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Master of Public Health

Capstone Project Guidelines

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Chuka Anude
I have always wanted to be a hand and a voice; a hand to help hurting people and a voice for the voiceless. This led me to medicine and now to public health... Read More
Priya Mehra
For me the Bloomberg School is a place for greater self-discovery. My background in public health... Read More
Tom Edling
I have a BS in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University, DVM from Colorado State University, and a... Read More
Jennifer Cohn
I am currently an instructor in medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania... Read More
Somnazu Nwanze
I am a medical doctor, who graduated from the University of Benin, Nigeria. My latest assignment was with the Nigerian Youth Corps... Read More
Olga Joos
Born in Florida, but raised in both Europe and the U.S., I have a strong love for traveling which now compliments my interest in public health... Read More
Gregory Tung
The online MPH is a versatile degree that has been key in my professional development. I entered the program while working full-time as a hospital administrator... Read More
Jung-Im Shin
Who would have thought that I would end up at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health? Certainly not me... Read More
Luca Passerini
I am an Italian Medical Doctor with a passion for global health and social entrepreneurship, focusing on poverty-related diseases, child health and humanitarian action... Read More
Marie Curry
I began the part-time MPH program with the goal of using my research and analytical skills to further policies that improve health... Read More
Daniel Ehlman
I earned my MPH concentrating my coursework in Epidemiology and Biostatistics with a capstone project analyzing malaria data from Tanzania... Read More
Besides friendships, my classmates provided me with a seemingly endless source of knowledge.
-Daniel Ehlman


The MPH Capstone project is a requirement for graduation for students in the Master of Public Health (MPH) program at the Bloomberg School.

The MPH Capstone is an opportunity for students to work on public health practice projects that are of particular interest to them. The goal is for students to synthesize, integrate and apply the skills and competencies they have acquired to a public health problem that approximates a professional practice experience.

Completion of the MPH capstone project requires both written and oral components. The capstone is typically completed in the last two terms of the program.

The project is done under the direction of a faculty member,the MPH capstone advisor. The capstone advisor will typically be the student's advisor, but it need not be. Students can identify another faculty member to supervise the capstone, if it more appropriate.

In order to satisfy the written component, a student must write a paper. While there are no formal guidelines on the length of the paper, it is expected that the paper would be about 20 pages (ranging between 15 and 25 double-spaced pages) not including references, tables and figures. The paper must include an executive summary (limited to 300 words) and references.

Students are required to give a 10-minute oral presentation summarizing their capstone project. There will be a capstone symposium held on a Saturday in the month of May for these presentations. Part-time students who are distance learners have the option of presenting over the Internet in August, December or May. Students can sometimes present at a professional meeting, a seminar, or an alternative venue approved by their capstone advisor. Students participating in MPH concentrations sometimes present in an alternate venue that is designated by the concentration directors.

Summary of Steps to Complete and Document the Capstone Requirement

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, but need not be. Your faculty advisor is a good initial resource for discussing your areas of interests for your project and may refer you to other faculty members whose expertise better matches the type of project that you wish to pursue. 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 office, the faculty directory (searchable by keyword), and Collexis.

Step 2: Determine with your capstone advisor whether the project involves human subjects research (HSR)

Once you know where the project data will be coming from, 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.

Step 3: Submit the on-line MPH Capstone Information Form

Submission of the Capstone Information Form is done two terms prior to the 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 2-credit MPH Capstone Course, complete bulk of work on your project and submit first draft of paper

Discuss an overall timeline for completing the various sections of your paper with your capstone advisor in preparation for submission of a first draft for their review. The deadline for submitting the first draft to your capstone advisor is about five weeks before the final deadline for submission of the approved paper. This amount of time allows for revisions to occur in preparation for the final draft submission. Communicating with your capstone advisor about your progress is critical during this phase. This is the time to discuss any issues or concerns that you are encountering as you progress with your work.

Step 5: Submit final draft of paper to capstone advisor for approval

This submission will be reviewed by your capstone advisor for any final edits and recommendations to be made for final approval and submission to the CoursePlus dropbox.

Step 6: Submit final approved paper to the CoursePlus drop box (if presenting online, also submit presentation slides)

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

Step 7: 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 of your project.

Step 8: Capstone course completion and grading

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

Key Dates for Capstone Completion

Timeline for online presentation at August 10, 2015 session

Submit online Capstone Information FormBy Wed., April 29
Submit final outline to capstone advisorBy Tues., May 26
Register for capstone course for Summer TermBy Fri., June 24
Submit first draft of project to capstone advisorBy Mon., June 22
Submit final draft of project to capstone advisorBy Mon., July 20
Upload final paper and slides to drop boxBy Mon., August 3
Give oral presentationOn Mon., August 10

Timeline for online presentation at December 7-8, 2015 session

Submit online Capstone Information FormBy Wed., September 2
Submit final outline to capstone advisorBy Mon., September 21
Register for capstone course for 2nd TermBy Fri., October 16
Submit first draft of project to capstone advisorBy Mon., October 19
Submit final draft of project to capstone advisorBy Mon., November 16
Upload final paper and slides to drop boxBy Mon., November 30
Give oral presentationOn Mon. December 7 or Tues December 8

