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Step 1: Identify a capstone advisor and project

You should start by identifying a faculty member whose research interests and expertise are in the topic area and/or methodology that you wish to pursue, and is available to advise the project. Your faculty advisor may serve as your capstone advisor, or they may have an initial discussion with you and then refer you to other faculty members. Another helpful strategy is to inquire with several faculty members about any current work of theirs that may lend itself to a potential capstone project. Other resources for identifying a potential capstone advisor are the MPH Program Office, the faculty directory (searchable by keyword) and Collexis.

A capstone project is suitable if it provides students the opportunity to apply the skills and competencies acquired in the MPH program to a problem likely encountered in public health practice. The topic and format of the capstone project is flexible and is developed through discussions between the student and capstone advisor. Possible options for format or design include:

Literature Review

The capstone project would involve analyzing an important public health problem through a survey of current literature on the topic. The project would include sections that clearly describe the problem, assess the problem and its magnitude, evaluate its causes and determinants, and discuss prevention and intervention strategies.

Example Project:

Program Plan

The capstone project would involve developing a plan to implement a public health program. It would address critical issues such as management, fiscal, ethical and logistical issues.

Example Projects:

Program Evaluation

The capstone project would involve evaluating/monitoring an existing public health program, such as process evaluation, monitoring of outputs and outcomes, impact assessment and/or cost analysis.

Example Projects:

Policy Analysis

The capstone project would involve analyzing the public health implications of a current or proposed policy. The work could include perspectives on economics and financing, need and demand, politics/ethics/law, or quality/effectiveness.

Example Project:

Research Proposal

The capstone project would simulate a grant proposal or research plan. The project would include a clear statement of the research question, the specific aims of the proposal, review of literature, study design, methods of analysis, implications and significance of the work. The research question would be one that is encountered in professional work, such as the evaluation of a public health intervention.

Example Projects:

Research Report

The capstone project could involve the collection, analysis and/or interpretation of data to address a public health problem. The project could include sections on the research question, study design, data collection procedures, data analysis, interpretation and significance of findings.

  • Secondary Data Analysis:Typically, the capstone research report is in the form of a secondary data analysis, using an existing data set. Please note that the appropriate IRB approval may need to be obtained for any project that uses data gathered from human subjects. Even in cases where the data is de-identified, a determination should be sought from the IRB office.

  • Primary Data Analysis: Work for the MPH capstone can also involve the collection of data. Data collection for capstone is usually in the context of an ongoing study, but it is also possible (although not recommended) for MPH students to initiate an original study under the guidance of a Johns Hopkins faculty member. In the latter case, the student should allow substantial lead time for research planning and IRB approval.

Example Research Reports:

Example Qualitative Data Research Reports:

Example Systematic Review and Methods Development:

Using a Course Project

Students may use their work from any project-oriented course as a basis for their capstone, but they must build and expand on it for the final capstone project. That previous work must be placed in the list of references, and the advisor will need a copy of the student's original paper.

There are many courses at the Bloomberg School that are project-oriented and could serve as a starting point for the capstone. Examples include:

MPH Field Experience Fund

The MPH Field Experience Fund awards can be used by full-time students to develop an MPH Capstone project. The award is intended primarily to provide support for students during the January intersession period. Individual awards are $1,500. Learn more about the application and deadlines. 


Step 2: Determine if the project involves human subjects research

If your project involves data from human subjects, you should complete the online IRB Worksheet to determine what additional steps (if any) are needed in regard to securing IRB approval for your project or documenting the existing approval.

The Bloomberg School IRB Office is charged with assuring that human subject research studies conducted in the school comply with internal school policies and external regulations designed to protect human subjects. All students who plan to do human subjects research must have IRB approval before working with human data or samples and/or before contacting human subjects.

"Human subjects research" is broadly defined to include any activity involving living humans that seeks to test a hypothesis or answer a scientific question. This can include both secondary data analysis and research involving direct contact with subjects. The following resources are available to assist students with their IRB questions:

  • MPH Program Office assistance is available for initial questions; full-time students should direct their questions to Janet Carn ( and part-time students should contact David Earle (

  • Additional assistance is available from Thomas Bradsher at the IRB Office ( The IRB office is located in room E1100. Please make sure that you've completed the IRB Worksheet before you contact the IRB Office.

  • Navigating the IRB : A Primer for Students and Postdoctoral Fellows (click on "Student Manual" at this link). This is your first step in learning more about the IRB process. This IRB Office publication is designed to provide additional information about the IRB process.

If the IRB Office determines that you must submit a PHIRST application, you must do so by the date that your MPH Capstone Information Form is due. The IRB submission deadline for field experiences taking place during the Winter break and requiring IRB approval is November 15th.


Step 3: Submit the online MPH Capstone Information Form

Submit the online Capstone Information Form two terms prior to completion of the project. You will need to indicate such information as the name of your capstone advisor, a working title and the aims of your project, IRB status if applicable, etc.

Step 4: Register for the two-credit MPH Capstone Course

Students must register for the two-credit "MPH Capstone" course in the term in which the project is completed. Full-time students must register for this course in 4th Term.

