Ultimate Nursing Capstone Project Writing Guide for BSN - DNP Students

Last Updated: 02 December 2021

How to write a Nursing Capstone Paper

Every nursing student in most universities and nursing colleges must write a capstone paper or a capstone project, which is considered a mandatory requirement for attaining a nursing degree. Capstone projects are written by students pursuing BSN, MSN, or DNP nursing education degrees.

While it is a culminating paper, which relies on concepts taught throughout school sessions, some students often find it challenging to complete one. Moreover, it is an even more frustrating assignment if you have no skills to compose a good capstone project paper.

A nursing capstone project requires adequate research, a display of creativity and critical thinking skills, and proper formatting. It is the final paper you undertake before eventually gaining eligibility to work. This means that some tips and strategies can work well, and others can lead to complete failure.

We cover all the aspects of nursing capstone project writing strategies, processes, and tips to help you attain confidence as you settle down to write your capstone project. We will also cover some pitfalls that often lead to capstone project failures and how to avoid them. So let's dive right in, won't we?

What is a nursing Capstone Paper?

A nursing capstone paper is a formal academic paper that a nursing student writes in the final year of their studies. It is a research paper, evidence-based paper, outcome-based evaluation, program or policy analysis, case study, or a survey at the end of nursing training.

When writing a capstone paper, you can be required to propose solutions to distinct health issues relating to nursing practice, depending on your area of study. In many cases, you are required to apply evidence-based practice skills in solving healthcare problems. For example, you can choose to develop a new intervention strategy to promote health, enhance the quality of life, improve healthcare outcomes, and improve patient safety and satisfaction levels.

Generally, the goal of the capstone is to test how well-versed you are in applying the experiential and research evidence in solving the chosen healthcare issue. For this, you need to relate the topics to leadership, research, management, theories, frameworks, and evidence-based practice.

And when done with the capstone, a student has to present the paper to a faculty panel, which is often referred to as defending the capstone project. Sometimes, it is about strategies to help one transition through nursing education.

Are you stuck with what to write your nursing capstone about? Read our article that presents a list of 300 plus capstone project ideas for BSN, MSN, and DNP.

Although not every nursing program requires a capstone, those that make it mandatory as partial fulfillment for attaining a nursing degree culminate to either bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

Basic Structure for Nursing Capstone Paper

Notably, each nursing program sets its requirements. This means that the capstone formats may differ depending on the programs. However, being a formal evidence-based practice paper or presentation, there is a standard format for the structure that you can follow if none is given. Therefore, in most cases, you will find minimal variations to the format that we are about to present.

With that in mind, you need to note that a well-crafted capstone paper generally gives an excellent first impression to your markers and makes it easy to read your paper. We will be brief on each section because most of the information will be given in the capstone project instruction briefs given in class.

Note that this is a structured research-based nursing capstone project. Therefore, we have a separate article that details the structure of a change-based nursing capstone paper, aka nursing change paper.

Title Page

The title page of your capstone paper comes first before anything else. In most cases, it is referred to as the cover page. You can formulate it either on an APA or Harvard title page. Most American nursing schools prefer capstone papers written in APA. In contrast, Australian and UK nursing schools prefer capstone projects written in Harvard format.


This is the first part of the content of your nursing capstone project paper. It is usually brief, well-written, and organized as your capstone flows. It should be written last. You should focus on explaining the purpose of the capstone paper. It should be between 200 and 250 words long and must not exceed a page. Also, provide a brief background of your capstone paper topic, the problem, and some proposed solutions.


Your introduction should begin with a good hook statement. Then, in most cases, use statistics or a shocking statement to draw your reader's attention. For instance, if you focus on Hospital Acquired Infections, you could draw from a study or publication detailing the shocking HAIs or the cost of managing otherwise preventable HAIs.

The introduction should then delve into the background of the selected capstone paper topic, why you chose it, and why you feel your issue needs solutions. You should also state your thesis statement and the outline of the paper.

Typically, the thesis statement of a capstone paper is the main idea that holds together the entire capstone.

Some programs recommend that you give a blueprint of the entire capstone in the introduction.

