All course information is listed within this syllabus.

CEDEV 580: Research Application and Practice (3 credits). This course is designed to assist students working on the master's paper required for the MPS in Community and Economic Development (CEDEV).

Prerequisites: None


Instructor for CEDEV 580

Mary Kate Berardi
Assistant Teaching Professor

Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education
302 Armsby Building
University Park, PA 16802

E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox

Course Overview

This course provides the opportunity for students in the Master of Professional Studies in Community and Economic Development (CEDEV) to complete their degree. This is done by either writing an MPS paper or by completing a series of comprehensive assessment exams. If an MPS paper is chosen, this course will offer the opportunity to develop the idea and outline for their master's paper and begin to draft the literature review and possibly the methodology for this paper. If students choose the comprehensive exam option, they will draft documents to share with the committee that will design their comprehensive exam questions.

Typically, it will take two or three consecutive semesters to complete an MPS paper or comprehensive exam questions, including this semester for CEDEV 580. Students are expected to enroll in at least one credit of CEDEV 596 for the subsequent semesters. To complete assignments for this class, students may draw upon materials from previous classes, but the idea is for the student to identify a topic on which they want to gain additional knowledge and expertise.

The CEDEV 580 course is organized into six modules:

  • Module 1 (Week 1): Introduction
  • Module 2 (Weeks 2-3): Human Subjects Protection
  • Module 3 (Week 4): Academic Integrity
  • Module 4 (Weeks 5-6): Developing Your Capstone Project Topic
  • Module 5 (Weeks 7–12): Literature Review
  • Module 6 (Weeks 13-14): Planning to Finish Your Capstone Project (only for Fall/Spring semesters)

This course is an asynchronous course. While you are part of a cohort taking it together, there will not be any live components to this course. There are opportunities for you to interact with others in the class, as well as regular (although flexible) due dates for assignments and a fixed start and end date for the course. In addition, there are opportunities for you to interact with others in the class.

Course Objectives

This course has different objectives for the MPS Paper option and the Comprehensive Assessment Exam option.

MPS Paper Option Objectives

After completing this course, you will:

  • Have the knowledge and skills to write an original MPS paper based on appropriate literature and an analysis of existing data or data and information you collect on an issue or topic of your choosing (with guidance from the course coordinator and/or your MPS paper faculty adviser). The final document will be in the form of a master's paper.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the main information sources for the areas related to your topic of interest, including;
    • major journals, periodicals, books, and reports
    • proceedings from professional conferences or workshops
    • Web-based resources
  • Understand how to develop critical reviews of the literature.
  • Develop an acceptable final paper outline.
  • Develop a plan to carry out research or analysis appropriate for the MPS paper.
  • Organize findings and the plan to write an acceptable MPS paper.
  • When possible, facilitate the learning of your fellow students by reading and offering suggestions on drafts of their writing.
  • Have identified and established the three-person faculty committee that will work with you to complete your MPS paper, and will serve as the review committee that will make suggestions for revisions and has the authority to approve/request revisions or reject the MPS paper.

Comprehensive Assessment Exam option

After completing this course, you will:

  • Have the knowledge and skills work with your committee to complete comprehensive exam questions.
  • Demonstrate the main information sources for the areas related to topics in the comprehensive questions, including:
    • Major journals, periodicals, books, and reports
    • Proceedings from professional conferences or workshops
    • Web-based resources
  • Plan out the procedure for completing the comprehensive exam questions in the CEDEV596 course.

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to the Course Summary on the Syllabus page in Canvas.

Course Requirements

Each student will be expected to make significant progress on their capstone projects, which should happen if they complete the assignments in the course.

Students are encouraged to participate as a peer-reviewer for other students and to share their work with other students.

Course grading is based on student progress during the course, not on whether the final paper is completed.

Module 1: Introduction (Week 1)


We spend the first week of the course renewing our familiarity with the online environment and learning about the requirements for the capstone project.

As you proceed through the first few steps, consider topics of interest to you for your capstone. Whether you have already identified your topic or are just deciding, consider the following:

  • Why it is important?
  • What will we learn related to community and economic development as a result of the work you will do in completing the capstone?

Most important throughout this course is to recall that all aspects of writing, from describing the problem to the literature review to the conclusions section are hard work and require dedication and steady effort. Obtaining comments from others and revising your writing strengthen the presentation of your ideas and eliminate gaps in logic or understanding. Expect to be asked to revise the sections of the paper, most likely, several times. This will be expected in this course and by your MPS faculty committee. Multiple revisions generally occur before the final capstone is accepted by your faculty committee. Faculty committee review most often occurs after you have completed both CEDEV 580 and often one CEDEV 596.