Timeline for online presentations, May 2-4, 2016 sessions

Submit online Capstone Information FormBy Wed., December 2
Submit final outline to capstone advisorBy Fri., February 5
Register for capstone course for 4th TermBy Fri., March 11
Submit first draft of project to capstone advisorBy Fri., March 11
Submit final draft of project to capstone advisorBy Fri., April 8
Upload final paper and slides to drop boxBy Mon., April 25
Give oral presentationOn Mon.-Wed., May 2, 3, or 4

Timeline for presentation at May 7, 2016 Capstone Symposium

Submit online Capstone Information FormBy Wed., December 2
Submit final outline to capstone advisorBy Fri., February 5
Register for capstone course for 4th TermBy Fri., March 11
Submit first draft of project to capstone advisorBy Fri., March 25
Submit final draft of project to capstone advisorBy Fri., April 15
Upload final paper to drop boxBy Fri., April 29
Give oral presentationOn Sat., May 7

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 10, 2015, December 8, 2015, May 7, 2016 depending on the period in which the student is graduating.

Possible Forms Capstone Projects Can Take

The capstone project can take many forms including one of the designs below, an expansion of a course, or an internship or practicum opportunity. The overarching principle for determining suitability of a capstone project is whether it provides students the opportunity to apply the skills and competencies acquired in the MPH program to a problem likely to be 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. Some formats or designs for the capstone project are listed below.

You can also review some examples of recent student capstone projects.

Literature Review

The capstone project would be an analysis of 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.

Program Plan

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

Program Evaluation

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

Policy Analysis

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

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.

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.

Registering for the MPH Capstone Course

In order to document completion of the capstone project, 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.

The capstone course number is determined by the departmental affiliation of the faculty capstone advisor (see below for course numbers). You can determine the department affiliation of any faculty in the School by going to the faculty directory. If you are uncertain as to your capstone advisor's departmental affiliation, contact the MPH program office.

Students who are doing a large amount of preliminary research for a project may want to register for additional academic credit. Those units can be represented by "Special Studies/Research" units. You should consult with your capstone advisor prior to registering for such units. Like the "MPH Capstone" course, "Special Studies/Research" course numbers are determined by the departmental affiliation of your capstone advisor (course numbers are listed below).  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 (2 units required for MPH)

Capstone advisor's departmentCapstone Course Number
Biochemistry & Molecular BiologyPH.120.800
Environmental HealthPH.180.800
Health, Behavior & SocietyPH.410.800
Health Policy & ManagementPH.300.800
International HealthPH.220.800
Mental HealthPH.330.800
Molecular Microbiology & ImmunologyPH.260.800
Population, Family & Reproductive HealthPH.380.800

Special Studies/Research course numbers (variable units, must be associated with an instructor)

Capstone advisor's departmentSS/R Course Number
Biochemistry & Molecular BiologyPH.120.840
Environmental HealthPH.180.840
Health, Behavior & SocietyPH.410.840
Health Policy & ManagementPH.300.840
International Health, Health SystemsPH.221.840
International Health, Human NutritionPH.222.840
International Health, Disease ControlPH.223.840
International Health, Social & BehavioralPH.224.840
Mental HealthPH.330.840
Molecular Microbiology & ImmunologyPH.260.840
Population, Family & Reproductive HealthPH.380.840

Using a Course Project as an MPH Capstone Project

Some courses in the Bloomberg School require projects that could serve as a basis for an MPH capstone 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. Building on a project from a course may be helpful to some students because it provides additional structure and support.

If a project from a course is used as a starting point for the capstone, 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 in the Bloomberg School that are project-oriented and could serve as a starting point for the capstone. Some examples include: (180.611) The Global Environment and Public Health, and (380.671) Adolescent Pregnancy: Causes, Consequences, Interventions. Students are still required to register for the special studies units as described previously (2 units).


The MPH Field Experience Fund awards can be used by students to develop an MPH capstone project or to have a population-based practicum experience. The award is intended primarily to provide support for students during the January intersession period to develop their practicum and/or capstone project.   

Bloomberg School Institutional Review Board (IRB) Approval for an MPH Capstone

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.

To determine if your project involves human subjects research, complete the IRB Worksheet. This worksheet will indicate the additional steps (if any) required to properly document IRB approval of your project.

The following resources are available to assist students with their IRB questions:

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.

Honors and Awards

The MPH Program office will be awarding special honors to the best overall capstone projects. Nominations are accepted from capstone advisors. The winners will be 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 will receive a $500 award.

Examples of Capstone Experience Projects from Previous Years

Examples of projects from previous years are provided to show you the breadth of possible topics and formats. In addition, binders with copies of capstone project papers completed by students from previous years are available in the MPH program office (Room W1015, Wolfe Street Building).

MPH Published Capstone Papers, Abstracts and Funded Activities

See examples of published papers, funded grants, program initiatives, etc., that have emanated from MPH students' capstone projects.

Resources/Support for Capstone Projects

Teaching assistants will be available to consult on such issues as data analysis, content, and thinking through your project. The teaching assistants will have office hours during which you may meet with them or correspond with them by phone or email.

Welch Library Online Tutorials

Guide for writing and designing the oral presentation

Welch Medical Library Informationists

Donna Hesson, MLS
Public Health Informationist
Welch Office 209

Lori Rosman, MLS
Public Health Informationist
Welch Office 211

Claire Twose, MLIS
Associate Director, Public Health and Basic Science Liaison Services

Peggy Gross, MA, MLS
Public Health Informationist
Welch Office 214