MPH Program in Health Services
Health Policy Capstone Project Handbook
The 2 year health policy capstone project is a major undertaking. It should be viewed as
an opportunity for students 1) to work with a community setting or health-related agency
of their choice, 2) to immerse themselves in solving a public policy problem, 3) to
develop, expand and hone their analytic skills, and 4) to gain specialized, sophisticated
experience in an area of particular interest. It is an individualized experience, a
supervised component of the MPH curriculum that students can customize to meet their
own learning and experiential goals.
Students can begin thinking about possible capstone projects at any time, but should plan
to have a fairly well-formulated idea by the beginning of autumn quarter of the second
year. Capstone projects can be crafted from a large range of venues. A minimum of 9
credit hours are required to conduct the project from conception and planning stages to
the final oral and written presentations.
Students work closely with a capstone supervisory committee of two faculty members,
at least one of whom (the chair) must be a member of the graduate academic faculty.
Ideally, at least one will be a Health Services faculty member affiliated with the health
policy track or concentration. The composition of the capstone committee must be
approved by the MPH Director during the first quarter of the capstone. The committee
will assist in planning the project, monitoring progress, reviewing project-related
documents and products, and participating in project evaluation and grading.
The capstone project places an emphasis on critical thinking, stakeholder analysis, and
effective communication. Broadly, it meets:
Experiential Goals: To contribute to solving a community health problem in a
meaningful, effective, and culturally sensitive fashion; specifically,
To work to solve a public policy problem.
To find and apply evidence-based solutions to a defined policy problem.
To work productively with other people and to develop successful partnerships
To explore problem-solving methods in the contexts of specific policy issues.
To understand the organizational, political, economic, and social contexts that can
promote or constrain public policy interventions.
Academic Goals: Both the health policy class work and the capstone project are
structured to assure that students achieve core public health competencies in such skill
areas as assessment, communication, policy development, and cultural awareness.
General academic goals for the capstone project are:
To develop advanced public health assessment and problem-solving skills.
To develop comprehensive knowledge in an area or areas of special interest.
To evaluate the successes and weaknesses of the project through either formal
evaluation and analysis or reflection.
To hone communication skills and use them to summarize findings in
professional-quality written and oral presentations.
The capstone project is an individualized opportunity to apply and
extend the health policy skills learned in other settings, develop new
skills, expand professional networks, and gain specialized knowledge
that can be used to advance the student’s career and effectiveness in
health policy. Indeed, the experience, contacts, skills, and work products
of the capstone project can be viewed as important components of each
student’s “portfolio” and as major assets in the student’s resume.
What is a Capstone Project?
The capstone project is a year-long activity. Many students will work with a community
organization or public health or health policy agency, but it is not required. You will
work to a) identify and contribute to the solution of a public health problem, and b)
summarize, present, and evaluate this effort. Your criteria for choosing a capstone project
are that it should:
1. Address a need and/or have direct, practical value to a community organization,
a public health agency, or other health policy entity.
2. Involve an identifiable activity (or set of activities) with a clear endpoint and
produce a specific product that can be described in detail and evaluated formally
or through reflection. It is not sufficient to have an “experience”—that is, help
with, work in, observe, or staff a public health project. The capstone project must
result in a product that the student can point to as her/his own. Examples of
An implementation plan for a public health program
An evaluation (report)
A needs assessment (report)
A policy analysis
3. Provide an opportunity to apply and extend specific public health skills,
knowledge, and experience in an area of special interest to the student.
4. Be relevant to improving the health of a community, advancing social justice,
eliminating health disparities, or improving public health practice or policy.
5. Be evidence-based. It is NOT sufficient just to DO something for the capstone
project. You must build on—or place in the context of—what is known (i.e.,
“evidence”). It is poor practice to a) be unaware of the theory underpinning an
intervention, b) “re-invent the wheel,” c) fail to apply the experiences of others in
developing an intervention, or d) use methods and interventions that have been
shown to be ineffectual. Therefore, project activities must be planned and based
on the published literature and ad hoc research (e.g., talking to experienced public
health professionals) that can inform you about relevant theory, experience, and
6. Include an evaluation or self-evaluation component (described below).
7. Be summarized in a written report and orally in a rigorous, thoughtful, and
Process and Timeline
The capstone project consists of four phases: 1) Planning, 2) Doing, 3) Evaluating and
Reflecting, and 4) Summarizing and Presenting.
