PROJECT STRUCTURE AND STEPS
Your first component of the capstone project is a literature review. It is suggested that you complete the
following before you begin this assessment:
• IMPORTANT: You will need to begin by choosing a topic of research, organization, and problem
or opportunity that addresses improving the organization’s effectiveness and submitting it to
your faculty for approval. If you have any questions, contact your faculty.
• To narrow the project scope, start by reading the assessment instructions and scoring guides for
each project component to learn the requirements and ensure that your topic and the problem
or opportunity are appropriate for the capstone project.
• Next, think about what topics you have a passion for within HRM. What problems are most
important to solve when you think about HRM within organizations today?
• You may also find that reviewing your projects from previous courses and artifacts that you have
collected in your e-portfolio will help you choose a topic and complete the project.
• Note: The organization that you choose can be a current or past employer or another
organization that is of interest to you and from which you can gather information to complete
this project successfully.
Library Resources for Research and Writing a Literature Review
To prepare for each of the project components, you’ll need to conduct research in the Capella
Library. You may also search the Internet, but be sure to choose articles that are professional and peer-
reviewed, from trusted sites and researchers. Analyze how, in your effectiveness improvement plan, you
might apply the approach or approaches described in the articles you read.
A Capella University MS HRM Program Library Guide has been created specifically for you. You are
encouraged to refer to the resources in the library guide to help direct your research for the
In preparation for this assessment, read Reviewing the Literature and Assignment Types and
Templates for writing a literature review.
HRCI Body of Knowledge and SHRM Code of Ethics
• Research and evaluate the definition of the body of knowledge in HR, as explained by the HR
Certification Institute and the SHRM. Based on your review, determine whether the body of
knowledge provides additional areas of research and analysis for your course project topic.
• Read through the SHRM Code of Ethics. As you look through the code of ethics, think about how
your organization adheres to the principles. As it relates to the code of ethics and what you see
at this site, do you believe your organization can improve? How?
Some studies in this course will feature additional resources to learn more about the topics covered in
the assessments and the field of HRM in general. If you are just starting out in HRM, the material below
offers specific career-related resources at Capella and on the Internet to help with your transition.
• Career Center.
o Capella’s Career Center is an excellent resource for career planning tools and current
employment resources. View the Career Center Overview to learn more.
• Career Planning Self-Assessment.
o Take this self-assessment to help clarify your career goals and develop a plan for your
• Career Planning Checklist.
o This checklist encourages you to begin thinking about your career goals. This list of
career activities is intended to be neither an exhaustive individualized list of
recommendations nor a guarantee of employment.
HRM Professional Certification
HR Certification Institute (HRCI) is a nonprofit organization that develops, maintains, and administers
HRM professional certifications. Review the following two outlines of the exams administered to
professionals seeking the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human
Resources (SPHR) certifications as you work on your capstone project plan and think about what your
next steps are after graduation.
• HR Certification Institute. (2018). 2018 PHR exam content outline [PDF]. Retrieved from
• HR Certification Institute. (2018). 2018 SPHR exam content outline [PDF]. Retrieved from
You may also find that the following websites will also help you prepare for and complete your capstone
• HR Certification Institute. (2020). Associate professional in human resources (aPHR). Retrieved
• HR Certification Institute. (2017). Professional in human resources (PHR). Retrieved from
• HR Certification Institute. (2017). Senior professional in human resources (SPHR). Retrieved from
• Society for Human Resource Management. (2017). Assurance of learning: About. Retrieved from
• Society for Human Resource Management. (2020). SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-
CP). Retrieved from
• Society for Human Resource Management. (2020). SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-
SCP). Retrieved from
The Purpose of a Literature Review
Entering an academic conversation involves many steps. Two of the most fundamental of these steps
involves reading material in the field and forming a perspective on what you read. Academics
demonstrate their perspective on the reading of the field by composing a literature review. A literature
review traces the genealogy of a topic in the field; it notes the history of the topic and the notable
perspectives of others in the field who have addressed the topic. The purpose of a literature review is to
“demonstrate that the writer has insightfully and critically surveyed relevant literature on his or her
topic in order to convince an intended audience that this topic is worth addressing” (Clark, 2007, p.105).
