All course information is listed within this syllabus.

CEDEV 596: Individual Studies (1, 2, 3, or 6 credit(s)). This course is designed to provide information for students working on their final paper or project required for the MPS in Community and Economic Development (CEDEV).

Prerequisites: None


Instructor for CEDEV 596

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 is intended to provide a structure to allow CEDEV MPS students to work on their final paper or project. MPS students can be registered in this course for 1, 2, 3 or 6 credits to work on and/or complete their final project report or paper. A final capstone paper is required in all cases, although its content and character will vary depending on the objectives of the student. All students in this course have taken CEDEV 596 in the past and so should be well-started on their final MPS paper. Others will finish this semester and graduate.

To complete the final paper students may draw upon materials from classes, but the idea is for the student to identify a topic on which they want to gain additional knowledge and expertise, or an original project that will enable them to move an interest area, work- or volunteer-related project toward completion. The content in CEDEV 596 is the same as the content provided in prior semesters. The difference in this version is that most of the discussions and assignments have been eliminated, as each of you should be working with your adviser to complete your MPS paper. The resources to which you had access in prior semesters remain in this course. There is one discussion post to which you can write questions for your colleagues in the course and the course coordinator. The CEDEV 596 course is organized into three sections.

  • Resources and Reference Materials: Information about plagiarism, human subjects protection, and the literature review, from previous semesters.
  • Step 1: Overview
  • Step 2: Finishing Your MPS Paper or Project Report

Most of you have completed the early steps in your paper and will be working on your literature reviews, methods, and any data collection or analysis. Others in the class will be writing the complete drafts of their papers. Please feel free to ask your colleagues questions about their experiences in developing their MPS papers.

Please introduce yourself to the others in the course in the discussion topic 'Introductions', along with a quick summary of your paper topic. Otherwise, continue where you were in the paper preparation process. Your advice to fellow students in the discussion topic on 'Success and Challenges With Writing the Final Paper' would be welcome and is encouraged.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course you will:

  • Have the knowledge and skills to write an original paper or project report 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 final paper/project faculty adviser). The final document can be in the form of a project report or 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 or project report outline.
  • Develop a plan to carry out research or analysis appropriate for the final paper or project report.
  • Organize findings and the plan to write an acceptable final paper or project report.
  • When possible, facilitate the learning of your fellow students by reading and offering suggestions on drafts of their writing.
  • Develop a plan for working with your adviser and committee to finish your paper.

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 toward completing their final paper or project for the MPS in community and economic development. Most students take this course more than once. The MPS final paper or project report is more in-depth than a class paper. It requires a clear problem statement and justification, a more substantial literature review and can involve data collection and analysis, and must include implications of the work for practice or policy.

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

Students will be assigned an 'R' grade until they have defended their final paper. At this point, the adviser and committee will assign a final grade for the MPS paper. This grade will then be assigned to this course.

The materials below are provided for your use during the semester. You are not expected to redo the work you already have completed on your MPS paper. Pick up wherever you left off the last time you took the course.

Introduction and Developing Your Topic

Introduction and Overview, Plagiarism and Research Protections


We start the course by renewing our familiarity with the online environment and learning about the requirements for the MPS final paper or project. Which option you choose depends on the nature of the project you are interested in completing.

We then focus our attention on reading about the types and components of final papers/projects and reviewing materials about fair use of others' work (plagiarism) and human subject's protection. Most importantly, you will begin to formulate the topic and justification for the topic you plan to address for your final paper or project. This includes thinking about how to frame the topic in a way that facilitates the process of identifying and reviewing relevant literature and developing strategies to write the paper.

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

  • why it is important and
  • what we will learn related to community and economic development as a result of the work you will do in completing the paper/project.

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 MPS paper or project report is accepted by your faculty committee. Faculty committee review most often occurs after you have completed CEDEV 596.

As will be noted in the readings, staying focused will be much easier if you are able to frame your project in terms of a question or questions you hope to answer. Be sure to communicate early and regularly with the course coordinator about the requirements for your paper. The most common difficulty students have in this course is identifying a paper or project topic that is manageable. We can help you with finding the right balance. If you have not identified a faculty adviser, the course coordinator will work with you to identify an appropriate faculty adviser once you have identified a topic for your final paper/project report.

