Theory and Practice in Significant Problem-Solving Exercise
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Theory and Practice in Significant Problem-Solving Exercise
Capstone Paper Overview and Requirements for POL 688[footnoteRef:1] [1: Note: I must highlight that most of the information contained in these documents has been acquired from outside sources and adapted for the purposes of my classes over the years. I take no credit for anything in this document as my original work and have attempted to give credit where possible ]
The MPA Capstone Project (Project here after) is constructed over two courses POL 688 and POL 689. This document will detail the expectations of required work in POL 688, as well as overall expectations of the Project that will be submitted in POL 689.
The Capstone Project is required for students in all concentrations. It provides an opportunity for students to integrate theory and practice in a significant problem-solving exercise. For this project students will conduct an original, analytical research project consisting of professional analysis of a management problem leading to practical implementation in governmental, health care, or nonprofit settings, or theoretical inquiry in the field of public administration. The project, in other words, will produce either academic research that provides new generalized knowledge in the field or a solution to a public management problem, often within the context of a specified agency.
All projects must entail original research and writing , defined as meeting the following criteria:
Framing Your Capstone Project
The potential topics that you may choose are endless. Consequently, one of your first and probably most difficult tasks is to clearly and concisely define the problem that you will address. When selecting a topic, please consider the following:
By far the most challenging steps leading to the successful completion of the Project is selecting a manageable the problem or issue to investigate. Experience suggests that some students devote inadequate thought to this important matter and, as a consequence may find themselves caught up in a frustrating and seemingly endless project. The selection of a well-defined, “doable” topic, by contrast, can make the Project one of the most rewarding components of the MPA degree program.
Before undertaking the work of researching and writing the project paper, students must obtain approval of the project topic from their instructor and, where applicable, from an agency representative or other entity where the student intends to collect data. Students are encouraged to gain this approval during POL 688 so that they may begin data collection in POL 689. Students whose project papers focus on a significant agency issue or problem should involve the instructor and agency representative early in the process of selecting a topic. Involvement by the agency should help students receive full recognition of having helped solve an agency problem. The project is intended to increase the student’s probability of advancement and so any potential political fallout or organizational backlash should be carefully considered in selecting the project.
Criteria for Selection of the Capstone Project
The following criteria apply to the selection of the Project Paper Seminar topic.
All Projects will be evaluated for grading purposes on the basis of the following criteria: quality and clarity of the writing, thoroughness and quality of the research, completeness of documentation and literature review, and the clarity of the paper’s organization. An oral presentation of the paper’s topic and findings will also be required and evaluated as part of the seminar grade. The project paper instructor may submit the student’s final paper to an outside reader for feedback prior to assigning the final grade for the seminar.
Recommended MPA Capstone Project Topics
The following are types of projects deemed acceptable for the MPA Capstone Project.
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Required Capstone Project Components for POL 688
In POL 688 students will propose a research project that consists of a research question, literature review, and research design. Each Project requires a research proposal (Due Week 3 of the course) that includes a preliminary research question, why the student is interested in the topic and what they hope to contribute with the research, and a brief description of where the data to answer the research question will come from and how the data will be accessed. Students should review the course schedule for due dates related to drafts and final submissions for Part 1: Literature Review and Part 2: Research Design. Part 1 and Part 2 are discussed in more detail below.
Part I: Literature Review
Abstract: A concise paragraph describing the topic, project focus, and key research question.
Project Description: An introduction to the topic and its applied importance to the field and practice of public administration
Preliminary Literature Review: A preliminary review of professional and scholarly literature establishing how this project is placed within the context of the wider body of knowledge about the topic. Professional or scholarly literature reviews are not to be annotated bibliographies; they are to be integrative reviews that establish where the student’s project can be placed in the broader content and theoretical context of prior published research and analysis. In other words, the literature review should be thematic rather than organized author-by-author or study-by-study. The requirements for the approach and content of acceptable literature reviews should be clearly stated in the course syllabus. The documents should be a minimum of 10 pages (double-spaced, Times New Roman, 12pt font), excluding Abstract and Project Description, and contain a minimum of 15 appropriate sources.
