Special Project Capstone
A Guide for Students in ILS 580 S70
Compiled by Mary E. Brown, Ph.D., Professor, ILS
After the Special Project Capstone guidelines/handbooks published by
Southern’s Department of Public Health and Central’s School of Graduate
Table of Contents
The Special Project as the Capstone Experience 3
The Special Project Process 6
Suggested Timeline for the Special Project Proposal 8
Preparing for Graduation 9
Appendix A: Special Project Proposal Template 11
Appendix B: Letter of Agreement to Serve as Special Project Fulfillment Advisor 14 Appendix C: Sample pages for Special Project Report 15
Appendix D: Rubric for Assessment of the Special Project Proposal 27 Appendix E: Rubric for Assessment of the Special Project Capstone Project 28 Appendix F: Rubric for Assessment of the ILS Capstone [Digital] Portfolio 30 Appendix G: Some recent investigated research questions/areas 33 Appendix H: Quick Review of APA Style for Common References 38
The Special Project as the Capstone Experience
University Requirement for a Master’s Degree at Southern
From the 2009-2010 Graduate Catalog
Academic Standards and Regulations / Master’s Degree Requirements, p. 37:
‖All master’s degree programs at Southern require the successful completion of one
or more of the following individual capstone experiences: A thesis, a comprehensive
examination, or a special project. The capstone experience is the culminating academic
event for students enrolled in a master’s degree graduate program. It requires students
to demonstrate their ability to organize and synthesize knowledge and apply skills
developed throughout their academic program. …. The determination of the capstone
experience is by the faculty of the academic department. ….
• SPECIAL PROJECT. The special project provides an opportunity for graduate
students to complete an academically rigorous project that contributes in some
meaningful way to the student’s discipline and professional community. The
special project involves the integration and application of discipline-specific
knowledge, concepts, theory and skills in the development of a tangible product
(a.k.a., deliverable), accompanied by a written report describing the process and
results of the product's development. Students choose to complete a special project
to demonstrate the ability to make independent use of and apply information and
training, and to furnish objective evidence of their aptitude in their chosen field
of study. A special project in the major field may be required at the discretion of
the graduate program. The special project must be directed by a member of the
Graduate Faculty. The master’s degree is conferred after successful completion
of a minimum of 36 credits including the special project.‖
10.pdf pages 37-39 for additional requirements.)
From the 2009-2010 Graduate Catalog / Information and Library Science
The Special Project Requirements and Capstone Portfolio, p. 155:
‖All students enrolled in the MLS degree program are required to complete a Special
Project in lieu of a thesis or comprehensive exam as one of the University requirements
for graduate degrees. The Special Project proposal is developed in ILS 580 Research in
Information and Library Science. Students should see Graduate School’s Special Project
Proposal guidelines and project requirements on the ILS Website.
The Department of Information and Library Science requires all candidates for the MLS to
complete an electronic Capstone Portfolio as one of the exit requirements for the degree.
The Capstone Portfolio is a well-organized Web- and CD-deliverable demonstration of
the body of work a student completes in the MLS program and how this work relates
to professional competencies. The portfolio includes the Special Project and samples
of assignments and projects from all courses completed for the MLS degree. See ILS
website for Capstone Portfolio template and specific guidelines.
The completed Capstone Portfolio is evaluated, using a rubric, by the student's advisor
or ILS 580 professor. The approved Capstone Portfolio is submitted to the ILS Depart-
ment on a CD and kept on file for review by faculty and accreditation agencies.‖
Welcome to ILS 580 S70 Research in Information and Library Science. This Handbook
is intended to help you understand and successfully complete the Special Project
requirement for the Master of Library Science degree.
From the 2009-2010 Graduate Catalog, page 163:
―ILS 580 — Research in Information and Library Science
Fundamentals of quantitative and qualitative research methods will be studied. Central
research findings and research literature of the field are considered. Each student pre-
pares a Special Project proposal to meet the Graduate School and MLS requirements.‖
For those who matriculated prior to Fall 2009 and who have not already passed ILS 680,
ILS 580 replaces the ILS 680 requirement for the MLS degree. The Registrar’s Office
should automatically make this substitution during degree audit. If a question should arise
during the audit and you are told you need to take 680, do not panic; just call the
department office at 1-203-392-5781 or 1-888-500-SCSU, 4, and let them handle it.
