Nursing Capstone Paper for BSN, MSN, and DNP Students

Written by Brandon L.
August 21, 202319 min read

All students taking BSN, MSN, or DNP nursing education programs must complete a capstone paper at the end of their program as a partial requirement to attain a nursing degree. After completion, you will present the paper before a committee that will ask questions and rate you.

The evidenced-based paper proves that you are ready to put what you have learned into real-world healthcare settings. This is to say that, by the time you write a capstone paper, you will have developed and learned the essential skills needed to write it, such as time management, research design, knowledge of evidence-based practice, literature searches, writing, and critical thinking.

Even though the paper relies on what has been taught throughout school sessions, many students complain about it being challenging. This is true for those who did not master the required skills.

A nursing capstone paper needs adequate research, critical thinking, and good writing skills to demonstrate your knowledge and provide a solution to the raised healthcare problem. This is probably why you may have doubts about your skills.

So, if you have no idea where to start, this article will give you helpful insights into writing a good nursing capstone paper.

What is a Nursing Capstone Paper?

You are probably wondering what a capstone project is like in nursing school. Some call it a capstone or senior/final project, others a capstone. It is a culminating paper that promotes and advances career development for student nurses at different levels BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing), MSN (Master of Science in Nursing), Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

A nursing capstone paper is a culminating academic research project written mainly by nursing students in their final or senior year of nursing studies. It entails the application of nursing theories and concepts in solving practical healthcare problems or issues.

It is an evidence-based practice (EBP) research paper that informs the methods used to deliver care and educate others in the community or selected population. It is meant to show the ability of a student to lead and practice at any level of clinical nursing practice.

Schools like West Govners University, Capella University, Liberty University, Devry, Duke University, Grand Canyon University, Regis University, Emory university, and other top nursing colleges and universities accept nursing capstone projects for one to graduate with nursing degrees. Therefore, understanding how to write a capstone proposal, choose a capstone project topic, and write one comes in handy. 

Purpose of Writing Nursing Capstone

Whatever specialization and program allow a capstone pathway, all nursing students must write a capstone paper that acts as a bridge to their nursing career. The paper is no different from the usual academic assignments. In most cases, a capstone paper can be a research paper, outcome-based evaluation, ethnographic study, case study, survey, and more.

A nursing capstone is a chance to demonstrate that you can solve real-world issues related to healthcare and healthcare systems. In most cases, you must address a practice problem that requires change, and you can only do this by demonstrating prowess in evidence-based practice.

There are limitless ideas that you can choose to focus your nursing capstone on. For instance, you can develop strategies to recruit student nurses in their final year to solve the nursing staffing issues currently rocking the global healthcare systems, focusing on the UK or USA. Likewise, you can develop strategies to improve patient satisfaction or new ways to reduce drug errors.

We have a comprehensive list of capstone project topics and ideas for your BSN, ADN, LPN, MSN, or DNP studies project.

A capstone project paper answers questions and deeply understands the project area. In addition, you will be required to conduct independent research and present a detailed analysis of the problem and potential solutions.

A good nursing capstone paper should integrate a few things, including:

When designing a capstone project, ensure that the processes or the outcomes can be assessed to guide policy and practice. It should also be a foundation for future nursing practice scholarship.

Basic Structure for Nursing Capstone Paper

All nursing programs set their format for capstone paper, meaning that the format will vary depending on the program you are taking. However, since capstone paper is a formal evidence-based practice, there is a standard format structure they must all follow to impart a positive and impressive impression to the reader and assessor.

Title Page

A title page, also known as a cover page, essentially aims to introduce the main topic to readers. Readers check the title first to see whether they will continue reading; if it doesn't interest them, they won't proceed any further. Therefore, you must carefully choose the words that will make the title. To come up with a good title, consider what you would search for in, for example, a PubMed journal. The title should be accurate, complete, and specific. Use the following to guide you:

You can write the title page in either APA or Harvard format. While Harvard is in Australia and the UK, APA is mostly preferred in nursing schools in the USA.


The abstract is a preview of your content. It is usually brief, containing between 200 and 250 words explaining the paper's aims and goals. In other words, it answers the paper's What, how, and why.

When writing an abstract, you should aim to be specific and selective and summarize each part of the paper in short sentences.

