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DMM Capstone/Master’s Project

The final experience of the Master of Science degree in Disaster Medicine and Management is creation of the “capstone” project.  This project is intended to provide participants with an opportunity to focus both practical and research interests into one significant document.

Students will identify their areas of interest from the very first DMM course they have taken and add key elements to this list every term.  By course six,students will be in the project development phase.


  • Timeline: no later than course six – develop capstone idea and fill in the capstone planning form. This will generate discussion with the faculty.
  • Once the faculty approves the project idea – you will write the first draft of the project and submit this at least two months prior to the term you intend to take the capstone class. The faculty will review this draft and decide if you are ready to implement the project in the next term. See item below if Institutional Review Board is needed!
  • If IRB review is needed– the paperwork must be completed two months prior to your intended capstone term date to allow for committee review.
  • Once approved, register for capstone and complete the project within the twelve week term. Anticipate 40 -100 pages( including appendices) of work – it is a substantive project and analysis.



The learning objectives for this experience are as follows:

  1. An applied project provides the opportunity to take a concept based on an identified need through needs assessment, creation, implementation and evaluation.
  2. Perform a thorough literature search on a specific topic using the appropriate databases and resources
  3. Critically evaluate and analyze current research with regard to the research methodology used and its relevance to practice in the field of disaster medicine or management
  4. Integrate the basic principles of disaster medicine and management along with content from the courses in the DMM Program and outside sources to develop and implement a master’s project that delivers an applied project demonstrating your abilities to analytically research and create new, innovative materials.
  5. Prepare a written report of the master’s capstone project using acceptable APA format and writing skills.
  6. Deliver an organized oral presentation that summarizes the master’s project according to guidelines provided by your project advisor.


General description and project choices

In this capstone experience, students will complete a project that demonstrates the integration of academic materials into real life situations. The master’s capstone project integrates knowledge and skills developed throughout the entire program. The project will involve choosing a topic; performing a thorough review and analysis of current research literature on the topic; and producing an original written or deliverable product.

For example, it may contain original research through data collection; an exhaustive analysis of current research data to reach original or innovative conclusions or recommendations; the development of a disaster education plan; the creation of a disaster plan for an agency in which the participant is employed; or an internship with creation of, or substantial revision to, the disaster plan at the site. There is much room for creativity in the final product and careful thought should be given to the substance of the project or research study.

All of these will involve a thorough literature search, an analysis of the current research, integration of multiple facets of disaster medicine and management and completion of a substantial written product. Early and continuous contact with the participant’s advisor is both encouraged and required.


The experience will culminate in an oral presentation to faculty and participants with written submission of the final project. Work will be judged by the master’s capstone project committee who will be responsible for recommending revisions and determining the final grade.  The project is graded on a credit only basis, not using traditional letter grades.  Possible outcomes include full approval, approval with recommendations for revision, or return for substantial modification.


No final project will be undertaken without the submission of a project proposal document that will be reviewed by the DMM faculty.  The project will be developed under the guidance of a faculty advisor. Participants must integrate knowledge of basic principles of disaster management, organizational dynamics in disasters, statistics, research methods and disaster planning into the project.  All data collection involving human subjects will need approval of the Institutional Review Board of Philadelphia University. Allow time to complete the IRB application and one full term for the University IRB committee to review.



Students must choose one of the options described below at the start of the sixth course in the program. Contact Dr Bail for advice and consultation at the beginning of the sixth course. General capstone adobe connect sessions will be held throughout the year. RSVP to the announcement so we know who is attending. The chat sessions serve to answer questions and discuss ideas for developing applied projects.


The following are examples of types of  project areasfor consideration or request an individualized plan:


  • Educational Experience: This experience includes guided self-paced instruction in the fundamental tools utilized in education for students wishing to pursue a project that delivers an educational program. Students will learn how to: conduct a needs assessment, write behavioral learning objectives, prepare an assessment tool, prepare class materials, prepare AV presentations using new technologies, and present a lecture or training experience. They will create the opportunity and present this educational program to the appropriate audience. Students will keep a portfolio of their experience and prepared materials.


