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Clinical Research Certificate Programs
Capstone Project

The capstone project may take either of two forms:

1) Write a potentially publishable paper on a clinical research topic relevant to your interests and career goals. It may be a critical literature review or a report of new data analyses (usually on pre-existing data). Primary data collection is allowed but not required.
2) Write a research proposal, similar in length, detail, and format to an NIH R01 grant application.

Under either option, the product must demonstrate the ability to motivate the problem and place it in a proper clinical and research context, critically appraise evidence from previous studies, and correctly use methodological concepts and skills acquired through formal course work.

The capstone project is supervised and evaluated by a faculty mentor, and 1 course credit will be earned under EPI 600, HSERV 600, or BIOST 600, depending on the preceptor's home department. The candidate should identify and meet with his/her faculty preceptor to negotiate expectations about the scope and format of the final product before beginning the work. They may meet periodically as needed while the project is in development. Candidates should expect to make at least one round of revisions after review of a draft by the preceptor, and possibly additional revisions depending on the extent of the preceptor's comments. When the preceptor approves the final product, the capstone project is complete.

REQUIREMENT: To receive credit for the capstone project, the preceptor must email Julie Steckler (julie19@u.washington.edu) in the Epidemiology Program Office to confirm acceptable project completion.

Option 1: Publishable Paper

For Option 1, the paper may be a critical review of literature on the topic chosen. This kind of paper would involve identifying and critiquing the relevant key studies on that topic, using the Health Sciences Library and on-line literature-searching tools as resources. The paper would summarize what work has been done on the topic (anywhere, not just locally), which evidence deserves the most weight, and what conclusions can be drawn about what we know and what we don't know. It would be written up following the format and usual length of a review article in a scientific journal. Word limits vary by journal, but length usually ranges from about 12 to 16 double-spaced pages (3,000 -- 4,000 words).

A literature review alone would normally be sufficient for a capstone project. If a certificate candidate actively wishes to go further by doing new analysis of available data as a more involved learning experience, he/she may do so if mutually agreeable with the preceptor. Note that new analysis of existing data is what a masters thesis normally involves, and it is a rather larger enterprise. For example, a masters thesis normally qualifies for 9 credit hours, compared to 1 credit hour for a capstone project. In any case, the final product should be in the form of a scientific journal article, with an introduction, methods section, results, discussion, and bibliography.

Option 2: Research Proposal

For Option 2, the capstone project may take the form of a research proposal for a hypothetical project. It would include at least the following components:

  • Specific aims of the proposed research
  • Background and significance---motivation for the research question(s), summary of what related research has already been done, and identification of the key gaps in knowledge that the proposed project would seek to fill
  • Research design and methods---study design type, how subjects would be identified and recruited, data source(s), nature of any intervention, and proposed analysis strategy to address each specific aim. The research design and methods section should be the longest section and comprise the majority of the proposal.
  • Bibliography, including references to papers cited in the previous sections

The expected length of such a proposal would be roughly 16-20 double-spaced pages. It may be longer if necessary (e.g., if the proposal is in preparation for formal submission to a funding agency) and may include additional supporting materials.