Capstone Project

In lieu of a thesis, students design a comprehensive project of their choosing during their course (ENG 675), which is normally taken in the last semester of study. Typical projects cover a wide range of technical communication outputs, including web sites, web-based training programs, revised corporate documents, scholarly articles for possible publication in peer-reviewed research journals, instructional manuals, etc.

The Capstone is only offered in spring semesters, so plan your schedule accordingly. Students will submit a proposal in October (prior to their final Spring semester) in order to be eligible to register for the capstone course.

Developing the Proposal

Students should start considering possible capstone topics by the beginning of their third semester (or after having completed 24 hours of graduate courses). You are responsible for proposing a topic to the MSTC faculty in the fall semester. ENG 675 instructor will send out a Call for Proposal to students around early October and those who plan to defend their capstone projects should respond and inform the instructor of their intention to enroll in the course. The first draft of your proposal is due on October 31. Faculty will respond to your proposals by November 14, and your final revisions should be submitted before November 25. Doing this allows you to take some time in the winter break to work on your project before starting ENG 675 in the spring.

Your two-page project proposal is your initial contract between you and the MS faculty regarding your work in this capstone course. The proposal will define and delimit your project so that both you and the faculty agree at the outset what your obligations for the semester are. The proposal is a standard, important, and necessary step in the development of your project: it should ensure that everyone is on the same page from the outset, keep you from hopelessly floundering mid-semester, and minimize surprises at the end of the semester.

Proposals will be reviewed by members of the MS faculty, and you will revise until the faculty members approve of your project and your plan for completing it. Faculty will evaluate the proposals according to the value or usefulness of the project, its relevance to your work in the MS program, its feasibility given the resources available and the semester schedule, and the logical coherence of the proposal itself. Submit your revised and approved proposal to the ENG 675 instructor in order to be registered for ENG 675. You will be assigned an advisor to help you with your project near the end of the fall semester.   

Note: If ENG 675 is your only requirement in your final semester and if you've already completed all other degree requirements, you may be eligible for a full-time/part-time courseload waiver. However, this only applies to students who have been enrolled full-time until the 675 semester. Please contact the Director of Graduate Programs for more information.

Researching and Writing

Meet with your capstone advisor in the first week of the semester (or sooner) to plan your work. The two of you will need to develop a timeline for completing your project, including deadlines for the submission of draft(s) and revisions. Please note that faculty usually need a week or two to comment on a substantial draft or revision and to work it into their schedule, so be sure to allow plenty of turnaround time as you map out the various stages of your research and writing. Many advisors will expect to see a full draft 4-6 weeks in advance of the final deadline to allow time for revision and additional research if needed. You will defend your capstone project in late March and April in ENG 675. The final product, approved by your advisor, must be submitted by the last day of class or whatever deadline given by your ENG 675 instructor to get a course grade.

Formatting the Proposal

These proposals must be brief and cogent, so they will be a good test of your technical writing skills. Your proposal cannot be longer than two pages, formatted for ease of reading in 11 or 12 pt. type font and one inch margins all around. Proposals that exceed the two page limit and/or are in a font smaller than 11 pt. will be returned to you for revision without being read.

Organize your proposal in the following way:

Heading

Use a memo heading, addressing the proposal to the MS Faculty, and including an informative subject line, not one that could go on someone else’s proposal.

Overview

Give a one-or two-sentence overview of what you are proposing to do, including why you are writing the proposal (yes, you can mention ENG 675 and the MS Program, but there should be other, "real" exigencies you are trying to meet, problems you are trying to solve, and/or goals you are trying to attain with your project for another, specific audience; that's what we want to hear about).

Problem or Opportunity

Describe the rhetorical exigency: why is your project needed and who needs it? What state of affairs could be improved by the application of your skills and knowledge? Who is aware of the problem? Will you have to persuade anyone that there is a problem? Will you need any approvals? Are there any barriers to getting your project accepted and put into use? You may wish to do a brief needs assessment here, or indicate that you will do one as part of the project.

Objectives or Criteria

What features or specifications will a successful solution to the problem have to include? What criteria will the audience apply in judging your product?

Product or Deliverable

Describe in some detail just what you are promising to produce by the end of the semester. What is the genre, who is the audience, what medium will it be produced in, how long will it be, how will it be organized, how will it be disseminated to its audience? You may not be able to answer all these questions yet, but let your audience know where you are more certain and where you’ll need to work things out as you go.

