Capstone Project

What is the BIS Capstone Project?

The capstone provides you with the opportunity to integrate your three disciplines in a single extended project in order to give focus to your BIS degree, and to act as the culminating experience of the BIS Program.

What’s the purpose of the capstone?

The capstone is designed as a way for you to:

  • Integrate your three areas to give focus to your BIS degree.
  • Take a significant step toward your educational and/or career goals. So choose a topic that relates to your goals and will look great on your resume.
  • Research and work on a topic you care deeply about.
  • Showcase your research skills and academic interests in anticipation of graduate school or the job market.
  • Learn and hone leadership and organizational skills as you work through the capstone process.


What are the essential ingredients of every capstone?

Every capstone must include:

  • A considerable amount of writing.
  • Evidence of research in all three areas. There are minimal scholarly reference requirements for each type of project. 
  • Substantial analysis, which can be quantitative and/or qualitative.
  • A synthesis of the three areas of emphases into a single, focused project.


How can I prepare myself for a smooth transition from course work into the capstone?

As you combine your three areas of emphasis, include classes from your three disciplines that will prepare you for the capstone. For example, you may need skills from a research methods class, or a course in statistics, or a writing class in order to complete your project.


What’s the purpose of the BIS 3800 class?

The class will prepare you to successfully complete the BIS capstone thesis project and will professionalize yourself in terms of your career and/or graduate school.

BIS 3800 is a required prerequisite for BIS 4800. This online course is taught Fall, Spring and Summer semesters.


How do I earn credit for the capstone project?

BIS 4800 doesn’t exist as a class; it’s a way to award you elective credit for the capstone project. The BIS office will give you a permission slip that allows you to register for BIS 4800 when you take BIS 3800. You only register once for BIS 4800, regardless of how many semesters you take to complete your project. At the end of each semester after you’ve registered for BIS 4800 but before you’ve completed your project, you will receive a T grade. Your committee will award a grade at your oral defense, and the BIS office will post that grade within a few days of your completion.


How do I choose a topic?

Choose a topic that:

  • Integrates your three areas of emphasis equally in a single project.
  • Focuses on a topic about which you feel passionate and committed.
  • Demonstrates appropriate-to-the-subject research skills and methodologies.
  • Results in a final project that will contribute to knowledge on the topic.
  • Becomes a substantial final product, worthy of the three upper-division credits you’ll earn.
  • Includes a finished written component that will be placed in the library.
  • Acts as a stepping stone toward your career or graduate school goals.

What will my capstone look like when it’s done?

Whatever form your project takes, your final product should be a bound, hard-copy that will be permanently housed in the Stewart Library. Whether you write a research paper or do a hands-on service learning project, your final bound copy should include a reformatted version of the Library Cover Page so the librarians have all the information they need to catalog your work. Along with the bound copy for the library, you’ll also make three hard-copies, one for each member of your committee, which you’ll give them at least a week before your oral defense. Spend a little time making the committee members’ packets and the bound copy for the library as professional as possible: make a good impression.

Your prospectus should explain clearly what final product you plan to generate. Will it be a research paper? Perhaps it will be a Web site and support paper. Or you may put a portfolio together. Before you start your project, articulate in your prospectus what final product your committee can expect.

How long should my capstone project be?

This is the question students ask most often, hoping to get a page requirement. We suggest you think about the project in terms of value for credit. You’re earning three credits at the 4000 level for this project, so the quality and quantity of your final product should show that you earned those credits. There are a number of ways to do that:

  • If you’re doing a research project, about 25 to 30 double-spaced pages are required to earn three upper-division credits. There’s nothing magical about those numbers, and most committee members don’t count pages or words. However, if you hand in a 10-page final paper, it will look as though you haven’t done much work. Primary research should have 5-7 references, and secondary research should have 7-9 scholarly references.
  • If you’re doing a hands-on project, you’ll want to keep a log and document all the work you did as your committee won’t see that. By the time you’ve included lesson plans and/or documentation of your time and work and/or assessment of your project, you’ll probably produce about the same number of pages, 25 to 30. You'll need to have at least 2-3 references per area of emphasis for your support paper.

What basic form does the capstone project take?

Capstones vary considerably, depending on the topic, but most of them follow this basic form:

  • An introduction explaining what you’re doing and why.
  • The body, meat or substance of your project.
  • A conclusion that acts as analysis or assessment of what you did. If you’re doing a research project, you’ll answer your thesis question in your conclusion. For example, if you are finding out how art therapy can help autistic children, you will end your paper by giving your conclusions and explaining how you reached that opinion. If you’re doing a hands-on project, you’ll try to answer questions like: What worked? What didn’t? How can you tell?

What kind of capstone project can I do?

