Capstone, Field Project or Thesis


Similarities and Differences between the Field Project, Thesis and Capstone Seminar

Similarities between the Field Project, Thesis and Capstone Seminar
  • First, capstone seminar, field project, and thesis are all supposed to test a mastery of the core curriculum that meets the three MPA goals.
  • Second, the capstone seminar and the field project are more “applied knowledge” projects resulting in more “tangible products” (e.g., an evaluation of a specific program/policy, conducting needs assessment or resolving a specific policy/organizational issue/problem.) 
  • Third, both the field project and the thesis offer students with the opportunity to work independently, outside the classroom setting, on a problem or idea of their own, while consulting closely with MPA faculty throughout the semester.
  • Fourth, when applying for a thesis or field project, the student must also submit a preliminary Proposal of their project for faculty approval. 
Differences between the Field Project, Thesis and Capstone Seminar
  • The capstone seminar is a culminating experience where students are expected to conduct a non-thesis, analytical research project designed to demonstrate knowledge and skills gained in the core MPA courses. The project must produce either a solution to a public management question, a policy problem or applied academic research question. Other forms of professional inquiry and analysis may be acceptable if approved by the instructor. Students enrolled in the capstone seminar attend regular classroom sessions.
  • The field project is “applied” knowledge and learning. It may involve developing a new “product” (e.g., evaluation of a specific program/policy, conducting needs assessment) or resolving a specific policy/organizational issue/problem (and providing solutions to your employer). Thus, it may be useful for your professional career and has practical implication to the employer.
  • The goal of a thesis is to become a “mini-expert” in a given field by researching the answer to a question and/or exploring the impact of an assumption (your hypothesis). This exploration then leads to some statement of fact (thesis). You (and your thesis chair) come up with a question/hypothesis that is then tested. You would then develop and conduct research to either prove or disprove the hypothesis or answer your research question. This would then lead to one or more conclusions regarding validity of your hypothesis or research question. In a thesis, you demonstrate your knowledge through a full semester of research.  A thesis “feels” more like the scientific method than a field project.
  • Both the field projects and capstone seminar are used to demonstrate that you can draw together your classroom experiences into an applied project.
  • With a thesis, your work is expected to be original. You are contributing knowledge to the public administration/nonprofit/healthcare fields. As such, your work should be publishable (even though you may not pursue actual publication). That means your work should stand up to review by practicing professionals in the field.
  • Both the capstone seminar and the field projects are “applied knowledge” projects (30-40 page report). Those reports are not nearly as rigorous as the one done for the thesis (50 pages or more), and serve to summarize your project (e.g., describe the problem, present your solution, illustrate its usage). 
Please contact Dr. Michael Ford ( for Capstone Seminar Guidelines.
  • A huge part of your thesis time is spent writing up your thesis document. This describes all the work that you’ve done from the initial narrowing of the thesis topic through the final analysis of results. It demonstrates all of the knowledge that you gained and your ability to integrate it, analyze it, and draw conclusions from it. Your original research and your thesis document are the goals of the thesis experience. 

 Please contact Dr. Anna Filipova ( for Thesis Guidelines.

  • For the thesis, the student must select and invite a committee, consisting of three faculty. At least two faculty must be from the Public Administration Department.
  • For the field project, the student must select one MPA faculty who has expertise in the subject area.
  • The capstone seminar requires a formal classroom presentation.
  • The field project does not require a formal presentation.
  • The thesis project culminates in a public presentation to the university community. During the defense you present your analysis, describe the methods you used to conduct the study, and defend your conclusions.
Some common misperceptions

The capstone is easier

The capstone may be easier to complete in one semester, but many students who take the capstone find that it presents challenges of its own—beyond what they expected! The capstone is a synthesis of the theories, concepts, and methodologies that students learn in their core classes. Students who complete the capstone typically offer these words of advice—maintain your notes from your core courses and don’t take another class at the same time.


The field/thesis project can be accomplished in a single semester

Most unlikely. Students who choose this route should start planning several semesters ahead. Coming up with a suitable proposal and refining it will take time—longer than most students expect. Students also must set aside adequate time to do a literature review, to collect data, and to draft the final product. There are no short cuts—well worth it for the right individual, but, all in all, a good chunk of time, perhaps one year from start to finish. Remember, that you need to write a good proposal to recruit MPA faculty to be your adviser(s) for the field project/thesis  and get their approval to start conducting the study ahead of time.