You can write the abstract after finalizing the paper so that you capture every important detail. These tips can guide you when writing the abstract:


The introduction part of your capstone project should be captivating, engaging, and attractive to grab the readers' attention (markers or supervisors) off the bat. This means integrating a good hook sentence, which can be a shocking statistic, research facts, or a statement related to the topic you are exploring. For example, if you are looking at the impacts of covid-19 on the rising trends of childhood obesity, quote the figures indicating the percentage rise. Such epidemiological data breathes life into your introduction and makes your readers see the importance of your topic and further anticipate reading the entire capstone project paper.

After the hook, you should have a background statement where you lay bare the importance of your capstone project topic. Explain why you selected it, your interest in it, and why you prioritized the issue.

The introduction reveals your writing aim and provides sufficient background information to help readers understand and evaluate the paper. The background should also include information about the change agents or stakeholders.

The length of the introduction is capped at 10% of your capstone.

The introduction should have a thesis statement and an outline of the paper, and the thesis statement is the main idea of your paper.

Depending on what you selected for a capstone topic, you will need to introduce your PICOT question to your readers. It comprehensively helps them identify your capstone's scope and your approach to solving a given healthcare issue. You can then develop a nursing research question that guides the entire paper based on the PICOT statement or question.

Your introduction should also have a problem statement section, which can be a few lines where you describe the healthcare issue of interest and explain why it should be addressed. When exploring the problem, state the affected populations and your approach to solving it. This is followed by a statement of purpose where you highlight the aims and objectives of the capstone paper as you strive to address the identified problem. You should provide a rationale for the issue or problem you are addressing from the nursing point of view, using professional nursing literature sources and peer-reviewed nursing journals. You can use sources such as QSEN, CDC, NCHS, AHRQ, ANA, AHA, IOM, CMS, AMA, TJC, etc.

Keep in mind that an introduction is different from an abstract. Whereas an abstract summarizes your paper, an introduction shows its justification and what readers should expect. Use the following tips to write a better introduction for your nursing capstone:

Literature Review

The literature review shows the summary of your findings. This is where you provide the theme of the articles and their common conclusions, not your own. It is a summary of the context of your problem. You have to show the connection between the reference material, your field area, and the topic of the capstone paper. All this information should be backed with relevant sources from reliable journals and articles.

The literature review shows readers that you:

The review doesn't provide a comprehensive history of the topic in discussion but rather provides another research context so the reader can understand. When writing the drafts, you will come across new themes, forcing you to go back and do more research to understand and then incorporate them in the review.

When reviewing the literature, go for peer-reviewed journal articles published in the last five years. In some cases, your supervisor might direct you to search the scholarly sources, write an annotated bibliography, complete a literature search table where you summarize everything, and then proceed to write the literature review before moving to the following sections of your capstone. Remember, since a nursing capstone is an evidence-based paper, ensure that you use the strongest levels of evidence.

You can get articles from journals such as:

You can also find country-specific nursing journals to make your capstone more focused and evidence-based with appropriate evidence from your country. For instance, the OMICS Online website lists nursing journals in Canada.

Methods and Material

This section shows how you conducted your research. Nursing is a science that entails inquiry into different topics and subjects, and you will apply qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods research as you write the capstone paper.

In this section, you should discuss the materials you used to research for your capstone. For instance, if you are taking the qualitative approach path, detail your search strategy and complete the PRISMA diagram elaborating the search terms, keywords, inclusion and elimination criteria, and how you arrived at a specific number of articles.

If you are doing a quantitative study for your nursing capstone, you must detail how you collected data, the population, sampling strategies, and assumptions. As you do so, provide rationale and support your arguments with proper citations from scholarly nursing journals.

If you have used data analysis programs to analyze collected data, ensure that you explain that too. As well, focus on how you met ethical requirements before researching. Besides listing the methods used, also state their strengths and weaknesses.

You have to discuss why one form of data collection differs. This section aims to provide all the scientific methods used so that if another researcher wanted to conduct a similar study, they could produce similar results.

When writing methodology and research, you should:


In this section, you will provide what the finding are. If an experiment was involved, show the results and analysis. Don't make any assumptions or conclusions at this point. Just illustrate the results using graphs, tables, and images. All the data provided should be able to answer all the questions and hypotheses introduced in the beginning. You should show the following:


The discussion section analyzes what your results were. You must be critical and attentive in the discussion and show patterns in the findings.

Show what previous studies say about your research. Also, show the implications and significance of your study and whether it adds anything new to the nursing field.