You can write a classic research paper, but don’t feel limited by that version of a capstone project. Here are some choices:

Primary Research
You start with a focused research question, and then create the primary data that you analyze. Depending on your discipline, you could do a scientific experiment, or a survey, or a series of interviews. If you choose this route, keep these considerations in mind:

  • Carefully design the instrument by which you gather your primary data.
  • Complete IRB forms if you’re using human subjects.
  • Gather your data in a thorough and systematic way.
  • Analyze your data to answer your research question.

The format below sets out the usual way such research is presented, especially in the natural and social sciences:

  • Title Page: Include the author’s name and institutional affiliation.
  • Abstract: Summarize the main idea simply and clearly in about 150 words.
  • Table of Contents: All chapters and sections of the report are identified here.
  • Introduction: The introduction accomplishes three things:
    • What: it introduces the problem being studied with the project.
    • How: it develops the theoretical background (which should draw upon and integrate the three emphasis areas).
    • Why: it states the purpose and rationale for the project.
  • Method: Describes in detail how the project was completed. This information allows the reader to evaluate the appropriateness of the methods used.
  • Results: Describes what has been learned from the project. The Results section may have multiple subdivisions that clearly organize and present the material.
  • Conclusions: An evaluation or interpretation of the results, in light of the original problem statement and supporting theory, guided by these questions:
    • What contributions to your topic have been made by this project?
    • How has this project helped to resolve the original problem?
    • What conclusions and theoretical implications can be drawn?
  • Bibliography: All resources used to complete the project are listed here using correct format (APA, MLA, or Chicago style sheet, depending on your disciplines).

Secondary Research
The knowledge you gather is not original, but you do something with it that hasn’t been done before. For example:

  • A resource guide for single mothers in Northern Utah (ChFam; Comm; WS).
  • A plan to decrease waste in a factory’s cookie production (MFET; SST; Math)
  • A workshop on good nutrition for kidney dialysis patients (Nutri; Psych; Chem)

If you choose this option, consider the following questions:

  • What problem or issue are you addressing?
  • Why are you addressing this problem?
  • How will you go about your project?
  • How will you measure your success? For example, a pre and post test could assess whether the workshop you design has had any effect.
  • Who is your audience? You may well have two audiences. For example, the single moms in Northern Utah want accessible and useful information from a resource guide; your capstone committee wants to know where your information came from, how you gathered it and why you organized your guide the way you did. If you have two audiences, plan on producing a two part capstone: the resource guide/workshop/program for your target audience, and a supporting document for your academic audience. You will give both completed parts to your capstone committee for your final product.
  • What is your final product? For example, if you’re writing a resource guide, you’ll also need to provide a support paper, appropriate to your disciplines, and include a complete bibliography citing your sources. Your bibliography must use correct format (APA, MLA, or Chicago style sheet, depending on your disciplines).

You can also choose to put together a literature review with synthesis of knowledge. This means you answer your capstone question by reading, summarizing and synthesizing other people's research materials. For example, you could ask: "What is the best treatment for Parkinson's Disease?" (Chem; Zool; Psych). Begin by writing an introduction that explains what question you're asking, why it's an important question to address and why a literature review is an appropriate approach.

Plan to read approximately 10 scholarly articles per emphasis area, two or three recently published text, and no more than three creditable Web sites. At your prospectus meeting, reach an agreement with your committee on exactly how much reading you'll be required to do.

As you write your final paper, demonstrate what you learned from each article, text and Web site by discussing similarities and differences in findings. Does there seem to be a consensus regarding your topic or question? Are there conflicting opinions or research results? Explain the significance of what you have learned from the readings in terms of clarifying your topic or question.

Draw conclusions based on what you have learned. Discuss what you think is the best answer to your capstone question based on what you learned from your readings.

You will be expected to produce a 20 to 30 page paper with properly formatted citations and reference list, using APA, MLA or Chicago style sheet.

Service-Learning Project
This option blends academic study and community service. Through service learning you make the connection between classroom instruction and real-life situations in a reflective way. You will do a volunteer project for a non-profit agency or educational institution, (but not a church), approved by your capstone committee, and then demonstrate what you’ve learned by writing a reflective journal and a short research paper. In addition to the information presented here, you will find it helpful to read the BIS Service Learning Project handout.

If you do a service-learning project, you will be expected to:

  • Create and complete a particular project for your agency. It’s not enough just to put in volunteer hours.
  • Write a clearly focused goal and plan for your service project as part of your prospectus.
  • Sign a contract with the agency, clearly outlining expectations on both sides.
  • Work out a contract of hours per week with the agency, sufficient to satisfy the agency and your capstone committee.
  • Write one single-spaced reflexive journal page for every hour you spend doing volunteer work, showing what you actually did and how you responded to these experiences.
  • Write a short (10 page) research paper in your three areas of emphasis. The purpose of your paper is to show how you’ve used the theory you’ve learned in your three areas of emphasis in this practical situation. Your paper will be formatted appropriately to your disciplines and include a complete bibliography citing your sources (APA, MLA, or Chicago style sheet, depending on your disciplines).

Before embarking on this project, please ask for the paperwork that accompanies the project.