Students who are doing a large amount of preliminary research for a project may want to register for additional "Special Studies/Research" units. You should consult with your capstone advisor prior to registering. When registering, you should select the capstone advisor as the "instructor" and select the number of academic units that you and your capstone advisor have agreed is appropriate for the research.

MPH Capstone Course Numbers

Capstone Advisor's Department Capstone Course Number
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology PH.120.800
Biostatistics PH.140.800
Environmental Health PH.180.800
Epidemiology PH.340.800
Health, Behavior & Society PH.410.800
Health Policy & Management PH.300.800
International Health PH.220.800
Mental Health PH.330.800
Molecular Microbiology & Immunology PH.260.800
Population, Family & Reproductive Health PH.380.800

Special Studies/Research Course Numbers

Capstone Advisor's Department SS/R Course Number
Biochemistry & Molecular Biology PH.120.840
Biostatistics PH.140.840
Environmental Health PH.180.840
Epidemiology PH.340.840
Health, Behavior & Society PH.410.840
Health Policy & Management PH.300.840
International Health, Health Systems PH.221.840
International Health, Human Nutrition PH.222.840
International Health, Disease Control PH.223.840
International Health, Social & Behavioral PH.224.840
Mental Health PH.330.840
Molecular Microbiology & Immunology PH.260.840
Population, Family & Reproductive Health PH.380.840

Step 5: Work on the project and paper

Discuss an overall timeline for completing the various sections of your paper with your capstone advisor in preparation for submitting a first draft for their review. The first draft deadline is about five weeks before the final draft deadline, allowing time for revisions. Communicating with your capstone advisor about your progress, including any issues or concerns, is critical during this phase.

Your capstone advisor will review your final draft for any final edits and recommendations, and you will complete revisions as necessary.

Then submit the final, approved paper to the CoursePlus drop box. If presenting online, also submit presentation slides. Your capstone advisor will submit an online approval directly to the MPH Program Office. Please note: Students may not participate in the oral presentation unless the final paper (and slides, if presenting online) are submitted on time.


MPH Published Capstone Papers, Abstracts and Funded Activities     

Step 6: Give an oral presentation of your project

After the final paper and capstone advisor's approval are submitted, you will complete the oral component of the capstone project by giving a 10-minute presentation. This will take place at the May MPH Capstone Symposium, online or an alternate venue.


Step 7: Capstone course completion, grading and awards

The MPH Program Office will submit grades for the MPH Capstone Course as follows:

  • "Pass" grade for all students that submit an approved capstone paper and complete the oral presentation requirement.

  • "Incomplete" grade will be posted for those students who do not complete the capstone project in the term for which they are registered.

The MPH Program Office also awards special honors to the best overall capstone projects. Nominations are accepted from capstone advisors and winners are selected by an awards committee based on the written project. The capstone award includes a plaque for excellence in public health professional practice. The student with the single overall best capstone project receives a $500 award.

Key Dates and Deadlines

Timeline for online presentation at August 8, 2016 session

Submit online Capstone Information Form By Wed., April 27
Submit final outline to capstone advisor By Tues., May 24
Register for capstone course for Summer Term By Fri., June 24
Submit first draft of project to capstone advisor By Mon., June 27
Submit final draft of project to capstone advisor By Mon., July 18
Upload final paper and slides to drop box By Mon., August 1
Give oral presentation On Mon., August 8

Timeline for online presentation at December 5-6, 2016 session

Submit online Capstone Information Form By Mon., August 29
Submit final outline to capstone advisor By Mon., September 19
Register for capstone course for 2nd Term By Wed., October 19
Submit first draft of project to capstone advisor By Mon., October 17
Submit final draft of project to capstone advisor By Mon., November 14
Upload final paper and slides to drop box By Mon., November 28
Give oral presentation On Mon. December 5 or Tues. December 6

Timeline for online presentations, May 8-10, 2017 sessions

Submit online Capstone Information Form By Thurs., December 1
Submit final outline to capstone advisor By Fri., February 10
Register for capstone course for 4th Term By Fri., March 17
Submit first draft of project to capstone advisor By Fri., March 17
Submit final draft of project to capstone advisor By Fri., April 14
Upload final paper and slides to drop box By Mon., May 1
Give oral presentation On Mon.-Wed., May 8 - 10

Timeline for presentation at May 13, 2017 Capstone Symposium

Submit online Capstone Information Form By Thurs., December 1
Submit final outline to capstone advisor By Fri., February 10
Register for capstone course for 4th Term By Fri., March 17
Submit first draft of project to capstone advisor By Fri., March 17
Submit final draft of project to capstone advisor By Fri., April 14
Upload final paper to drop box By Fri., May 1
Give oral presentation On Sat., May 13

Timeline for presentation at alternate venue

Students presenting in an alternate venue must adhere to the schedules above, as per the time of year in which the project is completed. Deadlines for completion of the oral presentation and receipt of the oral requirement waiver are August 8, 2017, December 5, 2017 and May 13, 2017—depending on the period in which the student is graduating.