Executive Summary: The executive summary is one of the most important sections of any capstone report. It should be no more than one page and concisely summarize the main research question/problem, methods used, key findings, and primary recommendations. The executive summary gives busy stakeholders a quick overview of the project outcomes and value. It must be well-written in a clear, concise manner that piques interest in the full report.
Introduction: The introduction provides context and overview for the project. It explains the research question/problem studied, why it is relevant or important, potential impacts of the findings, and an outline of the overall report structure. The introduction frames the scope and sets reader expectations. It is important this section introduces the topic in a compelling manner that motivates reading further.
Literature Review: A well-researched and synthesized literature review demonstrates the student understands the background and theoretical framework around the research topic. It summarizes and critiques relevant studies to highlight what is known, debates, gaps in knowledge, and how the current project adds new insights. The literature review establishes credibility and context for the methods and findings. It is organized thematically to tell a clear narrative.
Methods: The methods section provides a step-by-step description of how the research was designed and conducted to answer the research question. Sufficient detail must be included to allow another researcher to replicate the study. Key elements include the type of methodology (e.g. qualitative, quantitative, mixed), sample selection, data collection tools/techniques, procedure, limitations, and trustworthiness of the research design.
Charts/Tables/Figures: Adding relevant charts, figures, graphs and tables to the report helps simplify complex concepts or data and present them in digestible visual formats. Tables summarize quantitative data findings, while figures/graphs display trends, patterns and relationships at a glance. These visual elements break up blocks of text and enhance reader understanding.
Findings: The findings section presents the key outcomes and discoveries from analyses. It relates the findings back to the purpose of the study by addressing the original research question. Findings are reported in an objective, unbiased manner supported by evidence such as verbatim quotes, observation notes or quantitative data. This section does not include recommendations or interpretation – just presents the facts.
Discussion/Analysis: Here, the student synthesizes how the findings relate to the literature reviewed earlier. They analyze, interpret and explain the significance and meaning of results. Comparisons are drawn between the study findings and theories/concepts in existing literature. Unexpected or contradictory findings are highlighted and possible reasons explored. The discussion moves the reader towards recommendations.
Recommendations: This critical section clearly outlines actionable proposals or suggestions based on the implications and significance of the findings and discussion. Recommendations directly address the original problem/question and are targeted towards stakeholders who can implement the changes. They are feasible, evidence-based ideas centered around improving the situation. For each recommendation, potential challenges or limitations are also addressed.
Conclusion: To wrap up the report, the conclusion restates the research problem, summarizes key findings and draws the major outcomes together. Most importantly, it conveys the value, impact and ‘so what’ of the project by emphasizing how it contributes new knowledge or understandings. The conclusion demonstrates reflexivity on the process and personal growth of the student. It leaves the reader with a sense of closure and importance of the work.
Oral Presentation: In addition to the written report, students should hone their communication skills through an oral presentation of the capstone. Visual aids such as slides help engage the audience and summarize major points. Strong presenters adopt an enthusiastic, confident tone and style, maintain eye contact and involve listeners through questioning. Rehearsal is key to refining the presentation for impact.
A well-structured written report supported by an engaging oral presentation allows capstone students to thoughtfully communicate their research in a clear, logical and compelling manner to key stakeholders. Focusing on the audience needs throughout the process helps relay the value, depth and applications of the project in an impactful way.