In terms of length, the introduction should be approximately 10% of the total word count of the capstone paper. Your introduction will also entail:

PICOT Question

Before researching for a nursing capstone paper, you are always required to formulate a nursing PICOT question that helps decide on the topic you will address. Typically, PICOT questions elaborately present the healthcare problem that you are trying to solve. 

Nursing Research Question

Based on your PICOT question, you should proceed to write a nursing research question that will form the core of your paper. It is usually a one-sentence question that summarizes your PICOT question. Some programs require students to develop PICOT questions and the nursing research question before proceeding to the other parts of the capstone paper. Sometimes, the research question replaces the PICOT question with the case where you focus on issues where patients are not involved, such as nurse education, leadership, policies, and management.

Statement of the problem

Because in a general sense, you are trying to address a healthcare issue relating to nurse practice, you must describe the problem. Here, you should use the most recent sources published within the last five years to describe the extent of the problem. For example, give the epidemiological statistics, costs of the issue, or how a given population of patients is affected. If you focus on research in management, leadership, or education, clearly state the identified problem.

Statement of Purpose

In this mini section, which sometimes is considered part of the introduction, you state the objectives, aims, and scope of your capstone project paper. For example, if you propose an evidence-based intervention, you should mention how it will address the problem.

Literature Review

After the problem statement, purpose statement, nursing research question, and introduction come the literature review. A literature review is not an annotated bibliography. Instead, when writing this section, consider what other scholars have discussed concerning the topic you have selected for your capstone paper.

For instance, if you are solving a problem with overcrowding at the emergency departments, you should check what authors of peer-reviewed scholarly articles published in the last five years have to say about the gravity of the issue, some interventions, and barriers to these interventions.

Ensure that you use studies that are relevant to your research, mostly journal articles. As a good tip, always look at the strongest level of evidence when writing a nursing paper. Again, some institutions will require that you conduct a literature search before writing the literature review and fill a table or matrix that covers the aspects of the selected studies.

Through the nursing capstone preceptor, other programs might require you first to complete an annotated bibliography of your main sources. Whichever the case, your literature review should be critical. Cross-compare what the authors agree on and what they disagree on, then draw a common ground to base your paper. Literature reviews can be written as a stand-alone paper for compilation as the last step. Finally, you bring all the independent papers together to form a whole capstone project paper.

One more thing, the literature review can also contain the theories or frameworks that you are basing the capstone on. When writing your capstone, you can use nursing or borrowed theories, leadership frameworks/theories, and other healthcare models. What you choose depends on the inclination of your capstone and directions from your professor, supervisor, or preceptor.

Methods and Material

This section should detail all the materials you have used when researching for your capstone. For example, if you were doing a quantitative capstone project, list the sampling strategies, the samples, the inclusion and exclusion criteria, and the process you used when researching. You should also list how you incorporated research ethics. If, for instance, you chose to do a qualitative nursing capstone project, list the search strategy you applied, inclusion and exclusion criteria, the number of articles used, include the completed PRISMA diagram, and any other materials used. You can as well include the summary of the chosen studies. Give the rationale that is well-backed with references from nursing journals why you chose a given path. Explain how you conducted the research, how you maintained its rigor, validity, and relevance. If you analyzed data using SPSS or R programs, state how you did that.

Results and Discussion

In the results and discussion section, you will present the findings from the research. If you conducted an experiment, report the results and the analysis. For instance, for a statistical nursing capstone project, use tables, graphs, and charts to report the findings. Include the results of the tests and analysis as well. If it is qualitative research, describe the findings from the interviews, content analysis, systematic review, literature review, or other qualitative data collection and analysis methods.

You should then relate the findings to what other scholars found, reflecting on the literature review and your capstone paper topic. Again, use relevant scholarly sources such as edited books, reputable journals, periodicals, nursing guidelines and protocols, and evidence from credible websites like WHO, CDC, ANA, AMA, and other health/governmental bodies.


Like every other paper, the conclusion comes last. It is the final summary of your paper where you present the problem, findings, discussions, and recommendations in brief. You should present some of the limitations of the current research and recommendations for future studies. If you had experimental data, elaborate on its significance.

You should show your writing skills in this section. For example, show that you started with a problem, but now you have a solution.  If there are recommendations, briefly state them because the bulk of their explanation is in the discussion section.