Planning the Project
You need to identify a project that meets your expectations, the program’s expectations,
and is do-able. This is a process that can take weeks or months. It is good to start early,
ideally in your first year. First, become clear about what kinds of projects, populations, or
problems are of interest to you.
Are you interested in certain population groups, e.g., immigrants?
Are you interested in a specific problem area, e.g., reproductive health?
Do you want to work with a specific organization or type of organization (e.g., a
rural health department)?
Do you want experience in a specific public policy challenge, e.g., developing a
media campaign, conducting a program evaluation, or performing epidemiologic
Then, aggressively search for opportunities in your areas of interest. Use all of your
resources to identify individuals, agencies, and opportunities related to your interests:
personal contacts (faculty, colleagues, etc.), the web, print resources. Be active. Ask
around. Call people. Arrange to meet with people to let them know your interests and
your needs (i.e., doing a 2nd year project), and also your skills and ability to help. Often,
a person with whom you meet will give you names of others to contact. Follow up on
these leads. Do not be shy. If you cannot arrange a meeting, try to talk on the phone, or
worst of all, via email. Be energetic and persistent in seeking out as many potential
projects as possible.
At some point, you must decide which of the potential projects you wish to pursue. This
is truly one of the hardest parts of the process for many of us. Usually, there is no perfect
choice and no obvious front-runner. But waiting for the perfect project can be disastrous.
Many months later, you could be starting a project that should have been well underway.
So please avail yourself of your advisers or other faculty if you find yourself stymied.
While you are selecting your capstone project, you should also be identifying a faculty
member to be your primary adviser (chair) for its supervisory committee. This person
should be someone with whom you feel comfortable and who has expertise in the area
where you’ll be working. Although we prefer that you select a primary adviser from the
Health Services policy faculty, you can choose someone else, provided that they are on
the UW graduate faculty, have a faculty appointment in the School of Public Health
(preferably in Health Services), and are willing to supervise the project.
In your second year, your primary project adviser is normally your program (academic)
adviser as well. This faculty person can help you select a second UW faculty adviser
to be the second member of your capstone project supervisory committee. The
second faculty adviser can be from almost any department or school at the UW.
Remaining questions on supervisory committee formation can be directed to
When you have chosen your project, you must prepare and submit a 4-5 page proposal
(see Appendix A), describing:
what you plan to do
why it is of importance
where and with whom you will be doing it
how you plan to go about doing it
what you hope to get out of the experience
At this stage, we are not expecting a comprehensive background analysis, literature
search, or detailed work plan, but those are important to prepare as soon into the project
as possible. The work plan helps you and your advisers to plan and track your activities
and is good practice in orienting yourself to both the local context of your project and the
relevant scientific evidence base (both theory and experience) for what you plan to do.
Appendix E contains a form that you might find useful to organize your background
research about the community, organization, or agency involved in your work. A
synthesis of your background research will be part of your final written report and is
described in more detail in Appendix B.
One copy of your proposal should be given to the faculty advisers you have selected and
one copy should be submitted to the MPH program office for general review. (Email it to
email@example.com). Once the proposal has been approved, a signed copy should be
submitted to the MPH program office.
An University of Washington Human Subjects application must be submitted for many
projects. Your faculty advisers should be able to tell you whether a Human Subjects
application is necessary for yours. If it is needed, the Human Subjects Review (IRB)
process must be completed before any actual research is undertaken. Because this process
is often lengthy, it is imperative that you determine very early in the planning process if a
Human Subjects application is needed.
Conducting the Project
This phase involves the actual conduct of your project. The details will vary; these may
involve political action, data analysis, evaluation, program planning, program
implementation—it depends on the purpose of your particular project. As a general guide,
the work involved should amount to about 180-240 hours, or 9-12 hours per week during
Autumn and Winter quarters, i.e., 3 credits per quarter (HSERV 599). You will also
register for 3 credits in Spring quarter to work on the Evaluation and Presentation
components. This represents simply the program’s minimal requirement. You may spend
more time on this project. During this time, you should meet with your faculty adviser at
least twice per quarter. It is important that the whole committee (faculty adviser, second
faculty member, and student) meet together at least once a quarter, and more if helpful or
needed. If you are doing an international project, you will likely need to complete all of
your fieldwork in the summer between your first and second years. (If completing your
fieldwork in the summer, there is usually no need to register and pay tuition to be eligible
to work on the project; you may register for these credits in the ensuing academic year.)
