All course information is listed within this syllabus.

EMGT 894: Capstone Experience — Project (6 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 six 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 McDill
Associate Professor of Forest Management

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

Office Phone: 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 taking the course for six credits will write a proposal of the analysis they plan to do, including any new data to be collected. The proposal will include specific benchmarks toward the completion of the project. The proposal will also include a description of potential Research Integrity issues that may arise in the implementation of their project. The proposal will be reviewed and approved by an advisory committee consisting of the student's advisor and at least one other Penn State faculty member. The student will provide a brief progress report upon completion of each benchmark.

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,
  • carry out a project related to their chosen issue,
  • analyze and interpret information from their literature review and their project, and
  • communicate their findings and support their conclusions.

Course Outline

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

  1. Getting Started and Course Expectations
  2. Developing Your Topic
    1. Draft project proposal (topic/objectives) (2%)
  3. Plagiarism and Research Ethics
    1. Plagiarism and Research Ethics Quiz (2%)

Module 2: Literature Review (3 weeks)

  1. Use of the library; how to cite sources
  2. Annotated bibliography (3%)
  3. Preliminary literature review (3%)
  4. Final literature review (5%)

Module 3: Planning Your Project (5 weeks)

  1. Methods outline (2%)
  2. Initial project proposal with methods (3%)
  3. Final project proposal with methods (5%)
  4. Oral Presentation of Proposal (5%)

Module 4: Carrying Out Your Project (10 weeks)

  1. Project benchmark 1 (6%)
  2. Project benchmark 2 (7%)
  3. Project benchmark 3 (7%)
  4. Project benchmark 4 (7%)

Module 5: Writing the Paper (8 weeks)

  1. Detailed paper outline (4%)
  2. Initial draft project paper (4%)
  3. Second draft project paper (10%)
  4. Final project paper (15%)

Module 6: Final Project Presentation (10%) (2 weeks)

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

Table 1: Timing of module completion for all possible 6-credit sequences
Semester 6 Credits* 2+2+2 Credits 1+3+2 Credits 2+3+1 Credits
1 Modules 1–4c Modules 1–3 Modules 1–2 Modules 1–3
2 Modules 4d–6 Modules 4–5b Modules 3–5b Modules 4–5c
3 N.A. Modules 5c–6 Modules 5c–6 Modules 5d–6

*Credit sequences (e.g., 2+2+2 means 2 credits in semester 1, 2 credits in semester 2, and 2 credits in semester 3)

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 6 credits.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Weight
Draft Project Proposal (Topic and Objectives) 2%
Plagiarism and Ethics Quiz 2%
Annotated Bibliography 3%
First Draft of Literature Review 3%
Final Literature Review 5%
Project Proposal Outline 2%
Draft Project Proposal 3%
Final Project Proposal 5%
Project Proposal Presentation 5%
Progress Report #1 6%
Progress Report #2 7%
Progress Report #3 7%
Progress Report #4 7%
Paper Outline 4%
First Draft of Paper 4%
Second Draft of Paper 10%
Final Draft of Paper 15%
Final Project Presentation 10%
TOTAL: 100%
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.

Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on the 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.

Accessibility Information

  • Accessibility statement for Canvas.


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.

Support Services

As a World Campus student, you have access to a variety of services and resources, including advising, tutoring, library services, career services, and more. Please visit the World Campus Student Services page for more information.

If you experience technology problems of any kind in Canvas, please select the Help icon and select "Report a Canvas Problem," "Chat with Support," or "Call Support." It is in your own best interest to be as specific as you possibly can. Vague descriptions of a problem only delay assistance. Try to include information such as: the specific course page, quiz question, etc. you were on; what you attempted to do when that failed; the exact language of any error message displayed on your screen; the date and time when your problem occurred; and any other pertinent information (does the problem happen consistently and always in the same way, etc.).

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.