Don't forget to show the finding's limitations and what can be done to make the research more reliable. Then, add that an additional investigation should be conducted. Make sure you use relevant sources from reputable journals, articles, etc.


This is the last part of the structure of the capstone paper, and it summarizes everything you have discussed from the beginning till the discussion part.

The conclusion also shows what knowledge you have gained from the capstone research and the most appropriate and promising problem-solving methods.

You should also provide future recommendations and real-life application suggestions.

After your conclusion, include your references in your capstone paper. You can then put everything else (diagrams, tables, figures, etc.) in the appendices section.

Steps for Writing a Capstone Paper for Nursing School

A capstone paper is a significant project in your academic life that will prepare you for your career.

It equips you with hands-on experience to tackle challenges and shape you into a well-rounded nursing graduate.

Because of this, you should know how to write a good capstone paper using the following steps:

Choose a Relevant Topic

Since a nursing capstone topic is essential, you must choose the right one. The topic should be interesting, relevant, explorative, specific, original, and meaningful.

You should be able to think of the topic right from the beginning of your nursing program. When choosing a topic, you should evaluate your interest, strengths, weaknesses, and specialty area. Also, consider the manageable topics and consult with your peers, professor, and supervisors.

If you have high GPAs, consider topics that fall under emergency or intensive care. If your grades aren't so excellent, consider essential topics. But no topic is a preserve of anyone.

You can ask for help from your professor, classmates, and other faculty members with similar experiences. Remember that the project's goal is to highlight all the knowledge and skills you obtained during the program.

Related Article:

Come Up with a Picot Question and Statement

The word PICOT stands for patient, intervention, comparison, outcome, and time frame, and it represents a format for coming up with answerable research questions.

The process usually begins with a case scenario or a healthcare issue affecting patients, the healthcare system, or healthcare professionals then a thoughtful question elicits a response is phrased. Once you have this question, you can carefully think it through and determine what research will give you the best answer.

You must carefully consider what the picot question entails to answer the research question quickly. The question should be straightforward and focused on coming up with a credible and useful answer.

Write a Capstone Proposal

A capstone proposal is a document that outlines what your nursing project is about. In other words, it is the blueprint of your paper. Depending on your supervisor, it is sometimes a requirement in some nursing programs, so your capstone topic can be approved.

Every nursing capstone project starts with a proposal you submit to your instructor for review. The proposal is usually about 200 to 1000 words, and it must contain the following:

Some universities, such as Capella, have their nursing capstone proposal template. Since we have helped many students, you can ask our chat support team to assist you with the template or placing an order to get your capstone proposal written to the best quality. 

Outline Your Capstone Paper

Writing a capstone paper is challenging; because of this, you need to have an outline of the project.

You must begin writing the outline as soon as your proposal has been accepted. Creating an outline will also help you create the structure of your nursing project according to the given instruction.

Think of the outline as a roadmap for your nursing capstone paper.

Research, Identify and Organize Sources

Once you have developed your outline, start researching all the relevant scholarly sources to help you develop your research topic. These sources include books, journals, articles, and credible websites.

First, read widely to find a list of recommended literature from books. Then, use the online bibliography management tools to categorize, organize, and store all the references you have gathered.

Formulate a Thesis Statement

A thesis statement summarizes the main point of your capstone research paper and should tell the reader in transparent, persuasive, genuine, and direct language what your paper is about.

To write a good thesis statement, define your paper's point of view, and express it as a single idea. Remember that the thesis statement should resonate with the entire paper. The tips below can help you write a good thesis statement:

Have a Writing Schedule

Scheduling is essential when wiring a capstone paper since it is one of your voluminous projects.

First, you must develop a separate and integrated schedule dedicated to the main areas of your project, which are research and writing.

You can divide these into smaller depending on each part of the project and then continuously update the schedule since some tasks can be completed faster. Finally, download organizers on your phone or laptop to help keep track of your progress.

Write the first draft of the Capstone Paper

Once you have the thesis statement, start writing your nursing capstone paper. Ensure the thesis is narrow and specific because if it is broad enough, you won't be able to cover all the essential details of the paper.

There is no specific formula for writing the paper; you can begin at any point, just not the introduction.

Write the introduction last, after going through the deep matter of the issue.

Proofread and Edit

Your paper should be free from errors, and all information should be factual and up to the standards. Once you are through, reread each section of your paper.