Evaluation and Reflection
Nothing that we do is perfect and we can all learn from our mistakes as well as our
successes. Therefore, a critical aspect of the capstone project is a thoughtful evaluation.
Some projects may involve a structured, formal evaluation, which will help provide
information on the success of the project. In addition, we expect each student to reflect
and comment on the experience, answering the questions below. It may be helpful to
keep a journal or log to record and monitor your progress, difficulties, victories, and
What worked and what did not?
What would you do differently if you could do it over?
Did you meet your individual learning objectives?
What was most (and possibly least) valuable about the experience?
What did you learn about yourself from the project?
Summarizing and Presenting the Project
Although the capstone project should be an activity (informed by scholarly background
research), an essential part of the process is to summarize (in written, oral, and poster
media) what you accomplished. The development of good communication and
presentation skills are important aspects of your training. Therefore, the faculty place
great importance on the summarization and presentation of your capstone project.
The program will ask for three, and possibly four, summaries from you.
1. Written report: A formal, professional, detailed, and comprehensive written report on
what you did and what you learned. Generally, this report will be between 20 and 40
pages. A complete first draft of the report should be submitted to the supervisory
committee five weeks before the end of the quarter in which the student plans to
graduate (generally Spring Quarter). If agreeable with the members of the committee, you
may submit drafts of sections of the report individually. The final report is due one
week before the end of that quarter. (An outline for the report is given in Appendix B.)
2. Agency presentation: If you worked with an agency, a summary/presentation of your
project for—and to—the agency in which you worked. The format of this presentation
should be determined in discussions with your on-site colleagues. It is possible that a
summary of the report above or the program presentation (described below) will be
satisfactory. But the agency may instead want a more focused, or perhaps more
community-oriented report, such as a presentation at a staff meeting, town meeting,
hearing, etc. In any case, this needs to be negotiated early in the project.
3. Oral presentation: During Spring Quarter, students will be asked to give an oral
presentation of their capstone project, usually during the MPH seminar. Each student will
have about 13 minutes (10 minutes for the presentation and 3 minutes for questions) for a
formal presentation. All first- and second-year students, as well as faculty and invited
guests (including on-site mentors) may attend. An outline for the presentation is found in
4. Poster presentation: Students are encouraged to produce poster presentations of their
projects. These posters can be displayed at the time of the oral presentations/ Details and
instructions on how to produce a poster presentation can be found at:
There are many guides available—at the UW, on the Web, or in books—to assist you in
developing a poster, e.g., Kelliher GJ, Sachdeva, AK. How to present a scientific poster.
J of Cancer Ed. 1996; 11(1):11-16.
Forms and Documents
To keep busy-work to a minimum -- and yet to provide a system for accountability,
tracking, and feedback -- we want the following documents from you:
Document/ Purpose When Due Submitted to Description found in
Project To summarize the By the fifth Faculty adviser and Appendix A
proposal proposed project; to week of MPH program office
enable faculty to Autumn
evaluate the project’s Quarter in
feasibility and the 2nd year
adequacy, and to make
enhancing its quality.
Human To assure, when Three Human Subjects http://depts.washington.edu/
Subjects necessary, that Human months Office (need signature hserv/human-subjects
(IRB) Subjects protections before you of primary faculty
application are not infringed by the need to adviser)
work undertaken in the contact
project subjects or
Project To give an accounting By the end of Three copies: faculty Appendix B
written of the goals, the 9th week adviser, faculty
product background, methods, of Spring member, MPH
accomplishments, and Quarter program office (final
implications of the version)
project; to provide a
vehicle for evaluation
and reflection on the
project’s strengths and
Project To share the goals, Generally, Faculty, classmates, Appendix C
presentation background, methods, during last invited guests
accomplishments, and week of
implications of the Spring
project in oral and Quarter
Project To provide a Last week of Faculty committee Appendix D
evaluation mechanism for the Spring members, MPH
form student and faculty Quarter program office
committee members to
feedback to one
Community/ To organize At the onset, For student’s own use Appendix E
organization background or before the
background information about the project
outline community and/or begins
agency in which your
capstone project is
Below is a suggested timeline for your capstone project activities. You are encouraged to
begin early. There is a range of months for each of these activities, but they should
precede more or less in sequence (e.g., you submit your proposal before you start the
project itself). The black cells represent important targets or deadlines. A complete draft
of the final report must be submitted to both faculty committee members at least five
weeks before the last week of the quarter in which you plan to graduate.