In this section, list all the sources you have used in alphabetical order. You can use APA or Harvard, depending on the prompt from your professor. Make sure you use the most recent formatting style, for example, APA7 instead of APA6, unless directed otherwise.


Here is where you present the figures, diagrams, tables, and other relevant materials mentioned in your capstone project. For example, it could be an implementation plan, Memo, data gathered from participants, ethics/consent forms, systematic review summary, or evidence level tables.

That there is a basic structure of a nursing capstone paper. Now, let's look at some strategies you can use to speed up the writing process.

Valuable Tips for writing an A+ Grade Nursing Capstone Paper

As a culminating paper, you want to give a solid formal paper that will provide you with an edge as you transition to practice. In addition, you will have this paper in your nursing portfolio. Therefore, it must be a nursing capstone paper that you will forever be proud of. As you put the recommendations across, you need to use the tips from our experts to make sure you appeal to your markers.

Given that we have guided many students through BSN, MSN, and DNP nursing capstone projects, we are always confident in the expertise of our writers. Our nursing capstone writing service is known widely for being the most important gap between a student and preceptor. When the latter is MIA, we swing to action and assist. You can find an online nursing capstone tutor today to help you as you write your nursing capstone assignment. When we sought out how these professionals could produce model nursing capstone papers, they gave us insights that are summarized below.

1. Choose a good nursing capstone paper topic

The process of selecting a suitable topic for a nursing capstone paper can be tiring, confusing, and intimidating. Therefore, our experts advise that you should evaluate your strengths, weaknesses, and professional interests. For example, you cannot choose a geriatric-based topic when you want to specialize in family practice; it would be incongruent by all means.

Besides, if you are a lazy researcher or not so great at researching, we recommend that you select the basic medical-surgical, leadership, management, and practice-oriented topics. However, if you trust your research skills, go for topics relating to intensive care, outpatients, clinical services, public health, long-term care, geriatrics, Ob-Gyn, pediatrics, NICU, end of life, cancer care, etc.

To choose the best capstone project topic for your nursing practice, we recommend that you:


You need to reflect on your entire nursing training program simply. First, consider the topics from class, lessons, and other activities that specifically stood out. Next, consider some of the examples your professors gave on Blackboard discussion posts and responses. List these topics and formulate preliminary research questions that can inform the scope of your capstone project. Then, narrow it down to a few areas that specifically interest you.

Research and read widely

With a list of the potential capstone paper topics, you can further read and research online. Check whether the area has been written about before. Assess whether credible high-level and high-quality materials can be used to back arguments in your paper. Hypothesize the structure of the paper if you selected a given topic. If the topic is an assignment, choose a topic that meets the requirements. Go beyond your coursework and choose relevant topics that your instructor can accept.

Check previous nursing capstone examples

As you read about the topic, you can further narrow down your list by looking at previously done capstone projects samples. If you are a BSN student, look at the published MSN and BSN capstone projects online. Some universities are so generous to publish capstone projects completed by their students. You can use them to narrow down your list and format your paper. 

Eliminate and choose

Eliminate the topics to that single one that you will focus on. Based on your objective for the capstone paper, cross your list and remain with the super topic. Enlist some of the areas your topic addresses and assess whether it meets the capstone topic requirements from class. Refine it and present it for feedback before delving into further research, analysis, and writing.

Consult widely

Ask your preceptors, faculty, fellow students, and professors for assistance with the topic. Narrow down to a capstone project on a nursing area that interests you. When selecting your capstone site, you should also consider the facility size, care delivery model, patient populations, or geographic locations. With the approval of your capstone counselor or preceptor, you will be sure that you are writing something that will be accepted.

2. Write your nursing project proposal early enough

Once you have an approved title, it is the right time to write a research proposal. The proposal is required, by some nursing programs, before your topic is approved or immediately after. The proposal writing process is often an excellent professional chance to get feedback from your professor. However, if not planned well, the process can consume much of your time.

Ensure that your research proposal includes:

If you proactively approach your nursing capstone project, you will be ahead of schedule. You will also use parts of the proposal when writing the final capstone project submission.

