazard problems or
- an analysis of labor-management conflicts in an agency of interest
How different is capstone research from thesis research?
Capstone research is similar to thesis research in all substantive aspects. The difference is that while the principal interest of the thesis research is to generalize the finding to a larger world, the top interest of the capstone project is to apply the knowledge and intellectual skills to the resolution or understanding of a policy or management dilemma which faces a particular agency. Thus, the audience of a thesis project is the academic community. A capstone project’s audience is a specific policy community—e.g., a government agency, a civil society organization, a private enterprise of a public character, or an international organization or regime. Since the target audience is a policy community, the capstone project is real-time, policy or management research.
In contrasted to thesis project carried out by a single investigator only, a capstone project may be carried out either by a single investigator or by a team of investigators. The choice depends on the scale of the project, as well as the availability of co-investigators. If the project in conception is large in scale and has several dimensions requiring a pooling of investigators, say 2 or 3, it may be designed as a group project. Should a group project be your preference, the group members must consult the Program Chair and the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and get their approval. In which case, each participant will earn the same capstone 3 credits.
On the other hand, if a project is discrete and relatively small in scale, an individualized approach may be a better option. In any case, you will receive the remaining 3 credits when you have submitted to the POS committee for approval and deposited thereafter in the Academic Affairs Division. If you are interested in the capstone option, you must enroll in an advanced research course (3 credits).
Formation of the Program of Study(POS) Committee
To complete your degree program successfully in time, you need to form a Program of Study(POS) committee as early as possible from among KDI School faculty members. Normally, the POS committee consists of two faculty members, one designated as major professor and the other designated as 2nd professor. If you wish, you may invite the faculty advisor assigned to you at the time of your admission to serve as your major professor. If your concentration and research interest require that you work with a different faculty member, feel free to invite another faculty member to be your major professor. Regarding the 2nd professor, you may ask any KDI School professor of your preference to your POS committee, provided that he or she is available. Note that the demand and workload on professors are heavy so you will want to initiate contacts as early as possible.
The deadline for submitting your POS form (which includes names of your committee members) to the Academic Affairs Division is the 6th week of the second semester (fourth semester for part-time students).
Once you have formed your POS committee, you will be working closly with the committee members most likely, with your major professor—on all matters relating to your course selection and research on your graduation project. The importance of your major professor and committee member cannot be overemphasized. Not only are they going to be your mentors, but they are also likely to be the faculty for your career reference.
Formation of the Program of Study(POS) Committee
As in the case of the capstone project, you will need to form a POS committee of two faculty members who will supervise your graduate work, including your capstone research project. The deadline is the 6th week of the second semester (fourth semester for part-time students).
In terms of the POS committee composition, you may ask the instructor supervising your capstone project to be your major professor. For the remaining committee member -2nd professor- you may invite your academic advisor assigned to you at your admission to the School to be your committee member. Alternatively, you may request another faculty member to be your committee member.
Submission of the Capstone Research Plan
It is assumed that when you enroll in an advanced research course, you already have a target agency for study (e.g., city, department, regulatory agency, nonprofit organization, or a private enterprise of public character) and a tentative research question. If this is not the case, you will need to work with your capstone instructor to determine your capstone project. Your capstone instructor may already have identified a tentative, group capstone project. But this may not always be the case. In either case, you may select a single capstone project or a group capstone project.
The assumption above behooves that you do preliminary research and brainstorming about your capstone project before signing up for the course. If you have one or two other students who have a similar interest, you may have a case for a group project. If you have none of these yet wish to do a capstone project, you will need to consult with your prospective instructor before signing up for the course. It is possible—but don’t count on it—that your prospective instructor may already have a network of contacts to generate an individual or group project on your behalf.
Based on these preliminary investigations, you will need to submit a short research proposal called the prospectus to the POS committee by the 10th of the second semester. Even if you get involved in a group project, you will need to submit your prospectus, separately. The prospectus of a capstone project is a flexible research plan, all depending on the project’s scale and the number of students involved in the project.
Structure of the Capstone Report
Whether done individually or in a group, we suggest that your capstone project follows the format similar to a thesis. Since a capstone project is a real-world policy or management study with the audience being agency decision makers instead of academics, we stress that the report be written in a way that lay persons will appreciate. Particular attention, therefore, should be placed on lean organization, clarity, and readability. We expect that while an individual capstone project may be about 30 double-spaced pages in length, a group project may be considerably longer, say 50 pages or more. When reporting your capstone project, you may consider the following general format. Of course, the format may be tailored to your needs.
- 1Title page
- 3Table of content
- i.Statement of policy or management problem
- ii.ackground (history) of the problem
- iii.Research questions
- 6Field research methods for gathering data (interviews, participant observations, document analysis)
- 7Analysis and findings
- 8Policy or Administrative Recommendations
- 9References (The APA Manual)
- 10Appendix (optional)
Advanced Research Seminar (ARS)
The School also offers several sections of a 3-credit course “Advanced Research Seminar(ARS)” to help you complete the full first (rough) draft of your capstone, which is required on the completion of your coursework or before your depart from the KDI School. You must enroll in an “Advanced Research Seminar(ARS)” course (3 credits) in the third semester (fifth semester for part-time students), after submission of POS Committee Composition. The Advanced Research Seminar is not an instructional but research consultation course designed to provide you with a step-by-step completion of your thesis/capstone draft. This course is also strongly recommended for those who are planning to write a thesis or capstone project.
Upon completing the first draft, we ask that you present the first (rough) full draft orally to your POS committee at ARS Oral Presentation Session, held during the final week of the semester. Students who are taking the ARS course must participate in the session. During the oral, you will need to elicit comments and suggestions from your committee members and incorporate them in the final report. Also, we recommend that you invite the relevant host agency personnel to your presentation so that you may solicit additional comments and suggestions from them. The POS committee will report the oral results, including the suggestions for further improvement, to the Academic Affairs Division. When you complete the capstone course and the oral presentation successfully, you will receive 3 credits counted toward your graduation.
Upon successfully completing the first draft and the oral, you shall submit the final draft to your POS committee and Academic Affairs Division by the 3rd week of fourth semester (sixth semester for part-time students). Your two-member POS committee will review the final draft and another independent reviewer appointed by your major professor at his or her discretion. Upon the committee approval, you will be awarded the remaining 3 credits counted toward your graduation.