Part 2: Research Design
A research design is a plan for carrying out your capstone project. It lays out the problem to be examined, the program to be evaluated, the policy to be analyzed, and the propositions, recommendations or conclusions to be presented. Then it puts them in the context of the research that has already been done or the information already available, and explains how the necessary information will be gathered and applied to support or test the propositions, recommendations or conclusions.
In a research design, you are providing a plan of how to do the work in the allotted time. You will need to research existing studies, writings, and current events on the topic. You will also have to figure out how to obtain the necessary data, what methods you will use in applying it, and the standards you will use to evaluate your program, policy, propositions, recommendations, or conclusions. Below is a list of sections that should be included in your 688 submission.
Research Question and Methodology: The nature of the methodology to be employed in conducting the project analysis, and a clear statement of the research question(s) and, where relevant, hypotheses of the research. Your methodology should include a detailed description of the potential variables (this includes clear definitions and measurements).
Data Collection Strategies: A description of the information and data sources and methodologies to be used to access the data
Methods: Your project must also include a detailed description of your proposed method of analysis.
It is highly recommended that you explicitly link each of the above criteria to your research question to ensure you are making correct decisions. Projects involving the use of proprietary agency data, interviews with agency personnel, or on-site observations of agency operations may require a letter of agency endorsement and any specific requirements required to collect and use data for the project.
Final Capstone Project Formatting Requirements and Organization
Use Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (most current edition) as the standard for headings/subheadings, in-text citations, and reference format.
The finished project submitted in POL 689 will contain the following sections, in the following order.
CAPSTONE SECTION GUIDELINES
& SELF-EVALUATION RUBRICS
Notes before getting started:
This section describes the conceptual basis for what the researcher will investigate, including the research questions, hypotheses, and basic research design. The introduction develops the significance of the study by describing how the study is new or different from other studies, how it addresses something that is not already known or has not been studied before, or how it extends prior research on the topic in some way. This section should also briefly describe the basic nature of the study and provide an overview of the Capstone Project contents.
To ensure the quality of both your proposal and your final Capstone and reduce the time, your writing needs to reflect masters level, scholarly writing standards from your very first draft. Each section within the proposal or Capstone should be well organized and easy for the reader to follow. Each paragraph should be short, clear, and focused. A paragraph should (1) be three to eight sentences in length, (2) focus on one point, topic, or argument, (3) include a topic sentence the defines the focus for the paragraph, and (4) include a transition sentence to the next paragraph. Include one space after each period. There should be no grammatical, punctuation, sentence structure, or
APA formatting errors. Verb tense is an important consideration for Sections 1 through
As a researcher, it is your responsibility to ensure the clarity, quality, and correctness of your writing and APA formatting. Your instructor is not obligated to edit your documents. If you do not have outstanding writing skills, you may need to identify a writing coach, editor and/or other resource to help you with writing and editing.
The quality of a Capstone is not only evaluated on the quality of writing. It is also evaluated based on the criteria that have been established for each section of the Capstone. The criteria describe what must be addressed in each section within each section. As you develop a section, first read the section description. Then review each criterion contained in the table below the description. Use both the overall description and criteria as you write each section. It is important that each listed criterion is addressed in a way that it is clear to your instructor. You should be able to point out where each criterion is met in each section.
Prior to submitting a draft of your proposal or Capstone, please assess yourself on the degree to which each criterion has been met.
You need to continuously and objectively self-evaluate the quality of your writing and content for each section within the Capstone. Keep in mind the process will likely require several editorial/revisions rounds, so plan for multiple revision cycles as you develop your Capstone completion plan and project timeline. See the rubric below to help review the Introduction of your Capstone project.
