Every MALS student is required to complete a capstone study as the final project in the program. In most cases, the capstone project will be an interdisciplinary study of approximately 25-35 pages in length that demonstrates graduate level research and writing skills. The topic should be selected in consultation with a faculty advisor.
Creative, artistic, or other non-traditional capstone projects are possible, though they must be accompanied by a 10-15 page discussion of the conception, context, and meaning of the project. Students interested in this option should discuss it with the program director.
Steps for Completing a Capstone Project
Ideally, you should begin to think about your Capstone Project at least two semesters before graduation. This will give you ample time to think about a topic, find an advisor, complete the full capstone proposal, write a draft of your capstone, and make revisions as needed. Your advisor and the MALS program will not accept an unrevised capstone that still needs more work simply because you ran out of time. Please keep in mind that it is extremely difficult to complete all the necessary components of the Capstone Project if you begin it from scratch in your last semester. You will only need to register for Capstone Research (56:606:689) once, even if you take more than one semester to complete your capstone.
Step 1: Choosing a Topic and an Advisor
Think about a general topic you would like to explore. The MALS program has exposed you to a variety of disciplines and subjects. You may want to use more than one perspective or discipline to explore a particular topic. For example, if you want to do a capstone project related to immigration issues, you might want to combine both history and sociology, or history and political science. Depending on how you want to analyze a particular topic will determine who will be the most appropriate faculty advisor for your capstone. Your advisor should be someone with expertise in the specific discipline or field you will be exploring.
Generally, it is worth considering as potential advisors one of the professors with whom you have already had a class, so that you have a sense of the his/her interests, style, and personality. However, don’t ask a professor to be your advisor simply because you like that professor. If your topic is not in the area in which a professor has scholarly expertise, it will be hard for your advisor to provide you with the most useful advice. In many cases, MALS students work on projects that their previous instructors are not really familiar with. In those cases, it is best to look for an adviser elsewhere in the Rutgers system. Any Rutgers faculty member at any campus can be your adviser. They are not required to, so it will be your job to convince a faculty member that you know what your are doing and will not be a big burden to advise. If you have trouble finding an adviser, please consult the program director for help.
When you have settled on a general topic and found an advisor, write a 300-400 word description of the topic you will explore. Describe the disciplines that will be involved and some of the questions you capstone project will try to answer. Find at least 5 good sources that show you have explored the topic and narrowed downs your focus. After you have written your topic description and found some sources, complete the “Topic and Advisor Selection Form.” Once you have submitted this form, you will receive a Special Permission number to register for Capstone Research.
Step 2: Enroll in the Capstone Tutorial and Complete a Full Capstone Proposal
The Capstone Tutorial is a non-credit online course that will guide you through the process of preparing your capstone. It will also include discussion forums where you can discuss any issues that arise in research and writing your capstone with other MALS students and with the MALS writing assistant. To enroll in the Capstone Tutorial simply send an email request to the program director or the MALS writing assistant. For students who plan to graduate in May, it is recommended that you begin the Capstone Tutorial in the fall semester.
At the end of the first half of the Capstone Tutorial, you will prepare a “Capstone Proposal.” It will include a tentative thesis statement, a detailed outline of the argument you plan to make and an annotated bibliography. This Capstone Proposal must be reviewed and approved by the MALS writing assistant, your advisor, and the program director before you begin writing your first draft of the capstone project.
Step 3: Continue with the second half of the Capstone Tutorial and write the first draft of your Capstone project
As soon as you submit your Capstone Proposal, you may begin the second half of the Capstone Tutorial, which will review the process of academic writing and building scholarly arguments. Your advisor and the MALS writing assistant may have suggestions for you based on your Capstone Proposal.
Deadline for first draft: March 30 for May graduation (October 30 for January graduation, July 30 for October graduation). The draft should be as complete as possible. Your adviser will make recommendations for necessary revisions.
Step 4: Revise and Edit the Capstone project
A capstone project will usually require several drafts in response to your adviser’s suggestions. Ideally, most of the research for your capstone project should be finished before the semester in which you wish to complete the writing component of your study. Students also find that it is easier to complete capstone projects if they are not still taking other classes in that final semester.
It is your responsibility to meet regularly with your faculty adviser for guidance in accumulating your bibliography, developing your outline, and writing and revising drafts of your project.
Deadline for Final draft: April 30 for May graduation (December 15 for January graduation, September 1 for October graduation).
Failure to complete drafts by these deadlines means that your graduation may be delayed. It is not the faculty adviser’s responsibility to expedite capstone studies that are turned in late. Remember the end of the semester is a busy time for faculty members and they cannot drop everything to read your capstone. Your adviser may ask for additional revisions or changes.
Step 5: Submission of Final Copy of the Capstone project
A final copy of your capstone project with all corrections and revisions completed is due the end of the first week of May (the end of the first week of September for October graduation, and the end of the third week of December for January graduation). Submit one clean copy of the title page of your Capstone project with an original signature from your advisor.
Follow instructions on the graduate school graduation webpage on uploading your finished capstone to the Rutgers library.
Instructions about the proper style for your finished capstone and other graduation matters may be found on the graduation pages.
No student may undertake an Independent Research course until she/he has completed 18 credits of coursework. No more than two Independent research courses 606:689 and 606:690 may be counted toward the degree requirements