Document Type (Journals)

Original Research


The doctoral capstone is the culminating experiential learning component of the entry-level occupational therapy doctorate degree, however there is limited literature regarding its usefulness or value as perceived by graduates. This qualitative descriptive study used focus groups with a semi-structured interview guide to ask participants about the value and usefulness of their doctoral capstones. A total of 200 recent occupational therapy doctorate (OTD) graduates from three OTD programs in the Midwest and Southwest were contacted and 21 consented to participate. Researchers identified several themes that were relevant to both occupational therapy practitioners and occupational therapy programs. The four themes that emerged were (1) Becoming a Professional: Recognition of Professional Skill Development, (2) An Essential Skill to Be a Life-long Learner: Self-directed Learning, (3) Finding Employment: Impacts on Career Trajectory, and (4) Shifting from Student to Professional: Impacts of Mentorship. Barriers and disadvantages were also tracked and reported. Despite differences between occupational therapy programs, graduates reported many similar experiences indicating the value and usefulness of the doctoral capstone. Understanding perceptions held by recent graduates regarding the value and usefulness of the doctoral capstone may enhance program faculty members’ abilities to design capstone curriculum, support the need to develop mentors, and to continue education regarding the doctoral capstone to the profession at large.


Erika Kemp OTD, OTR/L, BCP is Capstone Coordinator and Assistant Professor, Clinical for The Ohio State University. Her clinical expertise is in pediatrics and research focuses on the benefits of the doctoral capstone.

Anna Domina, OTD, OTR/L is a Capstone Coordinator and Assistant Professor for Creighton University. She also serves as the Vice Chair of Education and Clinical Practice.

Sara Stephenson, OTD, OTR/L, BCPR, CBIS, CSRS (she/her) is Assistant Clinical Faculty and Capstone Coordinator for Northern Arizona University’s Occupational Therapy Program.

Amanda Start, PhD is a research methodologist and the Director of the Office of Curriculum and Scholarship in the College of Medicine at The Ohio State University.

Declaration of Interest

The authors report no declarations of interest

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.