This section provides a brief overview of the research focus or problem, explains why this study is worth conducting, and discusses how this study will be completed. (Minimum three to four paragraphs or approximately one page)
|Capstone topic is introduced and value of conducting the study is discussed.|
|Discussion provides an overview of what is contained in the section.|
|Provide the reader with a clear understanding of the problem in a concise yet complete manner|
|Articulate that the problem is worthy of further investigation.|
|Briefly describe how the study will be done|
|Present the guiding research question or hypothesis for the study|
|Explain how this study can contribute to the existing knowledge|
|Describe how the study will address something that is not already known or has not been studied before|
|Describe how the study will fill a gap in existing literature or research.|
|Describe how the study extends prior research on the topic in some way|
Background, Context and Theoretical Framework
The background, context, and theoretical framework of the study should tell the reader what has happened in the past to create the problem or need today. It is a brief historical overview that answers these questions: What do we know? What created the problem? When did the problem begin, and for whom is it a problem? What research has been done?
This section provides information necessary to allow the reader to understand the background of the problem and context in which the problem occurs. The primary objectives in writing this section are (a) to provide a brief overview of research related to the problem; (b) to identify and describe the key components, elements, aspects, concepts of the problem; (c) to provide the reader with an understanding of how the problem arose and the specific context within which the problem is occurring; and (d) to briefly introduce the reader to the theoretical framework and how that framework either supports the proposed study or provides a theoretical context for developing the research problem. The length of this section will depend on the complexity of the problem. Many learner-researchers first develop a working draft of the literature review, since a good portion of this section is a brief summary of the related literature. Typically, background sections are five to eight paragraphs but can be longer for more complex problems or for problems that have an extensive history of investigation.
The context for the study refers to the physical setting of the research and the natural or artificial (simulated) properties of that setting. In some research these properties are called “experimental conditions” or “study environment.” This section should introduce the theory that will provide support and justification for your study. It will be used to briefly introduce the primary theoretical topics that will be developed in detail in the literature review.
The purpose of the theoretical framework is to tie the Capstone together. As the researcher, you should approach the proposed research from a theory or set of theories that provide the backdrop for the work (researchers do not create theory; they use established theory in which to embed their work). This section should describe how this study will relate to existing theories and discuss how the methodology being used in the study links to those theories. Questions to answer: Is the theoretical foundation strong? Are the theoretical sources apparent? Are they appropriate for the topic? Do they need further explanation? Further, the theoretical framework describes a context within which to locate the intended project and suggests why doing such a study is worthwhile. The theoretical framework justifies the methods you plan to use for conducting the study and presents how this research will contribute to the body of knowledge and/or practice. Further, it describes the context within which to locate the intended project and suggests why doing such a study is worthwhile.
|Background, Context and Theoretical Framework|
The background section explains both the history of and the present state of the problem and research focus. It identifies the “gap” or “need” based on a summary of the current literature and discusses how the study will address that “gap” or “need.” (Minimum two to three paragraphs or approximately one page)
|Describe why the study is being conducted|
|Provide a brief overview of research related to the problem|
|Identify and describe the key components, elements, aspects, concepts of the problem|
|Describe who or what is impacted by the problem or research focus|
|Provide the reader with an understanding of how the problem arose and the specific context within which the problem is occurring|
|Briefly introduce the reader to the theoretical framework and how that framework either supports|
the proposed study or provides a theoretical context for developing the research problem.
|Describe and justify the research methods planned for the study|
|Briefly describe why the study is being conducted.|
|Provides a summary of results from the prior empirical research on the topic and identifies the need as defined by the prior research which this current study will address.|
This section clearly states the problem or research focus, the population affected and how the study will contribute to solving the problem. A well-written problem statement begins with the big picture of the issue ( macro) and works to the small, narrower, and more specific problem ( micro). It clearly communicates the significance, magnitude, and importance of the problem and transitions into the Purpose of the Study with a declarative statement such as “It is not known if and to what degree/extent…” or “It is not known how/why and…”
As you are writing this section, make sure your research problem passes the ROC test meaning your problem is Researchable, Original, and Contributory!