Work Plan

Convince your audience that you really can complete this project successfully. What resources will you use—including theories, concepts, guidelines, standards, technology and other tools, facilities, data or other raw material, information-gathering strategies, and so on? Divide the work for the project up into major stages, indicate what you plan to have completed for the two major drafts for consultants to review, and provide a schedule for completing the work by the end of the semester. See the Schedule for due dates, but don't merely reproduce the course schedule; instead provide dates for stages and goals that are unique to your project.

Email your two page proposal to all MS Faculty as an attachment to an email file; both the subject line of the email and the name the attached file should follow this formula: yourlastname_675prop-X.doc, where X is the draft number; and your file as a Word document. This formula is based on the needs of the user, and will make finding and reading your proposal your proposal much easier.

The Final Project

Your ENG 675 project represents the culmination of your work in the MS program in Technical Communication. It should not only solve a communication problem for someone--maybe even a problem that nobody knew existed--but also demonstrate to the faculty the best work you are capable of and how you can apply academic knowledge to practical problems as a "reflective practitioner."

Projects for this course basically divide into two kinds (these are not meant to be exclusive or all-inclusive categories; sometimes they overlap or the division simply breaks down):

  1. Your project may be a practical communication product designed for use in the workplace or elsewhere by some specified audience or user group and meant to institute a procedure or solve a specific problem or set of related problems. The problem may be already exist or may represent a fresh insight and/or new initiative on your part.

  2. Your project may be a research-oriented article intended for publication in a journal or other publication appropriate for the topic, and will need to be fully adapted to subject matter, specs, and style of the specific journal you have chosen to target. The article may be based on research you have done or will do, but should represent a reasonable next step or contribution to the field represented by the publication.

The contents of a research-oriented project might consist of:

  • a qualitative or quantitative analysis
  • an experimental research project or proposal
  • a case study
  • a usability study

The contents of a workplace-oriented project might consist, in addition to any of the above, of the writing, design, and production of an online or print document such as:

  • a website
  • a help system
  • a procedures manual
  • a technical report
  • a protocol

In either case, you should have sufficient background and knowledge to produce a professional-quality deliverable and to explain and justify from theoretical as well as practical standpoints the decisions you made in producing it.

Generally speaking, projects may grow out of work experience, coursework, or a new interest. Your project may be your own creation or related to your work with others in an organization. It may be a substantial revision of an existing document (electronic or hardcopy) that will produce specific improvements or benefits, or represent an advance in existing procedures or current knowledge. It may be an adequate series of justifiable small products that constitute a coordinated series or campaign. Or, it may be something else entirely. As noted below, the MS faculty will evaluate the suitability of your proposed project for this capstone course.

Contexts and Audiences

While the project can be and often is thought of as roughly "equal to" a very large term paper in terms of its ambition and scope, in all cases the project for this course must be consciously and carefully developed within a well-defined and clearly articulated rhetorical context (even if only for us/you, i.e., in your proposal, and at your defense, in which the MS faculty is the intended audience). In almost all cases, the "real context" for your project, and thus the "real audience" for it, exists outside the course, outside the MS program, and often outside the university.

This is an important point that is sometimes confusing to 675 students. The MS faculty is the "immediate audience" for your project: we receive it, review it, and evaluate it. But the MS faculty is ultimately not the "primary" or "intended" audience for your project, which likely will be a particular supervisor and/or part of an organization, or a journal editor and/or its readership. Thus, the MS faculty review and evaluate your project not only in terms of academic standards (the concepts, methods, and materials you have learned in the program, as well as writing and design skills), but also in terms of how well your project is adapted to and meets the needs of a real situation/audience. (There may be important "secondary audiences" as well.) As it is in all communication, audience adaptation is one of the major pedagogical goals of the course!

In this guise, the MS faculty ensure QA, and in effect become quality control managers. The same issue applies to the defense of your project, except there, as with your project proposal, the MS faculty is the primary or intended audience of your oral presentation, in which you explain your project and justify decisions you have made. In your defense you will talk about and defend your project in all its contexts.

Role of the Faculty

The MS faculty has the responsibility of approving the proposal for each project, attending the oral defense at the end of the semester, and determining whether the student passes ENG 675. The ENG 675 instructor will assign one to two faculty members to each student as project "consultants"; they will review project drafts in detail during the semester and serve as the primary questioners during the defense. ("Affiliated MS faculty," or other faculty members inside or outside the Department of English, may serve as consultants when appropriate and approved by the ENG 675 instructor.)

