Alternate Plan Paper (APP) & Other Capstones

In programs where such an option is available, students may choose to follow an alternate plan for their capstone project. Students should check with their respective departments to see which capstone options are available.

What is the difference between an APP and a Thesis?

A thesis results in original research through the gathering and statistical analysis of data and by building and testing theories.

An APP critically reviews and evaluates secondary research sources for the development of a thorough, extensive, and academic orientation to a problem. The evaluation and analysis of the research must provide sufficient background for the student to draw and summarize sound conclusions, highlight strengths and weaknesses of the data, develop alternative resolutions to the research problem, and identify directions for future research.

APP Research Requirements May be Filled:

  1. As part of a regular, relevant graduate-level course in which no discrete credit is given for the alternate plan paper.
  2. As part of an internship or practicum course in which the experiences are cataloged, evaluated, and presented in written form as an alternate plan paper.
  3. As one or two credits earned in the course: “Alternate Plan Paper.” The course instructor is usually the student’s advisor.

APP Requirements:

  1. Students must be registered for at least one graduate-level course for every term in which they complete work on or toward their capstone projects. See the Graduate Enrollment Policy for more information.
  2. If the research involves human or animal subjects, the student must obtain approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to data collection.
  3. Students need approval from their advisor and, if required by the program, an examining committee for all APP projects.
  4. It is the responsibility of the individual professor who supervises the writing, the student's advisor, and (if applicable) the examining committee to require work of acceptable quality and sufficient scope.
  5. Review the Format and Style Guidelines for proper paper formatting. Although an APP is different from a thesis or dissertation, it should still follow the formatting guidelines detailed for the thesis and dissertation.


The APP is not submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies, and a bound copy of the APP will not be kept in the Memorial Library. Students are therefore encouraged to submit the final approved version of their APPs to Cornerstone for inclusion in the APP collection. Instructions for submitting your APP to Cornerstone are available at the library's webpage or you may contact the Digital Initiatives Librarian with questions.

Other Types of Capstone Projects:

Graduate programs may offer any of the following projects as capstone options:

  • Portfolio
  • Internship
  • Manuscript
  • Capstone course
  • Design project
  • Comprehensive examination
  • Special project
  • Published book*

These capstone experiences are typically not submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies upon completion. Consult your program/department to discuss available capstone options.

*Published books may be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies in place of manuscript copies if the work for published book is conducted and completed during the student's program, and signature pages are included for each printed copy.