3. Have an outline before beginning to write

With the topic approved, the next step is to plan your capstone project. Some institutions will require that you write a nursing capstone proposal with all the parts we covered in the structure except the conclusion, discussion, and findings. Instead, you will have an implementation and evaluation plan, capstone project timeline, and ethics or limitations sections.

Assuming the proposal and/or the topic is approved, draw a good outline for your nursing capstone paper. Another assumption is that you are doing the paper as a whole and not in bits. Doing the capstone in bits allows for instant feedback, improvement, and then writing the project progressively. An outline should be a roadmap of the entire project. Just list what will go to the structure we already provided above.

4. Research widely for good sources

With everything in place, look for the relevant scholarly sources to help you develop your capstone project topic. Check for materials published in the last five years. Some nursing institutions recommend the past seven years, but five is excellent. Checkbooks, articles, peer-reviewed journals, or credible websites that meet the CRAAP test.

Consider the primary sources as they allow you to develop ideas based on actual facts compared to secondary sources that report findings. If possible, use primary sources as they have primary facts and data. You should read widely. Allocate a lot of time in research to develop ideas. Take notes, synthesize, and then apply. Paraphrase, summarize, and quote but remember to use the correct in-text citations. You can use the online bibliography management tools to categorize, organize, and store your references.

5. Formulate a good thesis statement

A strong thesis statement is a fortress for your nursing capstone paper. It should communicate what the entire paper is about at a glance. Define the point of view that your paper bears and express it as a single main idea. It must be persuasive, genuine, and direct. It should resonate with the entire capstone paper. All the major sections relate to your thesis statement.

6. Write your introduction, conclusion, and abstract last

Although beginning with the introduction likely looks like the norm and a good idea, if done last in a capstone paper, you capture every useful aspect without repetition. Of course, the conclusion will be written last by default, but you should do that after all the parts are complete.

We insist on doing them last because while they both create an impression to a reader, they are the most challenging to write. So, if possible, take a break from writing and do them when you are rested enough and settled.

These sections address your research question. They should flow naturally. The introduction should be the first contact point after the abstract. Therefore, make it engaging by choosing good transitions, hook sentences, and words to use. The conclusion should summarize the main points, such as the problems, solutions, and findings.

7. Cite all the sources used

As you set out to write the paper, ensure that you cite all the sources used in your nursing capstone paper in APA or Harvard formats. The preferred format will be communicated in the assignment brief. Do not use a source and not cite it both in-text and in the bibliography section. Using sources and citing them helps you write a plagiarism-free nursing capstone paper. When you paraphrase, summarize, or quote, use a relevant citation.

8. Proofread thoroughly

Polish your capstone project paper for mistakes, errors, and omissions. Also, look at the structure, format, organization, and all the requirements met. Revise the complex sentences and vocabulary for a better flow. It is also important to remove all spelling mistakes and punctuation errors. Edit for grammar as well to ensure that the tenses are correct. We recommend taking a good break after writing to edit later. This way, you edit and proofread the paper objectively. Check all the rules of citation and match the requirements. If possible, use the rubric as your checklist and score sheet. Ask yourself, if you were the one marking, what grade would you give? Then use a reverse method of editing and proofreading the nursing capstone project paper.

9. Submit your paper for assessments and feedback

If and only if everything is polished and written to the format as per the rubric/instructions, attach your paper and click the "SUBMIT" button for assessment and feedback. This is specifically useful if you complete the capstone project in parts and get feedback before proceeding to the next section.

10. Refine the capstone project paper based on feedback

With the feedback from your receptor, instructor, counselor, or professor, edit the respective capstone sections. Polishing these means that your final products will be okay. Then, again, compile everything; in the end, polish it and submit it as one whole capstone paper for your nursing course. Furthermore, we wish you all the best and are available to help if you need help writing the nursing capstone paper.

Things to avoid during nursing capstone writing

A capstone project paper takes a long to complete. During these periods, students often get comfortable, some to the extent of abandoning the capstone writing process. The most part of the process is topic and research proposal approval. Ensure that you collaborate with your preceptor to hasten the process so that you are left with ample time to complete the paper. With the approval, students often make these common mistakes that we address here. Read them, understand how to overcome them, and apply the tips and strategies in your upcoming nursing capstone project paper.

