Scholarly Project

Each DNP student is required to complete a scholarly project based on their individual area of interest. The themes of all scholarly projects is the use of evidence to improve either practice or patient outcomes. DNP education focuses on the improvement of outcomes for aggregates, rather than individuals, and the implementation of systems change. Examples of DNP projects may include change initiatives represented by a pilot study or a program evaluation, a quality improvement project, an evaluation of a new practice model, a consulting project or an integrated critical literature review. Projects can take several forms, however are developed to meet the needs of the student’s specialty area, whether that be advanced practice, education, or administration. Examples of DNP scholarly projects can be found from the National Organization of Nurse Practitioner Faculties (NONPF).


The culminating work for the attainment of the DNP degree is the capstone project. Projects in the DNP program are heavily based on leadership, evidence-based practice, quality, improvement and patient safety. The project should be based on the achievement of at least one aspect of the triple aim: improved outcomes, decreased cost and improved satisfaction. The project process at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing (CON) is based on the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) DNP essentials as well as the DNP program objectives.

The Capstone project must:

  1. Demonstrate Scientific Underpinnings for Practice
  2. Incorporate Organizational and Systems Leadership for Quality Improvement and Systems Thinking
  3. Utilize Clinical Scholarship and Analytical Methods for Evidence-Based Practice
  4. Incorporate Information Systems/Technology and Patient Care Technology for the Improvement and Transformation of Health Care
  5. Consider Health Care Policy for Advocacy in Health Care
  6. Demonstrate Inter-professional Collaboration for Improving Patient and Population Health Outcomes
  7. Incorporate Clinical Prevention and Population Health for Improving the Nation’s Health
  8. Exemplify the role of Advanced Nursing Practice

Program objectives include:

  1. Provide and/or direct exemplary patient care within the scope of practice for the specialty
  2. Integrate nursing science with knowledge from biophysical, psychosocial, political, economic, organizational, and analytical sciences as the basis for the highest level of nursing practice
  3. Apply concepts related to clinical prevention in developing and evaluating interventions and programs to address health promotion/disease prevention efforts
  4. Demonstrate leadership for the delivery of ethical, safe, cost-effective, high quality health care through expert collaboration, consultation, analysis, and administration
  5. Develop quality programs designed to improve health care of individuals, populations, or society through the use of multidisciplinary teams
  6. Demonstrate the conceptual ability and technical skills to develop and execute an evaluation plan involving data extraction from clinical information
  7. Formulate strategies for the development of institutional, local, or national health policy.

DNP students are expected to begin the development of their practice questions in the first term of study and then continue the refinement of these ideas through the curriculum in classes such as Application of Advanced Clinical Reasoning, Planning, Management and Evaluation and then in three sequential practicum courses. The capstone project involves an integrative review of scientific literature related to a clinical question, development of an innovative approach based on available scientific evidence, and development of a plan for the implementation and evaluation of the innovative approach. The emphasis of the capstone project is on utilizing and implementing available best evidence rather than on generating new knowledge.

Each student will have a committee consisting of the student, the student’s advisor, and a nurse leader who is an expert in the subject of the capstone project. A publishable paper and an oral presentation with question and answer session will be required. Final approval of the project, presentation, and paper by the student’s committee is required. Students are pair with CON faculty in their area of interest to assist and guide the student through the program.

Scholarly Project Committee

Students are assigned advisors upon admission to the DNP program. Advisors are responsible for academic advising as well as capstone project advisement.  Advisors, in partnership with students, work to gather a committee to assist the student in completion of capstone project. Each committee must have at least two members inclusive of the chair, one of which is faculty of the University of Cincinnati and hold doctoral degrees in their areas of expertise. Students can select one member from outside the University. Student complete a committee appointment form that verifies participation in the committee by all members.

The Scholarly Project committee is responsible for the following activities:

  • Assisting the DNP student in identifying an area of inquiry within their practice specialty and begin exploring concepts related to evidence of a problem or need within that area of inquiry
  • Facilitating the IRB process with the review of the Capstone Project Proposal
  • Discussing the integrative review of the literature as it pertains to the evidence related to the problem area of inquiry
  • Assisting in the development of a scholarly project which addresses evidence-based solutions designed to improve outcomes within the area of inquiry
  • Providing support, guidance, mentorship in the implementation of the Capstone Project
  • Assisting the DNP student in the evaluation of the Capstone Project process and outcomes as it translates into clinical practice
  • Facilitating the dissemination of the project findings through a formal presentation and defense of the project to the College of Nursing
  • Facilitating the preparation of a scholarly journal article for publication in a peer-reviewed journal

Practicum Courses

Practicum courses begin the second term of full time study in the CON DNP program. Practicum courses are not didactic in nature, instead focusing on the planning, implementation and evaluation of practice based problems.

Each practicum should include:

  1. Hours Documentation
    • Using Numbers
    • Submitted at end of practicum course via Evernote
  2. No fewer than 2 committee meetings:
    • Meetings should be spaced through the semester appropriately; students must conduct one meeting prior to midterm and one prior to end of term
    • Documentation of meetings
    • Meetings have set agendas
    • Meeting will document progress and next steps
    • Meeting will be attended by student and chair, at minimum; if remaining committee members are unavailable, minutes must be distributed to those member
  3. Timeline Development
    • Initial timeline will be developed in Practicum 1
    • Timeline will be updated at the beginning of each subsequent term
    • Timeline will reflect all spaects of the student's project and process
    • Timeline will be developed by the student and reviewed for input with student's capstone committee
    • Timeline needs to be made available to members of the committee upon revision
  4. Electronic protfolio submission documenting DNP program work and achievement of competencies.

Students are expected to continue working through the project process in each subsequent practicum course. Practicum courses are eligible for in progress grading for one term or a grade of incomplete for up to one academic year.

Institutional Review Board (IRB)

All capstone projects require submission to the University of Cincinnati and/or the UC Medical Center Institutional Review Board (IRB) prior to the implementation of the project. IRB at the University of Cincinnati is accomplished through the E-PaS online system. Completion of the Human Research Curriculum (CITI –Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative) is required prior to the submission of the online application. This web-based training is available on the UC IRB web site: The CITI training is usually completed in conjunction with practicum courses. The IRB application is submitted by the student with the chair listed as faculty oversight.  Faculty will accept consent to participate through ePAS. Most DNP project qualify for exempt or expedited approvals. For additional IRB information please contact Claudia Norman (

Project Proposal

At the end of practicum 1, students are expect to complete a defense of the capstone project proposal. Defense presentations can be completed onsite or online in either synchronous or asynchronous formats. Advisors and practicum faculty review the proposals and make recommendations for the project going forward. Students who are unsuccessful in their project proposals have the opportunity to make revisions and complete a second defense as needed. A second unsuccessful attempt is forwarded to the program director for action planning.

Final Capstone Project

At the end of practicum 3, students will complete a formal defense of their DNP capstone projects. Capstone committees and faculty are encouraged to attend project defense presentations. The defense is facilitated by the student’s advisor. The format can be in any useable format including PowerPoint and Keynote.  Presentation date and times must be scheduled at least 2 weeks prior to graduation. 

Format for Capstone Project Paper

The DNP capstone project will come full circle as the student develops a manuscript based on their project. Using the IRB and/or DNP Capstone committee approved project outlines, students will write up their project findings. Students will choose an appropriate journal based on their project. Once selected, students will write the manuscript according to the requirements of the journal. The organization and content of the final paper will vary according to the project as well as the journal selected and recommendations of the chair and committee members. Journal selection and the writing process will be covered throughout the DNP course work and a timeline for writing will be established between the student and the committee chair.