Here are some local agency contacts who are willing and eager to work with BIS students. We have visited with these people, and they understand the BIS program and the capstone requirements:

  • Marsha Prantil, Director of After School Programs for Ogden City and Weber County Schools, 627-7605
  • Treby Miller, Director of Mentoring Program for Youth and Families with Promise, 399-8212
  • Holli Crosby, Community Resource/Volunteer Leadership Center Manager for YCC, 394-9456
  • Andrea Carr, Assistant Director for Golden Hour Senior Center, 399-5230

Creative Project
You can choose to do a creative capstone project that brings something new into the world. For example, you may:

  • Design a Website.
  • Write and perform a musical composition.
  • Mount an exhibit of your own art work.

If you choose this option:

  • Be sure your topic involves all three emphasis areas.
  • Actually produce your creative capstone. In other words, put the Web site out on the internet; give a concert showcasing your musical composition; do a performance of your original dance.
  • Ensure that your capstone committee attends or sees your creative project when you produce it.
  • Produce a copy of your work for the library: for example, a CD, video or tape.
  • Write a supporting document that explains what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and what research you did to bring it into being. Your paper should show how you’ve used the knowledge and skills you’ve learned in your three areas of emphasis, and should be formatted appropriately to your disciplines, including a complete bibliography citing your sources. (APA, MLA, or Chicago style sheet, depending on your disciplines).

What will I learn by doing the capstone?

You will develop academic skills through the content of your of capstone and leadership skills through the capstone process. Both sets of skills are important components of your capstone experience and will strengthen you in terms of employment and further study:

You will learn the following academic skills:

  • Application and synthesis of knowledge in your three areas.
  • Ability to research, evaluate, write and speak about your knowledge and conclusions.
You will learn the following leadership skills:
  • Proactive and professional behavior.
  • Organization of time, materials and people.

What steps do I need to take to successfully complete the capstone?

For a more detailed answer to this question, take a look at the BIS Guide and Success Strategies for the B.I.S. Capstone. Here’s a summary of what you’ll find in that document:

  • Take BIS 3800 two semesters before you plan to graduate.
  • Register for BIS 4800.
  • Put together your Capstone Committee.
  • Write a prospectus.
  • Hold a prospectus meeting.
  • Work on your capstone project: send your committee drafts on a regular basis so they have the time and opportunity to give you feedback.
  • Call an oral defense meeting, making sure each member of your committee has at least two weeks to read the final draft of your project before holding the oral defense.

How will my capstone be graded?

You will be awarded a final grade at your oral defense. It’s therefore very important that you give your committee a final version of your capstone at least a week before your oral defense. Your committee can’t give you a grade if they haven’t had an opportunity to read your work. You pass if you earn a “C” or above. Credit/no credit or audit are not options. Your committee will award your grade based on these guidelines:

  • Your hard copy, final product: 70 percent
  • Your professional and leadership skills through the process: 20 percent
  • Your presentation and responses at the oral defense: 10 percent

The grade for your final, written capstone will be based on the following criteria:

  • A/A - no or few suggestions for improvement; overall, you show an excellent ability to: discuss the project problem; demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical support for the project; use a sound and well-developed methodology for the project; provide relevant results/data; draw conclusions that are data-based and supported by theory; demonstrate strong writing and speaking skills; and write a correctly formatted paper with appropriate bibliographic documentation.
  • B+/B/B - more than a few suggestions for improvement; overall, you show above average ability, with some exceptions, to: discuss the project problem; demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical support for the project; use a sound and well-developed methodology for the project; provide relevant results/data; draw conclusions which are data-based and supported by theory; demonstrate above average writing and speaking skills; and write a mostly correctly formatted paper with appropriate bibliographic documentation.
  • C+/C/C - multiple suggestions for improvement; overall, you show an average ability to: discuss the project problem; demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical support for the project; use a sound and well-developed methodology for the project; provide relevant results/data; draw conclusions that are data-based and supported by theory; demonstrate average writing and speaking skills; and write a reasonably correctly formatted paper with appropriate bibliographic documentation.

What else do I need to know and do to make the capstone process work smoothly?

  • Stay in close touch with your committee members. Send them drafts on a regular basis, e-mail or visit during office hours to update your faculty on the progress you’re making.
  • Make sure your committee members have at least two weeks to read your final capstone paper and approve it, before they come to your oral defense.
  • Begin the oral defense scheduling process early: a month ahead of the time you want to hold the meeting. Make sure your committee has at least a week to read your work before the oral defense meeting.
  • Keep a working binder that documents each step of the capstone process, committee comments, reference articles, draft copies and ultimately, the final capstone product.
  • Take a look at the completed BIS capstone theses in the Special Collections section of the Stewart Library. Your capstone will be catalogued in the Stewart Library Archives when you’re done, so present your work in a professional way.
  • Read Success Strategies for the B.I.S. Capstone for detailed information, step by step, through the capstone process.

(Revised June 2013)


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