After several years of hard work, it is finally time to choose a topic of special interest that will represent all that you have learned, as well as how you have grown academically, during your undergraduate career. The academic area that you will be working in – your major – is a given, but the specific topic that you will explore in your capstone course may not be. How do you choose the subject on which you will focus for a semester (or longer)? What type of topic is best? Here are six tips on how to choose your capstone project:
By the time you’re ready to begin thinking about your capstone project (not to be confused with the AP Capstone Program), you have likely fulfilled most of your degree requirements. Before you begin researching your project, take the time to reflect. What topics or classes were of particular interest to you? Are there any topics that you would like to learn more about? Make a list of all the ideas that you would consider working on and writing about, and note any preliminary questions that may inform the direction of your project. Try these tips to keep your notes organized.
Now that you have a broad list of potential topics, it’s time to start reading. Preview the latest research and other texts about these topics. Does any research look particularly promising? Can you see yourself contributing to the discussion surrounding any of these topics? Eliminate topics that seem limited, or that are academically beyond what your coursework and major have prepared you for.
3. Narrow your focus
At this stage, try to identify one topic that you would like to further explore, and identify several questions that you would like to further research and possibly expand upon. Write down everything that you already know about these topics, and hypothesize about where an experiment or a paper might be able to address aspects of the topic that have yet to be tested or addressed. Remember to narrow your focus here. Don’t decide that you want to simply write about the American Revolution, for example. Instead, explore specific aspects of the American Revolution. Choose one question that is most interesting to you for your next step.
4. Consult with your project adviser
Before you begin delving into your chosen topic, consult with your adviser. He or she will be able to redirect your focus if necessary, as well as recommend resources that can further your understanding of the topic. Also, getting approval from your adviser will ensure that you have chosen an appropriate and interesting topic.
5. Read more
By now, you should have a specific topic and question that you will explore in your capstone project, and it is finally time to dig into the research surrounding this topic. Learn about the history of your topic by surveying both old and new research regarding it. Refresh your understanding of any background knowledge that will be necessary to conduct your research or begin writing your paper. Take notes about your research for easy reference later.
6. Begin working
Congratulations! It’s time to begin conducting your experiment or writing your paper. If you are concerned about the quality of your writing consider contacting a writing tutor. Stay on schedule, stay connected with your project adviser, and work hard to finish this important piece of your education!
By taking these simple steps in preparation for your capstone project, you can ensure you choose an interesting and challenging topic to explore as a summation of your college education.