There are a few significant differences between ILS 680 and ILS 580. ILS 680 had a
prerequisite of 24 credits toward degree while ILS 580 has a prerequisite of only 15
credits toward degree. In ILS 680, students planned and completed a research project. In
ILS 580, students need only complete the Proposal portion (in order to receive credit and
a grade for ILS 580). In ILS 680, the product of the research for all students was a
publishable-quality research article manuscript. In ILS 580 the product of the research
has been expanded to also include: a public service special project involving field work,
intervention planning and development, and/or policy development that are informed by
the student's original research; an educational special project consisting of development
of curriculum, learner-based exercises, or computer software or other tools of a
specifically educational purpose that are informed by the student's original research; a
multimedia special project involving the creation of an installation or digital exhibit on a specific topic within the discipline, or a film or video that documents an experience,
social phenomenon, or inquiry that is relevant to the field that are informed by the
student's original research; an entrepreneurial special project involving idea generation,
feasibility study, and development and implementation that are informed by the student's
Depending upon the project undertaken and how quickly a student passes the Proposal
stage, the research and project could be completed within the semester ILS 580 is taken,
or it may need to be completed after the ILS 580 course is finished.
Students completing the proposed project after the conclusion of ILS 580 will need to
include in their Proposal how that work will be supervised. Some suggestions are: with
their assigned advisor* or other fulltime ILS faculty member*, through an Independent
Study* (ILS 600), or through a Field Project* (ILS 585).
*Note: the faculty member supervising these (Special Project research/completion)
must be a member of Graduate Faculty
The ILS 580 course assessment/grade will be based on the Special Project Proposal only
(per the course description in the Graduate Catalog). A certificate of completion of the
Special Project requirement will be issued after the student successfully carries out the
Proposal and files an acceptable (―Passed‖) Special Project Report with the department
and Graduate School. Students completing the proposed project after the conclusion of
ILS 580 will need to make sure the appropriate paperwork is filed.
Assessment of the Special Project Proposal, the Special Project Report, and the Capstone
Portfolio completed within ILS 580 S70 will be by rubric. The three rubrics can be found
in Appendices D-F (pp 27-32). Students completing the proposed project (Special Project
Report) and capstone portfolio after the conclusion of ILS 580 will need to check with
the faculty member supervising these as to how they will be assessed.
The Special Project Report (final documentation of the completed Special Project) is
expected to be mounted on a server and be made available (as full-text) through Consuls
Library Catalog (www.consuls.org/). The title and abstract are also expected to be
mounted on a server and be made available through the department Website.
The Special Project Process
The Special Project process in ILS now begins with enrollment in ILS 580 Research in
Information and Library Science.
Before or immediately after you begin ILS 580, you need to complete the training
module Protecting Human Research Participants (PHRP), now housed on the National
Institute of Health (NIH)’s website for extramural researchers. After passing the training module, you need to print and save a copy of the certificate. I will want to know your
certificate number and its URL. The PHRP training module is located at
I like students to begin the process of searching for a project with a question or problem
in the broad LIS field that really interests them. (You are going to be spending a lot of
time and work with this question or problem so it is best if it is something that you are
really passionate about. In Appendix G (pp. 33-37) you will find some things that MLS
students have researched in the past.)
After you have settled on one to three potential questions/problems to consider, you need
to do a quick search of the literature to see what has already been published/researched in
this area. To do this ―quick search‖ you really need to test out search terms to make sure
you are finding leads into the literature you need. For example, I’m interested in ―library
service to the elderly‖ and enter that phrase into Academic Search Premier; only two
articles come up. I see both articles list ―Subject Terms: LIBRARIES & older people‖
and try it (
DE "LIBRARIES & older people") and get back 72 items. First thing I
generally do is copy all the citations to a Word doc:
1. Programs for aging: info asked.
Library Journal, 6/15/76, Vol. 101 Issue 12, p1373, 1/8p; (AN 5679203)
2. Libraries produce talking books; provide info to aging.
Library Journal, 11/1/77, Vol. 102 Issue 19, p2206, 1/2p; (AN 5671183)
Then I characterize the 72 items based on their titles. For example, 27 items address
programs, 15 address services/resources, 13 address outreach or promotion, etc. Just
based on the titles, there are several dozen promising articles. This is a very different
impression than my first search phrase that returned only two items.
