Step by Step Guide to Completing a Thesis/Capstone Project

Step by Step Guide to Completing a Thesis/Capstone Project

This is a general guide intended to inform a graduate student's progress through a thesis or capstone project at Utica College. The steps, however, may vary slightly depending on the student's academic program and committee chair.

To complete a thesis/capstone project, a student typically follows a series of steps through two phases. The first phase is the planning phase and the second phase is the production phase. The steps are explained in detail below with a flow chart at the end that will provide a visual overview of the entire process. Students should think of the capstone project as at least a one-semester undertaking and the thesis as at least a two-semester undertaking; depending on a number of other factors, it could take longer. Any forms mentioned on this page are also available under the Forms link to the left.

Step 1.

The student may need to register for the research course if applicable, identify a thesis/capstone project topic, and recruit a thesis/capstone project committee chair (in some programs the chair is the instructor of the related course). The committee chair will advise the research committee and student (see Roles of the Student and Committee Members). The committee chair must be a faculty member of Utica College.   
  • The student and the thesis/capstone project committee chair will work together to recruit the other members to be included on the committee. 
  • Once the committee has been established and the general research topic determined, the Graduate Thesis/ Capstone Project Implementation Form must be completed and submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies (one form per student if a group project).

Step 2.

  Once the committee has been formed and the Office of Graduate Studies has received the Implementation Form, the student typically writes a thesis/capstone project proposal or concept paper. The proposal may be as short as a few paragraphs or many pages. If the research involves human subjects, the student may need to obtain approval from the Institution Review Board (IRB), which is done at this step.
  • The proposal typically addresses the issue, problem or question being investigated (what is the problem, why is it important, what is the gap in existing literature); provides a description of the research methodology (what are you going to do and how); and includes a preliminary bibliography or literature review.
  • The proposal must be approved and signed off by the chair of the thesis/capstone project committee and all other members.
  • Once the Implementation form is approved if there are any changes to the committee members or research topic the student will need to submit a Graduate Thesis/Capstone Project Modification Form one form per student, only required if there has been a change in a student's research topic or in committee membership (fillable form - please type)

Step 3.

  Once the proposal has been approved, the student may need to register for the second research course if applicable. If there is no research course for the student's program and all other coursework has been completed, the student must register for Continuous Enrollment (this is done through the Office of the Registrar) and must continue to register for Continuous Enrollment until the thesis/capstone project is completed.
  • While working on the thesis/capstone project research and writing, the student should consult regularly with the thesis/capstone project chair and possibly need to share drafts with all members of the thesis/capstone project committee. No grade will be awarded for thesis/capstone project until the thesis/capstone project has been approved by the committee.
  • Depending on the student's timeline, a Graduate Application for Degree must be submitted by the deadline (see Graduation Deadlines link to the left) during the semester in which the student anticipates graduating.

Step 4.

  Once all edits have been made and the committee has approved all thesis/capstone project work, the Graduate Thesis/Capstone Project Completion Form must be completed. The student must then ensure that the final draft of the thesis/capstone project meets Utica College's formatting requirements (it is recommended that the paper be written from the beginning using the style and formatting requirements) - see the Formatting and Submission Guide. The Completion form (one form per student if a group project) is submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies. The thesis or capstone project should be submitted through ProQuest and the paper must be in accordance with the Formatting and Submission Guide and by the applicable deadline (see Graduation Deadlines link to the left). Student wishing to purchase a personal bound copy to keep, s/he must following the instructions through ProQuest. Please note that a degree cannot be awarded until the successful completion and submission of a thesis/capstone project (or other Culminating Academic Experience) is on file with the Office of Graduate Studies.

For a visual flow chart of step by step guide,

Click Here!


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