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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What I learned from the peer review process

25/05/2012 § 10 Comments

CC image by Nic McPhee

Back in March 2011, Micah wrote a post on the need for LIS students to foster a culture of writing and sharing.  I followed his advice (as it has yet to lead me astray!), and this past semester I started as a Content Editor of San Jose State University’s SLIS Student Research Journal (SRJ).  I also submitted a paper I wrote in the fall semester to Library Student Journal (LSJ), which has been accepted for publication.  Both experiences, as a reviewer and reviewee, have been great — so I thought I’d share a little bit about them.

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Questioning the Final Research Paper

16/01/2012 § 20 Comments

CC image courtesy of Shht! on Flickr

Before the new semester starts, I’d like to address the academic tradition of the “final paper.”  I don’t understand why so many professors assign research papers as a final assignment.  Research papers are difficult to execute well when under a severe time constraint, especially when most of the knowledge you’re pulling together, synthesizing, and analyzing may not be taught until a couple weeks before the paper is due — or the external research has to be performed on top of keeping up with other heavy assignments.  What generally results is not great research or writing.

How can students be expected to write good research papers given that they haven’t learned all the course material yet?  And if we don’t need to learn the course material to write the paper, what’s the point of writing it?  The whole process is quite frustrating to me because I don’t understand the reasoning.  Do professors really expect us to work on the research paper throughout the entire semester?  If they do, why don’t they assign more relevant material each week that would support it?  I often feel like I don’t actually write high-quality research papers, yet I still get rewarded with an A grade.  It doesn’t help me in the long run if I think my research papers are great when they’re actually not.

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