A Scaffolded Baccalaureate Nursing Capstone Course in an Online Program


Elaine C. Keavney

Director, RN to BSN Program

American Public University System


Keavney, E. C. (2014). A Scaffolded Baccalaureate Nursing Capstone Course in an Online Program. American Public University System.


This is an assignment for a final research paper, which is the culmination of a series of assignments done during an 8-week, online capstone course. In the first week, students are asked to present three research topics for consideration. Each must include the components of patient safety, nursing ethics, and nursing theory. Based on feedback from the instructor and classmates and on the student’s own interests, one of these topics is pursued and turned into a fully developed research paper.

Background and Context

The capstone course is conducted in a completely online environment and is of 8 weeks’ duration.  The final research paper is the culmination of a series of assignments that are done during the course.  In the first week of the course, students are assigned to present three research topics for consideration.  They will write a detailed research paper and propose a related project for the topic that they select.  Each of these three proposals must include the components of patient safety, nursing ethics, and nursing theory.  These topics are presented to the instructor and to classmates in an online discussion for consideration and review.  The student, based on this feedback and his/her own interest, decides which topic to pursue.


Once the student selects the topic for consideration, the work begins.  The first component of the assignment is a detailed research proposal, including the topic, abstract, problem statement, theoretical basis, significance to nursing, and research strategy. They may also begin to formulate their plans for the related proposed project. This involves an analysis of an identified practice gap in the student’s workplace or other area of nursing practice, and a detailed plan for improvement. Students are not required to implement their proposed project during the course, but their final project plan must include sufficient detail that it could be implemented at any time. This structure also can help students who intend to continue on to graduate education, as much of their preliminary planning work is done, if they choose to use it for that purpose.  Most students indicate their intent to implement their proposed projects in their areas of practice.

Over the course of the next six weeks, they submit an annotated bibliography, an extended outline which includes an abstract and introductory paragraph, and, in Week 7 of the course, they submit their completed research paper.  The instructions for this final assignment are attached. In Week 8, they design and submit a Power Point poster presentation, summarizing their work and their project, and post this in the online Forum for review and comment by their classmates.

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