All course information is listed within this syllabus.

CEDEV 596: Individual Studies (1, 2, 3, or 6 credits). 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
Coordinator, Community and Economic Development (CEDEV)

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:

  • Describe the requirements for your capstone project.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the capstone requirements in terms of purpose, size, acceptable foci, and sophistication.
  • Identify and explain the components of the final capstone project and defense.
  • Develop a plan for working with your adviser and committee to finish your paper.

Course Outline

Module 1 (Week 1): Introductions and Topic Summaries

Module 2 (Weeks 2–6): Getting to Work

Module 3 (Week 7): The Defense

Module 4 (Weeks 8–15): Editing Your Work

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.


M1 Assignment: Introduction and Topic Summaries

M1 Assignment: Communication Tool Exercises

M4 Assignment: E-mail Exercise

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 Grading
M1 Assignment: Introduction and Topic Summaries Complete/incomplete
M1 Assignment: Communication Tool Exercises Complete/incomplete
M4 Assignment: E-mail Exercise Complete/incomplete

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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