“Organizing is a journey, not a destination.” – Anonymous
When conceptualizing and developing your capstone project design outline, you will be exploring your project components, structuring your outline format and establishing the scaffolding for how the objectives of your concept will be met in your finalized project.
Your project design outline will serve as a planning tool as you move forward with your project work. It will establish a path for managing your project successfully so that you are efficient with your time and effective with your efforts.
At this point, you have a solid project concept, comprehensive project objectives, and relevant resources that you have reviewed. While this is extremely important information, the key to a successful capstone project is putting it all together in a useful, professionally presented manner. This is where a project design outline comes in. I like to think of the project design outline as the framework of a house or the scaffolding of a skyscraper. When you frame out a house, you bring the one-dimensional blueprints to three-dimensional life. You establish the physical framework for where the kitchen will be, you erect walls to indicate where each bedroom will be, and you structure the roof so that everything is solidly connected. This is similar to what the outline of your project will do for your finalized project. It will provide an outlined structure for how your project intends to achieve each of the objectives you have established, and your literature review will inform the best practices that you will apply.
First, you will want to establish your purpose. Why are you completing this project? Secondly, you will want to establish your intended audience. Who will ultimately be reading your capstone project? While your first audience may be your capstone course instructor, you may eventually plan on presenting your work to a manager within your organization. Thirdly, you will want to break out individual objectives and identify the following for each of them:
- The tasks that you must complete to meet this objective
- The application of best practices as they relate to this objective and
- The resources or operational components of the objective
Fourthly, you will be designing a simple timeline which illustrates a date by which each objective should be completed. For those of you preparing your capstone for roll-out in your workplace, your project implementation and evaluation will continue beyond the end date of our course, so many of your dates will be outside the borders of our 10- or 12-week timeframe, which is perfectly fine. For those of you researching a managerial topic such as effective leadership styles, a simple timeline or schedule showing when you will complete each section of your capstone project is sufficient. This section is a mechanism for keeping you on track. Without scheduled deadlines, it is easy to procrastinate. A schedule helps you to identify priorities and keeps you on a clear path to meeting your goals. To read more about the advantages of timelines, read Max Palmer’s article “What are the Advantages of Scheduling”.
There are many tools and software programs available to help you organize your thought when designing a project outline. One tool that many past students have found useful in their capstone work is Mind Mapping. You can find a link to a short video and article focused on Mind Mapping as a tool by visiting MindTools. Also, to visualize the power of a mind map, view Sara McGuire’s blog for some samples and templates.
In the Project Resources section of our Moodle course site, you’ll find examples of past students’ work, some of which include separate files for their project outlines. You’ll notice that in the reference outlines, the students have taken their major project objectives and broken them each down into the tasks that must be completed to meet the objective, the application of best practices as they relate to the objective, and the resources needed to achieve the objective. Purdue offers a useful resource around structuring outlines, which can be found by visiting their website.