Master of Arts in Journalism

Guidelines for Hofstra MA Journalism Capstone Projects

IMPORTANT NOTE: All other degree requirements must be completed or in progress when students begin the Capstone. The Hofstra graduate journalism capstone should be done during a student’s final semester in the program.

The Capstone gives students one-on-one faculty guidance to conceptualize, report, write and produce a story that is more substantial than anything they have done before. Although comparable to a master’s thesis in importance, the critical difference is that this is a journalism project to produce a story that should be a multimedia, in-depth report. It should demonstrate the culmination of a student’s learning from the curriculum, incorporating skills and knowledge from a variety of classes. The Capstone story should not focus on subjects related to the study of journalism, which might be the subject of a master’s thesis. Instead, it should show the student’s ability to develop sources from the community at large and produce professional-quality multimedia elements to expand the effectiveness of the story.


  • Students preparing to take the Capstone course must submit a written proposal of their project to the faculty advisor of their choice during the previous semester. Copies of the final proposal must also go to both the Graduate Director and the Department Chair for approval prior to enrollment.
  • This proposal should outline the scope and direction of the project, as well as the kinds of sources and resources that will be used to explore the issue. The proposal may be described as an in-depth “pitch” to an editor, and should explain clearly why a particular story idea is newsworthy and how the student intends to report it.
  • Please be sure to detail how the story will be told and specifically how multimedia will be used, as well as any other notes and info about platforms and story placement.


  • The Capstone Project is intended to demonstrate the full range of skills that a student has learned in Hofstra University's Graduate Journalism Program. As such, all stories should be presented on a WordPress or other blogsite and include the following elements:
    • A. Students must produce a mini-series of two 800- to 1,000-word stories, but those stories must flow logically from one piece to the next.  The capstone is not a research report or master's thesis. It should be framed as a journalistic story.
      • The story should open with a hard-news, narrative or anecdotal lead and include a minimum of 10 sources whom the student has interviewed directly.
      • At least 5-6 sources must be quoted within the narrative stories and the others can be quotes in multimedia or simply referred to in notes and transcripts.
      • The story must be the original work of the student. If a student cites the work of another journalist or an academic, he/she/they must either quote or substantially paraphrase the source. In either case, credit must be given. If another journalist's story is cited, a hyperlink should be included. This same note applies for graphics, video, audio or any content. Citing the work of other journalists or academics should be limited, though. The primary basis for the capstone story should be in-person interviews.
    • B. Students must produce a minimum of 15 minutes of video or audio that should be divided into smaller segments ranging from 2½ to 8 minutes in length. Videos should be multi-scene and include short interviews from a minimum of three to four sources, as well as demonstrate proper use of lower-thirds and voiceover.
      • If students wish, they can produce one Zoom interview of not more than 8 minutes in length to help fulfill the video requirement. The interview should include a proper lead-in and sign-off, as well as use lower-thirds when appropriate.
      • A student may produce a longer-form, 15- to 20-minute documentary-style report, but such a project should be completed in close consultation with his/her/their capstone adviser.
      • Alternatively, rather than a video project, students could produce a 15- to 20-minute podcast that includes a minimum of three to four quoted sources.
      • The video or podcast element should not repeat information from the written piece, but rather work in tandem with it to broaden the overall story. Sources, though, can be the same.
    • C. Students must produce a minimum of two graphic elements using tools such as Google Trends, Google Flourish, Canva or other graphics programs. The graphic elements should highlight important data within the story.
    • D. Within their stories, students must include a minimum of five hyperlinks to other reliable websites, in particular government and non-profit websites.
    • E. Students must embed a minimum of two reliable social media posts within their stories. Posts should be from accounts other than a student's social media channels.
    • F. About: Please add an “about” page explaining yourself as a journalist.


  • Once approved by the advisor, graduate director and journalism chair, the department will create a CRN for students to register
  • Note: Capstone registration cannot be done online without prior approval and overrides


  • Editorial feedback from the faculty advisor and faculty-student interaction is significantly greater than it is with Independent Study courses
  • Students are required to do several written revisions of stories, based on editorial feedback, throughout the course
  • The final project must be deemed a publishable piece of journalism by the faculty advisor, and students must seek out legitimate news outlets where they can publish their work, especially the Long Island Advocate
  • Students will be asked to discuss concrete efforts made to publish (such as in-person, phone and email contact with specific editors)
  • Selected final projects will also be displayed on the Hofstra website and other platforms, and be accessible to current and future students
  • Faculty advisors and students must submit online links directly to the graduate director for posting when completed
  • Deadlines
    • Deadlines for the project link will be near the end of the semester
      • Final work: Due one week before final committee presentation
      • Final committee presentation: Last week of class for the presentation
    • The Graduate Director will notify registered Capstone students each semester of the deadline. If a link is not received by the announced deadline, students will not be allowed to defend the project that semester and will need to wait until the following fall or spring semester to defend their project and graduate. Students are not permitted to change anything on their sites after the deadline.
    • Any changes made after the fact will affect the committee’s vote, and may result in a Fail for the course.
  • All candidates for the degree must provide an oral defense of their final Capstone to the Graduate Committee, which will schedule a meeting to review and discuss submissions with students during the last week of each semester. At the conclusion of each oral defense, the Committee will offer one of the following votes:
    • Pass with Honors
    • Pass
    • Pass with Minor Revision
    • Pass with Revision
    • Pass with Significant Revision
    • Fail

After the defense, the student will have one week to revise the project in order to arrive at a Pass for the class. Students who are enrolled in JRNL 299 but do not finish within one semester, will be required to register and pay for an additional one credit course, JRNL 300 Thesis Research, in order to complete the course requirements and graduate. JRNL 300 may be repeated one time only.

Once Capstone projects are passed, the content will be handed off for display and publishing on the Long Island Advocate website

While the capstone committee determines whether or not a project will pass or fail, the faculty advisor determines the student’s grade for the course, which usually takes into account the student’s ability to meet deadlines and follow editorial direction among other criteria. Both the faculty grade and committee’s pass are required for the student to be able to graduate. Below are some general guidelines for faculty-student interaction in a capstone course:

  1. Email correspondence at least weekly
  2. Students should conduct approximately 10 interviews (with transcripts). Faculty member should give written and/or verbal feedback on all. The number of interviews may vary by faculty member
  3. Students should submit at least two drafts of their story, with detailed written feedback from faculty advisor
  4. Faculty members will supervise both print and multimedia components of the project (pictures, video, audio, blog, Website creation, charts, graphs)
  5. Students should have several meetings during the semester

The following are elements that capstone advisors will want to see:

  • initial pitch
  • background research/news clips
  • source list
  • requests for interviews
  • Transcripts
  • rough drafts (multiple)
  • completed digital site with multimedia

During the presentation

  • Students get 15 minutes to present
    • Explain the project, why you chose it
    • Explain successes, issues you encountered
    • Review each part of the project; all multimedia elements, sources
  • Committee gets 15 minutes to review and ask questions
    • Discusses project with students on the video call - please keep in mind any feedback is direct, candid and honest
    • Decides pass with honors, pass, pass with minor revisions, pass with major revisions, fail
    • If we ask for revisions, students have one week to make the changes, which you can send on your site via email. The committee looks at the changes to decide on whether students fulfill the requirements.
  • Faculty members are allowed to attend the presentation to the capstone committee, but they will not be permitted to speak at any point, so as to not influence the outcome of the committee’s ruling.