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Assessing Capstone Experience

Please cite as follows: Chan, CKY (2015). "Assessing Capstone Experience", Engineering Education Enhancement and Research Asia (E3R Asia).


What is Journal?

Journal (or Design Notebook) is used to maintain a timely record of the activities conducted within a capstone course, where students sign, date and document the activities they have done on a daily or a weekly basis (depending on the course requirement). The activities may cover the following contents such as meetings and work with group members, subjects involved in the research, financial sources (regarding funding, budget, expenses), and exploring and discovering engineering problems and ideas (Simon Fraser University, n.d.). The journal can also be utilized by students as a reflective piece of assessment regarding their learning experiences. The dated items within a journal can be presented electronically through the use of blogs (Curtin University, n.d.).


Mechanical Engineering students conducting a capstone course at Stanford University have to maintain an individual design notebook. The design notebook is much like a journal, where students have to sign and date every page of their work as they gradually complete it.

The content for the design notebook documents the design process and can include:

  • The alternatives the students made at each step in the design such as what they have chosen or rejected, the calculations performed in the making of the design  
  • Results from the tests conducted in the making of the design
  • Early sketches, outlines and plans for different aspects of the design
  • References and notes on related literature such as what are the conclusions the students have made from reading the literature or discussions with field experts.
  • Questions, notes, and ideas from team meetings
  • A summary of the conversations with the vendors and associates