1. Not reading the instructions to completion

Most students consistently disregard the instructions either deliberately or because they are in too much hurry to get their nursing capstone project paper done and over with. However, you should read the capstone paper instructions before choosing a topic, writing the different parts, or compiling the final paper. You also need to adhere to the presentation instructions; otherwise, your entire semester's work can be blown by a simply avoidable mistake.

2. Beginning to research or writing without Planning

Without proper planning, most students fall prey to beginning to write their capstone papers only to realize that they made a mistake. The capstone writing process is a journey that commences from choosing a topic and getting approval. You can then proceed to write a capstone project proposal which can be approved or returned for polishing. After all these, you can then move to write your final capstone paper. Do not begin writing the paper unless your professor or preceptor gives you the go-ahead to do so.

3. Choosing a topic that is too broad

When assigned to choose an appropriate nursing topic for their capstone projects, for lack of better skills, some students choose too broad topics that they cannot exhaust in one paper. Remember, you have about 20 to 30 pages of content to develop your capstone paper. It is no time to beat around the bush. Because your grades also depend on it, choose a suitable topic that addresses a specific issue with a specific population, geographical area, or clinical site.

4. Using long sentences and jargon

This is a no-brainer. You should not use long sentences alone when writing your capstone. Instead, try to mix the long and short sentences to create a meaningful flow of ideas. Equally, even though you are writing a nursing paper, avoid using unnecessary jargon. If you can explain it in simple English and make sense, write it that way. The goal is to communicate with your audience better and easily.

5. Writing the paper in a rush

Writing a paper in a rush, whether at the last minute or for the sake of completing it faster, can make you lose grades. A culminating paper like a capstone project requires adequate planning, execution, research, and writing. Writing a paper in a rush makes you write disorganized ideas. You are also prone to omitting otherwise essential features and parts that would likely give you better marks. As a remedy or mitigation, start working on your nursing capstone paper immediately after you are given the instructions. If there are weekly submissions to make, ensure that they are done and submitted on time. As well, ensure that you use the feedback from your preceptor, revise the papers, and submit them for assessments before proceeding to avoid doing things all over again.

6. Failing to proofread the paper

Nursing students are always organized, although they often forget the most important things when overwhelmed with assignments and work. If you have written an entire capstone paper, editing should be the least of your worries. However, failure to edit your capstone can make you lose marks. After writing the paper, always take a break and then schedule enough time to revise objectively, edit, and proofread the paper.

7. Not following the approved/recommended format

Do not write your paper in just any format. It is a common trap that most students fall to. Instead, plan and structure your paper as per the recommended format by your institution, preceptor, or professor. You can write an outline and then consult with your teacher if it is the best to follow or on areas you need to change.

8. Submitting the capstone paper late

Like other assignments, submitting a nursing capstone later than the deadline can make you lose marks. Unless you have a perfect reason for missing a submission, always strive to meet or beat the deadline. You can only do this through proper planning, consistently working on the capstone paper, and having a milestone tracker. Once you have completed everything, you will appreciate the value of a timely submitted and well-written nursing capstone paper.

9. Not editing based on feedback

We have seen students who proceed to the next section of their capstone project without revising the previous section based on feedback from the preceptor or teacher. This is another great mistake, and you should avoid it. If you have been told to make corrections to your nursing capstone project, ask for help if you do not know how to go about it. Ask for clarifications and if your preceptor is busy or unavailable, consult with our nursing paper writers. Ensure that the next section continues from the previous section. You can only do that if the previous one had no issues.

10. Copying the online samples

A capstone project tests your creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, organization, and writing skills. If you fail to prove these, you will be a weak nurse in practice. One way of being weak is paraphrasing a sample nursing capstone project you got online.

While a handful of university and college websites display their capstone projects, you should only use them for inspiration. You are better at getting help from a professional capstone writer on our website than paraphrasing an entire capstone you got online. Who else from your class probably did that? Ask yourself that question. 

Only use the samples to inspire your creativity. Instead, working with an online tutor can help you create new insights based on these samples and those from class.

Tips for Creating a Nursing Capstone Presentation for Defense

Theresa Granger (Ph.D., MSN, NP-C), a career nurse educator, states that the capstone project culminates with either a presentation or a paper while writing for the Nurse Journal. The presentation is meant to assess your professional and civil communication skills. It is also meant for information dissemination to the stakeholders and application of the EBP skills. Primarily, you will present your nursing capstone paper as a poster or PowerPoint presentation.