You should plan to meet with your consultant(s) several times during the semester to

  1. make sure you understand their expectations

  2. help resolve any differences of opinion about your work

  3. help you stay on track for completing an acceptable project

It is not the responsibility of any faculty member to find a project topic for you, although faculty may be able to make suggestions to help you find one. It is not the responsibility of any faculty member to participate in or do the work of the project, but only to advise.

The instructor of ENG 675 serves as coach, coordinator, and first reviewer of your work. He/she will direct you to appropriate faculty, review drafts, work with you on oral presentations, and guide you along a rigorous schedule of milestones to what we hope will be the successful completion of the project, the oral defense, the course, and the MS Program. Since the decision about your success in this course is made by the entire MS faculty, no comments made by the ENG 675 instructor during class or conferences can be construed as any guarantee of success.

Schedule and Deliverables

Since you must produce and defend a major project in the course of the semester, the focus of the entire course will be on the production and defense of those projects. ENG 675 will proceed in stages, as outlined below:

Class Sessions

Class sessions will often be conducted as workshops in which the entire class will:

  • discuss progress on and problems with projects
  • share strategies for working with faculty consultants, researching, and writing/revising
  • develop, practice, and troubleshoot oral presentations of the project
  • anticipate and answer potential defense questions

In addition, the ENG 675 instructor will be available for individual consultations when needed.

Submission of Drafts for Review and Consultation

The work that you do on the project is under the direction of your consultants and the 675 instructor. At two scheduled times during the semester, you will deliver a draft both to the 675 instructor  and then to your consultant(s) for review. Whenever you submit a draft to the 675 instructor and the consultants, you must use the following formula for both the subject line of the email and the name of the file you send:

Your last name_675draft-X.doc, where X is the draft number. (i.e., draft-1, draft-2, draft-3). This formula greatly facilitates the review process by helping us identify your work and find it later on our hard drives. Submissions not following this formula will be returned to you unread.

Final Draft for Defense

You must have a complete draft of your deliverable to your faculty consultant(s) one week before your scheduled defense date at the end of the semester. Students who do not deliver their complete draft to their faculty consultant(s) one week before their scheduled defense may not be able to defend their project, in which case the pass/fail policy for ENG 675 applies.

Oral Defense

Length: 20 minutes + 10 minutes for questions

The Audience for the Defense

The audience for the defense is not the same as the audience for your deliverable. The audience for the deliverable consists of the people whose lives you have improved by doing your project. The audience for the defense will be sitting right in front of you!

So you want to talk to the audience in front of you about the other audience. The audience for the defense will include the MS faculty, ENG 675 students, other MS students, MS alumni, and any friends and relations you care to invite.

Note: The ENG 675 instructor submits your course grade after your capstone advisor approves your project and after you've completed your capstone presentation and submitted your project electronically to the Graduate Services Coordinator for record-keeping purposes.

Formatting the Final Project

Projects can take many forms. Those that take the form of an academic essay should have a title page and an abstract of 150-200 words.

Depending on length, the essay could/should have a table of contents, a brief intro followed by section (or chapter) division, a brief conclusion, notes, and works cited. Lengths of essays will vary but will typically be 20-30 pages, including notes and bibliography.

Projects that take other forms, such as user manuals, Web pages, electronic texts, and other options, should also include a title page and abstract describing the project, its objectives, deliverables, and outcome. You should figure out a way to package your multimedia project before submitting it to the Graduate Services Coordinator for record- keeping.

The project's title page should include the following entries (all centered on the page):

  1. The title
  2. The phrase "by [student's name]"
  3. The statement: "A project submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Technical Communication at North Carolina State University"
  4. A line for the capstone advisor's signature and a line for the Director of Graduate Programs
  5. The date.
  6. Indication of archivable format. See sample title page below.

The abstract should be 150-200 words. Important: An abstract is not an introduction. It is a stand-alone summary that quickly describes the purpose and focus of the project, the methods used or approach taken, the deliverables, and the major observations and conclusions you came to.

