Capstone was one of the most challenging, but rewarding group projects that I participated in. Some of you may be just beginning, in the middle of, or completing your capstone. If you are nowhere near starting your capstone project yet: kindly bookmark this post, take a breath and go do some other stuff. This post will aim to be concise, but also contain lots of information that you will likely forget by the time you start the capstone.

Hopefully, your program will provide lots of guidance and provide support for your group to be successful. In my program, the introduction class Capstone included an orientation meeting with my cohort and follow-up meetings throughout the semester, a 200+ page PDF with lots of information, and faculty to answer initial questions. After that point, the main resource was my Capstone advisor.

Other resources include:

  • Your teammates (of course!)
  • Librarian
  • Other OT faculty
  • Previous cohorts
  • Your OT mentor (if your school has a mentor/mentee program)
  • Google

Some people may not be fans of group projects. Capstone is a great opportunity to hone in on your teamwork skills and life skills for your future career…and personal relationships.

Common themes of a successful Capstone include:

  • Good team communication
  • Team collaboration
  • Organization
  • Having Patience

A great book our cohort was required to read was “The Hard Truth About Soft Skills” by Peggy Klaus. We highly recommend it, especially before starting your first OT job.

Drafting the Team Contract

As a team, come together and brainstorm a sort-of contract/guide that outlines:

  • Team mission & vision
  • Role(s) of each team member
  • Expectations

This contract is very important because you can refer to it and remind yourself of the common goal when deadlines approach, stress is in the air, and you feel like giving up.

Vision

What is your team vision for a successful outcome or product?

Roles

Share your own strengths when deciding the role of each member. For example, are you very detail-oriented and good with grammar? You will make a great ‘editor’. Are you very out-going well organized? You may make a great ‘communication point person’. Are you very detail-oriented and tech savvy?  You will make a great ‘chart-maker’. Do you type 500 WPM? ‘Recorder’ by default. Keep in mind, these roles can be shared. In general and depending on your group size, it is best to have one final ‘editor’ who performs the final edits and submits them. In our group, we had 2 editors – 1 who edited first for major changes, and the 2nd to glance over everything.

Expectations

Setting up ‘house rules’ is important because the capstone project can be completed in many ways. Take communication expectations, for example. You can do in-person, phone, text/group text, skype/video, e-mail or even chat. Draft an agreement with your team about how to communicate for each situation.

Communication example:

  • School e-mail – general communication, “Check out this article I found for a literature review”
  • Group text – setting up meeting arrangements, “See everyone on Wednesday to get together and work on our research question
  • Personal SMS – reserved for emergency/urgent communications, “We forgot the attachment in our final submission!”

Services that I recommend:

GroupMe – Set up a group text that works on any SMS platform of any group size. Yes, you can use group SMS on iPhone or Android, but you will most likely run into issues such as having different platforms. IOS typically does not play nice with other platforms. For example, sometimes, android may not get the texts. An additional benefit of using GroupMe is adding/removing members without having to start an entirely new thread. You can also mute conversations. GroupMe has an optional App to install for extra features such as image sharing, but for general text communication, this will be your best bet.

Google Suite – If your school has a built-in suite, then this will be very easy to set-up. Mine came with unlimited storage space as well. If your school does not have google suite, I highly, highly recommend setting it up with your e-mail account, inviting all the group members, and using it for almost everything.

  • Google Drive – keep all your documents, PDFs, powerpoints, notes, research in one place
    *be sure to keep it organized, or it will be just as useless
  • Google Docs – take notes on meeting minutes, writing a literature review, transcript
  • Google Slides – for presentations, poster board drafting
  • Google Sheets – easily make graphs, keep track of data, enter Excel formulas, etc.

The G-Suite has excellent features that are FREE:

  • Several team members can be editing a single document at a time.
  • Suggestion Mode: make suggested edits, e.g. grammar that can easily be accepted or rejected. If accepted, the suggestion replaces the original and becomes ‘live’. If rejected, the suggestion simply goes away. Our group did not fully take advantage of this feature until the end when we could have saved a lot of time in the beginning.
  • Tag parts of the document with comments and start a comment thread for a specific part of the document
  • Revert or refer back to previous edits
  • Much more features that are gradually added

These features alone should convince you to use the G-suite for the bulk of your project. Trust me, it will make you (and your capstone advisor’s) lives easier.

A unified E-mail account – set up a unique e-mail account for your group to communicate with clients, patients, etc. For example, [email protected] This way, your name will not be revealed, everything is in one Inbox, and everyone can log on and see the e-mails. You can even forward from this unified e-mail to all of your e-mail addresses. Just be careful not to accidentally reply to e-mails from your own account.

Grammarly – both free and paid versions available. Like having an English tutor look over your paper and catch poor grammar, typos, etc. There are extensions for your browser that can be installed. As of this writing, I do not believe Google Docs has a plugin, but you can always copy & paste the final draft before submission to catch any problems.

Unsplash – for copyright-free/royalty free images and photos when it comes time to make your presentations, poster, official submissions. Very important, because you do not want to get into trouble with using copyrighted images, especially if your work gets published. It may be tempted to use Google Images to find the exact picture you want, but use this as a placeholder, keeping in mind that pictures found on Google will likely not make the final cut.

Tip: Several Reddit threads have some great links to alternatives for copyright-free as well. Google ‘reddit royalty free’ for an updated list.

This should get you all started. Good luck! Hope to see your work published in the literature.