What to Know about the GWS Capstone Experience
Welcome to Capstone!
The Global Women’s Studies Capstone is the culminating experience of the GWS minor. Your research will result in a substantial, senior-level written or creative project, and you will present your work at our fall or winter semester capstone conference. Your capstone project should demonstrate your knowledge related to 1) the ways society affects women’s lives or 2) the voices and contributions of individual women or groups of women. The best capstone projects will develop from ideas and research you are already involved in. Yours might grow out of a paper you wrote for another class, a capstone project for another program, work with a collaborative research team, an internship, an extensive service-learning project, a study abroad experience, or an honors thesis.
You should enroll in GWS 492 during the semester you will present your research at one of our capstone conferences. The GWS capstone class meets four or five times during the semester for two hours at a time. During those meetings we discuss course expectations, project proposals, strategies to help you progress on your research and writing, the purpose of professional conferences, and tips for conference presentation. Additionally, the GWS 492 instructor meets with each capstone student individually to workshop a short section of their paper/project. Once during the semester you will meet one-on-one with the GWS librarian, and you should meet with your mentor at least every other week.
Choosing a Mentor
Your capstone project should grow out of a carefully guided experience with a faculty mentor or mentors. Ideally, you will establish relationships with potential capstone mentors a few semesters before you enroll in the capstone course. Perhaps you have taken a GWS elective course or a course within your major from a possible mentor. Perhaps you worked with them in a mentored learning or another research environment, or met them at a GWS activity. During your capstone semester, you will meet with your mentor at least seven times, and they should commit to help you develop your project proposal; to review and evaluate the first, revised, and final drafts of your project, as well as your bibliography; and to attend your capstone presentation at the end of the semester. Your mentor must be a permanent Continuing Faculty Status-track faculty member (they should not be an adjunct or visiting faculty member), but they do not have to be affiliated with Global Women’s Studies.
Capstone Project Proposal Guidelines
You can submit your capstone project proposal anytime by or before the third week of your capstone semester. The project proposal must be five double-spaced pages (approximately 1500 words) long and include all of the following sections:
- Statement of Intent: State the scope or purpose of your project. This part of the proposal makes a clear and concise statement of your main idea, goals or anticipated results.
- Background and Significance: Indicate why you chose to work on this project, briefly explain the context of your proposed work, and identify the central issues, problems, or concerns to which you are responding.
- Statement on Relationship of Proposed Project to Women’s Studies: Provide a short description of how your project will demonstrate your knowledge related to 1) the ways society affects women’s lives or 2) the voices and contributions of individual women or groups of women.
- Methodology/Procedures: Explain how you will produce what you promised in your statement of intent and what real and valid methods of inquiry common to your discipline you will use and/or detail the tasks considered necessary by your discipline to produce your real-world project.
- Preliminary Outline or Prospectus of the Finished Thesis: Provide a tentative working outline of how your project will be organized. Include a tentative thesis statement, indicate where you will include your literature review and the explanation of your theoretical underpinnings or methods and design. Also indicate what you believe your major supporting ideas will be and what conclusions you think you will be able to reach.
- Literature Review and Bibliography: In the literature review, indicate what kind of research you have done to learn what others have already said about the question, issue, problem, concern, or topic your project will address. Your research should be thorough but not exhaustive—the purpose of this section is provide evidence that you understand the current research on your topic. You may also include in this section quantitative research you have already completed. Attach the bibliography to your proposal; do not include it in your page and word count. As a minimum, consider including ten secondary sources in your initial bibliography and literature review.
- Qualifications of the Investigator: State your qualifications to research and write authoritatively on this topic or to carry out the project you propose. Consider course work completed, papers written, similar projects, performances, or other skills and experiences that have prepared you to do this project.
- Qualifications of Faculty Mentor: State your mentor’s qualifications to advise your project. Consider their research interests, the courses they teach, their educational background, and/or life experiences.
- Schedule: Provide a detailed schedule with specific dates for tasks or phases of the project to be completed. Your schedule should also reflect the submission deadlines included in the class schedule.
- Mentor’s Signed Statement: Include the following statement at the end of your proposal: “I have reviewed this proposal with my student (YOUR NAME HERE) and I believe it can lead to an effective senior capstone project in Global Women’s Studies.” Have your mentor sign and date the statement.
All Women’s Studies capstone projects must include an academic research component. Your capstone project should include and make reference to a bibliography of significant primary and secondary sources on the topic of the project.
If you plan to do research related to human subjects and would like to publish your research, you may need to obtain IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval to do so. If you decide on a project that will require IRB approval, please choose a mentor who has experience with the IRB and will be able to guide you through the process. It may take two to three months to receive approval, so you should start the process at least two months before your capstone semester begins. If you have not obtained approval by the time your project proposal is due (third week of the semester), you should modify your project so that you will not need IRB approval.
Please read this information about BYU's "Surveys Policy" to help you decide if you can use a survey as part of your project without seeking IRB approval.
Many research projects do not require IRB approval. For example, depending on your major field, you might do an extensive literature review, literary criticism, a history research paper based on primary sources, journalistic articles, research based on the WomanStats database or another already existing data set.
Written Project Expectations
Your capstone research should result, in part, in an effectively written document (fifteen to thirty double-spaced pages)—usually a senior paper, a chapter of an honors thesis, or a publishable article (sole or co-authored). The project must make an original research contribution. If you want to count this project for another class (a history or political science capstone, for example), your document should run closer to thirty pages.
Depending on your major, your GWS capstone project might result in an extensive set of lesson plans and course materials, a journalism project, a public relations campaign, or an extensive service project based on research. In any of these cases, your project must involve extensive research and your written products should be comparable in length to the 15-30 pages required for the capstone senior paper.
Creative Project Expectations
For GWS minors who are musicians, artists, dancers, photographers, theater practitioners, filmmakers, and designers and who choose to complete a creative GWS capstone project, the creative work itself stands as the main body of work. At the same time, a written portion of the project is necessary for at least two reasons: 1) to provide context for the creative work and 2) to tie the work closely to scholarly work done in the field of Global Women’s Studies, so that the capstone student can show how what they have learned in GWS influences their art.
The written portion of your final project should consist of five to eight double-spaced pages, plus a bibliography, and should include:
- A vision statement or a personal narrative about what you have explored through your creative work
- A summary of the GWS research that has informed your work
- A summary (contextualization) of what others have done in your discipline related to your topic / theme
- An analysis of how that research inspired each piece of your creative work
- Documentation of your work (for example, program notes, album liner notes, or museum labels or captions)
- An impact narrative (for example, what have you learned? What did/will your audience experience with your work? How can you use your work to produce further sustainable change?)
- A bibliography of the sources you studied to create both of the above summaries
The Capstone Conference
Your capstone project will also result in a professional quality, effectively delivered presentation. The presentation might include multi-media components, for example a poster, handouts, or slides. In most cases, the conference presentation should last fifteen minutes, followed by five minutes of Q&A. Capstone Conference presenters should plan to attend and support the presentations of the classmates. Ideally, you will attend a capstone conference at least a semester prior to your own, so that you will have a good idea of expectations.