The literature review is not intended to report the literature, but instead to synthesize it.
The literature review appears at many stages of your graduate education. Early in a graduate education,
you will often be required to write a short literature review for a paper in a course to demonstrate
analysis, synthesis, and evaluation of the assigned readings for the course.
The expectations for the literature review increase steadily throughout a doctoral program, finally
culminating in a chapter-length literature review, which functions as the second chapter of the
How do you prepare to write informed reviews of the literature in your field?
First, you must spend considerable time reading the academic literature of the field. Over time, you
explore many topics through reading these academic sources, which include books, journal articles, and
published studies and any other credible materials that work to add to the knowledge of your field. This
‘reading time’ constitutes the majority of your time in graduate school. The more you read, the more
you begin to form an individual identity as a scholar through the choices you make as you read.
At the beginning of your graduate career, you read the materials that your course assignments guide
you to in the library. However, over time, you start to recognize the names of authors with whom you’ve
agreed in the past. You also start to recognize the names of authors with whom you’ve disagreed in the
past. You become familiar with journal names and publisher names, and you can start to research a
topic based on more than the key words listed in the assignment. Through continued reading in your
field, you gain the experience to make informed choices about which authors to align yourself within the
formation of your own academic identity.
Increased knowledge through reading comes through experience with multiple research projects, and
that increasing knowledge also serves to shape your individual perspective on your own field of study.
Over time, you focus your attention on a specific research area, and, ultimately, on a specialty area in
which you will conduct research to complete a dissertation. Making these kinds of decisions about
where you’ll conduct further research and writing marks your entry into the field as an individual scholar
drawn to some topics and not persuaded by others.
Defining the Literature Review
Placement of a Literature Review in Academic Conversation
A graduate education anticipates learners making choices and forming an individual identity as a
scholar. Assignments requiring literature reviews are some of the touchstones in a graduate education
that allow you to identify your individual voice and stance on important topics within a field. A graduate
education culminates in the writing of a dissertation, your official entry into the academic conversation
through the completion of a book-length project that advances the knowledge of the field. In a shorter,
paper-length form, your literature review typically consists of several paragraphs placed early in the text
to explain the history of the problem or issue and to explore what the field has said on the topic. The
literature review establishes a context, a history, and a reason for why you are writing. You will also be
asked to write paper-length literature reviews in which the review is a much more developed
examination of the literature on a particular topic in the field. These literature reviews, short and long,
culminate in a chapter-length literature review that serves to underpin your dissertation research.
At Capella, the disciplines of Business, Education, Human Services, and Psychology structure the
dissertation in the following way:
1. Introduction and problem statement.
2. Literature review.
3. Research and methodology.
4. Data analysis and results.
5. Conclusions and recommendations.
Notice the placement of the literature review. In the context of a dissertation, the literature review
comes immediately after the introduction. In the introduction, you give a picture of what the
dissertation will do and what the dissertation will address, much as the first paragraph of an academic
paper offers an introduction and a thesis statement that will guide the body of the paper. As with all
literature reviews, Chapter 2, the literature review, establishes a context, a history, and a reason for the
This early placement of the literature review is important for several reasons.
• The literature review offers a critical look at existing research that’s significant to the writer’s
• The literature review demonstrates the writer’s knowledge of the field.
• The literature review justifies the writer’s proposed study.
• The literature review sets the context for the research
• The literature review defines which issues and authors are important to the writer and which are
Thus, the literature review defines you as a writer and a scholar in the field. Readers can learn what you
value and what you don’t by reading your review. In the literature review, you choose to include some
sources while choosing not to include others. These choices offer a lot of information about who you are
as a scholar for an audience familiar with the research in your field. For example, imagine that you are
writing about educational theories. John Dewey serves as your foundational source for your literature
review. You read two scholars who come after Dewey: Paolo Freire and Malcolm Knowles. You speak
favorably about what Knowles adds to Dewey’s ideas, but you note several shortcomings in Freire’s
assumptions. From those statements, readers in your field understand that you are aligned with the
Knowles school of thought and not with the Freirian school of thought. Readers can also place what you
value within the context of their own perspectives and within the larger issues of the field.
