Academic: You are demonstrating your knowledge and facility in your three different areas. What have you learned through the classes you've taken, and how are you integrating that knowledge in a single, cohesive project?
Professional: Look at the following top 10 qualities employers look for in new graduates:
- Positive attitude toward work
- Proficiency in field of study
- Oral and written communication skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Critical thinking and problem solving ability
(Source: National Association of College Employers)
Choosing your TopicYou'll be living with this topic for a while, so choose a subject you feel passionate about. See the capstone as an opportunity rather than a burden: how can this project act as a stepping stone to the job of your dreams? What research project will look terrific on your resume? Can you find a topic that makes use of not only your academic interests, but also your work experience? Sometimes it helps to formulate your topic as a question to be answered as that will give you focus and direction.
Selecting a Committee
Don't ask department chairs to sit on your committee as they're too busy. Try not to ask adjuncts as they have no obligation to the university beyond teaching. Start early.
Visit your teachers during their office hours, and talk with them about the project: "Here's what I have to do for my BIS degree. Here's what I'm thinking of doing. Are you interested in this topic? Would you be willing to sit on my committee?"
If they're unfamiliar with the BIS program, the BIS office can send them a packet of information. Just let the office know. If they are familiar with the program, offer to provide them with current documents so they clearly understand the current requirements and expectations of your project. Encourage your faculty to make contact with the BIS coordinator if they have any questions or concerns.
Read through the “Capstone Contract” form with each committee member, and return signed copies to the BIS office. The purpose of this form is to make clear to you and to your faculty members who is responsible for what.
Writing the Prospectus
You’re persuading your committee to accept your capstone proposal. This means you will present them with a well-written prospectus that shows you’ve thought through your project.
Because the faculty comes from three different disciplines, it’s vital that they all meet together with you so everyone agrees on your topic, the form of the final product and the bibliographic style sheet you’ll be using (MLA, APA, Chicago). The meeting gives you the opportunity to ask the questions you want answered and seek guidance and input from the experts on your committee as you start this project.
Use the “Prospectus Worksheet” handout as a guide to organizing and writing your prospectus
Scheduling your Prospectus Meeting
Start the process at least a month before you plan to meet with your committee.
It’s vital that all three members of your capstone committee come to your prospectus meeting, not only so that they agree with you, but so they agree with each other, especially as they come from three different disciplines and perspectives. Be patient, pro-active and persistent when setting up this meeting.
Here are some tips:
- Most faculty teach in the morning and attend meetings in the afternoons, so try scheduling a meeting for noon or 1 pm.
- E-mail your committee as a group at least three weeks before you want to meet, and offer them a couple of Monday/Wednesday/Friday options and a couple of Tuesday/Thursday options.
- If you don’t hear from a faculty member after a week, follow up with a phone call or visit that person during office hours.
A week before your meeting, send a copy of your prospectus to each member of your committee so they have time to read it and think about it before they meet with you.
Call or e-mail each committee member they day before your meeting to remind them of the time, day and place.
At the prospectus meeting, make sure your faculty members sign the “Prospectus Meeting” form and write any comments on the project. Return that form to the BIS office for our records. We want to know they attended your meeting.
After the meeting, write personal thank you notes to each committee member. These are all busy people who have given generously of their time and expertise. Acknowledge them.
Working on Your Capstone Thesis
OK, so your committee loved the idea, gave you some suggestions, and sent you on your way. What next?
Don't disappear. Keep your committee in the loop. They don't know what you're doing or how you're getting along unless you stay in touch. Visit them in their office hours, send them drafts and/or e-mail them so you're in their memory bank. Go to them if you want help or advice.Here are some tips to keep yourself going while you're working on your capstone:
- Break your project into smaller units, and then set yourself reasonable deadlines for each.
- Form or join a support group. This class gives you a ready made group of people to work with.
- Do something every day, even if it's only checking a web site or working on your works cited page. A little every day gives you a sense of momentum, and you'd be surprised how much actually gets done this way.
- It's better to write a bad first draft than not to write at all. The key to good writing is revision, so go ahead and write a bad first draft knowing you will then rewrite it several times till it's good.
- If you're feeling overwhelmed, write out everything you know about your topic. You may be surprised by what you already know, and doing the writing will get you going. If you don't have information on a part of your project, leave a gap in your text and move on. Make a list of all the things you need to research. Then when you do that research, you'll know exactly what you're looking for.
- If you get stalled, call or e-mail the BIS coordinator.
The Oral Defense
Don’t schedule an oral defense until everyone on your committee has read your work, given you feedback and you've had a chance to revise. It's not fair to ask your committee to give you a grade on work they haven't seen or approved. They're likely to fail you in that situation.
- Make sure everyone on your committee has a clean and finished hard copy of your capstone project at least a week before your oral defense so they have time to read it.
- Read the section on scheduling your prospectus meeting above for tips about scheduling your oral defense. Please note that the BIS coordinator must attend your capstone defense meeting, so please contact the BIS office to find times that available before trying to schedule the defense with your three committee members.
- Use the Oral Defense Form as a template for your front page, rewriting it with your information, and bringing it to your meeting. This signed form allows us to post the grade your committee assigns you. Use the library form as a template to give the appropriate information about your project so it can be easily cataloged. Make this information sheet the first page of the hard bound copy you give to the BIS coordinator to submit to the library.
- Come prepared for a formal, professional presentation. Dress as if you were being interviewed (you are!) and prepare a 10-minute talk. You can impress your committee by doing a Power Point presentation or a slide show, but at the very least, have some remarks prepared. Don’t summarize what the committee has already read in your final version. Here are some questions to prompt you as you prepare your oral presentation:
- What skills and knowledge did you use from your three areas to complete this project?
- If you were to continue with this project, what else would you do?
- How has this project prepared you for life after graduation?
- Anticipate questions they might ask you about your project.
After the oral defense, send each committee member a personal thank you note. They have invested a lot of time and work in you; acknowledge them.
Give the BIS office a clean copy of your capstone, in a hard binding and with the catalog information sheet. I will submit it to the Library.
Give me, the BIS coordinator, the signed and graded Oral Defense Form so we can post your grade.
Make sure you complete the Graduation Dean’s Sign-off form with the BIS coordinator in your last semester so you’re cleared for graduation.
Complete a completed Exiting Student Survey form.
Revised 04-30-08 KS