Capstone / Thesis

The culminating component of the MURP curriculum is the Planning Capstone or Thesis requirement, which challenges students to utilize to the fullest extent the planning knowledge, skills, and values gained during their MURP program experience. Students must choose which option to select—Planning Capstone or Planning Thesis—based on their career goals, personal interests and aptitudes, and the advice of their faculty advisor.

Planning Capstone is a six-credit, project-oriented, one-semester course that results in a substantial deliverable upon completion. The Capstone option is best suited for students who wish to pursue a career as a professional planner after graduation. Within the Planning Capstone option are two alternatives: Independent Project and Small-Group Project.

If a student chooses the Planning Capstone > Independent Project path, he or she will work individually to complete a significant planning project or study for a real-world client. If a student chooses the Planning Capstone > Small-Group Project path, he or she must team up with one or two other students—forming a project team of no more than three people—to complete a significant planning project or study for a real-world client. However, each student must be individually responsible for a clearly defined component of the group project as each student will be graded independently for his or her work.

During the semester before enrolling in Planning Capstone, students will be required to: (a.) determine if they will be working independently or as part of a small group, (b.) identify their Capstone client and project topic, and (c.) begin preparing a detailed project prospectus (work plan, schedule, methodology, and deliverables). Also during the semester before Capstone, students must attend a mandatory Capstone Orientation to receive instruction and guidance on project planning and management. Students must have a completed and approved project prospectus by the second week of their Capstone semester. Students may identify their own Planning Capstone client and project topic or they may select from a list of Capstone clients/projects that have been pre-arranged and approved by the MURP faculty.

During the Planning Capstone semester, students complete their project work while maintaining regular contact with their Capstone faculty advisor and client to ensure sufficient progress and work quality, as well as periodically meeting with other Capstone students to discuss common issues and challenges, share experiences, and receive continued instruction and guidance from the Capstone faculty on project management and methodologies. The Planning Capstone semester concludes with the submission of all deliverables and a formal presentation to the client.

To view Executive Summaries of recently completed Capstone projects by MURP students, click here.

MURP students may access the 2016-2017 Capstone webpage here.


Planning Thesis comprises a pair of three-credit sections (A and B) taken over two semesters that together constitute a six-credit effort. The Planning Thesis option is most appropriate for outstanding MURP students who are considering pursuing a Ph.D. or a research-oriented career after graduation.

While the thesis should address an aspect of urban and regional planning, it may be qualitative or quantitative in design, and directed toward the discovery of new facts, the development of theory or frameworks, or an investigation of an existing body of knowledge. The thesis document usually includes an abstract, a literature review that delineates the problem of interest or a gap in existing knowledge, a statement of research objectives, an explanation of the research design and methods, a report of the results of the research, and a discussion of the findings and their implications for planning. While there are no specific requirements concerning the length, thesis texts are typically no less than 20,000 words or about 100 pages. The thesis is undertaken with the guidance and approval of a three-person thesis committee, including a Thesis Advisor who must be a full-time member of the MURP faculty who holds a professional degree or Ph.D.

Students interested in pursuing the Thesis option must have their project approved prior to the course drop deadline in the Planning Thesis A semester. If the proposal is not approved, or if the student’s prior academic performance is deemed not adequate for participation in the thesis option, the student would enroll in Planning Capstone instead.

Planning Thesis A (URPL 6920) brings together all Planning Thesis students into a seminar where they receive advanced instruction on project planning and research methodology. During the Planning Thesis A semester, students typically work on their literature review and begin their research.

During the Planning Thesis B (URPL 6925) semester, students complete their research and write the bulk of the thesis. Throughout, thesis students will meet regularly with their committee members to ensure sufficient progress and work quality. To graduate, the completed thesis must be successfully defended in an Oral Examination before the Thesis Committee, formatted according to CU Denver Graduate School guidelines, and submitted to the University by the official deadline.


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