What should I consider in making my choice?

What kind of person am I?

  • Am I a self-starter? Do I enjoy writing? Working on my own? Designing my own study? Is there something that has been nagging at me that I want to explore in depth? 
  • If you want to solve a specific problem or build a tangible product (policy), then do a field project. If you have an original idea that you want to explore then do a thesis. If you would like an excellent broad-based culminating experience and are concerned about extended time commitments, then perhaps the Capstone Seminar is the appropriate option.

What are my ambitions and career goals?

  • Just as the thesis offers students the opportunity to examine a problem in depth, so the capstone and field project provides synthesis and breadth. Current and future administrators, managers, and leaders will find the capstone or field project to be a good way to hone the knowledge they have acquired throughout the MPA program or produce a tangible product useful to their professional career.
  •  The thesis option is a good preparation for students who would pursue an advanced degree (e.g., a Ph.D. degree or other academic degrees). 

Whatever you decide, it’s primarily your choice. The MPA faculty are here to help. 


Preparation & Formatting

Thesis and Field Project Manuscript


Note: The Graduate Studies requires near-final copies of field projects/theses about a month early so they can be checked for style/format.


Research Tools

Research Surveys

Qualtics is a handy tool for students who intend to conduct online surveys.


Administrative Services

Students who would prefer to conduct mailed surveys can check the prices of document and postal services.


Project Extension Form

MPA Student Research

Culminating Research Projects
  • Understanding Sexual Harassment through the Framework of Accountability
  • The Effects of Nursing Navigation and Patient Education on Congestive Heart Failure Readmission Rates
  • Medical Environment Workplace Bullying
  • Let’s Talk: Communication as a Building Block for Effective Organizations
  • The Rising Costs of Prescriptive Drugs in the United States Pharmaceutical Industry
  • Ethical Dilemmas in Performance Assessment and Appraisal
  • AODA Halfway Houses and the Problem of Recidivism
  • Public Engagement in Wisconsin Counties
  • A Critical Assessment of Tax Incremental Financing in Wisconsin
  • The Importance of Small Systems Transportation
  • How Technology can Reduce Readmissions in Healthcare
  • Veterans in Higher Education: A Study of Graduation and Retention Rates
  • Property Tax Income, Efficient Land Use, and Design and Longevity in Development
  • A Study of Occupational Stress in WI Law Enforcement Officers: What Can Be Done to Improve Officer Wellness?
  • Providing “Science to the Art” – Metrics that Work and Motivate When Evaluating UWO Office of Advancement Fundraising Activity
  • Birth to 3 in Winnebago and Fond du Lac County
  • Employment Education Mismatch
  • An Exploration of Training Options for Newly Elected County Board Supervisors
  • Military Sexual Trauma and Access to Care
  • Satisfaction and Turnover Intention Among Portage County Health and Human Services Employees: Trends and Strategies to Recruit and Retain Top Talent
  • Improving Engagement: Analysis and Alternatives for ThedaCare Professional Services
  • Modifying Child Support Orders for Incarcerated Parents
  • The Case for Specialization and Accountability in United States Government
  • An Analysis of Observation and Restraint Placement Interest at the Wisconsin Resources Center 2009-16
  • Sheboygan Area Veterans Treatment Court and the Necessity of a Program Evaluation
  • Helping Wisconsin Veterans with Mental Health Issues
  • The County Administrator and Water Quality: Storm Water, Retention Ponds, Created Wetlands and Pervious Pavement
  • Research and Development at UW-Madison
  • An Exploration of Training Options for Newly Elected County Board Supervisors
  • The City of Milwaukee and the Concerns of Homicide
  • Use it or Lose It: A Comprehensive Analysis of the Role of Lieutenant Governors in the United States and the State of Wisconsin
  • Policy Analysis for Improving Integrated Employment
  • Outcomes for Wisconsinites with Disabilities
  • Reaching Maximum Compliance with Wisconsin’s Childhood Vaccination Requirements
  • Central Wisconsin Fire and EMS Services: An Analysis of Four Area Departments
  • What Should the Role of a Healthcare Coalition Look Like to be Successful?  A Qualitative Policy Analysis of What the Role of a Healthcare Coalition Should Be
  • Grand Chute Incorporation Question
  • Navigating a New Landscape: Potential for Utilizing Alternative Work Spaces
  • Revitalizing the City of Antigo’s Downtown
  • Treating Mental Illness in Wisconsin at the Community Level
  • Gun Violence and Mass Shootings in the United States
  • Generating Growth: A Review of Sports Facility Subsidies and Economic Impacts
  • UW Oshkosh MPA Employer Survey
  • Refugee Resettlement in Wisconsin
  • The Effects of Sleep Deprivation and Fatigue: Developing a Fatigue Risk Management System
  • Emotional Labor in Writing Centers: The Roles of Confidence and Experience
  • Contemporary Health Care Solutions: City of Lake Mills
  • Creating Leaders in the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Undergraduate Educational Process
  • Firefighter Physical Ability Testing for Potential Candidates: Selecting, Developing and Implementing an Appropriate Program
  • Decreasing Veteran Suicide by Increasing Access to Mental Health
  • The Wisconsin Nursing Shortage:  Are Their Efforts Enough?
  • Fox Valley Technical College – English Language Learning Program – Student Retention:  Challenges and Solutions
  • Developing a Merit-Based Compensation Policy for University Staff at the University of  Wisconsin – Oshkosh with Policy Alternatives and Recommendations
  • The Importance of Diversity in Community Policing: Better Recruitment of Minority Police Officers
  • Crumbling Infrastructure
  • The Simulation Learning Experience: Measuring a Cohort Over Time
  • Should Animals Be Allowed in Nursing Home and Assisted Living Facilities?
  • Analysis of the Sheboygan Intoxicated Driver Intervention Program
  • How Increasing the Community Development’s Staffing Levels can help bolster the Local Economy
  • Primary Factors in Turnover Among Professional Nurses
  • The Influence of Social Media on HIPAA Compliance
  • Oneida Nation of Wisconsin Transit Department: Effects of Adding a Fixed Route Service
  • Generational Gaps in the Workplace
  • How to Best Reduce Gun Violence Locally
  • Illegal Abortion in Negeria: The Cringing Reality
  • A Tribal Wide Data Collection System for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin
  • Alternatives for long-term care financing: Reducing Medicaid dependence for the middle class
  • An Assessment of University Students Binge Eating and Its Impact on Work and School Productivity