Title Page, Release Form, and Abstract (word file)

Submitting the Finished Project

We would like you to provide a version of your project to be archived by the Department of English for record keeping purposes. Depending on the nature of your capstone project, you may produce a PDF file or multimedia products. Submit the following to the Graduate Services Coordinator by the last day of classes in order to be eligible for a course grade in ENG 675:

  1. PowerPoint slides from your capstone presentation.
  2. A signed title page, formatted as above, signed only by you and your capstone advisor, emailed to the Graduate Services Coordinator at graduate-english@ncsu.edu. You may scan and email this along with your full document, or you may submit a hard copy.
  3. A version of your project to be archived by the English department. Depending on the final deliverable of your capstone project, you may include an abstract and a PDF file if you are working on a research paper, or a link to your own website or other multimedia deliverable if you are working on multimodal products. (Please let the 675 instructor know if there are proprietary problems.) If you file is too big, please share it using a Google folder instead.

Here is a list of possible files that constitute your capstone project. Indicate the form of your submission on the title page:

- Abstract and PDF file of my paper

- URL of my website (please post URL here)

- URL of a shared Google folder (please post URL here)

MS Capstone Title Archive

2018

Nikita Apraj, Adapting Help Websites for Smartphones: an UX Approach

David Crow, Technical Communication in Context Survey and Praxis: An Introduction

Alexandra Dermigny, Gamified & Blended: A Kids’ Financial Literacy Unit that Sticks

Elise Gallivan, How to Launch a Career in Technical Communication

Kim Jovy, Knowing your Audience: A Content Strategy Report on Custom Designs and Repairs

David Mueller, The Transmedia Workbench

Kimberly Poetzinger, Handling Conflict at Work

Christopher Sanchez, An Instructor’s Guide on Using Moodle

Ryan John Seymour, Applying Software Development Risk Management Methods to Documentation in Agile Methodology

Jiaxin Zhang, Revamping MSTC Ad Package

2017

Alyssa Anderson, Proposal and Implementation Framework for Reorganizing Cherwell Software’s Online

Arthur Berger, A genre and verbal data analysis of federal commercial contract proposals

Brice Randall Bickford, Communication Plan for PowerAmerica Institute

Caitlin Brown, DITA: A Training Manual

Ludwig Colato, Creating Instructional Videos with Camtasia

Brian-Anthony Garrison, MSTC Marketing Package

Jessica Golden, Technical Communications Service Catalog: Advanced Analytics Lab

Rachael Graham, Augmented Reality Instructional App for Makerspace 3D Printers

Moses Ifamose, NC State University: Writing Program Student Booklet

Sarah Ishida, The Web Presence Strategy of Author S.E.M. Ishida

Nupoor Jalindre, Developing an Open Source Documentation Theme Using Jekyll

Jade Phillips, Department of English Graduate Programs Content Style Guide: For flyers, posters, brochures, & other various printed deliverables

David Pruitt, Songs of Innocence and Experience: William Blake’s Poems of Trauma

Timothy Ryan, Developing Promotional Materials and a Website for the NC State Chess Team

Matthew Sarda, Inverted American Heroes: Challenging the American Trauma Hero Myth

Laura Zdanski, An Introduction to Accessible Design

2016

Rachel Amity, Shifting styles, shifting attitudes: An evaluation of style in IBM technical documentation

Anni (Bond) Simpson, TCA website

Nicholas Chavis, MSTC Guidelines for Social Media

Aaron Dubin, Usability Test Report Waze Traffic and Navigation App

Julia Johnson, Disrupting Content: Piloting DITA for Presales Proposals

Jason Clark Powers, Consider Only the Top-Most Turtle: An Example of Cross-Disciplinary Application of Rhetorical Theory

2015

Esha Adhya, Comparative Study of Style Guides in IBM and Cisco

Kathryn Alexander, Investigate and present user-based documentation recommendations for continuously delivered IBM software products

Connie Chen, A tool to help technical communicators keep track of documents

Ashely Franklin, Raising awareness of risk-based sampling methods among agricultural inspectors

Sharmila Govindarajan, IBM WebSphere Portal Information Development Team Training Guide

Renee Haran, A video simulation of the Nutanix Foundation software installation process

Lane Kranock, An analysis of how gender is used and displayed within technical communications rhetoric, documents, collaborative teamwork, co-worker relationships, and manager/subordinate relationships

Brandi McElveen, Upgrading SAS® Solutions OnDemand content repository to Confluence 5

Carrie Misenheimer, Creating Effective Visual Interpretations of NC Climate Data Online

