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Capstone & Thesis Research

This guide walks you through steps you might take to complete your major paper or project.

Choosing a topic

Choose a topic that you find interesting! Select something that will hold your interest for the nine weeks that you will work on this project. For a capstone or thesis topic consider:

  • Issues that are relevant to your workplace, classroom experience, or career goals.
  • A topic that has caught your eye in your textbook, a journal article, or an issue that you explored for previous classwork or projects and would like to pursue further.
  • A topic should be manageable in scale. If a topic is too broad, you will have difficulty covering all of the necessary material. If the topic is too narrow, you may have difficulty finding material published on your topic and struggle to stretch the material to meet your project length requirement.
  • If your assignment requires you to do primary research (surveys, interviews, empirical research study), allow time to complete the process.
  • Be flexible. If your topic is too narrow or broad, you may still be able to incorporate the aspects of it that interest you. 
  • Try to have a few options in mind, in case you find out that your first choice is not feasible after exploring available literature. 
  • Always check to make sure that your topic meets your instructor's assignment guidelines. If in doubt, it is best to ask early in the process.

Developing your thesis statement/research question

Topic: Social media in the workplace.

Many students start with a general topic and then narrow the focus. For example, you may be interested in social media and decide to examine its use by employees in the workplace. You could be even more specific, limiting your scope to a particular geographical location, a specific type of company, an age group, etc.

Thesis statement (typically for research papers, critical analyses, etc.): The benefits to companies whose employees use social media at work outweigh the negatives.

For most standalone papers, you will want to write a thesis statement expressing the argument you want to make. The statement will guide you as you search for information. In this case, we will want to find research on the pros and cons of social media use in the workplace. Ideally, it would be great to find some studies which support the argument that the benefits outweigh the negatives.

Research question (for students conducting a research project): Does the size of a company make a significant difference in the degree to which companies benefit from social media use among their employees?

If you plan to conduct actual research, you need to establish the research question or questions that your study will attempt to answer. For example, we may ask whether the size of the company makes a difference as regards social media benefits. We could do a survey of various companies and compare the responses of large, medium and small companies. Ideally this study would cover new ground and not exactly replicate previous studies.

Always check with your instructor to make sure you understand the assignment and to get help if you are having trouble with this step.

Watch and learn with Webster U. Library online presentations:

Forming a research question example

Defining terms:

Topic: general subject of your project.

Thesis statement (typically for research papers, critical analyses, etc.): The purpose or argument of your paper.

Research question (for students conducting a research project): The question you will attempt to answer as a result of your research.