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 adviser.   

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

These are the steps to follow in completing your capstone project.

6-12 Months Before Graduation

Find a faculty member who is willing to serve as your adviser. Generally, the best bet is to consider a professor whom you have already had for a class so that you have a sense of the his/her interests, style, and personality. In addition, faculty members are often more willing to advise students whom they already know.  But it is also important that your adviser has academic expertise in the subject you want to research.   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.  If you have trouble finding an adviser, please consult the program director for help.   

There is a required Capstone Tutorial that will guide you through the process of preparing a Capstone proposal and then researching and writing the Capstone itself.  The Capstone Writing Assistant will provide additional support throughout the tutorial.   The Writing Assistant, as well as your adviser, must sign off on your proposal.

Try to begin preliminary reading and thinking about possible topics as early as possible. Prepare a tentative bibliography. It is very difficult to complete the research and writing of a capstone in a single semester.   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.

Final Semester Before Graduation

Submit Capstone Proposal and Register for 56:606:689: Using the form below, inform the director of the Liberal Studies Program during the first two weeks of the semester of your topic and the name of your faculty adviser. In a paragraph or two, describe the topic you intend to explore and the thesis you hope to develop.Include some preliminary bibliography and the signature of the faculty adviser approving your topic. After you do this, you will receive a special permission number to register for the Independent Research course. 

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. Gauge your time carefully so that you are able to meet these deadlines:

  • First draft due 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.  
  • Final draft due April 30 for May graduation (November 30 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. 

Ask your adviser to grade your paper and send a graded copy to the MALS program director; the graded copy is included in your file and your grade submitted.

Registering for Capstone

Register for Capstone Research 56:606:689 in your final semester. If you need more than one semester to complete your Capstone Project, you do not have to register for the course again. Registering for Capstone Research requires a Special Permission number. You will receive one after you submit a Capstone Proposal signed by your adviser. (see form below)

Deadline for Final Copy Submission

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 first week of December for January graduation). Submit one clean copy of your final project to the Graduate Liberal Studies Office, with a title page with original signature from your advisor. Also submit a PDF file of your capstone to the MALS secretary so that your capstone can be added to the website.

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


Please fill this form out and present to your faculty adviser for approval.Return signed form, along with a description of your research and preliminary bibliography (see below), to the Graduate Liberal Studies office. 

Name:___________________________ Date: _________________________

Course Number: 56:606: ____________ Semester and year: ______________

Projected graduation date: ___________________

Name of Faculty Adviser : _______________________________________________________

Signature of Faculty Adviser : ____________________________________________________

Student Agreement:   “I understand that the expectation for capstone projects is that they are subject to at least one set of revisions.   I understand that a complete draft of my capstone project is due to my adviser one month prior to the deadline for submitting my finished capstone.   This will allow my adviser time to read the draft and recommend any necessary changes, and it will allow me time to make revisions before the final deadline (April 30th for May graduation, November 30th for January graduation)  I understand that if I do not submit my capstone drafts with the advance time described, my graduation may be delayed.   It is not my adviser’s responsibility to accept an unrevised capstone submitted after the deadline for the first draft”

Student signature:__________________________________
Date:  ____________________________________________


Proposal for paper/project (1 page)

(Why have you chosen this topic or area to explore, how do different academic disciplines offer different perspectives on your topic, what questions do you hope to answer.  Also please include a preliminary bibliography of at least 5 academic sources)