Amitha Narayanan, Migrating Legacy Online Help Content to MadCap Flare

Sreeranjani Pattabiraman, Creating a Technical Communication Tools Database

Derek Poindexter, Creating an MSTC Blog

Martia Sharpe, Youth Ministry Communication Data Management Project

Stephanie Suber, Creation of a Social Media Plan for RENCI

Brandi Swope, A Heuristic Analysis of Web Content Concerning Treatment of Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder

Tandylyn Terry, North Carolina State University First-Year Writing Program User Guide

Martin Wall, Statistical Analysis of Clinical Trials of Enalapril

Darren West, Conversion of User Documentation to E-book Format Using a Custom CSS

2014

Samantha Callich, Biology Concepts 101 and How To Succeed in The Major

Sharon Settlage, Manuscript on an Opinion Survey about Global Climate Change

Susie Hansley, Information Management Project for iContact's Strategic Advisor Group

Emily Callot, The MSTC Website: A Development and Revision Strategy

David Horgan, An Accessible and Readable Web Accessibility Guide: A Dual Web Usability Test Report

Stephanie Mills, Einstein's Evolution as a Rhetor: An Analysis of Einstein's 1905 Annus Mirabilis Papers

LaKrisha Mauldin, The DSM Guides more than Diagnosis: How the DSM as a Guiding Medical Document Can Alter Perception of Reality and Self

Sang Kim, Website Development for Connecting the Skills and Competencies of the TC Field with the Required Courses in the MS TC program

Mason Rizzo, Your Healthy Body: Health Education and Community Outreach

Nina Hawley, "The D.E.N.N.I.S. System": Satire as Moral Critique in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Brittney Ragsdale, Meeting in the Middle: A Flipped English 332 Course

Bob Peterssen, Life@IBM: Creating the new-hire resource guide

Nanci Washington, Guide to Using Microsoft's Content Management System

Luke Howell, Social Media Strategy for Research-Technology Management

Alexandra Heath, Getting Started in ID at IBM

2013

James Franklin, Using the Brewery, NetApp's Product Operations Knowledgebase

Laura Ingerham, Prescription Drug InfoSearch: Pointing Web Users in the Right Direction

Amber Peterson, Bridging the Communication Gap for Co-ops at IBM

Catherine Sprankle, I'm with the Band: Development of a Planning and Operations Manual for the Captial City Band Expo

Hannah Tate, Who says learning (to play games) can't be fun"  Implementing Instructional Design Principles in the Creation of Indie Game Tutorials

Michelle Tompkins, NCSU Master of Science in Technical Communication: Enhancing the Orientation Experience

2012

Courtney Myers, Customer Training Plan: Paper to Mobile Web Application

Michelle Partridge-Doerr, AICPA Content Management Process Manual: Creating a Documentation Resource in Documentum

Zachary Moser-Katz, DCRI Video Style Guide

Dennis Mohr, Development of Interactvie Training for SAS Solutions On Demand, Advanced JIRA

Christopher Boucher, Technician New Writer’s Guide

Desiree Burns, TNR for Campus Feral Cats: A Website and Proposal

Jonathan McCall, Light Pollution in North Carolina: Technical Problems, Rhetorical Solutions

Yuan Wang, Internship Handbook For Engineering Communications

Carolyn Carpenter, Designing a Civil Engineering Website in a Content Management System Environment

Ashley Hardin, Establishing Best Practices: The Duke Medicine Social Media Website

Justin Moss, Revising the Wake County Public School System Finance Manual

Gideon Brookins, Building a Working Image: General Guidelines for Technical Communicator ePortfolios

Beverly Huestess, WCPSS Writer's Guide and C-Mapp Online Curriculum Web Application Guide

Kaitlin Gudz, Wii Sports Manuals for Senior Citizens

Mark Daniel, Triangle Connector: An Online Information Community for Transit Planning in the Triangle Region

Karen Rhodes, Orientation Guide for New Employees and New Board Members of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems

2011

Matt Giglio, Matters of Style: Developing a Style Guide for the URS Corporation

Kristin Lee, Social Media Plan for Blue Ridge Boxer Rescue

Dan Reichers, Falls Lake: the Rules, the issues, the future

Jessica Vincent, Caddie Style Communication: Best Practices for Golf Course Owners/ Operators on Communicating with Golf Course Website Designers