Master of Liberal Studies

Developing a Capstone Project

Capstone Planning
You do not need to have a topic in mind when you begin your degree course; one will probably emerge as you take various classes and mull over what you have heard and seen. It is important to remember that this is your chance to pursue a topic of interest. You should feel free to meander wherever your mind wants to take you. As long as it is interdisciplinary and answers a research question rather than merely repeating work that is already done, it is probably a viable project or can develop into one. Some topics will naturally lead to a research thesis, others to a creative project, and sometimes a combination of the two. Discuss your topic with a faculty member with whom you have taken a class or seminar and then talk it over with the MLS Director. We can be sounding boards for your preliminary thoughts. This should be an enjoyable and stimulating experience; enjoy the ride!

Capstone Faculty Advisor
Your capstone faculty advisor should be someone with whom you have worked, either via a course or other significant projects. The faculty advisor should know your interests and skills with regard to proposing and successfully completing a capstone project. You should consult with Dr. Mactavish (MLS Director) before asking a faculty member to be your capstone advisor.

Capstone Committee
The capstone committee must include your faculty advisor (after consulting with Dr. Mactavish), Dr. Mactavish as program director, and two to three other faculty, also after consulting with your capstone advisor and Dr. Mactavish. The faculty should represent a variety of academic areas that are linked to your topic and be full-time, tenure-track faculty at Washburn.

Writing the Capstone Proposal

Proposed Topic
What is your proposed topic? Be as specific as possible. Keep in mind that the MLS is an interdisciplinary degree, and your proposed topic should have a significant interdisciplinary component.

Audience
Who is your intended primary audience for this paper? How could this audience benefit from your research?
Who is your secondary (academic) audience? How will this audience be able to assist you in your research?
Bear in mind that a bound copy of your MLS research paper will be placed in Mabee Library.

Sources
In this section, you will survey the types of sources you will use and where you will gain access to them.

Types of Sources
There are two types of sources, primary and secondary.

1. Primary Sources
Primary sources consist of original materials that can be found in documents, letters, diaries, journals, speeches, and maps. They can also include art or artifacts from a time period being studied. Oral, photographed, and filmed eyewitness accounts of events are counted as primary sources. Field research (questionnaires, surveys, observations, and interviews) that you conduct are also included in this category. What primary sources will you use?

2. Secondary Sources
Secondary sources consist of scholarly materials usually found in libraries: books, journal articles, newspaper articles, government reports, etc. What secondary sources will you use? At the proposal stage, list two or three books (author, title, place of publication, date of publication) that you might use. Include both primary and secondary sources. A fuller bibliography will be expected for the final product.Journal articles can be found through electronic databases. Will you be using electronic databases for your search? Which ones? (Consult a reference librarian for assistance). At this stage, provide three or four examples of promising articles you have located (author, article title, journal, volume, pages). Internet materials, especially government (.gov) and university (.edu) websites, can be good sources for primary or secondary information. Avoid using websites which may offer unreliable or biased information unless those biases are in some way relevant to your project. At this stage, list one useful website (provide URL and date accessed) that might help you in your research.

Libraries
Research often occurs in libraries. What libraries (by name and location) will you use for your primary and/or secondary research? Will you be depending on interlibrary loan for any of your resources? Again, if so, explain. Will your research extend to other places beyond libraries? If so, explain.

Personal Background
What personal background will allow you to complete this project successfully? First, refer to relevant graduate and undergraduate coursework which will allow you to understand material related to your proposed topic. If personal life experiences contribute to your background for this topic, include a discussion of them.

Then explain how you developed (or how you will develop) skills in library research, literary criticism, communications (interviewing, design of questionnaires and surveys, etc.), statistics (graphical methods, probability distributions, sampling distributions, confidence intervals, etc.), internet research, and/or other relevant areas which will allow you to complete the necessary research effectively.

If you have any questions about the completion of your proposal, please consult your faculty capstone advisor or the members of your capstone committee.

Capstone samples
Here are some titles of previous capstone projects and theses—just to give you an idea of the range and the endless intellectual curiosity of our students!
1. Kandis Barker: “Mulvane Art Museum Outreach: Testing Cross-Curriculum Art Resource Guides for Elementary Classrooms “
2. Dave Skinner: “Social Exclusion of People with Developmental Disabilities”
3. Grant Sourk: “Log Chain: A History of a Station on the Trails” 
4. Marlene Taylor: “Mathematics and Science in Gulliver’s Travels”
5. Michelle Wilson Skinner: “Truancy: A Social and Economic Dilemma”

Want to read other students' capstone theses? Mabee library has copies that you can check out.

Capstone Presentation
In consultation with your capstone advisor and Dr. Mactavish, a date for presenting the capstone to the committee should be scheduled through Dr. Mactavish. The date should be a couple of weeks before final grades are due at the end of the semester in order to allow time for any changes that may be recommended by the committee. At least a week before your presentation you must send a copy (via email) of your capstone project paper to the committee members. At the presentation, you will give an overview of your project, why you chose it, how you did it, and the results and implications of your results.

Commencement
At commencement you will receive your diploma and be “hooded” by two faculty members.