The concept of a Capstone project is older than, and certainly not unique to, the College of General Studies at Boston University. A final research project has historically been considered the culmination of a liberal arts education.
In addition to the historical and academic meanings of the term, there is an architectural sense to the word “capstone.” A capstone is the final block that is placed on top of a construction project to tie the whole structure together. Further, in the language of the building industry, each layer of brick is called a “course.” Therefore, it is appropriate to use the word “capstone” for our final project at the College, since it will be the final stage of your education here—the last course that caps two years of study.
As our sophomores begin this project, they keep three thoughts in mind. First, just as the construction of a building is not an individual effort, but rather a process requiring the labors of an organized group, so too is the Capstone project a group effort. They are expected to work together for the success of their group. The more each individual gives to the group, the more each person will gain from the month’s work. When there is a genuine group effort, the final product will be better and the experience will be more rewarding.
Second, the Capstone project is a kind of drama, requiring an act of imagination as they assume the roles of experts or advocates and present their findings in a real-world format.
Third, the Capstone paper is not to be merely a 50-page research term paper. Instead, it should be a synthesis—a combining of separate elements to form a coherent whole. Research is, to be sure, an indispensable part of the project; but they will be expected in addition to construct arguments and to analyze and synthesize their research in order to make a proposal or reach a verdict and justify their conclusions.
In other words, research is more than gathering raw data as an end in itself. What is most important is the synthesis of these data into a meaningful whole which, if done properly, will be greater than the sum of its parts.
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