Required Readings

Turabian. 2013:

Overview, pp. 3-4; Chapter 1, pp. 5-11. "What research is and how researchers think about it."

If you have time, it will be very helpful to skim through Chapters 2 through 12 and 15, so you have a sense of the entire process of preparing the paper.

Read through the information on the following websites (within the course content):

  • Guidelines for Preparing the Community and Economic Development Paper/Project Report
  • CITI Training on the Protection of Human Research Participants
  • Resource on Plagiarism

Developing Your Capstone Paper/Project Topic


The most important step in completing your capstone paper or project is selecting the topic. In this instance, you want a topic that you find interesting and relevant to community and economic development, so interesting that you are willing to devote hours of work to learning about, understanding, and writing about it.

The topic should be neither too broad, nor too narrow. In order to focus your paper, it is important to be able to identify or state a question that your paper will address. You need to be able to clearly state:

  1. what the question or issue is,
  2. why you want to examine this topic,
  3. what will be learned related to community and economic development from your paper or project, and
  4. why it should matter to others.

Required Readings

Turabian. 2013:

Chapter 2, pp. 12-23. "Moving from a Topic to a Question to a Working Hypothesis."

Chapter 6, pp. 62-70 "Planning a First Draft."

Preparing the Literature Review

Reviewing the Literature—Introduction


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 that knowledge and understanding is through reading and evaluating the literature related to a topic.

Many of the topics you will address in your papers will be applied in nature, rather than focusing on conceptual or theoretical 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.

These reports, descriptions, and evaluations of programs 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.

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."

Searching for and Using Appropriate Literature


Once your topic has been refined and a sufficient number of descriptors and synonyms have been determined, you are ready to begin to search the literature. Remember that the search process is constantly being refined and updated. As you find references, you may discover the topic is too large or too small. You will also find other issues emerging that could redirect your goals for the paper.

Organizing and Writing Your Literature Review


One of the more difficult tasks in preparing a paper/report is organizing the literature you have found so that it is most useful to you. As you read each paper, be sure to note the most important concepts and points. It also can be helpful to make notes to yourself about how and where (in what part of your paper) you would use the information.

Some literature provides important support for the question you are asking and it offers insight into a process or successful strategy. Because much of what you read is likely to contribute to your paper in multiple ways, it is important to be thinking early about the different parts of your paper.

The idea of developing a storyboard (described in Chapter 2), that provides a strategy to begin to organize ideas and related literature can be very helpful in sorting your notes and ideas so that they can be used effectively. Regardless of the type of paper or project you are completing, be thinking about the full paper (theory and key concepts, empirical studies that have been completed, how you plan to carry out your work) as you identify, read and organize the literature.

Required Readings

Turabian. 2013:

Chapter 5, pp. 48-61 "Planning Your Argument."

Chapter 6, pp. 62-70 "Planning a First Draft." (yes, again)

Planning to Finish Your MPS Final Paper or Project Report

Finishing Up


The steps completed up until this point will have provided you with the outline to complete your capstone paper. The effort required to finish the paper will vary with the type of paper. These last weeks of the course should be spent expanding on your ideas for each section of the final paper or project report so that you have a clear idea of your plan for completing it.

Your final paper or project will likely require that you find, analyze, and interpret empirical information about your topic that aids in understanding how the topic/issue applies in a particular setting or situation. This may be existing information or information that you collect yourself. Collecting your own data (e.g., conducting interviews, administering a survey) may take longer than using existing information/data (e.g., data from the U.S. Census of Population and Housing), so be sure to notify the course coordinator if this is your intent. Please be in contact with your adviser and the course coordinator as you plan for these final weeks of the course. Your course coordinator and faculty adviser will comment on drafts of sections of your paper or project as you work on them. Don't feel that you have to have complete versions before sending them for comment/review. If you are not sure how to proceed with your paper, the best thing you can do is to contact the course coordinator or your faculty adviser for assistance.

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." And 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 final paper or project report. As indicated earlier, most people are not able to complete the MPS final paper or project report in one semester. The instructor for the course will contact your faculty adviser to obtain input about the progress you have made toward completing your final paper this semester.

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
E-mail Discussions 100
TOTAL: 100

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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