The Foreboding Finale: Master’s Capstone

05/07/2013 § 1 Comment

In my program (UNC SILS), all master’s students are required to complete a capstone paper or project prior to graduation. Both options require students to approach a “problem” in information or library science in a “substantial and scholarly way.” No small feat, right? I bet a bunch of you out there are facing similar tasks within the next year and I’m hoping that we can begin to face them together. First up: how to get started? I’ve called on my friend and classmate, Robbin Zirkle, to add her insights. Robbin is working on her project this fall and is (hopefully!) graduating in December.

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Capstone Options

Robbin: I went into the planning stages of INLS 992 with the intention of writing a master’s paper, likely involving content analysis of collection development policies. When I was considering how to go about completing my paper, though, I realized that I wanted it to be a true deliverable that could help an institution. Thus, my simple master’s paper has morphed into a master’s project; I will have a concrete, practical deliverable at the end of my experience that will impact an institution.

Julia: As Robbin points out, a project has the potential benefit of yielding an institution-specific deliverable (for example, an evaluation of existing programs or policy). On the other hand, a paper or thesis is an opportunity to delve into research of a more traditionally academic nature. I agree with many of Rebecca Halpern’s points about the benefits of writing a master’s paper; among other things, this kind of writing provides a leg up for those hoping to publish or hoping to enter positions that require publishing. I plan to write a master’s paper, but I’ll have to see where my ideas lead. For those of you in programs with a portfolio capstone option, see also Madeleine’s advice.

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