A good rule of thumb is that you want at least about a dozen solid articles (and I do mean
peer-reviewed research articles, not 300-word captions to a photograph in a magazine).
But if you are getting more than about fifty solid research articles, you probably need to
narrow your search to something more specific.
After I identify promising articles based on their title, I go back into the database and pull
the abstracts for each article, adding them to my Word doc. I now sit down and read the
abstracts and write up what I know from them, what they didn’t tell me but I want/need to
know, and prioritize the order in which I want to read the articles and make any notes on what I want from specific articles (such as the method or questionnaire used) as well as any additional searches I might want to conduct.
It is best to have a firm grasp of the literature before developing your research plan, method and instruments.
A bit about how I operate. I ask questions...and more questions. When I stop asking questions it's generally time to draft the IRB application or the Special Project Proposal. When I think you are at a place that the research is not doable in the context of 580 and the Special Project, I tell you.
For example: "I want to study the change in human perception of the moon." "How will you measure human perception of the moon?" "I'll ask people to write a story about the moon." "Who exactly will you ask?" "I want to start with 2 year olds and go through adults." "Do you want to know how the perception changed over historical time or developmental ages?" "Both." "How far back do you want to go in time?" "At least 200 years." "How will you deal with 2 years olds since it is not usual for them to be able to write out a story? And how will you get perceptions from 200 years ago?" "Oh, I see, those are problems....can I tape record children who can't write and use stories published over the past 200 years to get general perceptions?" See how I do it? I ask questions until you either work through to something doable or work your way into a no-go situation. (I find some students expect a yes/no to "I want to study the change in human perception of the moon" and when I start asking questions they start suggesting other topics: This just generally creates frustration and uses up time. Questions signal progress.
Most students say 580/680/Special Project is unlike any course/project they have undertaken in the MLS program. Some are better prepared for it than others. But everyone has to get through it (with a B or better....and we prefer it takes only one time/semester to do it). The two areas most students say they are ill-prepared to do: 1) conduct and write up a literature review; and 2) construct (using html tags or other tools) and mount a Website to a server and to a CD.
Again, in terms of the research you do for the Special Project, I strongly urge you to try and stay within areas/questions/problems that you are passionate about. The Special Project is a lot of work and passion for the research will go a long way to keeping you on track.
Rest assured, that as long as students stay engaged and trying, I have gotten them successfully though 680/580, the Special Project, and the Capstone Portfolio requirements. Most are quite proud of the work they accomplish and glad they had the experience.
I hope you have your best running shoes on and firmly tied. Let's get started!
Suggested Timeline for the Special Project Proposal
If completing only the Proposal in ILS 580
Week 1 Formulate and submit initial research/project ideas
Week 2-3 Conduct review(s) of the literature to support these initial ideas
Week 3 Prepare and submit a brief description of your final project idea
Week 4 Extend review of the literature to cognate area(s)
Week 5 Prepare IRB application (for human participant research)
Prepare all research instruments, cover letters, etc.
Week 6 Obtain all needed written permissions from non-Southern agencies
Submit IRB application to Southern’s IRB (allow up to 2 weeks
for IRB review to be completed) Week 7-8 Extend literature review as needed
Obtain written documentation of how you plan to fulfill the
Proposal (including advisement agreement) Week 9-11 Complete and submit Special Project Proposal (IRB response must
be included if conducting human participant research)
If completing the Proposal and project in ILS 580
Week 1 Formulate and submit initial research/project ideas
Week 2 Conduct review(s) of the literature to support these initial ideas;
Prepare and submit a brief description of your final project idea
Week 3 Extend review of the literature to cognate area(s)
Prepare IRB application (for human participant research)
Week 4 Prepare all research instruments, cover letters, etc.
