Guidelines for the Capstone Paper
The Capstone Paper is designed to be a culminating experience “that requires a student to synthesize and integrate knowledge acquired in coursework and other learning experiences and to apply theory and principles in a situation that approximates some aspect of practice.” The MHSM program at Texas Woman’s University takes this experience beyond approximation and requires actual application of theory and principles to practice. The Capstone paper is an opportunity for the student to demonstrate how this has been accomplished with an applied, action-oriented research project that is professionally described in writing.
“Action is with the scholar subordinate, but it is essential. Without it he is not yet man. Without it thought can never ripen into truth.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thoughtful writing about action and discovered truth allows both to be shared with other professionals.
While the Capstone paper is not a thesis, academic rigor is required and students are strongly encouraged to submit their professional papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals.
The paper may be based on work done in TWU core courses, electives, an independent study, or the student’s field experience.
A standard of publishable quality is expected. A Capstone paper project is a critical investigation of a well-defined health management issue or problem and involves original analysis. The range of topics that can be addressed is large and reflects the diversity of the field of health management.
It is a scholarly manuscript, written in a professional form for a professional audience. It develops a persuasive argument about an important healthcare management issue. It may or may not include the collection of original data but it should be based on an action-oriented project or applied research.
A Capstone paper requires more detail and extensive analysis of an issue or problem than expected in a term paper. It is not merely a literature review, needs assessment, or a chronology of work in the field. The form and style of the paper will vary depending on the type of project chosen.
Types of Capstone paper. It may take one of the following forms:
- A proposal for a new community health or environmental health intervention
- Description and analysis of an emerging healthcare management issue
- Description and analysis of a significant problem for health management practice
- The development of a new service, business or health program
- An evaluation of an existing healthcare program
- Effectiveness/outcomes research
- The creation of a strategic plan for a healthcare agency
- A case study of the administration of a health program or agency
- A similar project suggested by the student.
The specific format for type of paper chosen should be negotiated with the instructor.
Length of the paper. The length of the manuscript is related to the scope of the topic or research problem, normally in the range 30 to 40 pages (double spaced). Papers written for submission to professional journals are expected to be shorter, 20 to 25 pages. Since this is a capstone experience, all papers, including those written as a journal article will include a discussion of the implications of the study, recommendations for healthcare management, and a summary of how concepts and skills learned in the graduate curriculum have informed the study and the student’s experience as a healthcare manager. These sections are expected to add another 4 pages to the total length of the paper. If the paper is written for submission to a journal, these sections will be included as addenda.
Choosing the topic. The choice of topic must be one that the student is extremely interested in.
It may be a curiosity or passion that the student brought to the program or one provoked or elicited in coursework. It must, however, be feasible to address in the Capstone paper in one semesters. It must, of course be interesting to both the student and either the topic or the way the student addresses it should be novel. The method for examining the topic must be ethical. Last, but not least, the topic must be relevant to healthcare management – something that can be applied and lead to or inform action to improve the health of the public. The acronym, FINER, standing for the italicized words above, can guide selection of topic.
Proposal. The proposal for the paper should contain:
- Title Page including: Title, Student’s Name, course, instructor
- Introduction – a one paragraph introduction to the problem, a claim of importance of the issue, what the paper will address, and which type of paper (as per the list above)
- Principal aims of the inquiry or project
- Project goals, research questions, and/or hypotheses
- Background and rationale for the research, inquiry, project, program evaluation plan, or proposed community intervention
- What is known about the issue? (This is the literature review.) You must write a narrative about the information in the literature, not just a list of articles. Read each article and tell how the information forms a background of knowledge about your subject. Look at a journal article to see how an abbreviated version of this reads.
- What important questions or issues are not addressed by existing
information? See if a very recent article states this.
- Significance for health management practice, i.e. how will your work be useful?
- Conceptual scheme. Every paper must have a theory, model, or conceptual
framework on which it is based.
- What method(s) is (are) to be used?
- Data collection (as appropriate)
- Analytic approach – This will vary according to the type of paper.
For a research paper, you would address the following questions. What will be
explored, described, or explained? How are the variables conceptualized,
operationalized, and measured? What is the unit of analysis? From what
population will the subjects or cases be taken? How will subjects or cases be
identified? What sample size and why? What sampling scheme, if any, will be
employed? What are the hypotheses, if any, to be investigated? How will they be
tested? What statistical techniques will be employed? What elements of data are
to be collected? (Include abstraction forms and code sheets as appendices, as
necessary.) What are the expected results? The latter can be described by mock
tables or figures.
- A clear statement of the student’s role in the project
- References This will be in APA format, and include all the journal articles you cited in the paper.
- Appendices (e.g., consent form, questionnaires, previous publications)
The length of the proposal, though related to the scope of the proposed topic, usually ranges from 5 to 10 pages, depending on the length of the literature review and appendices. The proposal must be typed with double-spaced text lines. Pages must be numbered and the proposal should not be bound.
Parts of the Capstone Paper. The major parts of the professional paper are standard and generally consistent with those required by Graduate Programs that require a Professional paper. In the text for the body of the paper, however, form may vary depending on the type of investigation the student has chosen.
Abstract (see form below*)
Table of Contents
List of Tables (as appropriate)
List of Figures (as appropriate)
List of Symbols or Abbreviations (as appropriate)
Text (see form below*)
Appendices (as appropriate)
Style of the Paper. The manuscript shall be typed and organized in a style that is in accordance with guidelines of an appropriate peer reviewed journal. Instructions for authors are found on the website of the various journals. The student must specify which journal guidelines will be followed in the Proposal.
Use 1 inch margins all around, double spacing, 12 point font, and place page numbers lower right. Use headings and subheadings consistent with your outline and table of contents
Abstract. The paper should have a structured abstract with four headings:
Principal Aims (or Objectives), Methods, Results, Conclusions and Implications for
Practice. The abstract must be limited to 250 words.
Text form. Though form will vary by type of paper, the following is a common format.
- Introduction of the problem statement, significance of the project, and principal aims. Clearly state what the paper is about.
- Background and literature review. A brief history of the problem and knowledge may be appropriate but be sure to include the most recent, significant knowledge and identify gaps in knowledge addressed by your work.
- Conceptual framework (required) and hypotheses (if any)
- Process, procedures, or methods
- Findings, results
- Implications for practice
- Summary of concepts and skills learned in the curriculum that informed the study, how they have been enhanced or augmented by the student’s experience, and their expected value to him/her as a public health practitioner (as addenda if written as journal article.
Useful resources. The following resources are suggested.
o In addition to the style guides identified above,(1, 2) you should find the
following to be useful.
o William Strunk and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. Fourth Edition.
o EndNote. A bibliographic citation manager. http://www.endnote.com/eninfo.asp
o RefWorks. A bibliographic citation manager