CAN YOU PROVIDE MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE DOCTORAL CAPSTONE REQUIREMENT AT WALDEN UNIVERSITY

The capstone project is the culminating academic experience for Walden University’s doctoral students. It represents the application of their knowledge and skills developed throughout their degree program. There are a few different capstone options that Walden students can choose from depending on their specific doctoral program.

For most programs, the default capstone is the doctoral dissertation. The dissertation process at Walden is structured to help students complete an original research study that contributes new knowledge and understanding to their field of study. Students work closely with a dissertation chair and committee to define their topic, conduct a thorough literature review, obtain necessary approvals, collect and analyze data, and write, edit, and finalize their dissertation. The dissertation demonstrates a student’s ability to design and implement an independent, scholarly research study according to approved standards.

Some doctoral programs, such as the Doctor of Nursing Practice and Doctor of Social Work programs, have a professional capstone project instead of a dissertation. In these programs, the capstone focuses on solving a practical problem or creating a program, product, or system in the student’s area of specialization. Capstones in practice-focused programs typically involve a needs assessment, proposal for a new program or intervention, implementation and evaluation plan, or similar applied research project.

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Regardless of format, all Walden capstones must meet rigorous research and writing standards. They involve applying appropriate research methodology, designing effective evaluation plans, adhering to ethical standards, obtaining necessary approvals, contributing original analysis and insights, and effectively communicating the study, project details, processes, findings, and conclusions in a scholarly written report. The quality and rigor of the capstone demonstrates that students have mastered advanced research skills and can independently conduct significant work that expands the body of knowledge in their discipline.

Students work closely with a dedicated capstone chair or committee throughout the entire capstone process. This includes the initial capstone proposal phase where they develop their problem statement, purpose statement, central research question or project goal, conceptual framework, and detailed methodology. Committees provide guidance on these foundational components to help set students up for success.

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After the proposal is approved, students then enter the implementation phase where they carry out the approved research plan or project activities. Throughout data collection, analysis, and initial drafting of the final report, regular meetings with the chair/committee ensure appropriate progress is being made. Chairs are also available on an ongoing basis for guidance, feedback on drafts, and support.

The final capstone document follows specific formatting guidelines in adherence with standard dissertation or final project report standards. In the dissertation, this includes adhering to established sections such as introduction, literature review, methodology, findings, conclusions, etc. For other capstones, there may be similar or modified required sections. The final written product represents the original work in its entirety for review by the committee.

When complete, the capstone culminates in an oral defense/presentation. In a dissertation defense, students orally present on and answer questions about all aspects of their study from the committee. Other capstones may involve a final presentation and questions or a culminating project evaluation meeting.

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Upon successful completion of all required components and oral defense or evaluation, students have completed their capstone requirement and are cleared to graduate from their doctoral program once any final formatting requirements or revisions are also complete. The capstone demonstrates their mastery of research skills and content knowledge in their field, preparing them for professional research, scholarship, practice, and career advancement at the doctoral level.

The doctoral capstone at Walden University is a rigorous culminating project designed to allow students to integrate their learning through independent applied research or a major project. It demonstrates research and writing skills as well as content mastery in the program of study. Completion of the capstone is the final requirement prior to graduating with a research-focused doctoral degree.

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