Obtain all needed written permissions from non-Southern agencies
Submit IRB application to Southern’s IRB (allow up to 2 weeks
for IRB review to be completed) Week 5 Extend literature review as needed
Complete and submit Special Project Proposal (IRB response must
be included if conducting human participant research) Week 6 After Special Project Proposal has been approved/passed,
Begin conducting research Week 7 Begin analyzing collected data
Week 8 Begin preparing product/deliverable based on research findings
Week 9 Begin drafting the Special Project Report
Week 10-13 Deliver product and complete any post-delivery assessment
Submit Special Project Report for review
Preparing for Graduation
All students expecting to graduate must file a Degree Application form. Information is
available at http://www.southernct.edu/registrar/applyforagraduatedegree/
It is strongly recommended the form be filed as soon as it is available on the Registrar's
Office website (4-7 months before the graduation month, depending upon whether a May,
August, or January degree is anticipated).
The deadline for submitting a Degree Application for a January 2010 degree was Friday,
June 12, 2009, and for a May 2010 degree is Friday, November 13, 2009. Future dates
will be posted on the Registrar's website.
To prepare for the degree audit (activated with the filing of the Degree Application):
? Check your unofficial transcript in Banner to verify that all courses taken and all
transfer credits are properly recorded and all course grades are properly
recorded. Errors need to be corrected immediately. Contact the department
office or the professor with whom you took the course.
? Check that any changes to the Planned Program have been approved through the
Change in Planned Program form. To begin the process, email your advisor
with the number and title of the course(s) you wish to DROP and those you
wish to ADD. Your advisor will complete the Change in Planned Program form,
attach your email as signature, and forward the form to the Graduate School.
? Check that the Special Project has been passed. (This will be recorded on the
unofficial transcript in Banner, likely near the semester in which it was passed.)
Courses are valid toward a degree for six years. Any course that has become invalid (six
years have lapsed since the course was taken) must be revalidated through examination or
re-taken; otherwise, it cannot count toward the degree. If you are approaching the six-year
limit for the first course taken, contact the department office before the course becomes
invalid and ask the department to file a request for an extension (for one year) with the
NOTE: The degree will not be posted until the Degree Application is properly filed and
the degree audit is successfully passed. If the degree is not posted, you have not been
granted and do not hold the expected degree. Years ago a student called to say, years after
completing degree requirements, that the transcript requested (for a job application) did
not include the degree awarded. As it turned out, the student had never applied for the
degree, thinking it just automatically appeared after so many courses were taken. At that
point most of the courses were passed the six-year limit. The student now needed to re-
validate by exam or retake the courses in order to qualify for the degree.
Commencement is held each May. Students need to petition to participate in
commencement. Petition to participate in commencement should be included in the
Degree Application form. Information on Commencement will be mailed to students who
petition to participate. If you expect to complete the degree in August you may petition to
walk in May before you complete the degree.
Academic regalia (cap, gown, hood for the master’s degree, stole for the sixth year
certificate) may be ordered through the university bookstore at
http://bookstore.southernct.edu (scroll down to below the textbook section to
"Announcement" -- you will find links to place Cap and Gown and Class Ring orders -
yes, you can get a ring for the MLS degree!). Master's hoods are ordered in the color
designated for the discipline (e.g. lemon yellow for library science; gold for computer
science; crimson for communication; light blue for education).
? Verifying (every semester) your Banner transcript (courses) for accuracy
? For any deviation from the Planned Program, submit a Change in Planned
Program form (preferably to obtain approval before deviating from the Planned
Program to ensure the course will be accepted toward the MLS degree)
? Complete, by the university’s deadline, an Application for Graduate Degree
? Submit an intent/petition to walk at Graduate Commencement
? Need accommodations in New Haven for graduation? See:
? or inquire if a classmate has an available guest room
? Order Cap and Gown from university bookstore (lemon yellow stripe on hood)
? Submit Capstone Portfolio on CD and the Special Project Report Reproduction
Approval Form to the ILS department or other designated office.