In academic writing, the primary audience, readers in the field, works to situate new voices within the
already-existing conversation. This audience will evaluate which sources you use in the context of their
own perspectives-their own established identity in the academic conversation. Just as you have your
individual perspective on the topic for which you are composing a literature review, so will your
audience. That’s why the literature review is so important. In short, your literature review defines where
you stand in the academic conversation of your field within the context of those who came before you
and for those who will come after you.
Crafting the Literature Review: Definitions
For a literature review to be accepted as a credible representation of your understanding of your field, it
must accomplish several goals.
• The literature review must be organized around and related directly to research questions that
you are developing.
• The literature review must synthesize results into a summary of what’s known and not known.
• The literature review must identify areas of controversy in the literature.
• The literature review must formulate questions that need further research.
In the following instructional module, you’ll work with three tools to help you craft a literature review
that accomplishes all of these goals. Whether you are writing a short literature review within a paper or
Chapter 2 of your dissertation, these tools will assist you in synthesizing your readings to compose
reviews that give your readers a clear understanding of the issues and scholars that you are reviewing
and will outline your stance on the position.
Three basic tools will help you share your synthesis of the literature you read with your audience:
definitions, examples, and acknowledging your critics.
Definitions bolster your argument by making sure that you and the reader are starting on the same page
and with the same definitions. Definitions can be a derived from multiple sources, from dictionaries to
reference books to seminal works in a field.
For example, if your topic is the color blue, you might rely on a reputable art dictionary to define what
blue means in terms of the color spectrum. You might also rely on a book of literary criticism to enhance
that definition by looking at how the color blue has historically been used to symbolize courage in great
western literature, including Shakespeare. Combining these two definitions gives you a definition of
your own for the color blue in the context of your specific topic–of your unique argument.
When using key words and concepts in the field for your literature review, remember that over time,
terms and concepts gather many meanings. Simply relying on a dictionary definition might not be
enough to define a term for your audience, a group of academics in your field. For example, unconscious
is a term that has many meanings in the field of psychology. That term means different things to, say,
Sigmund Freud than it does to those who come after him, like, for example, Jacques Lacan. Therefore, in
a literature review about psychoanalytic theories with an academic audience, it will be important to talk
about which scholar you follow, which definition of that term you agree with, and how you will apply
that definition to your own theory.
You can also use definitions to define a concept or topic by what it is not. For example, if you follow
Lacan’s definition of the unconscious, you might want to include Freud’s definition to show where it
differs from Lacan’s. You will also want to offer specific reasons to justify why those differences
prompted you to side with Lacan’s definition.
Crafting the Literature Review: Examples
Examples bolster your argument by adding an extra level of explanation for the reader. Examples often
serve to make a concept concrete for the reader. Imagine that you are trying to explain a method for
teaching. After the key terms in the method are defined, take the next step: offering examples of the
method at work.
Notice the pattern of examples in the section you just read above on definitions:
• Definitions can be derived from multiple sources, from dictionaries to reference books to seminal
works in a field. For example, if your topic is the color blue, you might rely on a reputable art
dictionary to define what blue means in terms of the color spectrum>
• Simply relying on a dictionary definition might not be enough to define a term for your audience,
a group of academics in your field. For example, unconscious is a term that has many meanings
in the field of psychology. That term means different things to, say, Sigmund Freud that it does to
those who come after him, like, for example, Jaques LaCan.
• You can also use definitions to define a concept or topic by what it is not. For example, if you
follow LaCan’s definition of the unconscious, you might want to include Freud’s definition to
show where it differs from LaCan’s and why those differences don’t offer a definition that works
within that context of your argument.
In these examples, a statement is made, and that statement is then applied-‘teased out’-by the use of
examples. Examples, either hypothetical or from the literature, bring your synthesis to life by offering
real-life connections to your theories and interpretations. As a Capella scholar-practitioner, connecting
theory to practice underpins your educational journey, and examples are an excellent and primary
method for making that theory-to-practice connection.
Crafting the Literature Review: Critics
While many in your audience will agree with your position on the topic of your literature review, many
will not. An important function of the literature review is to acknowledge what critics of your argument
say. To create an informed perspective about the literature of a field, you must read many perspectives
about key issues and discussions within your field. In an academic conversation, a writer who has looked
at all sides of the argument comes across as an informed and balanced speaker. Just as working to
define something by what it is not is an effective tool, so is presenting a position on a subject and
including the perspectives and arguments that differ from that position.