In the case of a poster, you will present the background, problem, and purpose, the methodology, and your major findings and implications to nursing practice or research.

In the case of PPT or PowerPoint, you will present the summarized capstone project into respective sections and use speaker notes when presenting. Given that you might only have 15-30 minutes to defend your nursing capstone, you should create PowerPoint slides as per the requirements. In most cases, the PowerPoint can range from 12 to 20 slides.

When presenting:

FAQs about Nursing Capstone Project Writing Process

Pursuing your nursing education at MSN, BSN, and DNP can be stressful. We have received many questions concerning BSN, MSN, and DNP capstone writing process. Here are some answers that can probably clarify things for you as well.

Is a capstone project a thesis?

No, a thesis is different from a capstone project in the sense that nursing capstone projects are individualized research projects on a selected nursing topic of professional or personal interests. Capstones are a partial fulfillment for the attainment of a degree in nursing. Writing a capstone project takes 8-12 weeks, while a thesis can take 2-3 months. Capstones are written during the project-based nursing capstone course. While a capstone might not be published in research journals, a thesis can.

How does one write a perfect nursing capstone paper?

The capstone writing process takes 8-12 weeks culminating in a nursing capstone project paper that you will present or defend. To write an excellent capstone paper:

These are the basic steps in writing and doing research for your capstone.

What do I write as the purpose statement for my capstone?

Under the purpose statement, reflect on the healthcare issue of choice, create an urgency of solving it, and support your reasoning using rationale and evidence from relevant academic sources. In addition, you should look at the status quo and identify things that otherwise need to be addressed.

Can you fail a capstone project? What happens if you fail your capstone?

Yes, you can fail if you do not meet the learning objectives. Students who fail are those who do the things we have said are to be avoided when writing a capstone project. If you fail your capstone course, you will not be legible for the conferral of a degree. You will need to rethink your way or retake the class. You would instead get professional writing help than fail after investing so much money into your nursing education.

How can I select a good capstone topic for my nursing degree?

Like we said, read widely, assess your interests, strengths, and weaknesses, and consult with your preceptor, instructor, or professor. Then, as you choose the question, ask yourself:

  1. What is your professional practice projection in the next ten years?
  2. What topic area are you passionate about?
  3. What did you learn during your practicum or other class sessions?
  4. Is the nursing issue of interest fascinating to you?
  5. Can you write an entire 20-30 pages on the selected topic?
  6. Are there adequate sources to support your literature review?

To select a topic:

Ultimately, find a topic you are passionate about and one that aligns with your interests, abilities, and strengths. Consider ye organizational goals as well.

How do I write a great literature review for my nursing capstone?

Begin by doing a literature search on what exists on your topic. Review the evidence-based research so that you can identify the gaps in practice to prove that your nursing capstone project is necessary. Here are some tips:

How do I format my nursing capstone?

When writing your final nursing capstone submission, you should either use APA or Harvard formatting style. Ensure that it is free of typographical errors, spelling mistakes, and grammatical errors. In addition, ensure that the in-text citations and the bibliography list/references are consistent with your chosen format.

How should I do my capstone oral presentation for success?

A nursing capstone defense process takes 30 minutes. You can present it via videoconferencing media, Poster, or PowerPoint slides. Make sure that you choose a professional tone and demonstrate expertise and knowledge in the nursing field. Discuss your findings effectively and audibly.


Whether your school uses a letter, marks, or pass/no pass grading system, these tips have already set you up for the best nursing capstone paper.

Every section of your nursing capstone matters. Try to make efforts to improve during capstone project writing.

Polish up everything, and if you have developed a cold foot for your nursing capstone, we have expert nursing writers who can always help.

You can place an order on our website and work with a dedicated capstone writer for consistency, continuity, and success. Everything will be written from scratch, and there is no chance of plagiarism.

Capstone projects can take 12 weeks, which can be a hell of a time for you, but not when working it out with one of our best capstone writers. We can equally work with you on your thesis to a professional level that meets the publication requirements for professional nursing journals.