Complete the MAPW Capstone Project

Write the Capstone Project

Points to remember:

  • All work by students on capstones must be original.
  • All capstones will be a thesis, unless the student’s committee decides otherwise, and this should be thoroughly discussed with the committee members.
    • Given the unique qualities of the capstone, the committee may decide that the student should do a portfolio or a practicum instead of a thesis.
  • The Program doesn’t require an introduction for the capstone, but a student’s committee may.
  • Capstones must be double-spaced and in a 12-point font, such as Times New Roman.
    The required page length, which varies depending on the type of capstone, does not include front or back matter. 

Capstone Project Options

  • Typically, the student should think in terms of a book, when writing a creative thesis, although the committee will not require the student to submit a completed book. Because creative writing is the most varied of the three concentrations, the length for theses in it are quite varied. The committee may or may not require a critical introduction or reflective essay as a part of these projects.

    • Creative nonfiction: The committee will require two or three chapters, up to, but no more than, 70 pages, followed by an annotated, story by story list of what will follow.
    • Novel: The committee will require two or three chapters, up to, but no more than, 100 pages maximum. The student will also include an annotated, chapter by chapter list of what will follow.
    • Novella: The committee will require up to but no more than 75 pages.
    • Short story collection: The committee will require up to, but no more than, 100 pages followed by an annotated, story by story list of what will follow.
    • Poetry: The committee will require a minimum of 60 pages of poetry, one poem to a page.
    • Plays: The committee will require a completed, two-act script of up to, but not more than, 125 pages or several one-act play of up to, but no more than, 125 pages.
    • TV scripts:
      • For a one-hour script (typically a drama), the committee will require a completed script up to 60 pages plus a beat sheet or story outline.
      • For a half-hour, single camera TV script, the committee will require two completed scripts of 30 to 40 pages each, plus beat sheets or story outlines for each.
      • For a half-hour, multi-camera script (typically a sitcom), the committee will require two completed scripts of 40 to 50 pages each, plus beat sheets or story outlines for each.
    • Feature film script: The committee will require a completed script of 90 to 125 pages, with a beat sheet or story outline.
    • Interactive storytelling or new media genres: The project length should be negotiated with the committee.
  • The research thesis will probably be the capstone of choice by students concentrating in comp/rhet and perhaps by students concentrating in applied writing. It will demonstrate a student's ability to carry out independent research in the student's concentration and to contribute to the knowledge in the field.  

    The student should select a research topic and discuss it thoroughly with his or her committee during the proposal process, taking into consideration the following:

    • student's background and interest,
    • ability to handle the problem,
    • accessibility of research materials, and
    • the probable significance of the project to the professional community for which it is intended.

    The research thesis must begin with an introductory essay that contextualizes the project for its readers.

    The total length of the research thesis may vary depending on the field and genre in which the writer is working. The final length should result from consultation with the student's thesis committee, as this committee will ultimately approve or reject the project. For students whose concentration is comp/rhet and applied writing, the research thesis should be a minimum of 50 pages. For students working in interactive nonfiction and new media genres, the project length should be negotiated with the committee.

    Note: Students are required to follow the procedures established by the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for all research involving human participants. 

  • A portfolio is a compilation of a student’s best work that includes self-assessment and reflection and that is gathered according to some plan or argument for use by an identified reader or readers for specific needs or purposes. A portfolio may be used to demonstrate a student’s writing competence or versatility.

    In addition to assembling the portfolio and revising the pieces to be included, the student may be required to write an introductory essay in which he/she reflects on his/her relation to the MAPW course work and make an argument about some aspect of professional writing.

    The student will also write intertexts or interchapters that will reinforce the thread and progress of the argument that holds the portfolio together. In addition, students may include an assessment of a piece of writing rather than a revision. The portfolio may include work that has been accepted for publication while the writer has been a student in the MAPW program.

    It should be kept in mind that the portfolio is a substantive project and should reflect the highest quality of writing the student has produced. Ideally, a student finishing the portfolio will have several pieces that may be submitted for publication and/or that may be used to provide evidence of the student’s expertise in professional writing to prospective employers. 

  • The practicum must be a writing project that demonstrates the student’s expertise in developing an actual workplace document or text, such as a company’s or organization’s website, a corporate intranet website or electronic training module, or a consulting project, such as the editing of a major work or design of a website. For such projects, the student must contract with a client—who may be the employer—to deliver a document or set of documents for use by the client. Obtaining the client’s permission is necessary as the document(s) may be published as content in the student’s final practicum, either in part or in whole.

    The practicum must begin with an introductory essay that explains the rationale and purpose of its design. Moreover, in reflecting on the success of the project, the student will want to discuss the client-student relationship in the development of the project.  For projects such as a website, the capstone committee will also require a chapter of a minimum of 25 pages that reveals the student’s research and technical practice and the relationship of each to the rhetorical choices the student made during the creation of the project. 