Example: disaster education to middle school or high school aged children.


  • Community Service Experience- This option will provide students with an opportunity to work closely with community organizations to identify significant disaster related issues. In addition, the student is expected to provide education services on a topic of the student’s interest within the community, while enabling students with the skills to develop, implement and evaluate community disaster initiatives. Students will keep a portfolio of their experience and prepared materials.


Examples are:


  • Creating a nutritional program for disaster relief workers as well as shelter coordinators.


  • Creating an original disaster plan for some unit of government or other appropriate agency. This project will be all-inclusive and will address every component within this type of document.  It should not be a plan for a fictitious location, however.  In some cases, the plan may be a total revision of an existing plan; however, if this approach is taken, it will be necessary to show both the existing and desired configurations and justify the suggested changes.  This document is, by its nature, very significant in volume, given the objectives of comprehensive disaster plans.


  • Creating a detailed grant application-type narrative that presents a new initiative for an agency involved in disaster management. This document will contain the standard elements of need, substance, methods, personnel and budget that would constitute a framework for a real grant for use when the opportunity for real grant submission arises.  The funded project focus must be innovative and very well documented. Ideally this would be submitted to a grant agency.



Medical Writing Experience:

Students will perform a thorough literature search on one topic of interest. They will utilize this information to prepare an article for journal submission using accepted formats and the principles of evidence-based writing. (This is not just writing a paper, this is an analytical review and creation of new ideas and materials of publishable quality.) Students will present their work orally to fellow students, faculty and preceptors, and in written format. Actual submission to a journal such as the American Journal of Disaster Medicine, Prehospital Disaster Medicine, etc. will be expected.


Examples are:


  • A thorough review of a disaster-related topic that examines the literature in detail and presents unbiased research. This review will be presented as an original document and should be considered to be a credible document that is designed to further the understanding of disaster managers and providers regarding the topic choice.


  • An in-depth “special focus” analysis of a significant issue. Such an analysis may take the form of an after action investigation, similar to the commissioned study of Pennsylvania’s I-78 traffic event which occurred in the winter of 2007.  Examine the Witt Report in a downloadable file under COURSE DOCUMENTS.



  • Applied Research Experience: Students will prepare a proposal for, and carry out a small applied research project which will include the collection and analysis of data such as survey information. Students will present their work orally to fellow students, faculty and preceptors, and in written format (requires IRB Approval).


All of the capstone projects should be of sufficient quality to create a poster for conference submission. Students are encouraged to submit work for either poster presentations or conference presentations to various conference venues.


Note:  There is much room for creativity and scholarly activity within the Capstone experience; participants should select a project based both on personal interest and utility for those who will benefit from it.  Early thought regarding the substance of the project is required as this is a substantive work. This work will showcase your best efforts and demands more time than the twelve week term.


All projects must be approved by the assigned Master’s Capstone Committee. The Committeewill guide the student’s efforts. The Master’s Capstone Committee will do the final appraisal of the project.


Students will have the rest of the program to complete the work, registering for capstone during the final phase of project creation.





 ActivityTime Frame
During class 6Idea formationConceptualize nature of project by thinking of a study area that will suit both interests and your course objectives. You may begin by interviewing professional colleagues, reviewing the literature and otherwise thinking about the subject and substance of the final product. Review areas of interest and work previously submitted.Begin at course 6 and discuss with faculty. Formal step, begins the approval process for your project
DOCUMENT ONE-the first 3 sectionsDevelop the project document according to the format provided in this document. Note that, in some cases, the project document is flexible as the project begins to take conceptual shape. It is important, however, to have substance in response to each of the elements in the document. Prepare data collection process, educational material, methodology pieces as required by the project.

Frequent contact will be expected between student and faculty during this process. Create a schedule that assures this occurs. An outline including a timeline will assist you in organizing your approach to complete the project. This should include the critical actions required including faculty review and approval, IRB approval process if required, data collection, and analysis.

Submit project draft and receive approval.

Create over courses 6-8. Consult with faculty as needed. Approval is required before implementing the project.

Must be completed and approved 6 – 8 weeks before capstone term begins. If project requires IRB, must be completed one full term before capstone term.

