Preparing for Capstone

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  Course Deadlines
  Introduction and Purpose

The Capstone Project is an essential aspect of the MPH curriculum. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) requires that, “All professional degree programs identified in the instructional matrix shall assure that each student demonstrates skills and integration of knowledge through a culminating experience.”

A culminating experience is one that requires a student to synthesize and integrate knowledge acquired in coursework and other learning experiences and to apply theory and principles in a situation that approximates some aspect of professional practice. It will be used as one means by which faculty judge whether the student has mastered the body of public health knowledge and can demonstrate proficiency in the required public health competencies.

Presentation:  Overview of Capstone Project (PDF)

  Description of Master's Paper

An original Master’s Paper on a significant public health or community health issue or topic will be the primary component of the Capstone Project. All papers are required to contain a comprehensive literature review. The Master’s Paper can take many forms and may include:

  • Program Development. Students work to develop a program in areas such as health promotion or a community intervention.
  • Program Evaluation. Students conduct an evaluation of a public or community health program to determine effectiveness and outcomes.
  • Community Assessment. Students conduct various aspects of a community health assessment.
  • Community Health Planning. Students develop various aspects of a community health plan.
  • Public Health Policy. Students research and develop a public policy analysis or an advocacy statement related to a significant public or community health issue.
  • Applied Research. Students conduct research on a public or community health topic of interest.

Presentation:  Working on your Project (PDF) 


Specific learning objectives include: Apply appropriate public health theory, skills, and knowledge to a public health or community health issue. Apply appropriate public health theory, skills, and knowledge to a public health or community health issue.  Complete a major written paper on a significant public health or community health issue or topic.  Demonstrate proficiency in the required public health competencies.  Demonstrate professional writing and presentation skills.

Presentation: Planning your Project (PDF)


Students should have completed all MPH coursework, including the Field Placement, before enrolling in the Capstone Project. However, due to the uniqueness of the Capstone Project and opportunities that may arise, exceptions may be made. Students must submit the Early Capstone Project Request Form, which can be found on the Capstone Project Forms to the Program Director in these instances.

Students are required to maintain CITI (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) certification in the Protection of Human Research Subjects throughout the Capstone Project. The course may be accessed at the CITI Website, and students must register for one of the following groups.

  • Group 1 – Biomedical Investigators, Co-Investigators, and Study Coordinators
  • Group 3 – Appropriate for all IRB, DSMB, DSMC, and GCRC members and everyone involved in Both Biomedical & Social/Behavioral Research
  • Group 4 – Social/Behavioral Research PI’s, Co-PI’s, Study Coordinators

A copy of the Human Research Curriculum Completion Report should be submitted to Kim Contardi, MPH Program Manager, via email to or by fax to (414) 955-6529.

Writing Your Master's Paper

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  Sections of the Paper

Presentation: Sections of the Master's Paper (PDF)

Formatting Standards of Capstone Paper

The paper should be of publishable quality and include the following:

  • Title Page – Include name, title of project, Faculty Advisor’s name, and project’s time frame.

  • Abstract – Provide an overview of the paper. The abstract should not exceed 300 words.

  • Introduction – A brief overview of the paper including a summary of the background leading to the research question or purpose of the paper.

  • Purpose Statement or Research Question(s) – If more than one purpose or question is applicable, limit the description to one brief paragraph each.

  • Literature Review – Identify and review literature and previous research applicable to the paper topic. This section should include a synthesis and discussion of the reviewed literature to identify strengths, weaknesses, trends, opportunities, etc. The review should provide the basis for the paper.

  • Methods – Describe the methodology utilized in the development of the paper. This might include the design, setting, participants, intervention, and main outcome measures of the Capstone Project, or it might provide details regarding sampling, measurement, data collection, and analysis of research.

  • Results – Present the results of the Capstone Project. Explain the product of the effort put forth.

  • Discussion – Discuss, in detail, the results. Place the results in the context of the existing base of knowledge on the topic, and discuss limitations.

  • Conclusion – Provide discrete conclusions supported by evidence. Express any further study or effort implied by the conclusions, and give equal attention to positive and negative conclusions.

  • References – Properly and consistently cite references in a reputable format of the student’s choice.

  • Appendices – Support materials may include IRB letters, survey/interview instruments, letters of support, data analysis coding sheets, or others.


Student performance will be based on the Faculty Advisor’s evaluation of the student’s written paper and presentation with input from the Second Reader. The final grade is determined by the student’s Faculty Advisor, and the student will be assigned a grade of Excellent, Good, Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. A student whose performance is evaluated as Unsatisfactory will be required to repeat the course. A breakdown of the grading is as follows:

  • Capstone Project Proposal – 10%
  • Master’s Paper - 80%
  • PowerPoint Presentation - 10%

Contact Us

Master of Public Health Program
Institute for Health and Equity
Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Rd.
Milwaukee, WI 53226

(414) 955-4510
(414) 955-0176 (fax)

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