For example, let’s say that you make the statement that many in your field have conjectured that the
sky is blue. You define blue in terms of meteorology, and you give examples of what you mean by the
color blue. During your research, you discover many speakers who say that the sky is not blue. Some of
these speakers are not credible, so you discard those dissenting positions. But some of those speakers
are credible. They are published in peer-reviewed journals, and they have many followers at universities
across the country. Leaving those credible sources out of your literature review creates a slanted
perspective on the body of literature in the field, while acknowledging those critics shows that you have
considered all perspectives, but for at least one reason, you have decided to reject those critics in favor
of your chosen perspective.
Acknowledging the critics also offers you the chance to create new ways of thinking about your topic
within your field. For example, imagine that you address the way in which two different scholars,
Scholar A and Scholar B, use a shape to discuss a concept in the field. You note that Scholar A and those
after him have conjectured that the term ‘square’ is effective for describing a concept that encompasses
You also acknowledge that Scholar B has conjectured that the term ‘square,’ which implies that all four
sides are equal in length, is too limiting, and, thus, must be changed to the term ‘quadrangle.’
While you acknowledge the validity of Scholar B’s purpose in expanding the term, you also note that in
the context of the concept being discussed, all angles in Scholar B’s conception are actually 90 degree
angles. In fact, then, in spite the difference in terms, both scholars are really talking about a similar
concept. In essence, from your perspective, Scholar B supports Scholar A’s assertion, but with a different
definition of square, which, perhaps, you re-label as “rectangle.”
In this example, noting the other side of the argument has led you to a new understanding of the
concept addressed by both Scholars A and B. While acknowledging the critic shows depth of exposure to
the literature of the field, in this case, that acknowledgement has also led to a new interpretation not
yet noted by your field, filling a gap in the field while boosting your credibility as a new voice entering
Applying the Tools to the Literature Review
Now that you’ve explored the tools, you are ready to apply them to a literature review in your field.
Once you’ve selected your literature review, work to locate the definitions, examples, and
acknowledgement of the critics used by the author. As you read your sample literature review, make
notes in the margins, and locate where the writer has used the tools you’ve learned in this module. You
may also want to highlight each example in a different color. For example, you may mark definitions in
blue, examples in green, and acknowledging the critics in red.
Once you’ve completed this process, ask yourself the following questions.
• Which definitions worked well? Why?
• Which definitions could have worked better? How?
• Which definitions convinced you because they came from credible sources? Why?
• Which definitions did not convince you due to lack of credibility of the source? Why?
• Which examples worked well? Why?
• Which examples could have worked better? How?
• Which examples convinced you because they came from credible sources? Why?
• Which examples did not convince you due to lack of credibility of the source? Why?
• Which acknowledgements of critics worked well? Why?
• Which acknowledgements of critics could have worked better? How?
• Which acknowledgements of critics convinced you because they came from credible sources?
• Which acknowledgements of critics did not convince you due to lack of credibility of the source?
For all three tools, as you identify them and question their effectiveness, work to find methods that you
might want to use in your own literature reviews. Do you see methods of incorporating these tools that
you’d like to model in your own review? Note what you like and what you don’t like in these examples.
You can often learn as much about your own writing process by charting what you don’t like as you can
learn by charting what you like.
The Writing Process for the Literature Review
Like any academic writing process, crafting an effective literature review is not a linear process. As the
writing map below indicates, the literature review writing process is recursive and iterative.
Upon your completion of each draft in this recursive process, remember to compare the following
important outcomes of the literature review to ensure that your review satisfies the expectations of
• Reviews background of the problem area.
• Identifies merits of previous studies (who, what, when, where, why, how).
For the dissertation project:
• Helps to select research methods.
• Provides required theoretical framework.
• Establishes context and rationale for the study.
• Establishes that study does not unintentionally duplicate work already published.
• Shows how your study contributes to the knowledge base of the field.
Clark, I.L. (2007). Writing the successful thesis and dissertation: Entering that conversation. Upper Saddle
River, NJ: Prentice H