Capstone Project


For any questions or concerns about the capstone project, first attempt to contact your instructor. If you are having difficulty reaching them, please contact a member of the undergraduate advising staff.

Undergraduate Advising Office
274 Ford
(612) 301-3971

All communication studies majors are required to complete a capstone in a 4xxx/5xxx-level communication studies course. Guidelines for completing this capstone requirement are at the bottom of this page.

In order to complete your capstone, you will need to do the following:

  1. Enroll in a 4xxx- or 5xxx-level communication studies course.
  2. Enroll in COMM 3999W as S/N for 1 credit. This accompanies registration in the 4xxx- or 5xxx-level communication studies course. You will need to complete the COMM 3999w (capstone) permission number request form to obtain a permission number for the section that links to your selected 4/5xxx course.
  3. Inform the professor of your selected course at the start of the semester that you wish to write your capstone project in the course.
  4. Complete the capstone in the class with at least a passing grade (generally C- or better). Depending on the course and the nature of the capstone project, the capstone project may be an independently graded assignment (such as a research paper), or it may be so integrated into the course that the final course grade also constitutes the grade for the capstone. The instructor should clarify this before you begin the capstone project.

    Note: If a student fails to meet these requirements, the professor of the 4/5xxx-level course will enter a grade of "N" in COMM 3999W. No grades of "Incomplete" will be allowed. See "Retaking COMM 3999W" for additional information.

Capstone Project Request Form

Request your Capstone Project permission number.

Important Notes

  1. All communication studies primary majors are required to produce a capstone. If you are completing communication studies as a second major, and your primary major is in CLA, contact the communication studies departmental advisor to discuss a potential waiver.
  2. Online Distance Learning (ODL) sections of 4/5xxx-level communication studies courses are not eligible for capstone project completion.
  3. Specific expectations for capstones vary. It is vitally important for you to pay close attention to the specific requirements identified by your course instructor.
  4. You must register for COMM 3999W during the semester in which the capstone project is completed.
  5. It is advisable for you to complete the capstone in advance of your final semester, if possible.

A Word of Advice

The most common problem that leads to failing the capstone project and having to retake COMM 3999W is waiting too long to start the project. Some projects contain multiple components; all projects contain a paper, which will need revision. Start early on your capstone project and allow plenty of time to receive instructor feedback on a complete draft (preferable multiple drafts) and revise as necessary.  

Retaking COMM 3999w* 

Students who receive an N grade in COMM 3999W can enroll in a different COMM 4/5xxx course in a subsequent semester (or summer) and enroll in COMM 3999W for 1 credit again along with that course. Students write a new project to meet the requirements with the new COMM 4/5xxx level course.
* In accordance with University of Minnesota Twin Cities policy, students are only allowed to retake a completed course once, including COMM 3999W. Requests to enroll for a third time must be petitoned through the CLA advising office. You can find more information about the policy on repeating a course on OneStop.

Communication Studies Librarian

Kim Clarke is available to help you with any research-related questions. View more information on library resources for communication studies.
Room 170B Wilson Library

Capstone Project Requirements

More information on capstone project requirements (PDF)

1. Capstone projects may be completed in all 4xxx or 5xxx-level courses offered in the Department of Communication Studies. In addition, the student must register for COMM 3995W (1 credit), so that the capstone project consists of a) 4 credits and b) meets CLA-mandated writing-intensive requirements.

2. Capstone project requirements, expectations, and evaluation criteria must be explicitly described in the course syllabus. The capstone project must be clearly separated from other graded course assignments in the syllabus and/or be presented in a separate document disseminated to students.

3. Capstone projects demonstrate the overall quality of a student’s cumulative education while highlighting the depth of specific skills that define communication studies. The capstone project may take the form of research, civic engagement, a creative project, or a combination of these.

All capstone projects must be accompanied by argument-driven documentation that fulfills writing-intensive requirements: Papers are written in stages, revision is built into their development process, and at least 30% of the capstone grade is based on the quality of the student’s writing.

4. Capstone projects in the Department of Communication Studies may be research-based, civic engagement, or creative in nature:

  • Research-based capstone projects emerge from a semester-long process of scholarly inquiry. They must have a clearly identified research question, demonstrate appropriate application of relevant theoretical and/or methodological concepts, and avoid content errors. Research-based capstones culminate in an argument-driven paper that is oriented to an academic audience or lay audience interested in communication. It consists of at least 2,500 words, engages at least 10 scholarly sources, and uses a citation guide (e.g., MLA, APA, Chicago). The paper needs to demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between concepts, claims, and evidence.
  • Civic engagement capstone projects combine semester-long supervised community activities with critical reflection. In addition to on-going writing assignments (e.g., journals, blogs, reports, field notes), civic engagement projects culminate in an argument-driven paper that creates a justification for the project, based on ideas gathered from extant scholarship (at least 5 scholarly sources) in communication by addressing questions, such as:
    • Why is the community program needed?, What can be learned?, What can be delivered?
    • documents the activities of the student (what was done, when, where, how?).
    • performs an analysis by addressing questions, such as: Did the project meet its stated goals?, What could have been improved, how and why?, What was learned that pertains to a communication perspective?, What recommendations for future forms of engagement can be advanced based on this experience?

The final argument-driven paper addresses an academic or lay audience interested in communication, and it should be at least 1,500 words in length. The paper needs to document all sources and materials and needs to demonstrate clear reasoning in making a connection between the civic engagement activities that were conducted and their final interpretation and evaluation. 

  • Creative capstone projects involve the semester-long production of original artifact(s) that involve text, audio, video or other media, and whose production entails writing along the way (e.g., storyboards, scripts, technical reports, field notes). In addition to delivering an original creative product, students produce an argument-driven paper that
    • creates a justification for the creative task based on ideas gathered from extant scholarship (at least of 5 sources) in communication by addressing questions, such as: What are the sources of its creative vision?, what communication concepts can be explored or applied?, who would be the target audience?
    • documents the creative process and describes the final product with sufficient detail
    • performs an analysis that results in an argument (how does the final artifact embody its artistic vision, engage with its guiding concepts and principles, appeal to its ideal audience?).

The final argument-driven paper, addressed to an academic or lay audience interested in communication, should be at least 1,500 words in length. The paper needs to document all sources and materials. It also needs to demonstrate clear reasoning in making a connection between the creative process, the formal features of the creative product, and the final interpretation and evaluation of the project’s value.

5. Students who have completed projects in other communication-related courses for a) study abroad, b) internships (including approved CCLC communication-related internships), c) independent studies, or c) communication courses that have transferred to the University of Minnesota may submit their project to the Director of Undergraduate Studies for consideration as a capstone project. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. All projects must be centrally focused on human communication.

6. COMM 3995W (1 credit) is graded on a Satisfactory / Nonsatisfactory basis.

7. If a capstone project fails to meet minimum guidelines, the student has the following options: At the discretion of the instructor, a student may register for COMM 3999W in the following regular semester and continue to revise the failed project under the supervision of the original instructor. A student may also begin a new capstone project in a different COMM 4/5xxx course in any semester following the failed capstone project. In all cases, the student must register for COMM 3999W.

8. The honors thesis replaces the capstone project.

9. Students who double-major in communication studies and a second discipline may choose in what discipline to complete their capstone project.