Year 1 Summer Year 2
S O N D J F M A M J J A S O N D J F M A M
Think about what to do
for your project
Find a faculty adviser
Select a project/site
Prepare reports and
Submit draft of report
Evaluation and Feedback
A formal monitoring system to ensure satisfactory progress will be based on continuing
dialogue between the faculty committee members and the student. The faculty guide the
student throughout the project, and they evaluate the quality of the final product.
Informal meetings among the student and faculty should occur at least twice a quarter to
discuss progress and problems and to get informal feedback. The student may choose to
meet with faculty committee members separately, depending on topics, needs, and
logistical considerations. But at least one in-person meeting per quarter between the
advisers and the student is usually expected. The two faculty should talk at least twice
per quarter to assure consonant expectations and perspectives, or at least to clarify these.
At the end of the Spring Quarter—during either the last week of the quarter or exam
week—all three parties (student, faculty chair, and second faculty member) should
complete a Capstone Evaluation Form (Appendix D) that will be shared with the others,
with a copy going to the program files.
You will be evaluated on:
the quality of your project
the quality of your background research
the professionalism with which you conducted your project
the quality (in terms of both content and presentation) of your final written report
(Appendix B) and the final oral presentation (Appendix C)
the degree to which you met your individual learning objectives
A measure of project quality relates to the clarity of thought process, beginning with the
statement of the question or problem, through the final statement of conclusions or
recommendations. An additional measure of the quality of a project may also be how
effectively it contributes to carrying out the goals and objectives of the agency where the
project was done. For example, an evaluation of a program activity could result in either
confirmation of how the program is being carried out or point toward a set of
recommendations that could significantly influence future program direction. Or a project
involving the use of descriptive information and statistical evidence could provide an
analysis on which to base significant public policy determinations. In both instances, the
project could contribute significantly to the agency's mission and be appropriate as a
scholarly effort to be presented in the format of a professional and/or scientific journal.
The grade for the Capstone Project will be determined jointly by the capstone supervisory
committee and the on-site supervisor if applicable. The Capstone Project must be of
sufficient quality to earn a grade of 3.0 to fulfill the program’s minimal requirements for
Responsibilities for Students, Faculty Advisers, and On-site
Below we list the responsibilities of the student, faculty committee members, and on-site
mentors if the capstone will be conducted in an organization.
Initiate the capstone project by researching topics, prospective sites, making
community, organization, or agency contacts. Present options to their faculty
Familiarize themselves with characteristics of the sites by contacting staff and
identifying potential mentors if working at a site.
Develop meeting schedules for the duration of the capstone project with their
faculty advisers. (Students are also encouraged to seek assistance from other
faculty members who can offer expertise and guidance.)
Perform all of the tasks outlined in their project proposal and work plan,
completing all forms, and producing all deliverables on schedule, including:
o Project Proposal
o Work Plan
o Progress Reports
o Draft Final Reports
o Final Report
o Oral Presentation
o Agency/Stakeholder Presentation
Formally evaluate the quality of their capstone project experience and make
recommendations for improving it.
Work with students to help choose their capstone project topics and sites.
Advise students to assure that their projects have reasonable and appropriate aims
and are both rigorous and feasible.
Work with students (and on-site mentors, if applicable) to develop a schedule of
regular meetings to monitor progress, problem-solve, and provide advice on
background development, literature search, methods, and presentations.
Assist students in preparing, if necessary, Human Subjects applications.
Have principal responsibility for project oversight, ensuring scientific quality, and
integrating project tasks with academic work, learning objectives, and students’
Review and critique all project deliverables, including proposals, work plans,
progress reports, drafts, and final reports.
Submit grades (for HSERV 599) each quarter to the registrar. Usually, a grade of
“N” (In Progress) will be given for all but the final quarter. These “N” grades will
be replaced automatically when a final grade for the project is submitted.
Evaluate student’s work.
Assure consensus of the committee for assigning a final grade for the project.
Assist students in identifying community/agency needs and in formulating an
appropriate, feasible, and edifying project.
Share expertise, experience, and organizational values.
Meet with students and faculty advisers at the onset and occasionally during the
Orient students to their sites and serve as an advocate for the student, introducing
them to staff and familiarizing them with organizational procedures.
Mentor the project, providing expertise on community and organizational ethos
and on appropriate public health approaches and practice skills.
Help students to find appropriate working space and equipment.
Assist students in obtaining access to necessary data.
