Overview of the Closure Project
For master’s candidates, the closure project typically functions as a central component around which the self-designed curriculum is structured. Varying according to the student’s goals, the closure project is a major scholarly and/or creative effort demonstrating the student’s accomplishment and mastery of the chosen area of study. The closure project is not simply a tutorial or directed study (LNT 599). It differs in two ways.
First, its content must be central to your entire curriculum. This means that it must build on some of your core coursework and/or directed study. Ask yourself: “What is the most advanced, or the most important, understanding or ability I want my curriculum to end with?” In other words, “What do I want as the culmination of the personal and academic growth I will seek in pursuing my curriculum?” By designing your closure project as an answer to either form of this question, you will make it central in the intended sense.
The second way in which your closure project will be more than simply another directed study is that it must demonstrate mastery of essential aspects of your curriculum. There are two sides to this demonstration. The first is to show a high degree of proficiency and understanding. “High” means a step beyond what is normally expected of an undergraduate major. To show this, you will be asked in LNT 521 to prepare for your project by writing a review of the literature that is most important to your curriculum. Then, in conducting your project itself, a preliminary part of what you will be expected to do is to make clear its relation to that literature.
The second side to demonstrating mastery of your “chosen area of study” is to show your ability to do the sort of problem-solving typical of that area. This form of problem-solving is what your instructors mean by methodology. In designing your closure project, the problem may take the form either of a theoretical question that is answered through research, or a practical need that is met by applying the ability and knowledge you have achieved through your curriculum. This theoretical/practical distinction brings us to distinguish two sorts of closure project, namely, the Thesis (LNT 560) and the Master’s Project (LNT 550).
Traditionally, master’s work has culminated in a thesis. The purpose is for the student to demonstrate his or her ability to do a high level of scholarly work. “High level” means research that contributes reliably to knowledge and understanding.
Such scholarship requires effective use of the methodology or mode of problem-solving of one of the following:
- Humanities such as history, literature, or philosophy,
- Sciences such as sociology, psychology, or economics, or
- Interdisciplinary subjects such as education or management.
Theses in the humanities are based on the use of texts and other documents usually found in a library. Theses in the sciences seek to:
- Gather and make generalizations from new data (e.g., structured surveys), or
- Formulate and test new hypotheses.
Theses in interdisciplinary subjects sometimes employ the methodology of one of the relevant disciplines (e.g., of psychology in studying educational methodology) and sometimes alternate between more than one methodology.
This traditional thesis approach seems more appropriate to some LNT students than to others. While some students benefit especially from engaging in research to generate new knowledge, others are more concerned with deepening their grasp of what they have already learned by applying it. It is to serve the needs of this second group that LNT has created the option of doing a Master’s Project.
The same general requirements apply to the Master’s Project that we have discussed concerning the Thesis. The Master’s Project must accomplish the following:
- Work with material that is central to your curriculum, and
- Demonstrate mastery of the chosen area of study through a major scholarly effort.
This means that the application you create must be something you could not have done without applying some major knowledge you acquired in the courses or other credit-generating activities that are central to your program of study.
It is essential, then, that your Project include written material that shows explicitly the important prior learning at UIS that you are applying. This will involve the same use of a review of the literature as we have described for those doing a thesis.
Note that your ability to determine and carry out significant applications of your learning is another indication of your mastery.
Let’s consider some Projects that would not meet the criteria we have been discussing. Perhaps you would find it helpful to produce a booklet for use by your clients that discusses, say, child care or group dynamics. If the booklet is one you could have written without having taken some of your key coursework at UIS, then it does not meet the criterion of demonstrating mastery achieved in the subject matter of those courses.
To take a second example, you as a teacher might wish to create a new curriculum for your students. This would not meet our criteria if this project did not depend on some of the basic learning achieved in pursuing your curriculum. This project would qualify as a Master’s Project, though, if (1) the central aim of your studies has been to update your mastery of the field in which you teach and (2) your curriculum revision makes extensive and complexly reasoned use of your increased mastery.
Consider, finally, that you might have taken an introductory course in computer skills (e.g., Software Packages) as a peripheral part of your curriculum. You then wish to create a project that demonstrates your mastery of those skills by applying them to your work as an educator. This does not meet the criterion of working with knowledge that has been a central component of your degree program. Note, however, that if this project would significantly enhance your mastery of those skills, it would be appropriate as a directed study (LNT 580: Independent Field Project) because this does not carry the requirement that it be central to your program of study.
Master’s Projects may also take a modified form that combines new research with its application. This research must meet the criterion of being a central component of your curriculum. Here, too, you would begin with a review of the literature that is most important to your curriculum. You would next carry out the new research, then apply it into your project, and finally show how the research and application are related to the literature you have reviewed.
Before concluding, we need to consider two additional points. First, although most closure projects will be of the scholarly sort we have been discussing, these projects may occasionally be essentially creative in an artistic or creative writing sense. For this to be appropriate, such creative endeavor must be a continuation and culmination of a central component of your program of study. It will demonstrate mastery in two ways. First, it will do this by its use of the artistic form involved (this is analogous to problem-solving in the scholarly sense). Second, it will provide a written review of the essential literature relating to this art form and a written discussion of the project’s artistic product in terms of this literature.
Second, although Master’s Projects must have a written section, they may also incorporate other media. For example, some Projects have applied computer technology to various curricula. Part of each of these Projects has been the development of computer programs for teacher and student use and of written curricula that provide a place for these programs. This has been complemented by a written discussion of principles that should guide such use of computers—principles that have been developed through prior learning.
Let’s emphasize, in conclusion, that the main point to bear in mind, as you determine what your closure project will be, is that “closure” means not just something that comes at the end but an achievement that will be a highlight of your entire program of study. Whether it takes the form of a thesis, generating new knowledge and understanding, or of a project, applying knowledge gained in work central to your program of study, it is to be a major scholarly effort and to demonstrate mastery in terms of both a review of the essential literature and a sound approach to problem-solving.