Continue Literature Review

Throughout process

Conduct and assemble a substantial literature review of sources that are recent and relevant. Significant or historical literature of the field may lend credence to your review also.  Craft your literature review carefully and form the pages in a running narrative rather than an annotation-type format. See the Sample Literature Review that is listed under COURSE DOCUMENTS for the course. The literature review is a substantial segment of the final document; be certain that you cite and relate all pertinent literature that has a meaningful relationship to your project.

Review data collection process, educational material, methodology pieces as required by the project.

Continuing from the initial project work, you should add to the literature review as you continue to process your capstone ideas and research.  Send drafts to faculty at least once a term.

Occurs throughout the process but should be complete by week 2 of the capstone term.

Capstone term

Conducting the project/study

Conduct the substance of the project/study by clearly defining terms, identifying issues, preparing documents such as forms, outlines, exhibits, models, and other elements that you choose to include.  Collection of data as needed should be underway once IRB approval is received. Submit drafts at least every other week in Blackboard discussion area.Capstone term, after IRB approval received if required.

Active role in blackboard discussion boards required, follow schedule

ConferenceArrange a telephone conference with your adviser to discuss any issues, solicit feedback and report on progress.During week 3,5,7,9 or as needed, drafts required
Continuing the capstone termFinalize the project/study narrative by developing any pertinent conclusions, expectations for the use of your product, and implications for further study. Create the deliverable as agreed upon in the planning phase. Submit final draft.

Often these deliverable components are found as Appendices to your work.

Schedule with your adviser the presentation day and time. A final draft must be submitted one week before your presentation for the faculty to review. If not submitted or unacceptable, the presentation will be delayed.

Capstone term Continues

Schedule presentation for weeks 10 or 11

Active role in blackboard discussion boards required, follow schedule

Reference ListFinalize the Reference List (note that no references appear in the project Reference List that are not cited internally). You are not creating a simple list of works that refer to the topic.

Create a PowerPoint presentation to assist in delivering your presentation to the faculty at the assigned time.

Create presentation in PowerPoint, present project at assigned time in week 10 or 11.

Revise work based on faculty comments post presentation.

Potential PublicationsOn a separate paper (included after the Reference Page) identify at least three publicationsthat would be likely targets for publication of your study; indicate why you think each publication would be interested. It is acceptable to identify a venue that would be suitable to a presentation or poster presentation as well.Upon submission
Project SubmissionSubmit the final project to your adviser; you will submit it according to the directions provided in the Blackboard Course; the final physical product will be described in this document.

If you are unable to finish the capstone within the allotted term limits, you will need to register the following term for DMM 755E to continue your work to conclusion. Recognize that there is a tuition charge to do so.

No later than end of 12th week






Once you have developed your concept submit the Capstone Planning tool To Dr. Bail.

Faculty will review and provide comments and suggestions. When an agreed upon project is clarified, move to the next phase.


Submit the first draft (This is the critical first document you will submit according to the schedule noted in the table above; during the time you are taking classes 6-8.)  A minimum of 15 pages is expected to cover these areas:


  1. Title of the project
  2. A significant statement of the purpose of the project.
  • Need for the study, including literature support. This includes the value of the project answering why such an effort is needed for/by what constituents. In addition these pages comprise the first pages of the final product. This is a critical element in the entire process, for the project must have demonstrable need to some constituency, the study of disaster medicine or management, and must be considered worthy of academic pursuit. Document your needs pages carefully by citing appropriate sources that will substantiate your rationale or otherwise illustrate why such a project should be undertaken. Do not necessarily look for literature that says “this topic needs more research”; rather, find sources that substantiate your perceptions of the topic’s relevance to the field.
  1. Initial literature review – This section provides the academic foundation for your work. Understand that this section will continue to grow over the time of project development.
  2. Methods to be used –Describe the methods that you will use in completing the project. Make certain that your methods statement is both clear and sequential. This narrative will be duplicated within the project itself.
  3. Arrange telephone consulting as needed in this process. This is the time to identify any issues in project development and direction.