Establish a regular schedule of meetings with the student to monitor progress and
Review and comment on written products.
Attend the final oral presentation when feasible.
Contribute to project evaluation and grading.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the difference between a Capstone Project and a Masters Thesis?
The Capstone Project should represent a scholarly effort of high quality that
demonstrates the development of the student’s ability for independent, professional-
quality work in a real-world, practice context. The project may answer a question of
practical importance or develop and test an intervention, curriculum, or protocol for
application within a particular setting. A project should address a clear statement of the
problem and provide a literature review that covers the important work related to the
problem, with content clearly relating to the statement of problem, goal(s) of the project,
description of the conduct and outcomes of the project, commentary on the results, and
statement of implications or conclusions, based on the results. The capstone project
should also include an evaluation (formal and self-reflective) regarding the success of the
project, as well as strengths and weaknesses of the approach used.
A thesis is a research effort explicitly directed at creating new knowledge of a
generalizable nature. The thesis involves posing a question based on the current state
of knowledge (or lack of knowledge) about an issue, reviewing the literature on that
problem, developing hypotheses, planning a research design (usually a data analysis
approach) to confirm or refute the hypothesis, conducting data analysis, clearly
presenting the results of the analysis, carefully considering the strengths and weaknesses
of the design, relating the results to previous evidence, and commenting on the
implications of the work. A thesis may involve quantitative or qualitative research
methods, or both. It usually involves analysis of data collected by someone else (e.g.,
vital statistics or data from a faculty research project).
The following table summarizes characteristics of the capstone project and a thesis:
Capstone Project Master’s Thesis
Principal intent To identify and solve a problem of To create new
practical importance to a health knowledge
policy agency or a defined
community; to improve policy,
public health practice or community
Is the report/thesis a Yes—the student must identify and Yes—student must
“scholarly” project? synthesize evidence relevant to the identify and synthesize
project, in addition to identifying evidence relevant to the
local historical, organizational, research
social, economic, policy and
community contexts in which the
project will occur
Is this a research It can be -- with direct, practical Yes
project? usefulness to a sponsoring agency,
organization, or the community
Is data analysis It can be -- with direct, practical Usually
involved? usefulness to a sponsoring agency,
organization, or the community
Does the student Yes, including a self-reflective Yes
critically evaluate the evaluation of the project
results and quality of
Principal audience Agency, organization, or community Larger professional
where the project is conducted; in community
some cases, the larger professional
Is the project/thesis Yes (most likely in practice-oriented Yes
report publishable in a journals)
Can I do a research project as a Capstone Project?
As noted above, you can do what might be called a research project with direct, practical
usefulness to the sponsoring agency, organization, or community. The project should
serve a function to the sponsoring organization. Projects that are more purely research-
based can be pursued using the masters thesis option.
Can people work in teams on the Capstone Project?
Yes, but teams must be limited to two persons. The students must prepare individual
proposals and contracts that should specify the specific activities and products for which
each student will be responsible. In instances when students propose working as a team,
the final written reports and oral presentations should address significantly distinct
aspects or facets of the effort.
Can I do my project using experiences that I have had—or will have—in a job or
Yes, providing that the project a) represents an extension of previous work or a new
original effort, b) meets the criteria and requirements of a capstone project, such as a
scholarly base, written and oral reports, etc., and c) is your own work.
PROJECT PROPOSAL OUTLINE
The capstone project is a major undertaking. It is an opportunity for students to 1)
immerse themselves in solving a public health problem, 2) develop, expand, and hone
their policy analysis skills, and 3) gain sophisticated experience in an area of special
To assure that each Capstone Project is appropriate, adequately rigorous, and feasible,
we require that students prepare and submit for review a capstone project proposal that
succinctly outlines the project (generally, fewer than 5 pages) before any major
commitment or work is initiated. If the fieldwork will happen in the summer, this
proposal should be submitted at the end of Spring quarter of the first year. A committee
composed of the student’s faculty adviser and one other member of the UW faculty will
review the proposal and will provide approval and/or feedback within two weeks of
receipt. Once this proposal is approved, the student will be expected to develop an in-
depth literature/background review and work plan as two of the first tasks of the project.
a. What are the objectives of the project? What do you hope to accomplish?
b. What will be the product(s) of this project (e.g., an evaluation report, a
strategic plan, a policy analysis, an implementation plan for new
programs, educational materials)?
c. How will this benefit the community or target audience?
d. What are your learning objectives for this project (e.g., skills, knowledge,
perspectives, experiences that you hope to gain through this work)? List 5
to 10 Individual Learning Objectives for this experience.
e. How will you present or communicate a summary of your project
results to the agency or community with whom you worked?
a. Where will you conduct your project?
