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The Capstone research project is a 3-hour course---PADM 8800, that can be chosen in place of the comprehensive exam prior to graduation.  This section requires the student to create a Capstone committee with a chair and two additional faculty members.  For the Capstone project students are required to develop an appropriate research question in a relevant public or non-profit administration field.  Most projects are applied research, using either qualitative or quantitative methods to explore important public or non-profit issues.  The Capstone project is an excellent opportunity for students to gain in-depth, applied knowledge in a particular area of interest.  Students that are already in a profession can use this as an opportunity to enhance their professional development and organizational knowledge.

Capstone Process

The MPA program coordinator will serve on all capstone committees but does not have to be the chair.  Some faculty members may choose to decline to be on a capstone committee so please start the process early.  Your chair is the individual who sets the tone for expectations and schedules. They should also be the primary reviewer and editor of the capstone throughout the process.  If you need help confirming a topic or nominating a committee, please contact MPA program staff for guidance.In choosing a Capstone project it is important to start early and consider something that you want to spend considerable time learning about. We recommend that students start thinking about this project when they first begin the program as they can use this topic for research projects in other courses and continue to build on this. Some students use the Research Methods and Data Analysis course to consider a particular topic for their Capstone. We cannot emphasize enough...START EARLY!!

The project is meant to be a substantive research effort, including literature review, methodology and results section at a minimum. There is not a page limit for this research, however, the average capstone ranges from 40-60 pages, inclusive of works cited.The research methods chosen for the project can either be qualitative or quantitative. Appropriate types of analysis include, surveys, interviews, focus groups, content analysis, along with quantitative techniques including regression analysis and others. This process also requires the student to be responsible for  gathering their own data and developing the appropriate analysis. 

One of the primary goals of a capstone is to demonstrate an ability to gather, analyze, synthesize, write and present information on a topic where one should be an expert.The completion of the capstone occurs with an oral defense in front of (or online) your capstone committee. This is generally held online but can be held at Clemson University if a student wishes. A defense is generally one-hour, with a 20-30 minute presentation by the student, followed by questions from the committee. The committee then meets to decide if a student passes and if there are any revisions the student has to make.While the capstone is technically the final project it is often wise for students to take the capstone course the semester before they graduate. Many students are not able to complete the capstone in one semester, especially if they have not STARTED EARLY!!For many students the capstone can be a very rewarding research effort.  We have had many students complete  strong, applied research projects for their current employers and in specialization areas they hope to be employed in the future.