Proofreading will reveal any mistakes that can ruin the quality of the capstone paper. Use the following tips to help in proofreading:

Submit and Wait for Feedback

Once you are sure your paper is error-free, submit it to your instructor and wait for feedback. This shouldn't take too long.

Your instructor must review your capstone paper from the beginning until the end to ensure it is up to the academic standards.

Improve it Based on Feedback

Your instructor will give you feedback after going through your paper.

You need to use this feedback to refine your paper.

Create a Capstone Poster or PPT for Your Defense

Presenting your paper will influence how the committee evaluates the whole project. Use the best software to transform the words on your research paper into a captivating capstone paper.

These tips can help with your presentation:

Defend Your Capstone Paper

A capstone presentation is an opportunity to show your knowledge of the field of nursing study. You must defend your research before a project committee.

When presenting the paper, you must show the essence of the chosen topic and discuss the research and the findings.

You should explain each section briefly and ensure you highlight all the important details. Remember that the committee will ask questions after the presentations, so be prepared to answer them.

Tips for Completing Your Nursing Paper on Time

Even though it may seem there is a lot of time to write the paper, you must consider all the other things going on in your life.

Effective time management is essential when doing a capstone paper, especially if you want to avoid a last-minute rush. Bear in mind that a capstone project is one of the requirements for completing your nursing program.

So, you complete a solid capstone paper that will give you an edge as you transition to work.

Use the following tips to help you finish the paper on time and appeal to the markers.

Understand the Capstone Research question

You need to go through the research question and understand its objectives first.

This way, it will be easy to do your research, collect all the relevant information, and organize them when writing the paper.

Choose a Good Nursing Capstone Topic Early

Once you understand the research question, you should start choosing a topic immediately if your instructor did not provide one. Selecting a good topic for your paper is essentially but easy.

It is challenging and exhausting because it greatly impacts your capstone project. The project's primary goal is to show that you understand your field well.

Therefore, you should choose a topic with a good amount of research and one you are familiar with to save time. This will also ensure you don't get stuck trying to create content.

Research Faster with Keywords

Create relevant keywords from your research question. Then use keywords from your research question to quickly search search engines to identify articles, journals, essays, or published content.

Also, use Google Scholar, PubMed, CINAHL, Ovid, PsychINFO, Science Direct, and other nursing journal databases to get credible nursing sources for your research. Once you get them, bookmark and download them to make it easier to locate them when writing.

Use Online Tools to Create a Brief Outline

You can create an outline faster when you use online tools. List all the critical sections in your outline so you can do it faster and seamlessly when it is time to write.

You can also download online tools to proofread and edit your work to save time. Some of the online tools that can save you time include:

Embrace Digital Tools for Researchers

You must stay abreast of everything goings on in your field of study. Several AI-powered digital tools can help save a lot of reading time.

These sites will recommend personalized articles and journals based on chosen topics and your study area. Some tools can help you plan and manage your time wisely.

Choose a Good Environment to Write

Before you begin writing, find a conducive place to concentrate on your paper without distractions.

Choose a comfortable seat and table, and ensure the area has adequate lighting, so you don't strain yourself.

Write Quickly

Now that everything is in place, start writing your nursing capstone paper. Start with the most straightforward sections fast if you want to write quickly and save time.

The methods section is one of the easiest, so start with it as you move to others. Leave the introduction and abstract last because they are always challenging and take great effort to craft.

Don't edit at this point; focus on writing as much as possible.

Say "No" to Distractions

This is a crucial time to focus on one of the essential parts of your nursing journey, so it's okay to say no to anything that might distract you. Use the following tips to help you stay focused:

Hasten Your Pace Through Multitasking

Work on different tasks without straining yourself too much. Multitasking can save you time and make meaningful progress when planned well.

For instance, you can write the methods sections while conducting your experiment. This will improve your time management skills and help you finish the task on time.

Set Realistic Deadlines

While multitasking can be a good idea, ensure you don't try to eat an entire cake in one bite.

Create smaller milestones as you try to achieve the bigger goal to prevent counter-productivity and early burnout.

Ensure that you complete the smaller tasks within the set timeline.

Start Working on High Priority Task First

Completing the high-priority task can effectively complete the capstone project on time.

In this case, your high-priority task will be to write the proposal early enough and then submit it for review. Another task I research requires time, energy, and concentration.

