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Capstone Project Guidelines for Psychology Majors

Creating the Presentation

The culmination of your work throughout the semester will be a capstone project. Your project will be a 20-minute (maximum) audio-visual presentation (18 minutes minimum), in which you demonstrate your understanding of, and original thinking on, a topic covered during the first eight weeks of the course. You will also submit a written paper to accompany your presentation.

It is recommended that you use PowerPoint to create a slideshow and a headset, with a Microphone, to record yourself narrating the slideshow. You will then convert the slideshow to a movie that can be published (“unlisted”) on YouTube. Your slides will include citations, both on the individual slides and on the final slide as a reference list. All assertions (that are not your own ideas) made should be cited by including the reference on the slide in view at the time, under the applicable bullet point. The paper will provide a written version of the words you speak during the presentation and will be cited in APA format. The paper is less a direct transcript (though it will likely be close to one) and more of a paper version of your presentation (since writing is different than speaking). For example, you would not include the following, “Hi, my name is and today I will be discussing”. Instead, you would just start the paper where the information in the presentation begins.

You are required to cite at least twelve sources within your project, at least eight of which must be primary sources, and at least eight of which must be peer-reviewed journal articles.

There are three separate requirements when it comes to sources:

  • You are required to have at least eight primary sources, but may have more.
  • You are required to cite at least eight peer-reviewed journal articles, but may cite more.
  • You are required to cite at least 12 sources in all, but you may cite more.

Primary Sources: To better understand the difference between primary and secondary sources, please see:

Primary sources may overlap with peer-reviewed journal articles (in other words, peer-reviewed journal articles are sometimes primary sources, but not always, and vice versa).

Although you’re citing other people’s work, you’ll be organizing the information, drawing connections among different works, and presenting it all in your own unique way, so be sure to bring your own critical thinking skills into this!

Your target audience members are CUNY SPS students and faculty and this is the capstone of your degree. Keep your audience in mind when drafting your presentation, recognizing that they will all have had at least some experience with Psychology, but most will not be familiar with many of the psychological terms and concepts that you will be using in your presentation, so you will need to convey your ideas in a way that educated lay persons can understand.

Choosing a Concept, Context, and Social Problem

Also, keep in mind the fact that this will be an audio-visual presentation, which may be differentfrom anything you have done in the past. People will be listening to your voice and viewing your slides (or other visual material), and trying to process, absorb, and remember the information that you are presenting. Given what we know about the cognitive limitations of humans, this is no simple task! You may be surprised by what you can (or can’t) convey to an audience in 18-20 minutes. Therefore, do not try to cover the entire course in this presentation. Choose a relatively narrow topic that you can discuss in detail. You will be adding information and ideas not covered in the text, including material that you came across through independent research, coursework from your prior Psychology courses, AND your own original thoughts.

In an academic presentation, you need to straddle the line between conversational and formal. The level of sophistication of the content needs to be appropriate for an academic talk and every assertion needs to be supported with evidence. However, the tone of a presentation is different than the tone of an academic paper. Yourenthusiasm is important and will likely be contagious (an audience will be unlikely to care about a talk if the speaker doesn’t seem to care about it). So you need to speak in a way that people will find engaging and understandable, keeping in mindthat people can only absorb so much at once, and may need concepts or points elaborated (often with examples) to truly understand what you are trying to convey. To assist with this process, you may want to keep in mind the tone of atypical Ted Talk, which is informative, professional, academic (and rooted in research), but also conversational. For the written piece, it will be more formal as is custom for a written, APA-style paper.

Your project takes a concept (a specific concept, not a general topic) from the first 8 weeks of class and situates it within a specific context and social problem.

a) Concept: You are to establish the concept and what is known about it (via Psychological research….and other academic disciplines, if applicable)

b) Context: You are to situate it within a specific context

c) Social Problem: Identify a social problem with which to apply this concept/context

d) Research: Briefly describe the context and social problem (using research)

Citing Sources

e) Applying psychology courses/Psychology remedies: Then, considering your entire time as a psychology major - tell us what Psychology has to say about remedies for this issue and/or discuss how Psychology can shed new light on things (for example, what findings/phenomena/etc. in psychology can be applied to your problem). You are not being asked to just tell us what research says or what your opinions are. You are instead being asked to reflect on all courses you’ve taken and apply those lessons and concepts, etc. to this issue.

f) Course theme: Finally, you must make explicit the theme of this course – the application of psychology/psychological findings to social problems in everyday life - within your project. This theme must be an explicit section or a constant thread woven through the project.