This section includes the problem statement, the population affected, and how the study will contribute to solving the problem. (Minimum three or four paragraphs or approximately one page)
|States the specific problem proposed for research by presenting a clear declarative statement that begins with “It is not known if and to what degree/extent…” (quantitative)|
~or~ or “It is not known how/why and…” (qualitative)
|Identifies the general population affected by the problem.|
|Suggests how the study may contribute to solving the problem.|
|Clearly describe the magnitude and importance of the problem.|
|Identify the need for the study and why it is of concern to the researcher.|
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the Study section provides a reflection of the problem statement and identifies how the study will be accomplished. It explains how the proposed study will contribute to the field. The section begins with a declarative statement, “The purpose of this study is…. .” Included in this statement are also the research design, population, variables (quantitative) or phenomena (qualitative) to be studied, and the geographic location. Further, the section clearly defines the dependent
and independent variables, relationship of variables, or comparison of groups for quantitative studies. For qualitative studies, this section describes the nature of the phenomena to be explored. Keep in mind that the purpose of the study is restated in other sections of the Capstone and should be worded exactly as presented in this section of the Introduction. Refer to Creswell (2014) for sample purpose statement templates that are aligned with the different research methods (qualitative/quantitative).
|PURPOSE OF THE STUDY|
The purpose statement section expands on the problem statement and identifies how the study will be accomplished. It explains how the proposed study will contribute to the field. (Minimum two to three paragraphs)
|Presents a declarative statement: “The purpose of this study is….” that identifies the research methodology and design, population, variables (quantitative) or phenomena (qualitative) to be studied and geographic location.|
|Identifies research methodology as qualitative, or quantitative, and identifies the specific research design.|
|Describes the target population and geographic location for the study.|
|Quantitative: Defines the variables, relationship of variables, or comparison of groups.|
Qualitative: Describes the nature of the phenomena to be explored.
Research Question(s) and Hypotheses
This section narrows the focus of the study and specifies the research questions to address the problem statement. Based on the research questions, it describes the variables or groups and their hypothesized relationship for a quantitative study or the phenomena under investigation for a qualitative study. The research questions and hypotheses should be derived from, and are directly aligned with, the problem and purpose statements, research methods, and data analyses. The Research Questions or Hypotheses section of
Introduction will be presented again in Methods section to provide clear continuity for the reader and to help frame your data analysis.
If your study is qualitative, state the research question(s) the study will answer, and describe the phenomenon to be studied. Qualitative studies will typically have one overarching research question with three or more sub-questions. If your study is quantitative, state the research questions the study will answer, identify the variables, and state the hypotheses (predictive statements) using the format appropriate for the specific design. Quantitative studies will typically have three or four research questions and associated hypotheses; mixed method studies can use both depending on the design.
In a paragraph prior to listing the research questions or hypotheses, include a discussion of the research questions, relating them to the problem statement. Then, include a leading phrase to introduce the questions such as: The following research questions guide this qualitative study:
RQ1: This is an example of how a qualitative research question should align within the text of the manuscript. Indent .25 inches from the left margin. Text that wraps around to the next line is indented using the Hanging Indent feature at
RQ2: Add a research question here following the format above. Additional research questions should follow the same format.
Or for a quantitative study the research questions are formatted as below. The following research question and hypotheses guide this quantitative study:
RQ1: This is an example of how a quantitative research questions and hypotheses should align within the text of the manuscript. Indent .25 inches from the left
margin. Text that wraps around to the next line is indented using the Hanging Indent feature at .5”.
H10: The null hypothesis that aligns to the research question is listed here.
