Because it is designed to be your final culminating experience as an MPH student, you cannot register for Thesis/Capstone until the semester you are eligible to graduate. You can enroll concurrently in other classes in your final semester, but you cannot register for Thesis/Capstone if you still have required courses to complete in a later semester.
The thesis/capstone is a significant part of the MPH degree, and selecting an appropriate committee is of paramount importance. Normally, the student should have a reasonably well-defined topic in mind before requesting faculty to chair or serve on a thesis/capstone committee. You are strongly encouraged to discuss your background, interests, and career objectives with faculty members and the Graduate Advisor if you need guidance.

Your thesis/capstone committee must be comprised of a Chair and at least one additional member. The chairperson for a thesis/capstone committee must hold primary appointment in the School of Public Health, and for thesis committees specifically, the chairperson must be recognized as graduate faculty. Contact the Graduate Advisor if you are not sure whether a faculty member has these two designations.

You and your committee chair will select at least one other committee member. This person should have appropriate academic preparation and experience relative to your thesis/capstone topic to help guide you through the process. He/she does not need to be a faculty member in the School of Public Health. Practitioners and faculty from other institutions in the field of public health and outside of SPH are strongly recommended.

The Graduate Advisor and the student’s Division Director must approve the composition of the thesis committee by signing off on the Thesis/Capstone Application before you will be able to register for thesis credit.

The choice of a topic is the responsibility of the student, assisted by his/her committee chair. Normally, the student should have a reasonably well-defined topic in mind before requesting faculty to chair or serve on a thesis/capstone committee. In your thesis/capstone application, you must write a brief statement of the research problem and receive approval of the topic before you will be able to register for thesis/capstone credit.

To see examples of previous thesis/capstone topics, visit http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/iph_theses/.

Your committee chair will help you determine whether your topic and approach are better suited for a thesis or a capstone. It is important to note that one option is not easier or more feasibly accomplished than the other; they differ only in approach.

Generally speaking, for the thesis option, a student develops a research question, for which they develop a hypothesis based on previous research on the topic. The student then gathers data (either through primary or secondary data collection) and analyzes the data, usually with statistical analysis software, such as SAS or SPSS. The findings are then discussed as to whether or not they support the hypothesis. The thesis is designed to add new information to an existing body of research, so the student should seek out a topic or methodology that has not previously been explored. Additionally, the thesis is designed to be generalizable to a larger population, rather than just the sample used in the student’s data analysis, so an adequate sample size is also paramount.

A capstone project is typically very applied in nature. A capstone may or may not utilize systematic data analysis. There is usually an end-product that provides some sort of materials, guide, plan, or evaluation that can be used by the community, agency or group facing the issue or problem at hand. The length of the capstone can vary depending on the subject matter and methodology and should be discussed in consultation with the chair and committee.

Examples of formats or designs for the capstone project are listed below:

  • Grant Proposal/Research Plan: This example should include a clearly defined research question, the
    specific objectives of the proposal, review of literature, study design, methods of analysis, and
    implications of the work. The research question should be one that is encountered in professional
    work such as the evaluation of a public health intervention.
  • Research Report: The report will address a specific public health problem. Students will
    collect, analyze and interpret data. The capstone components must include a proposed research
    question, project design and methods of data collection, data analysis and interpretation, and
    implication of findings.
  • Community Assessment: Students will conduct an in-depth analysis of health factors of a defined
    population or community of interest.
  • Public Health Program Plan: Students will design and develop a plan to implement a public health
    program. Management, fiscal, and ethical factors must be addressed. Students will develop
    instructions, procedures and manuals for the program.
  • Program Evaluation: Students examine and evaluate the effectiveness and outcomes of a specific
  • Community Intervention: Student designs and implements a community intervention.
  • Analysis of a Public Health Problem: Students will conduct an in-depth analysis to assess a public health problem of interest. The capstone must describe the specific problem, its determinants and magnitude, and also include an assessment of the issue. Students are expected to include sections discussing methods of prevention and intervention.
  • Video: Students may create a video documenting a public health issue for an organization.
  • Comprehensive Resource Directory: Students create an extensive directory of resources related to a public health issue.
  • Training Manuals
  • Website Development
  • After your committee and thesis/capstone topic are selected, you must turn in the completed Thesis/Capstone Application to the Office of Academic Assistance to get permission to register. You can submit the application via e-mail (publichealthadvising@gsu.edu), fax (404-413-1489), or in person (One Park Place, suite 640).

    You will receive an e-mail via your GSU student account when your application has been approved and you have been given permission to register. You must register for a minimum of 3 hours of thesis/capstone credit (PH7990 or PH7991).

    The School of Public Health has a Continuous Enrollment policy for the Thesis/Capstone course, which means that once you register for the course, you must continue to register each semester until you defend and upload your thesis to ScholarWorks. You will need permission to register for the course each time. Contact the Office of Academic Assistance for authorization.
    After your committee has concluded that you are ready to defend, you and your committee will need to agree to a date and time for your defense. It is the student’s responsibility to request a room reservation. You can request a room reservation via this form.

    Once the room reservation has been confirmed, complete the Thesis/Capstone Defense Announcement form and submit to the Office of Academic Assistance at least one week before your defense date.

    On the day of your defense, print out a Results of Thesis/Capstone Defense form. Your committee will need to complete and sign this form, and your chairperson should report the results to the Office of Academic Assistance immediately following the final thesis defense.

    All MPH theses/capstones are required to be filed through the Georgia State University Electronic Thesis and Dissertation library through Scholar Works.

    To upload your thesis/capstone, visit http://scholarworks.gsu.edu. On the right toolbar, under the “Authors” heading, click on “Submit EDT (Thesis/Dissertation)” and follow the instructions on the next page for the School of Public Health.

    The electronic version of the thesis/capstone should be submitted in a single Adobe Acrobat PDF File, in conformity with library guidelines.