When you finish all these, you can tick them off and focus on another task. Knowing that you are done with part of the vast chunks of your paper will give you a sense of accomplishment ad motivate you to finish the others.

Take Breaks without Feeling Guilty

Even though your research is essential, you don't have to spend all your time working on the task.

Set aside a little time to rest and do something worthwhile, like a hobby or any other form of self-care. Research shows that taking breaks off work can boost productivity and help you manage time well.

It doesn't have to be a whole day; even 10 minutes can go a long way in helping boost your productivity. You can also spend this time with close friends and family, as it will bring out the best in you.

Final Remarks

A capstone paper is integral to your academic study, even though it might seem tedious and challenging. To write a good paper without difficulty, you must choose a topic that interests you. Besides, you also need to be patient and dedicated throughout the process.

Most students often find it challenging to write a good capstone project because it is demanding; it needs lots of time, knowledge, skills, and patience. Combine writing the nursing capstone and working or balancing it with life duties such as family and personal errands, and you get a recipe for burnout. However, with the above guide, you will be on the right track toward acing the capstone paper within a few weeks.

If you need verified capstone nursing writers to assist you with your capstone project at whatever level, you can always count on NurseMyGrade experts. They will work on your capstone paper while communicating with you and deliver a top-quality paper with no errors and plagiarism-free. Place an order today.

Related Reading: How to write a nursing resume.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Hard Is Nursing Capstone Paper?

Not really. A nursing capstone paper forces you to go deeper into your understanding of what you have been learning all along, and it will push you to think critically about incorporating all the best nursing practices into your project.

You might get intimidated by the paper is length, but if you select a more manageable topic, it will just be a walk in the park.

What are the Goals for Nursing Capstone Paper?

Since a nursing capstone paper is essentially a bridge between the end of the nursing program and the beginning of your career, it will help you achieve the following:

What Are Some of the Ideas for Nursing Capstone Paper?

There are countless capstone ideas for you, but the main objective should be to choose one based on your experience and learning.

General capstone ideas

 If you don't want anything complicated, choose general capstone ideas such as:

Topics in Health Promotion

Ideas in health promotions are those that can improve the welfare of the community. These topics include:

Ideas for Mental Health

Ideas on Women's Heath

Your area of interest will determine the kind of project idea you choose. We have a comprehensive list of nursing capstone ideas and topics you can consider when confused about what to write your nursing project about. UTTYler has a platform where they publish all the MSN capstone projects completed by nursing students. It can also be an excellent place to get ideas for your capstone project.

Where Can You Find Inspiration for Your Project Idea?

After determining your areas of interest, start looking for suggestions from sources like:

How Do You Choose the Best Topic for Nursing Capstone Paper?

What Are the Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Capstone Nursing Paper?

Is It Easy for Your Instructor to Not Approve Your Capstone Topic?

No. Since you have already gone through nursing schools and studied theories and practicum, you already have the foundation to help you choose a good topic. Just make sure you choose one that helps in solving healthcare issues.

How long does a nursing capstone course take?

The completion time, like the formats for capstone, differs depending on the program and institution. While some institutions complete the capstone in 4-5 weeks, others have the capstone spread through 9-10 weeks. Others also have arrangements where nursing students undertake 30 hours of an online class and 90 hours of applied project work in their advanced studies. Regardless of the programs, most students always follow the PICO Format for project proposal questions. Other nursing colleges and universities allow capstone projects to be accomplished as group work.

What should appear in a successful capstone project?

Even though different markers and supervisors focus on different aspects of the capstone, to score a good grade for your BSN, MSN, or DNP capstone project, ensure that it reflects the following:

Is a nursing capstone the same as a thesis?

No, a capstone can either be completed in a group or individually and often takes between 4 and 12 weeks. On the other hand, an individual's thesis project must be completed and takes 2-3 years to write. Graduate thesis courses take 1-2 semesters, so students are on track. When writing a capstone project in nursing, your focus will mostly be on current issues and nursing theories. On the other hand, a thesis entails thorough research, which entails using existing case studies and scholarly sources to argue and support your research. Dissemination of thesis papers occurs through publishing in reputable journals.

How Long is the Capstone Paper Presentation?

The capstone paper presentation, done before a committee, shouldn't take more than 45 minutes. During this time, you will demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the topic in your study area. Members of the committee will also ask questions about the research you have done. 

Related: The process of writing a good nursing case study

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