What should I know about the capstone project?

All students whose Program of Study requires 18 hours in literature will need to complete a Capstone Project, unless they have opted to write a thesis.

Capstone projects offer students an opportunity to demonstrate the analytic and research skills learned in their MA courses, as well as a disciplinary awareness achieved through their study in English. Through capstone projects students perform advanced disciplinary research and mature academic writing, contributing their own knowledge to, and argument concerning, an interpretive, pedagogical, or theoretical problem.

The English Department’s Capstone Project offers you the opportunity to revise and polish a substantial piece of writing completed at some point during your program. Select from among the seminar papers or essays you have written and determine the appropriate venue for that project were you to follow through with it at the next stage of a professional career—would it be best as a journal article? What journal and at what level (graduate student or professional)? A conference presentation or keynote address? A writing sample for a Ph.D. program? Part of a portfolio submitted in pursuit of a job? Identifying and meeting the needs of a specific audience is a critical task we trust your M.A. in English will prepare you to perform, but you may certainly consult with your potential supervisor for additional guidance. The project doesn’t have to have been written for a literature course; any substantive project for any course may serve as the basis for the Capstone Project. 

Capstone Project Procedures and Deadlines

Students will be required to consult with a committee of two faculty members, composed of the faculty member (supervisor) for whom the previous seminar paper was completed and a second reader assigned by the English Department. Students must have established a supervisor no later than the end of the semester prior to their completing the non-thesis capstone project. (Because of the workload involved in supervising such projects, faculty will have a limited number of openings for individual students. Therefore, students should identify more than one option for this capstone project, and be prepared to revise that selection if the preferred faculty member is unavailable. Beginning the process early in the term before you expect to graduate will also make it more likely that you can work with the faculty member you prefer.)

In the preliminary stage of the non-thesis project, students will submit a proposal, subject to committee approval, indicating anticipated global revisions of the original seminar or course paper, and identifying additional bibliographic resources as appropriate. In consultation with their supervisor, students will decide upon a venue/audience for their capstone essay (an academic journal at the professional or graduate student level, a prospective employer, a conference keynote address or call for papers, a PhD program admissions committee, etc.), developing a methodology and format appropriate to that venue/audience.

The proposal itself should include two separate elements (you may certainly use this model as an outline with subheadings for each, with most consisting of a few paragraphs of explanation and an approximate length of 1000 words for the full proposal): I.) An introduction, in which you identify the paper and the target audience for the revision work, along with how your target venue/audience fulfills your personal or professional goals; II.) A statement of purpose, in which you suggest the needs of the new audience and, in light of these needs, explain the specific intellectual work of the revision (shifts of content, length, approach, etc.), including any additional resources (such as bibliography) you have identified as necessary to include. Bear in mind that your proposal has both a specialist and a non-specialist as its target audience, so be clear in detailing what you see the revision as intended to do.

Following committee approval of the proposal, the student will work with the supervising faculty member to accomplish the proposed revisions, meeting at the discretion of the supervisor. It will be up to you to make all appointments with the supervisor, and you should anticipate that much of the work will be undertaken independently—your supervisor will generally not read multiple drafts as you proceed with the revision. A concluding interview will take place between the student and his/her committee upon submission of the completed project, and a grade of Pass, High Pass, or Fail will be assigned.

Each part of the process is to be completed no later than the following dates:

  1. Selection of supervisor: December 1 (for Spring graduation); May 1 (for Fall graduation)
  2. Submission of Non-Thesis Capstone Proposal: January 20 (for Spring graduation); August 20 (for Fall graduation). The proposal will be subject to revision at this point, but should be finalized as an acceptable plan NO LATER THAN two weeks after initial submission (to allow time for the work to be completed).
  3. Submission of completed Non-Thesis Capstone Project: March 20 (for Spring graduation); October 20 (for Fall graduation)
  4. Completion of concluding interview regarding completed Non-Thesis Capstone Project: April 15 (for Spring graduation); November 15 (for Fall graduation)

Any date that falls over a weekend will generally roll to the Monday following. If doing so puts a project into a major university holiday, the project will be due one day earlier than the listed schedule, barring arrangements with the project supervisor.

Note: Since most faculty members are on nine-month contracts and thus not employed by the university during the summer, it is usually not possible to schedule capstone projects between mid-May and mid-August