Required Readings

Reading through the content of the CEDEV MPS Capstone Guidelines Document, will provide an understanding of the format and structure of the MPS final paper.

Turabian. 2013: Overview. Chapter 1. “What research is and how researchers think about it.” Be thinking about 'research' defined broadly, to include questions you have about community and economic development.

It is also very helpful to skim through Chapters 2 through 12 and 15, so you have a sense of the entire process of preparing the paper.

In reading this chapter and the Turabian book, keep in mind that your research will in most instances be applied research, and may or may not include collecting your own data.

Please be sure to read the CEDEV MPS paper guidelines "Guidelines for Preparing the Community and Economic Development Paper/Project Report Download Guidelines for Preparing the Community and Economic Development Paper/Project Report".

Module 2: Human Subjects Protection (Weeks 2-3)


In this section of the course students will need to complete activities on working with human subjects. All graduate students are required to complete these activities, including completing the SARI and CITI courses and through them understanding the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process. If you conduct research involving any human participants, you must submit an application for IRB approval. The instructor of CEDEV580, the CDEV Program Coordinator, and your faculty advisor can help you with this process. This Module will help you get started in this process. You have two weeks to complete this Module because it is a lot of very important information and the assignment is relatively large.

Module 3: Academic Integrity (Week 4)


In this section of the course students will need to complete activities on plagiarism and academic integrity. All graduate students are required to complete these activities. It is essential that students show that they understand the issue of plagiarism before they begin work on their capstone projects.

Module 4: Developing your MPS Paper Topic (Weeks 5-6)


The most important step in completing your MPS capstone project is selecting the 'right' topic. In this instance, the ‘right’ topic is one that you find interesting. So interesting that you are willing to devote hours of work to learning about and understanding it, reading related literature (articles, reports, books, etc.), and working to answer a question or to understand an issue related to that topic.

The 'right' topic is one that is not too broad, or too narrow. In order to focus your capstone project, it is important to be able to identify or state a question (or thesis statement) that you will address. You need to be able to clearly explain why you want to examine this topic, what will be learned from your study and why it should matter to others.

Most importantly, the topic needs to be related to community and economic development. You should be able to show how and why it relates to community and economic development. Do not assume that the reader knows this or that the relevance and importance of your topic is obvious to others. By doing this as part of your capstone project, you prove that you understand both the specific topic and the larger context of community and economic development. You are also establishing why your topic is appropriate for a CEDEV MPS Capstone Project. Finally, making an explicit connection between your topic and the broader field of community and economic development will provide a framework for integrating the knowledge you have gained by taking individual CEDEV courses.

Required Readings

Turabian, 2013:

  • Chapter 2. "Moving from a Topic to a Question to a Working Hypothesis."
  • Chapter 6. "Planning a First Draft."

Module 5: Literature Review (Weeks 7-12)


New ideas and applications in community and economic development, or in any field, must be based on a firm knowledge and understanding of the work that has come before. The most common way to gain knowledge and understanding is through reading and evaluating the literature related to a topic. Many of the topics you will address in your capstones will be applied in nature, rather than focusing on theoretical or conceptual advances. Because of this, the literature you will need to examine will be broader. It includes articles published in peer-reviewed journals, books, and book chapters, but it also incorporates materials such as reports and evaluations of programs.

Relevant sources such as government reports, descriptions and evaluations of programs, and academic studies may be found on websites of non-profit organizations, governments, or other agencies. Because the information available is potentially vast, identifying key concepts on which to search is essential to conducting a literature review that is complete and efficient. Most literature reviews are iterative, so be sure to read as you search, and search as you read. The quality of reviewed/refereed articles varies, but this is especially true for reports from nonprofit organizations, agencies, and material posted on the web that is not peer reviewed. You will need to read these materials carefully to make sure that the findings are based on appropriate evidence, and that the interpretations and conclusions match the findings. In some cases, reports that are not peer-reviewed and books may be much of the literature available to you, so be critical as you read and evaluate these materials. In general, reports published by agencies of the US government undergo stringent review processes. This also is true of reports published by centers or institutes associated with major research universities and colleges, and reports published by the United Nations, World Bank, and major non-profit organizations. Reports from State governments also tend to have reviews, but this varies from state to state. In reviewing materials from smaller non-profit agencies and local governments do a careful check on the authors of the paper to determine their background and credentials, as one way to begin to assess the reliability of the information and conclusions in the reports.

