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 the MALS Writing Mentor and 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 MALS 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.  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.

Two Semesters before Graduation

Step 1:  Enroll in the Capstone Tutorial and Complete a 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 important that you begin the Capstone Tutorial in the fall semester.

After reviewing the first two modules of the Capstone Tutorial, you should be ready to prepare your “Capstone Proposal.”  

Step 2:  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.  The MALS program director will help you find an appropriate capstone adviser.     

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, just because you like a particular professor does not mean that they are appropriate for your particular capstone project.   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.  Once you have a clear idea of the general topic of your capstone project, please consult the program director for help selecting an adviser.   

When you have settled on a general topic and have discussed it with a potential 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, found some sources, and prepare an annotated bibliography, upload your proposal to the Capstone Tutorial and 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.   

To submit your Topic and Adviser Selection Form, you will need:

Description of the topic you will explore (300-400 words)
Annotated Works Cited with 5 good sources (brief descriptions of each source and its applicability to the topic)


        For MAY graduations, the form must be submitted by November 15 of the previous fall semester.
        For OCTOBER graduations, the form must be submitted by April 15 of the previous spring semester.
        For JANUARY graduations, the form must be submitted by July 15


One Semester before Graduation

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. 


        For MAY graduations, the fIrst draft must be submitted by April 1.
        For OCTOBER graduations, the first draft must be submitted by July 1
        For JANUARY graduations, the first draft must be submitted by November 15.

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.  That will allow you to focus on writing and revision during your last 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. 


        For MAY graduations, the final draft must be submitted by May 1.
        For OCTOBER graduations, the final draft must be submitted by Sept 1.
        For JANUARY graduations, the final draft must be submitted by January 2.

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 by the deadline for submitting an application for a degree indicated on the Graduate School’s page of graduation instructions.  Follow instructions 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 instruction page.