H1a: The alternative hypothesis that aligns to the research question and null hypothesis is listed here. Repeat this pattern for each quantitative research question and associated hypotheses.
|Research Question(s) and/or Hypotheses|
This section narrows the focus of the study by specifying the research questions to address the problem statement. Based on the research questions, it describes the variables and/or groups and their hypothesized relationship (quantitative study) or the phenomena under investigation (qualitative study). It describes how the research questions are related to the problem statement and how the research questions will facilitate
collection of the data needed to answer the research questions. ( Minimum one to three paragraphs or approximately one page)
|Qualitative Designs: States the research question(s) the study will answer and describes the phenomenon to be studied.|
Quantitative Designs : States the research questions the study will answer, identifies the variables, and states the hypotheses (predictive statements) using the format appropriate for the specific design.
|This section includes a discussion of the research questions, relating them to the problem statement.|
Rationale, Relevance, and Significance of the Study Rationale for the Study
The Rationale for the Study section of the Introduction clearly justifies the methodology the researcher plans to use for conducting the study. It argues how the methodological framework is the best approach to answer the research questions and address the problem statement. Finally, it contains citations from textbooks and articles on research methodology and/or articles on related studies.
For qualitative designs, this section states the research question(s) the study will answer and describes the phenomenon to be studied. For quantitative designs, this section
describes the research questions the study will answer, identifies the variables, and states the hypotheses (predictive statements) using the format appropriate for the specific design. Finally, this section includes a discussion of the research questions, relating them to the problem statement. This section should illustrate how the methodological framework is aligned with the problem statement and purpose of the study, providing additional context for the study.
|Rationale for The Study|
This section clearly justifies the methodology the researcher plans to use for conducting the study. It argues why the methodological framework is the best approach to answer the research questions and how it will address the problem statement. It uses citations from textbooks and articles on research methodology and/or articles on related studies to justify the methodology. ( Minimum one to three paragraphs)
|Identifies the specific research methodology for the study.|
|Justifies the methodology to be used for the study by discussing why it is the best approach for answering the research question(s) and addressing the problem statement.|
|Uses citations from seminal (authoritative) sources (textbooks and/or empirical research literature) to justify the selected methodology.|
Significance of the Study
This section identifies and describes the significance of the study. It also discusses the implications of the potential results based on the research questions and problem statement, hypotheses, or the investigated phenomena. Further, it describes how the research fits within and will contribute to the current literature or body of research.
Finally, it describes the potential practical applications from the research. This section is of particular importance because it justifies the need for, and the relevance of, the research.
Significance of the Study
|This section identifies and describes the significance of the study and the implications of the potential results based on the research questions, the problem statement, and the hypotheses or the investigated phenomena. It describes how the research fits within and will contribute to the current literature or body of research. It describes potential practical applications from the research. ( Minimum two to four paragraphs)|
|Describes how the proposed research fits within the prior research and how the study will make an academic research contribution in the field of study.|
|Describes how the study will make a practical contribution in the field of study.|
|Describes how addressing the problem will add value to the population, community, or society.|
Nature of the Study
This section describes the specific research design to answer the research questions and why this approach was selected. Here, the learner discusses why the selected design is the best design to address the problem statement and research questions as compared to other designs. This section also contains a description of the research sample being studied, as well as, the process that will be used to collect the data on the sample. In other words, this section provides a preview of your Research Design section and succinctly conveys the research approach to answer the research questions and/or test the hypotheses.
|NATURE OF THE STUDY|
This section describes the specific research design to answer the research questions and affirms why this approach was selected. It describes the research sample being studied as well as the process that will be used to collect the data on the sample. It identifies the instruments or sources of data needed to answer the
research questions. It provides citations from seminal sources such as research textbooks, research articles, and articles on similar studies.( Minimum two to four paragraphs)
|Describes the selected design for the study.|
|Discusses why the selected design is the best design to address the problem statement and research questions as compared to other designs.|
|Briefly describes the target population, and the sampling method for the study, the data collection procedures to collect data on the sample, and the instruments or sources of data needed to answer the research questions.|
Definition of Terms
The Definition of Terms section of Introduction defines the study constructs and provides a common understanding of the technical terms, exclusive jargon, variables, phenomena, concepts, and technical terminology used within the scope of the study. Terms are defined in lay terms and in the context in which they are used within the study. Each definition may be a few sentences to a paragraph in length. This section includes any words that may be unknown to a lay person (words with unusual or ambiguous meanings or technical terms).