Required Readings

Turabian. 2013:

  • Chapter 3, pp. 24-47 "Finding Useful Sources."
  • Chapter 4, pp. 36-47 "Engaging Sources."
  • Chapter 15, pp. 133-140 "General Introduction to Citation Practices."

Planning to Finish Your MPS Paper (Weeks 11 and 12 (Summer) or 11 to 14 (Fall and Spring))


During the last module you chose your capstone option (either the MPS paper or the comprehensive exams) and did a review of relevant literature to your topic. During these final two weeks, you and the course instructor will work to get your committee solidified. At this point, much of the work you will do will be on your own, although we will have one final graded discussion board.

Required Readings

Turabian. 2013:

  • Chapter 7, pp. 71-81 "Drafting Your Report."
  • Chapter 8, pp. 82-97 "Presenting Evidence in Tables and Figures."
  • Chapter 9, pp. 98-101 "Revising Your Draft."
  • Chapter 10, pp. 102-108 "Writing Your Final Introduction and Conclusion."
  • Chapter 11, pp. 109-119 "Revising Sentences."
  • Chapter 12, pp. 120-121 "Learning from Your Returned Paper."

Course Materials

Most World Campus courses require that students purchase materials (e.g., textbooks, specific software, etc.). To learn about how to order materials, please see the Course Materials page. You should check the World Campus Course Catalog approximately 3–4 weeks before the course begins for a list of required materials.


ISBN: 978-0226430577
Turabian, K. L. (2018). A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. (W. C. Booth, G. G. Colomb, J. M. Williams, J. Bizup, W. T. FitzGerald, & The University of Chicago Press Editorial Staff, Eds.) (9th ed.). University of Chicago Press.

For pricing and ordering information, please see the Barnes & Noble College website.

Materials will be available at Barnes & Noble College approximately three weeks before the course begins. It is very important that you purchase the correct materials. If your course requires one or more textbooks, you must have exactly the correct text required (edition and year).

Human Subjects Review

Finally, if you are thinking about gathering your own information (e.g., interviews or surveys) or using existing data sources (e.g., U.S. Census, Bureau of Labor Statistics data) you must complete the Research with Human Subjects Review Process.

Grading Policy

In this course you will be graded on the progress you make toward completing your MPS paper. As indicated earlier, most people are not able to complete the MPS paper in one semester when they take CEDEV 580.

I will grade written assignments within one week. If this is not possible for any reason, I will let you know.

The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value
Quizzes 80
Discussions 295
Assignments 625
TOTAL: 1000

The following table is the grading scheme for the course.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage
A 100% – 94%
A- < 94% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 87%
B < 87% – 84%
B- < 84% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 77%
C < 77% – 70%
D < 70% – 60%
F < 60%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Graduate Courses for additional information.

NOTE: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" under World Campus Student Resources.

Online Students Use of the Library

As Penn State World Campus students, you have access to many of the materials that the library offers to students. The library website has a lot to offer, but can be overwhelming. A guide has been created to serve as your introduction to important library resources, services, and important pages within the library. The Online Student Library Guide is updated regularly by the online librarian and is intended to provide a level of comfort through an introduction to help you feel comfortable navigating the library website to find valuable information for your coursework.

And, we will be examining information on the correct use and citing of others' work so that plagiarism and how to avoid plagiarizing others' work is well understood.

NOTE: You must have an active Penn State Access Account and be registered with the University Libraries in order to take full advantage of the Libraries' resources and services. Registration and services are free while you are registered for a Penn State course! You must have an active Penn State Access Account to submit materials to the Office of Research Protections. If you are off-campus--as most of you are--you will need to access the Protocol, Review, Approval and Management System (PRAMS) to submit human subjects materials through a secure VPN client. Instructions for doing this are provided on the web page. Be forewarned that many employers and some internet cafes do not allow the installation of a VPN client through their systems.

Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

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Accessibility Information


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and discussion postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions, but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of messages. Please review Virginia Shea's " The Core Rules of Netiquette " for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Penn State Policies

Login Policy

Students are expected to log in regularly to keep up to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

Course Availability

Your course will be available to you beginning the first day of class and will remain open for one year. After one year the course will close.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights, and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49-20, G-9 Procedures, and the Code of Conduct ).

Please read the academic integrity guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University's academic integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff, and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity both inside and outside of the classroom.

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In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus' disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

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