1. Provide a thumbnail sketch (about a paragraph) of the
community or locale.
2. If you will work with an agency or organization, provide a
thumbnail sketch (about a paragraph) of the organization with
which you will be working. Include address, phone, and contact
a. What is the problem you are addressing?
b. Who are the stakeholders interested in this project, and what are their
c. How does this project fit with the needs and mission of the community
or agency where you will be working?
d. Why have you chosen this specific project/solution/approach—as
opposed to other options—to address this problem?
e. Briefly, what evidence from the literature can you cite to justify this
choice or approach? This should be fleshed out in the full project report.
a. Name and contact information for the UW faculty committee chair
b. Name and contact information for the second UW faculty committee
c. Name and contact information for site or agency mentor, if applicable
a. What methods (generally) will you use? (e.g., analysis of available data,
literature review, surveys, focus groups. This does not need to be detailed.
Your work plan will describe your methods in more depth.)
b. What resources (data, access to human subjects, etc.) will you need to
conduct this work?
c. Is it likely that you will need to get Human Subjects or other approvals or
cooperation for this work?
a. Provide a timeline for this work, including the following tasks:
1. Literature review
2. Development of work plan
3. Human Subjects approval if required
4. Conduct of project (may/should involve steps, tasks)
5. Write-up of project
6. Presentation to community or agency
Be sure to take time to think carefully about and articulate your Individual Learning Objectives for
the Capstone Project. To a large extent, the Individual Learning Objectives are the definitive
description of what you hope to get out of the project. These should be specific and expressed in such
a way that you and/or your committee can assess whether you have met them. Examples include:
To develop content expertise by reviewing the literature on family planning programs for adolescents
To (successfully) conduct focus groups of migrant farm workers
To (learn how to) do a (successful) program evaluation
To develop a health education curriculum for middle school boys in bullying-prevention
To (successfully) analyze a data set, using SPSS
To plan a media campaign on obesity, using the most current thinking on health education media
To learn how to make a professional quality health-related video
To conduct a stakeholder analysis
To assist community boards to be more effective in their governance roles
To practice community organizational skills
To get involved in developing legislation
The final written report for the Capstone Project (20-40 pages) should contain the
A. Maximum length: 300 words. Should have the following five titled
subsections: Specific Aims; Setting; Methods (or Intervention); Results;
A. Specific Aims—What are the specific objectives of the project? Who will
benefit from it?
B. Problem statement—What is the significance, magnitude, and importance
of the problem in both a national and local context? Who are the
stakeholders and what are their interests?
C. A review of scientific knowledge, evidence, and experience and
justification of motivation for your approach. (Students should search
published information sources to understand the breadth of knowledge in
their subject area, the historical and theoretical contexts of the work, and
whether and how successfully similar work has been undertaken. This will
involve searching academic articles as well as reports, news articles, and
other non-traditional sources. The literature review will be part of the final
D. Local Background—Historical, demographic, epidemiologic, and
organizational context in which this project is being conducted.
III. Methods/Project activities (what you did)
A. Description of the approach and steps you used to achieve your aims.
B. A description of any data analysis or evaluation that was involved.
1. Selection of study subjects
ii) Sampling method/recruitment
iii) Criteria for eligibility/exclusion of cases
2. Data collection
i) Source (e.g., questionnaire, interview, record review, vital
ii) Variables and measures used
3. Data analysis
IV. Project results (accomplishments, learning)
A. What was accomplished? This will generally be a description or summary
of the products or activities you produced or were responsible for. If the
accomplishments involve the creation of a long document or lengthy
materials, such as a curriculum, plan, or video, you may want to include
them as an appendix in your report.
V. Discussion and reflection—A critical evaluation of the successes and
deficiencies of the project.
A. What impact or effect did this work have on the target
B. What worked and why?
C. What didn’t and why not?
D. How did the experience compare with your expectations and goals?
E. What were the strengths and weaknesses of your work?
F. What would you have done differently knowing what you know now?
G. How does your experience compare or contrast with others (e.g., from the
H. What are the implications of the project
i) For the agency
ii) For public health practitioners generally
I. Next steps?
VI. References (in a standard format)
Toward the end of Spring Quarter, each student will have an opportunity to give a
presentation of their capstone project. There will be about 13 minutes (10 minutes for the
presentation and 3 minutes for questions) for each presentation. All first- and second-year
students, as well as faculty and invited guests, will attend.