  • Three Waves Health Clinic and Wellness Center: A Case Study
  • An Employer’s Guide to Understanding Unemployment: The Adjudicator Perspective
  • Improving Access to My Healthevet Through Volunteer Aided My Healthevet Stations
  • Volunteer Orientation & Handbook: Aging and Disability Resource Center
  • Lean Six Sigma Works in Government: The File Repository OrGanization (FROG) Project
  • Strategic Planning in Government Agencies: An Analysis of the Unemployment Insurance Division’s Process
  • Public Pension Overhauls: How can an equitable outcome be achieved for both past and current retirees and taxpayers?
  • Fond du Lac County Leadership 2020 Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders: An Analysis of Succession Planning in Local Government
  • A Study to Examine the Implementation of an Emergency Medical Dispatch Fee for
  • Private Ambulance Companies that Serve the City of Milwaukee
  • Changing a Culture: Calumet County, #1 in the Nation for Adult Binge Drinking
  • Employee Satisfaction in Madison Veterans Hospital: The Effects of Budget Cuts on Employee Satisfaction
  • A Look at the Public Work Environment after Act 10 was Implemented
  • Anti-Money Laundering Training Program of Greater Fox Cities
  • Habitat for Humanity
  • Higher Education and Police ManagementA Case Study of the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Office
  • Areas of Electronic Medical Records Impacts in Nursing Practices: A Content Analysis
  • Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act and Its Impacts on Patient Dumping: A Literature Review


