Newlane Capstone Project

While the Newlane Capstone Project (PHIL 399 or LIBART 399) is considered a course, and like other courses, it involves a hearing and carries credit hours, because the Capstone Project is specific to each student, and is organized around the project goals (and not lessons and learning objectives), the Capstone Project also resembles and is better understood as an extended course project. 

Requirements to enroll in Capstone Project: Students must have completed all major requirements for their degree prior to enrolling in the Capstone Project.

The Capstone Project is an extended study available at the end of the Bachelor’s degree program (it is not available for an Associate degree) in which students pursue independent research on a question or problem of their choice, engage with the scholarly debates in the relevant disciplines, and – with the guidance of an advisor – produce a substantial paper, or presentation in another media that reflects a deep understanding of the topic. 

The Newlane University degree Capstone Project challenges students to synthesize and venture out from what they have learned across their degree course work. This does not mean that the project must incorporate ideas from each course, but it should be a more developed work than a course project that represents that the student has “digested” from a wider range of courses. The Capstone Project should not be a summary of what students have learned from their course work, but rather a new selected line of inquiry, informed by their collective course work.

Students are strongly encouraged to choose a topic in which they have some competence based on their academic work, professional experience, or exploration of future career options. The Capstone Project is both a valuable intellectual experience and also a vehicle through which students can demonstrate their research, analytical, and writing/presentation skills to either prospective employers or graduate and professional schools.

Note: Completion of a Capstone Project is an option for the Bachelor’s degree, but it is not required for the Bachelor’s degree, and it is not available for the Associate degree. 

Capstone Framework & Guidelines

A Capstone Project must demonstrate the following characteristics. Each characteristic can be satisfied in different ways depending on the topic, discipline, and the approach taken. But, taken together, they represent the capstone framework. 

Originality: You must reach your own deep understanding of a clearly defined and focused topic. You must formulate your own perspective on an issue and draw your own conclusions. The final project and form of presentation can also draw upon your originality and creativity.

Independence: Although you will have a capstone advisor as a guide and domain expert, you will work primarily on your own.

Appropriate Scope: The Capstone Project is equivalent to a six-credit course at the advanced level. Therefore, you should plan to spend at least as much time and energy on your Capstone Project as you have devoted to your most challenging courses. For reference, the word count expectations for an advanced level written course project is 2500 words. So a rough expectation for a written Capstone Project would be 5000 words. But word count may not apply, depending on your project, and even in a written project, word count is not the central criterion. 

As a project equivalent to a six-credit course, the Capstone Project should be within a limited and realistic scope (for example, most courses at Newlane are 3 credits, you should expect to complete your Capstone Project within the same time frame that you would complete two courses–this is not a book-length project, neither is it a project like other course projects. During the outline phase of the Capstone Project, you’ll work with your faculty advisor to determine an appropriate scope for the project.

Orderly & Objective Process of Inquiry: The Capstone Project demonstrates your facility with the methods of inquiry. These include the ability to ask the right questions, to synthesize ideas, to identify and use evidence, to draw and support conclusions, to recognize compelling research, to communicate your ideas, or to solve a problem using a specific set of tools.

Intellectual Stretch: The Capstone Project should take you to a place where you have not been before, and perhaps did not even think you could reach. 

Capstone Project Learning Outcomes: 

While Capstone Projects vary in terms of the content, media, framework, etc. All Capstone Projects must reflect the following learning outcomes:

  • Integrate and apply degree coursework learning in a concrete way on a topic of personal, academic, or professional interest.
  • Showcase mastery of degree aims relevant to the project. 
  • Conduct self-guided research, including sourcing, evaluating, and responding to resources appropriate to the topic and scope of the project.
  • Appropriately draw and support conclusions.
  • Connect degree studies (content, frameworks, competencies, etc.) to “next landing”, whether that is academic, professional, etc.
  • Create and present a tangible product for a public audience.

Checkpoints for completion: The Capstone project includes the following checkpoints to ensure you get proper feedback from your Capstone advisor while the project is in progress, and so you don’t spend an inordinate amount of time on a project, only to find out that it was ill-conceived, or not appropriate for one reason or another. See the Newlane Capstone Project Checkpoints Form.

Proposal: The proposal is the first checkpoint. At this stage, you will meet with an advisor who will help you determine an appropriate topic (related to both your major and your interests for the project) and scope for your project (e.g., that it would be appropriate for six credit hours of advanced study, etc.). 

Outline: The outline is the second checkpoint. While you don’t need to have your whole project figured out at this stage, you’ll check in with an advisor to verify that your proposed project is appropriate for a Capstone Project (in terms of the questions asked, the subject matter, scope, etc.), and how you anticipate conducting research and bringing your project to a conclusion.  

Rough Draft: The Rough Draft is the third checkpoint. As a rough draft, it is entirely expected that some sections of your project will not be complete, and that you won’t have put final touches on the project, but the rough draft should include one or more section that is nearing completion so that your faculty advisor can gauge your ability to conduct appropriate research, pose and respond to appropriate questions, and work towards conclusions appropriate for a Capstone Project. The rough draft should be include considerably more content than the outline, and should give the faculty advisor a rough idea of the directions you’ll be taking toward your final project. 

Draft for Final Feedback: The Draft for Final Feedback is the fourth checkpoint. At this point, the project should be nearing completion. The advisor feedback may include feedback on formatting (e.g., for a written project, this may be feedback on the works cited, bibliography, page numbering, etc.) or substantive critiques on sections of the project, etc.. This may mean that you’ll need to re-work sections of your project, or make formatting changes, etc. before submitting your final project.

Final Draft: The final draft is the final checkpoint, and brings in an additional Newlane faculty member to review the project. There will still be feedback, and possible critiques of the project, including the possibility that the project will not yet be accepted as fulfilling the criteria of a Capstone Project, depending on the shape the project has taken from the previous draft, how you have responded to earlier feedback, and also fresh perspectives from the additional faculty member. The aim of the different checkpoints, including the final checkpoint, is to help the student better understand and engage the standards and conventions of academic work. 

Capstone Hearing: The purpose of a Capstone Hearing at Newlane University is to review a Capstone Project. The Capstone Hearing is a meeting where the student author of the project meets with two or more referees to discuss the project. The capstone hearing follows the structure of the Capstone Hearing Form. At the end of the hearing, the referees make a judgment on the project, determining whether or not it is approved, and if any changes are required.

What Comes Next? A final approved Capstone Project will have been vetted by more than one faculty member, and demonstrates your expertise and ability to work independently on a project with appropriate scope. Students may consider using their Capstone Project as a launchpad, talking point, or writing (or creative) sample for graduate work, or may consider reaching out to appropriate forums (journals, exhibit spaces, etc.) for publication.

To get started on a Capstone Project, contact the Newlane Director of Education (ben@newlane.edu) who can connect you with an appropriate advisor and provide you with the right forms.