Capstone Project


The internship is a supervised experience in either a professional or research setting that’s relevant to population health. Internships may be a specific project that includes formal consulting with an organization whose work is relevant to population health sciences, or a student-led research project. The internship experience will be structured throughout year 2 of the program.

Professional experience: Students with interest in work outside a research setting may choose to complete the internship at an organization external to Duke, such as a nonprofit community organization or a health-related company.

Research experience: For students with research career goals or intentions of entering a PhD program, the internship may be part of a DPHS faculty mentored research project, and may include primary data collection and/or data analysis.

Thesis or Master's Paper

All students will complete either a master’s paper or a thesis, based on their internship work.

Students should choose between the thesis or paper in consultation with their mentors. There are no differences in the degree received whether the student chooses a master’s paper or a thesis

A master’s paper represents a “non-thesis option” for the MS in Population Health Sciences, and should reflect the internship project. The master’s paper has great flexibility in the structure of the final document. Examples of a master’s paper include, but are not limited to: research manuscript suitable for publication, analysis of a program implemented during the internship, or policy recommendations based on work during the internship.

In contrast, a thesis is a distinct research project that should represent a unique contribution to science. The structure of a thesis follows specific Graduate School rules.

All theses and papers include the following:

  1. Identification of an important population health problem
  2. Development of a research plan, evaluation approach, or implementation strategy to address the problem
  3. Analysis of the importance of the findings in the context of population health
  4. Presentation of findings


All students in the MS program are paired with a faculty mentor from the very beginning of the program. Through regular 1-on-1 meetings, mentors provide support and guidance as students develop education goals and career plans, along with helping them identify research experiences and capstone projects.