All course information is listed within this syllabus.

EMGT 894: Capstone Experience — Paper (3 credits). Students develop an independent study project investigating an ecosystem management issue and write a paper describing their investigation and conclusions. This syllabus is for students planning to take the course for a total of three credits. Students taking the course for three credits will write a paper based on research of existing sources of information. The paper will clearly describe the ecosystem management issue, review literature relevant to the issue, identify potential ways to address the issue, and evaluate the pros and cons of possible solutions. Students taking the course for six credits will write a paper based on research of existing sources of information and based on original data or analysis carried out by the student. Their paper will clearly describe the ecosystem management issue, review literature relevant to the issue, identify potential ways to address the issue, describe the methods, data and results of their analysis, and evaluate the pros and cons of possible solutions.

Prerequisite: Completion of at least half of the courses (15 credits) toward the Master of Professional Studies program in ecosystem management and administration


Instructor for EMGT 894

Marc E. McDill, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Forest Management

Department of Ecosystem Science and Management
310 Forest Resources Building
University Park, PA 16802

Phone (Office): 814-865-1602
E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox

Research Interests

Forest management, forest management planning, forest inventory, deer-forest interactions, oak regeneration

Course Overview

This project is the culminating effort of the MPS degree program. In conjunction with their academic advisor, students will select a topic or issue in ecosystem management that they will independently investigate. The topic or issue could take the form of a case study, or for students with work experience in an ecosystem management field, it could be an issue they have dealt with or are currently working on. The investigation will require research and review of relevant scientific, technical literature, and gathering of information and data related to the topic. Students will demonstrate the ability to apply knowledge, principles, and methods learned in the required and elective courses that comprise the ecosystem management and administration MPS degree program.

Students will write a formal research paper. Students will assess and interpret the literature, information, and data. They will also present and defend their conclusions based on their research in an oral presentation. The presentation can be given online through a video conferencing application, such as Zoom. The student's advisor and at least one other Penn State faculty member will evaluate the student's paper and presentation.

Course Objectives

The Ecosystem Management Project is the culminating effort of students who complete the MPS degree. In this project students will demonstrate their ability to:

  • identify a problem or issue related to ecosystem management,
  • access information (publications and data) relevant to that issue,
  • analyze and interpret information from their literature review, and
  • communicate their findings and support their conclusions.

Course Outline

Module 1: What's a Master's Paper? (2 weeks)

Module 2: Plagiarism and Research Ethics (2 weeks)

Module 3: Paper Proposal (10%) (1 week)

Module 4: Writing Your Paper (8 weeks)

Module 5: Final Paper Presentation (15%) (2 weeks)

    Course Breakdown

    The course can be divided over up to 3 semesters. For students taking the course for three credits, modules can be split over up to three semesters as shown in Table 1.

    Table 1: Timing of module completion for all possible 3-credit sequences
    Semester 3 Credits* 2+1 Credits 1+2 Credits 1+1+1 Credits
    1 Modules 1–5 Modules 1–4c Modules 1–3 Modules 1–3
    2 N.A. Modules 4d–5 Modules 4–5 Modules 4a–c
    3 N.A. N.A. N.A. Modules 4d–5

    *Credit sequences (e.g., 2+1 means 2 credits in semester 1 and 1 credit in semester 2)

    Course Schedule

    Due dates depend on whether the student is taking the course for three or six credits and on their credit sequence (one, two, or three semesters). Students will be given a schedule with dates for module completion based on their situation on the first day of class.

    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: 978-0226239736
    Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., Williams, J. M., Bizup, J., & FitzGerald, W. T. (2016). The Craft of Research (4th ed., Ser. Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing). University of Chicago Press. (E-Book option available)

    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).

    E-Book Option

    An online version of one or more of your texts is available at no cost as a Penn State Library E-Book. Some E-Books will only be available online, while others will be available to download in full or in part. You may choose to use the E-Book as an alternative to purchasing a physical copy of the text. You can access the E-Book by selecting Library Resources in the Course Navigation Menu, and then selecting the E-Reserves link. For questions or issues, you can contact the University Libraries Reserve Help (UL-RESERVESHELP@LISTS.PSU.EDU).


    Assignments and their grading contributions are listed in the course outline above and in the Grading Policy below. Each student will have their own schedules for turning in assignments based on where they are in their credit sequence.

    Final Exam

    There is no final exam.

    Late Submission Policy

    This course has specific benchmarks, and each student is given a schedule for meeting each benchmark (schedules vary based on where a student is in their credit sequence). Students are responsible for meeting deadlines indicated in their schedule. The instructor will not inform students of missed deadlines. Assignments can be submitted at any time prior to the scheduled due date but will not be accepted for full credit after the scheduled deadline.

    Grading Policy

    Grades by assignment for students taking the course for 3 credits.

    The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

    Grading Criteria
    Requirement Point Value
    Week 1 Introductions 5
    Initial Paper Topic Proposal 50
    Ethics Case Study 45
    Plagiarism and Ethics Quiz 50
    Annotated Bibliography 50
    Preliminary Literature Review 50
    Final Literature Review 50
    Paper Proposal 100
    Paper Draft 1 100
    Paper Draft 2 150
    Final Draft 200
    Oral Presentation of Final Paper 150
    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.

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