Focus on your "angle" (your lens, if you will); for example, you might be thinking about “conformity” as a concept, but you will would want to gear it toward something like: conformity in the context of the fashion industry and body image for pre-teens girls. “Conformity” would be the concept; the “fashion industry” is the context, and “body image for pre-teens girls” hints at the social problem, but it would need to be more explicit in the presentation/paper. One cannot just look at negative body image for pre-teens girls and stop there; that idea is too broad and as such, it has been explored too many times (by researchers and laypersons alike). You would need to frame it as a very specific social problem; that is your challenge for the project. The project idea needs to be uniquely yours. Additionally, rather than what I call an "information dump," where someone just dumps all the information they can find on a topic, having an "angle" will shape the project and gives it an application and purpose.

Key Pieces: 1) concept, 2) context, 3) social problem, 4) research on 1,2, and 3, 4) psychological remedies/new light on the issue/problem (this should be a major piece of the project), and 5) the theme of the course salient in the project.

Please keep in mind that the purpose of the capstone project is to take the knowledge gained as a Psychology major and apply it to a real world problem. For the section focused on what Psychology can offer as a remedy/how it can shed new light on the issue, you are being asked to drawn on that background and all of your prior coursework (as a Psychology major) and apply it to this issue. I am not asking you to provide your opinions about solving the problem. I am asking you to put on your “Psychology hat” and apply psychological knowledge/findings/research to do so.

Applying Psychology Courses/Psychology Remedies

Before you can begin the major pieces/iterations of the project, you need to determine what the focus of your project will be. Remember that you can choose any concept that we have discussed in the first eight weeks of the class.

During Week 7, you will have a conversation with me about your project idea (concept, context, and social problem) and during Week 8, you will submit your project idea via the Discussion Board (this is separate of Discussion Board 8, which is related to the articles). You will receive feedback from me and two other students and you will also comment on two other students’ project ideas (I will assign these in advance).

NOTE: Throughout the process, there are several points where you are expected (or can opt) to have calls with me (see the syllabus). The first call is mandatory and will be between 10-15 minutes, maybe longer (if you are stuck and need some help); the other calls are encouraged, but optional. The calls are meant to make sure the project is progressing and to discuss any hurdles you are facing. We will schedule these the week before the calls occur, via email. For example, the first call occurs in Week 7, so the call will be scheduled during Week 6, meaning that by the middle/end of Week 6, you and I should have worked out the scheduling kinks and have a time and day set to talk during Week 7.

Outline & Reference List

After your project idea has been submitted and approved, you will have several weeks to complete the first major step, which entails writing a detailed outline of your proposed presentation, citing at least 12 sources (see sources section above) within the outline, and including a reference list (in APA style).

This is general information about writing an outline. Please make sure, however, that your outline is very detailed. I should be able to see exactly what you plan to have in your presentation (including all ideas), but it should not be written out in paragraphs like a paper. You should also not write it out and then separate sentences into bullet-points and call that an outline.

NOTE: There are no examples of detailed outlines posted for a couple of reasons. Each project is different so I would be hard-pressed to find an example that works for all or most of the presentations. Second, it limits creativity. If an example were posted, students might try to duplicate it, instead of seeing this project as an opportunity to showcase one’s skillset and knowledge. It is also not as easy as posting a generic outline such as:

Making Explicit the Theme of this Course

I have seen all sorts of versions of this project. Like movies, some projects start at the “beginning”; some start at the “end” and work their way backward. Both of these approaches are fine. However, you must construct a detailed outline that maps out all sections of your project. The outline should not include paragraphs with letters next to them. I do not want to read anyone’s paper just yet. I want to see all of the pieces so I can see where the holes are before students commit to a paper structure. While things are in outline form, it is very easy to move things around. Once the content is written out, it is less easy to do so because students have committed to paragraph A appearing before paragraph B, for example, or they have transitional sentences between specific paragraphs so if I move them around, it takes a lot of work for the student to rebuild.

Please note, you will need to include the citations of your sources WITHIN the outline as well. This means that you will need to think about what source(s) you will want to use to support each point/claim/idea that you are making in your project, and then cite that source in the applicable section of your outline. At the end of the outline, you will include a reference page, which will list all of the sources that you cited in your outline, in APA format.

You will post one item to the appropriate DB AND you will upload two items through the upload links in the Week 10 folder: 1) Your O & RL should be cut and pasted into the Outline & Reference List DB forum (with APA-style citations); 2) Additionally, a PDF version of the Outline & Reference List should be uploaded the Week 10 folder;

This draft will be in the exact format of your final draft, and should be of final draft quality (free of typos, grammatical errors, etc.). Your audio recording will be accompanied by a coordinated slide show, demonstrating your understanding of the presentation resources provided in the “Helpful Resources” section of the course site.

You will post one item to the appropriate DB AND you will upload two items through the upload links in the Week 12 folder: 1) In the appropriate DB, please post a link to your audio-visual presentation (first draft), in the format of a movie, published as “unlisted” on YouTube. 2) Additionally, a PDF version of the paper should be uploaded through the Week 12 folder (with APA citations in text); 3) a Word version of the paper should be uploaded through the Week 12 folder (with APA citations in text).

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