LUC Alumnus & currently works as an Intern at Transparency International in Amsterdam, Netherlands
The final days before the capstone submission were some of the most stressful that I experienced during LUC: finalising the results section, sharpening the writing and proofreading for what seemed like the millionth time had finally started to add up. However, on the 27th of May 2022, at exactly 22:05, I managed to submit my capstone fully completed and on time. At that point I was mainly relieved to finally have gotten through this project. Yet, more than anything, I was proud as well. In this post I would like to share some of the several factors that helped me get through the capstone process: effective planning, good time management, and constant collaboration.
Strategy 1: Planning Ahead
It goes without saying that planning is one of the most important things to do for the capstone. Making a tentative plan early on helped me at multiple stages. It allowed me to see if I was on track to finish on time or if I needed to speed up, while it also allowed me to set internal deadlines that I could work towards. To be clear, the plan does not have to be complex. In fact, my plan was quite simple. Before the winter break I wanted to have a clear idea of precisely what I would be writing about and what my research question could be. The next step was to read most of the literature I would be needing (I divided this up into case-specific and methodology). As such, before the second semester had even begun, I had a pretty solid understanding of the academic literature surrounding my case. One of the things that had helped in the later stages of the capstone as well was that I recorded all of the readings I did in an annotated bibliography (i.e. a citation and summary of the paper).
Now that the ‘desk research’ was done, I had planned to do my data collection (in the form of semi-structured interviews) at the end of block three and beginning of block four. This gave me time to reach out to potential participants and to do the actual interviews - although, in hindsight, I would’ve preferred to start this even earlier. I managed to finalise this several weeks before the deadline. At this point, it is also good to note that I considered the writing process of the capstone to be iterative. Namely, before I started reaching out to participants I had already written and reviewed the introduction, the literature review and the methodology sections, clearing up time to focus wholly on the analysis and conclusions. From here, I planned to finish my first complete draft two weeks before the deadline to ensure that I had time for revision and review. Obviously, since I had made all of these plans fairly far ahead of time, it should not be surprising that I did not always stick to the plan. Still, at a minimum,this roughly planned step-by-step kept the process approachable.
Strategy 2: Time Management
This part is closely related to the planning section, but, where planning is an ideal, I found that time management is the reality. In other words, I found that it was important to remain flexible. During the capstone it feels like there are a hundred things going on at once, each of them needing your undivided attention. Therefore, learning to manage this was important, mainly for my sanity. Deadlines from other classes were a big stress factor, but having to reach out and set up interviews with people two time zones away was also not the most relaxing activity. So, in other words, I had to figure out when I had time to work on my capstone effectively and when I had to work on my other classes. In some sense, the planning section can be seen as the strategy, whereas the time management might correspond more closely to the tactics.
Strategy 3: Collaboration
This was perhaps one of the most important things I did. I worked with several peer reviewers, my capstone supervisor, and my capstone group to ensure that my capstone was as high quality as possible. A friend and I had decided early on (still in October of 2021) that we would be working together to make sure that our capstones were up to scratch. This led to several days spent at Wijnhaven meticulously crafting methodologies, proofreading and criticising each other's work to make it just that much better. Besides this, the camaraderie of working closely together on such a large project proved to be a great way to deal with the stress it brought as well. The same holds true for communication with my thesis supervisor. I tried to keep him in the loop as much as possible while trying not to come across as overbearing. I’m not sure if this was entirely successful at times, but the many emails and calls I had with him certainly aided the capstone process. As a final note in this section, I would point out that I had five different people proofread the final draft. This was, of course, no longer for the content, but helped the flow and style of my capstone. In other words, asking for help when I needed it and giving help where I could aided this entire writing process, both in terms of destressing and in terms of writing a good paper.