This document must be approved by your advisor no later than the one month prior to registering for the capstone course.  Issues in design, format, IRB requirements (if applicable) must be resolved no later than this date.  Any problems that are unresolved are the sole responsibility of the participant; therefore, make sure all of the required elements in the Proposal are included in the final document.

NOTE: IRB approval requires two months and a solid project narrative, all data gathering tools and the IRB Application.



(This is the written document that will comprise the substance of the Capstone experience; it will be detailed, carefully documented and will clearly define the purpose of the project, its potential use in the practice and/or the literature of the field of disaster medicine or management.)



  1. Title Page
  2. Signature page (see COURSE DOCUMENTS)
  • Abstract
  1. A significant statement of the topic and need for the project; statement of delimitations if any
  2. Academic foundation – a well developed literature reviewcovering pertinent topics
  3. Methods – detailed
  • Discussion, conclusions, recommendations, implications for further study or similar projects
  • References
  1. Appendices as needed – your actual project deliverable materials will be here

VIII.     Separate – suggested publication page (not numbered or part of the project document)


You will be pointed to additional elements (as needed) in the Capstone course shell.




The final product will be presented in a bound-document format.  Participants will be informed about the process that will be used in the formal submission of the project or study.  Specific directions will be provided in COURSE DOCUMENTS.   As well, there is a signature form that will need to be completed.




The final presentation to your advisor and other members of the faculty may take several forms.  Of course, there will be a conference wherein participants will present an oral summary, and will be prepared to answer questions to further enlarge upon the substance of the project or study.  This conference is your chance to showcase the high points that you think represent the true meaning and quality of your work. You will be asked to submit a PowerPoint presentation to your advisor for posting to assist in your presentation of the project.  After your Adobe connect presentation is completed, the faculty will discuss what you have presented and agree upon the acceptance of the project or study.  Potential outcomes are as follows:


  1. APPROVED: Full approval.  The final product is considered a worthy contribution either to materials in the field or to the general body of literature and may be considered further to be worthy of submission to a potential journal for publication.


  1. APPROVAL WITH CONDITION: May contain some minor modifications that will then be forwarded to your advisor within a specified time frame.  After the conditions have been met, and upon the recommendation of your advisor, the project may be moved to APPROVED status.


  1. NO RECOMMENDATION FOR APPROVAL AT THIS TIME: While rare, this option may be exercised if there are significant problems with the project or study. Given this outcome, a detailed follow up call will prescribe the next series of events.  All “no recommendations” require that the final presentation conference telephone call be repeated when the significant issues have been resolved. This status may require that the grade of “TH” be given for the Capstone.  If this grade is given, all policies of the University regarding re-registration for Capstone apply; your advisor will work with you if this step is needed.







The Capstone Experience is graded on a “credit or no credit” basis.  Therefore, it is expected that the final product is of quality to be judged in the excellent category, worthy of Master’s degree recognition.  Were it to be graded, criteria for the grade of “A” would be applied.  Therefore, participants are encouraged to place every qualitative effort behind building a project that is not only useful as a course requirement, but also may be a valuable contribution to field materials and/or to the literature of the fields of disaster medicine, management, public and emergency service or related areas.  It is also an excellent opportunity to begin a journey to publication in a reputable journal or in a related venue.




This experience will require careful and frequent consultation with your advisor.  It is critical that methods of communication be understood clearly before the project or study is undertaken.  Beyond the required discussion board activities and telephone conferences, other calls and e-mails are certainly encouraged.  There is little room in this experience for last-minute scrambling; therefore, proper planning is important as the concept moves to a reality.


In the rare event that a substantive conflict arises during the conduct of the project or study, such issues will be resolved jointly among the participant, the advisor, the Program Director and, in some cases, the Medical Director.




You might begin thinking about your final product as early as the very first course!  You can start compiling a list of all the topics that interest you.  Talk about your ideas with faculty, co-workers—anyone who may offer some advice or experience.  This element in the DMM curriculum may be the most exciting and rewarding experience you have had so far.  Remember, you are driving the bus toward the goal of excellence.  Strive to make it a worthwhile trip!




Revised October 2014


Last Updated on February 11, 2019

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