A suggested outline for the presentation follows. The number in parentheses indicates an
approximate number of slides for each section.
Title slide—Title, student (1)
Aims of the project (1)
Local context and motivation for the project (1-2)
National context—scientific, evidence base, other experience, motivation (1-2)
Methods —What you did (2)
Accomplishments and Impact —What you accomplished (2)
Lessons learned, implications, next steps (1-2)
Presentation to agency or community
Students should expect to prepare a product for their host agency or organization, if
applicable, in a form (full report, summary paper, etc.) arranged with their on-site
mentors. Students should determine the format of this presentation in discussions with
their on-site colleagues. The MPH program presentation may be satisfactory. It is more
likely, however, that the agency will want a more focused, tailored report, such as a town
meeting or presentation to a staff meeting.
Students will receive a grade (on a 4.0 scale) for their capstone credits based on the
evaluation of the products of the capstone by the faculty advisor in consultation with the
capstone committee. If there is an on-site mentor, s/he will be asked to complete the
followed evaluation form that is intended to provide the student with additional feedback.
The on-site mentor evaluation will not be used for the assignment of the formal course
grade. Students will also complete the self-evaluation form that follows the on-site
mentor evaluation form.
On-site Mentor’s Evaluation of Capstone Project
Planning, conduct, and
Contribution of project to
organization or community needs
Working with colleagues
Working with stakeholders
Presentation to agency/stakeholders
Organization and clarity
Areas for improvement:
Other General comments:
Faculty Adviser’s Evaluation of Capstone Project
Planning, conduct, and
Working with colleagues
Working with stakeholders
Areas for Improvement:
Other General Comments:
Criteria for Evaluating the Capstone Project
Area Unsatisfactory Satisfactory Outstanding
Project objectives Did not meet project objectives Met project objectives Exceeded project objectives
Contribution of project to Project had or will have little Project had or will have Project had or will have
organization/stakeholder needs impact some impact considerable impact
Planning and organization Did not adequately plan and Appropriately planned and Exceptionally well-
organize work organized work; met project organized
Work habits Did not communicate with Communicated satisfactorily Communicated frequently
supervisors; did not follow with supervisors; followed and effectively with
through on commitments through on commitments; supervisors; thoughtful,
showed initiative thorough, anticipatory work
habits; shows exceptional
Scholarship Did not adequately review Adequately reviewed Exceptionally thorough
literature; did not adequately literature; adequately review of literature and
research local background and researched local background assessment of background
context; did not employ and context; employed and context; used—or
appropriate, evidence, or theory- appropriate, evidence or advanced—state-of-the-art
based methods in project theory-based methods in methods
Working with colleagues Did not work well with Worked effectively with Demonstrated effective
colleagues staff and co-workers leadership and/or change-
Working with stakeholders Did not work effectively with Demonstrated ability to Developed exemplary and
stakeholders work with stakeholders sustained relationships with
effectively and sensitively stakeholders
Content Does not adequately address all Adequately addresses all Demonstrates complete
sections as indicated on outline sections command of the subject
creativity or originality
and/or new insights;
Organization and Poorly organized; sloppy; tables Clearly organized; adequate Professional visual
presentation and graphs not well constructed tables and graphs impression; journal-quality
tables and graphs
Writing Not well written (unclear, with Clearly understandable, with Clear, concise, professional
grammar, punctuation, and few, if any, technical writing writing
spelling errors common) errors
Content Minimal content Interesting, useful content Outstanding content
Organization and clarity Poorly organized; not clearly Well organized; clearly and Well organized; clearly and
presented; visuals poorly concisely presented; good concisely presented;
constructed visuals professional-quality visuals
Presentation style Rambling, distracting, Concise; projects voice Engaging, enthusiastic,
Content Minimal content Interesting, useful content Outstanding content
Organization and clarity Poorly organized; not clearly Well organized, clearly and Well organized, clearly and
presented, visuals poorly concisely presented, good concisely presented, visuals
constructed visuals appropriately constructed to
communicate with audience
Presentation style Rambling, distracting, Concise; projects voice Engaging, enthusiastic,
Appropriateness and Talks down or without conviction Appropriate content and Original or creative method
effectiveness to audience style of communication
Student’s Evaluation of the Experience
What I learned:
Individual Learning Objectives:
Objective Was objective met? Comment
Use additional pages if
The positive aspects of this experience:
Your overall assessment of your learning, including what you learned above and beyond your
original Individual Learning Objectives:
How well-prepared were you for this experience, and what could be done in the future to improve
preparation of the Capstone Project?
