Benefits of the project model capstone: Key experience themes for journalism students

  • Kathryn Shine Curtin University, Perth
Keywords: Australia, capstone units, COVID-19, employability, employment, internships, journalism education, life skills, project journalism, soft skills


Capstone units are culminating experiences typically offered in the final semester of a tertiary degree. Capstones are common across higher education, and are increasingly being offered in university journalism programs. However, there is no consensus about the most effective capstone for journalism. At least three models have been identified: the project, the newsroom simulation and the internship. While traditionally popular, the newsroom simulation and internship models have certain limitations, some of which have become more pronounced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journalism educators see merit in the project model but it is not widely used. To date, there has been a lack of research about how journalism students respond to the various capstone options. The study presented here makes a contribution to this field by describing graduating students’ feedback about a new project model capstone unit offered through an Australian journalism undergraduate program. It describes some of the key themes to emerge from survey responses from three cohorts of graduating students. The project experience was found to enhance both tradecraft and transferable ‘life skills’, and helped many students feel more prepared to enter the workforce. The project shows significant promise as a valid alternative capstone experience for journalism students.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...


Apgar, D. (2019). Conceptualization of capstone experiences: Examining their role in social work education. Social Work Education, 38(2), 143-158. DOI:

Shine, K., & Cullen, T. (2019). Student responses to a new project model capstone unit in journalism. Australian Journalism Review, 41(2), 241-255. DOI:

Bennett, D. (2019). Graduate employability and higher education: Past, present and future. HERDSA Review of Higher Education, 5, 31-61.

Cullen, T. (2016). Journalism capstone units based on agreed principles and standards. Pacific Journalism Review, 22(2), 172-184. DOI:

Cullen, T. (2017). Capstone units and the transition from university to professional life. Australian Journalism Review, 39(1), 89-98.

Funston, A., & Lee, N. (2014). The graduating project: A cross-disciplinary inquiry-based capstone in arts. In Inquiry-based learning for faculty and institutional development: A conceptual and practical resource for educators. Emerald Group Publishing Limited. DOI:

Gill, R. J. (2020). Graduate employability skills through online internships and projects during the COVID-19 pandemic: An Australian example. Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability, 11(1), 146–158. DOI:

Glitsos, L. (2021). World-ready: A journalism capstone unit model with international focus in a pandemic and post-pandemic landscape. Asia Pacific Media Educator, 31(1), 19-33. DOI:

Hauhart, R. C., & Grahe, J. E. (2015). Designing and teaching undergraduate capstone courses. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Hora, M., Chen, Z., Parrott, E., & Her, P. (2020). Problematizing college internships: Exploring issues with access, program design and developmental outcomes. International Journal of Work-Integrated Learning, 21(3), 235-252. DOI:

Hovorka, A. J. (2009). A capstone course of ‘geographic ideas’. Journal of Geography, 108(6), 252-258. DOI:

Ivison, D. (2015, August 24). Five things to think about when choosing a university course. The Conversation.

Kuh, G. D. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them, and why they matter. American Association of Colleges and Universities.

Lee, N. (2015). Common types of capstone curriculum.

Lee, N., & Loton, D. (2015). Capstone curriculum across disciplines: Synthesising theory, practice and policy to provide practical tools for curriculum design. Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching.

Lee, N., & Loton, D. (2019). Capstone purposes across disciplines. Studies in Higher Education, 44(1), 134-150. DOI:

Schwering, R. E. (2015). Optimizing learning in project-based capstone courses. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 19(1), 90.

Succi, C., & Canovi, M. (2020). Soft skills to enhance graduate employability: comparing students and employers’ perceptions. Studies in Higher Education, 45(9), 1834-1847. DOI:

Tanner, S. J., O’Donnell, M., Cullen, T., & Green, K. (2013). Graduate qualities and journalism curriculum renewal: Balancing tertiary expectations and industry needs in a changing environment. Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts—Papers.

Valencia-Forrester, F. (2020). Models of work-integrated learning in journalism education. Journalism Studies, 21(5), 697-712. DOI:

Zheng, Y., & Bluestein, S. (2021). Motivating students to do internships: A case study of undergraduate students’ internship experiences, problems, and solutions. Teaching Journalism & Mass Communication, 11(1), 49-60.

PJR icon
How to Cite
Shine, K. (2023). Benefits of the project model capstone: Key experience themes for journalism students. Pacific Journalism Review : Te Koakoa, 29(1 & 2), 167-180.