Statement of Responsibility

Each student is responsible for adhering to the formatting requirements. Any deviation from the requirements must be reviewed and approved by the student’s capstone committee.

Students are required to submit a capstone project free of stylistic, mechanical, grammatical, and formatting errors, and it is their responsibility to ensure this.

Style Manual

The capstone project should be prepared according to the requirements in the latest edition of the style manual appropriate to the fields of professional writing in which the student is writing (e.g. MLA, APA, Chicago). If the project is made up of separate pieces of writing from a variety of genres, a variety of styles may be followed. However, if points of difference arise, the statements in this document take precedence. 

Arrangement of the Manuscript

The capstone project must include:

  1. Title page (see sample of a capstone title page here)
  2. Table of Contents 
  3. Introductory essay (if required by the student’s capstone committee)
    1. that provides background information on the contents of the capstone project that will contribute to an informed reading of it;
    2. that contains discussions of theories, processes, and or practical skills which the student  has learned and the effect on the creation of the works;
    3. in which the student may formulate an artistic statement; may write a narrative of his or her development as a writer up to this point;
    4. or may discuss a combination of these or related subjects;
  4. Text of the capstone project; and
  5. Curriculum vitae (CV), biography, or résumé that
    1. doesn't exceed three pages; and
    2. highlights the student's achievements in a field or fields of professional writing, including previous education in professional writing, attendance at workshops or professional conventions, prizes and awards, a list of publications, and paid or volunteer employment in the field of professional writing. 

NOTE: Students may add an optional acknowledgment page between pages 2 and 3 on which they may make a brief statement of gratitude for special assistance.

Manuscript Formatting

    • Each page must have a margin of 1.5" on the left and at least 1" on the other three sides.
    • On the first page of every major division (e.g., chapter, table of contents, references, etc.), a 2" margin is required at the top.  
    • All tables and figures must conform to the margin requirements (photographic reproduction—with enlargement or reduction—may be necessary).  
    • A subhead at the bottom of the page must have at least two full lines of type below it, or it should begin on the next page. 
  • Beginning with the title page, every page is assigned a number. The preliminaries are numbered in lower-case Roman numerals placed without punctuation in the center of the page at least 3/4" (5 lines) from the bottom of the page. The title page and the certificate of approval are considered to be pages i and ii, but numbers are not typed on them.

    Text and reference pages are numbered consecutively in Arabic numerals beginning with 1 on the first page of the text. The numbers are placed without punctuation in the upper right corner 1 inch form the right and at least 3/4" (5 lines) from the top of the page. All pages of the text and reference material, including appendices, references, and cover sheets (if used) are counted and numbered. 

    • The general text of the capstone project is double-spaced.
    • Single spacing is used for long tables, itemized or tabular material, footnotes, multi-line captions. Long quotations and reference entries should be spaced following the style used throughout the project (e.g. APA, Chicago, MLA).
    • Photographs can be printed from the negatives on 8.5" x 11" photographic paper to eliminate the problems involved in attaching photographs to thesis paper. Charts, maps, drawings, etc., may be photographed on 8.5" x 11" photographic paper.
    • If illustrations are mounted, dry mounting or permanent paper cement (dried under weight) may be used. Do not mount with rubber cement, glue, photo-mounting corners, tape, or staples.
    • Use of oversized material should be avoided. If a folded page must be used, the folded edge should be at least 1/4" from the right edge of the manuscript to avoid cutting at the bindery. The page number should appear in the upper right hand corner of the folded page in alignment with the pagination in the text.
    • Large materials may be folded and inserted in a pocket in the appendices. 


Once students have completed writing the capstone and have revised it to the satisfaction of the committee, they will plan with the committee either an oral “defense” or a public reading. Both the oral defense and the public reading must be completed by the last day of class.

  • The committee will probably advise students who have completed a research thesis, a portfolio, or a practicum to take part in an oral “defense.” This option has been mislabeled, and it is actually a question-and-answer session between the student and his/her committee members. The student may invite loved ones, family, and friends to the defense, which will probably be scheduled on-campus.

  • Students in the creative writing concentration may wish to give a public reading of their work, although they may decide to take part in an oral defense instead. If they decide on a public reading, they will find an appropriate venue on- or off-campus. 

Paperwork Submission to MAPW Office

At the end of the oral defense or public reading, the student will have both members of his/her committee sign the “Notice of Capstone Completion” form.  

Once the capstone is finished, submit the forms below to the MAPW Program Coordinator by the last day of classes in the semester in which you complete your capstone (see table below).

  • Paperwork Submission Deadlines
  • Spring 2023
    Summer 2023
    Fall 2023
    Spring 2024
  • May 1, 2023
    July 24, 2023
    December 4, 2023
    April 29, 2024

Submit Capstone Project to Digital Commons

After completing all the requirements of the capstone, each student must submit an electronic copy of their capstone to the Digital Commons no later than the last day of class of the semester in their graduating semester (see table above).