If you worked in an agency/organization:
My recommendation regarding continued use of this placement is:
Definitely continue _______
Do not continue _______
Continue under conditions (please specify) __________________________________________________
ORGANIZATIONAL PROFILE TEMPLATE
1. History and development. (When was this organization formed? Why? How has it developed
2. Organization’s mission, goals, services, and values.
3. Whom does it serve? (client demographics, eligibility criteria, service area)
4. Service area.
5. Type of organization (non-profit, for-profit, membership, etc.) and funding (major sources,
6. Federal, state, or local regulations followed.
7. Governance (board composition, partners, affiliations with external agencies, etc.).
8. Staff composition (number, disciplines represented, training, organizational structure).
9. Relationship to stakeholders.
10. Current challenges, visions, and organization’s priority needs (list three).
WHAT MAKES FOR A GREAT CAPSTONE AND/OR THESIS?
Compiled from discussion at COPHP Faculty retreat June 14, 2007
and Health Services Faculty retreat on June 15, 2007.
Synthesized by Amy Hagopian
Aspects of successful thesis and capstone projects
1. The student has an ACTIVE role in the project, and is genuinely interested in the topic.
2. Expectations of students and faculty are clear at the start—are there things for which any
party can be “fired?”
3. Committee that works well together, enjoys meetings with this student, and is on the same
page; smaller is better
4. Thesis and capstone projects start with an approved written proposal from the whole
5. Students understand the incentive systems that faculty face—for example, that faculty aren’t
credited for thesis advising until students finish
6. The site advisor is actively engaged
7. Both the process and product associated with the capstone are valuable to the sponsoring
8. There is an excellent research question, which is precise, clear, answerable, important, and
9. Students meet with their WHOLE thesis committee several times; faculty on committees have
10. There is a realistic plan to do the project in the time allotted; there is a backup plan for
11. Students read the thesis or capstone products of successful graduates as preparation to
planning their own work
12. A good literature review is completed BEFORE data tools are designed and as the research
question is being developed
13. IRB requirements are well understood sufficiently in time to follow the processes
14. There is elegance to the methods, with a clear and concrete process
15. When students write their proposals, they include blank “table shells,” to illustrate how their
data will be presented and analyzed in a way that answers research questions; this ensures
data gathering tools will provide the information needed by including required variables
16. The capstone requires both quantitative and qualitative skills
17. There is creative and independent use of secondary or available data—not everyone needs to
collect primary data
18. When the student does his/her own data collection, it’s done well
19. A good thesis has a conclusion
20. There is innovation involved—the student brings something new to the project
21. Process deadlines are meaningful and motivational
22. No laws or important rules are broken
23. When the project is being done under stressful circumstances, or in an organization under
stress, lots of faculty support is required; likewise, students from stressed backgrounds (such
as families with no academic tradition) will need extra support
24. Evidence of a great capstone is that there are continuing activities after it’s done
Aspects of successful thesis and capstone projects
25. It’s a resume-stuffer, but not so burdensome as to be life-defining
26. Sometimes the capstone is highly connected to the practicum
27. Students pushed beyond their current comfort area
28. The capstone turns into a job, or at least relationships are built that will lead to future projects
29. There are policy implications from the findings of the project
30. There is individual learning about the student’s own strengths and weaknesses
31. Time should be scheduled for presenting works in progress
32. Sufficient time is allocated for final thesis and capstone presentations, with appropriate
33. Students are encouraged to write publishable theses, and then publish them
34. Everyone should pursue IRB approval, whether exempt, minimal or full review
35. Students should feel free to finish early
Aspects of problematic thesis and capstone projects
1. When projects are done in foreign countries, projects aren’t always (or even often) well
defined in advance.
2. There are unreliable partners, and it’s unclear when to call a halt, despite red flags
3. The sponsoring organization isn’t eager to do the project
4. Student is doing something the organization should be paying someone to do
5. There is conflict between members of committees about the balance of methods and approach
6. Last minute drafts
7. It’s too ambitious, can’t be finished on time
8. IRB approval isn’t properly obtained or in a timely way
9. Conflict on committees leads to graduation delays