The Capstone of a loosely-connected major
While during this course, you will learn about two additional areas of interdisciplinary studies: systems thinking and pragmatic constructionism, the major concentration is producing your capstone project. The project should be a significant discipline-informed work that integrates disciplinary insights from the two minors that make up your interdisciplinary studies major. For instance, if your two minors are business and education, the project should make use of insights from each of these disciplines. The project is by far the most important part of this course, worth 500 points.
The focus of the activities in this course push towards a project that would resemble a research paper (though the interdisciplinary research process is somewhat different than a typical research paper process), because most students will prefer this approach. However, do not feel that you have to limit yourself to producing a project that is a research paper. An interdisciplinary project can also be a creative endeavor, an essay, narrative or large-scale creative project. In the end, the projects will be evaluated according to the rubric below. While not a rule, the project you produce should probably be the amount of work you would expect to do for a 15-20 page research paper, double-spaced, 1 inch margins. Feel free to use whichever citation style your disciplines prefer. If your discipline doesn’t have a preferred style, use APA or MLA style.
A good way to think about the project is to find two or three major disciplinary insights: a result, theory, method, or so on that can dovetail together to give you a more comprehensive understanding of some bigger issue. For instance, you may be able to weave together an ethical theory like social contract theory with some economic findings about inequality and some ethnographic research via communication arts to better understand poverty in downtown Kansas City. You may want to weave together insights on leadership from military studies together with findings about gender from sociology to talk about how the military can move towards an organizational structure that better promotes equality. You may join the latter with insights from human resources management to make substantive policy recommendations for how recruiting, hiring, and benefits are handled.
In the end, you will be the first one to advance the more comprehensive understanding that you are writing about, so you won’t be doing research directly on your issue, problem or topic. Rather, you will be putting forth a new way of thinking about it given research you’ve done on disciplinary insights that are relevant to your general issue, problem, or topic.
Suggestions on Structure
There is no one structure that can be recommended for every topic. As your topic emerges, you may need a structure that is considerably different than everyone else’s project. However, a good structure to think about starting with would be the following:
- Description of topic, issue, or problem.
- Justify using an interdisciplinary approach to the issue, topic, or problem.
- Write about each of your 2-4 building blocks, subjecting each to some critical tools.
- Integrate the building blocks into a framework that can be used to approach the topic, issue or problem.
- Write about the more comprehensive understanding of the topic, issue, or problem you’ve arrived at as result of applying the framework in (4) to your topic.
- Reflect on how the interdisciplinary approach informs your more comprehensive understanding.
Of course, if your project is more creative (like Mansilla’s description of the building of the Vietnam Memorial), your project will look considerably different. It might look a lot more like a wall!
In the end, this isn’t about testing you to see if you can write a lot of pages and read a lot of articles. It’s actually about whether you can take academic, disciplinary insights and put them together to work towards solving bigger problems. That’s the standard by which your final capstone project will be measured.
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