  • Wisconsin Technical College Districts: Should They Continue to Tax?
  • Fiscal Analysis: Capital Improvement and Economic Development Planning Winneconne, Wisconsin
  • Community-Based Solutions to Domestic Abuse Problems
  • Wisconsin Home Energy Assistance Program Compliance and Performance
  • The Effect of Trade Liberalization on Developing Countries
  • Can the Village of Suamico Survive an EAB Infestation?
  • City of Oshkosh: A Wellness Strategic Plan
  • Residence in Freshman-only Residence Halls and the Effect on Grade Point Average for Students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
  • Physician Engagement in the Age of Accountable Care: Organizational Best Practices
  • Understanding Veteran Treatment Courts: Leave No Veteran Behind
  • Single-Stream Recycling Programs
  • Is the Easiest Recycling Program, Also the Best for the Community and the Environment?
  • The History of American Federalism and the Impact of Its Evolution on Intergovernmental Relations
  • History of Mandatory Arrest and its Impact on Domestic Violence on Wisconsin
  • University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Student Healthcare Survey
  • Transitioning from Quantity to Quality: Recommendations for the Wisconsin Division of Motor Vehicles Dealer Inspection Process
  • Immigration Policy Conflict: Are International Students at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh Threats to the Cultures and Values of the United States?
  • Lean Processes in Municipal Management
  • Private Sector Public Administrators
  • Enhancing the Relationship between the CEO and Board of Directors in a Nonprofit Organization: A Case Study of Lutheran Homes & Health Services
  • Collaboration as a Tool for Wisconsin: Law Enforcement to Address Crime 
  • Assisted Living Options for the Difficult: A Study on Available Services and Living Arrangements for Those Who Suffer from Challenging Behaviors and Alzheimer’s Disease


  • Wausau Metropolitan Cooperation, Collaboration and Consolidation 
  • An Analysis of the Positive and Negative Attributes Associated with TIF Usage in Wisconsin
  • Veteran Services in Wisconsin’s Public Colleges and Universities


  • Growth Strategies in Affinity Hospital-Provider Relations
  • Impact of Merging Emergency Operations Centers
  • Alternatives for Addressing Door County’s Budget Issues
  • An Analysis of Harassment Policies at the University of Wisconsin Whitewater
  • HealthCare Transparency’s Effect on Consumerism
  • Public Administration: Local Government and Decentralization in Haiti
  • Will Right-to-Work Legislation Reduce Wisconsin’s Job Loss?
  • Factors in Right of Way Litigation and Alternative Approaches to Reduce the Number of Appeals 
  • Re-employment Workshops: Do They Work?
  • Developing a Sound Methodology for Allocating W-2 Services Funding 


  • LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace: Practical Solutions for Public Managers
  • Proactive Cost Containment Options for Saving Taxpayer Dollars in Higher Education Institutional Operations
  • From Ugly Little Step Sister to Progressive & Equal Relative:  An Analysis of the Town of Menasha’s Age Old Problem of City Versus Town Disparity with Potential Solutions.
  • Green Lake County Nutrition Program: Best Practices for Operation
  • Taycheedah Correctional Institution: An Exploration of Alternatives for the Monarch Special Management Unit
  • Building a Stable Revenue Source for an Orphanage in Madagascar
  • Developing Best Practice Training Policies and Procedures for LSS’ Group Homes
  • Policy Alternatives and Recommendations for the Attorney General to Increase
  • Education and Communication to the Public as it relates to Internet Crimes against Children in Wisconsin
  • Single- Versus Dual-Stream Recycling Volume: Does One Bin Really Make a Significant Difference?
  • Municipal Government 2.0: Lessons from Early Adopters
  • Oneida Nation: Climate Change Adaptation for Our Community
  • The Role of Interpersonal, Mass Media, and Internet Communication on Changes in Self-Reported Health Behavior Skills


  • Alternatives for Addressing Door County’s Budget Issues: A Look at Employee Relationship and Cost Issues
  • An Analysis of Harassment Policies at the University of Wisconsin: Whitewater Recommendations for Chancellor Richard Telfer
  • HealthCare Transparency’s Effect on Consumerism: A Study of Whether or Not Consumers Buy Health Care Based on Value and the Impact on One Organization’s Strategy.
  • Will Right-to-Work Legislation Reduce Wisconsin’s Job Loss?
  • Factors in Right of Way Litigation and Alternative Approaches to Reduce the Number of Appeals 
  • Developing a Sound Methodology for Allocating W-2 Services Funding
  • Harmony Café Policy & Program Analysis: Safeguarding Youth & the Program: Policy and Structure Development
  • Secondary Traumatic Stress: Addressing the Needs of Child Welfare Workers at the Adams County Health and Human Services Department
  • Should the Village of Redgranite Dance with the Waushara County Sheriff’s Department: An Analysis of Contracting for Village Police Services