Definitions must be supported with citations from scholarly sources. Do not use
Wikipedia to define terms. This popular “open source” online encyclopedia can be helpful and interesting for the layperson, but it is not appropriate for formal academic research and writing. Additionally, do not use dictionaries to define terms. A paragraph introducing this section prior to listing the definition of terms can be inserted. However, a lead-in phrase is needed to introduce the terms such as: “The following terms were used operationally in this study.” This is also a good place to “operationally define” unique phrases specific to this research. See below for the correct format:
Term, Write the definition of the word. This is considered a Level 3 heading., Make sure the definition is properly cited (Author, 2010, p.123). Terms often use abbreviations. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), abbreviations are best used only when they allow for clear communication with the audience. Standard abbreviations, such as units of measurement and names of states, do not need to be written out. APA also allows abbreviations that appear as words in
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (2005) to be used without explanation [4.22- 4.30].
Spaces. Do not use periods or spaces in abbreviations of all capital letters unless the abbreviation is a proper name or refers to participants using identity-concealing labels. The exception to this rule is that a period is used when abbreviating the United States as an adjective. Use a period if the abbreviation is a Latin abbreviation or a reference abbreviation [4.02]. Use standard newspaper practice when presenting AM and PM times, as in 7:30 PM or 6:00 AM.
Abbreviations. Do not use periods with abbreviated measurements, (e.g., cd, ft, lb, mi, and min). The exception to this rule is to use a period when abbreviated inch (in.) to avoid confusion with the word “in”. Units of measurement and statistical abbreviations should only be abbreviated when accompanied by numerical values, e.g., 7 mg, 12 mi, M
= 7.5 measured in milligrams, several miles after the exit, the means were determined [4.27].
Time units . Only certain units of time should be abbreviated. Do abbreviate hr, min, ms, ns, s. However, do not abbreviate day, week, month, and year [4.27]. To form the plural of abbreviations, add “s” alone without apostrophe or italicization (e.g., vols, IQs, Eds). The exception to this rule is not to add “s” to pluralize units of measurement (12 m not 12 ms) [4.29].
|Definitions of Terms|
This section defines the study constructs and provides a common understanding of the technical terms, exclusive jargon, variables, phenomena, concepts, and sundry terminology used within the scope of the study. Terms are defined in lay language and in the context in which they are used within the study. ( Each definition may be a few sentences to a paragraph.)
|Defines any words that may be unknown to a lay person (words with unusual or ambiguous meanings or technical terms) from the research or literature.|
|Defines the variables for a quantitative study or the phenomena for a qualitative study from the research or literature.|
|Definitions are supported with citations from scholarly sources.|
Assumptions, Limitations, Delimitations
This section identifies the assumptions and specifies the limitations, as well as the delimitations, of the study. An assumption is a self-evident truth. This section should list what is assumed to be true about the information gathered in the study. State the assumptions being accepted for the study as methodological, theoretical, or topic- specific. For each assumption listed, you must also provide an explanation. Provide a rationale for each assumption, incorporating multiple perspectives, when appropriate. For example, the following assumptions were present in this study:
Limitations are things that the researcher has no control over, such as bias.
Delimitations are things over which the researcher has control, such as location of the study. Identify the limitations and delimitations of the research design. Discuss the potential generalizability of the study findings based on these limitations. For each
limitation and/or delimitation listed, make sure to provide an associated explanation. For example: The following limitations/delimitations were present in this study:
Theory and Practice in Significant Problem-Solving Exercise
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