So you want to get your capstone published?

I started my MPH in July 2014 in the Epidemiology/Biostatistics concentration at JHSPH. As part of the concentration, we had to do a capstone which was a research report. We were expected to give two “Research in Progress” presentations with the final capstone presentation before graduation in May.

The vast majority of the people in my concentration were clinicians or medical students.

Here is an approximate timeline of my capstone:

September 2014 – complete CITI training and get added to the IRB

Novemberish 2014 – First Research in Progress Presentation which is a 5 minute presentation for the concentration about your research (had started to do the data analysis, but not a whole lot. Just frequencies at this point)

December 2015 – Start doing the literature review

January 2015 – Camp Capstone during break

March 2014 – Second Research in Progress Presentation – more analysis and indeptb

May 1st 2015 – Biostats 624 project due and Capstone paper

May 9th 2015 – Capstone Presentation

Between May and November there was lots of editing back and forth. Mostly retooling of the results and discussion. I had to turn a 22 page paper into a 3000 word document. My Advisor felt that if there was a lot of internal review, there would be less for the reviewers to criticize

November 16th, 2015 – submitted edited finished manuscript to STD. The co-authors had to sign off on the submission and fill out conflict of interest forms.

November 19th, 2015 – had some formatting issues (too many references, not having line numbers on every page, etc).

December 26th, 2015 – Accepted with minor revisions

January 26th, 2016  – resubmitted minor revisions to the journal.

January 28th, 2016 – returned with a note about the footnote

January 29th, 2016 – accepted for publication.

**This review by this journal was very quick. Your mileage with other journals may vary.

May 2016 – Listed in PubMed and published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases

General Advice:

For the lit review:

  • make a spreadsheet, fill it in with what you like and don’t like.
  • If your advisor is a leader in the field, ask them if they have colleagues that have published recent relevant papers
  • look at papers that are cited in other papers in your lit review, those are probably good springboards


  • do yourself a favor and get a reference manager (endnote, mendeley, refworks, ref manager)
  • you may be able to get an older version of endnote or another program
  • It makes changing and updating references very easy
  • using the google scholar toolbar button to import references and then directly add them to your reference manager


  • Have other people (scientific, non scientific) read it?
  • Have people who have no idea what your paper is about read it. Does it make sense? Does it flow?
  • Print it out and read it aloud

Other advice

  • Feel free to let it sit and come back to it with fresh eyes
  • Sometimes the paper can stagnate and you can get tired of it


  • Pick the three most important points from your results and say how it is or is not concurrent with the literature
  • then state your limitations
  • Dr. Keri Althoff at JHSPH  has a great set of resources on this

Dropbox/Other Cloud folders

  • This helps with collaboration with co-authors especially if they go out of the country frequently or you are working with people all over the world.
  • Also helps to keep track of drafts and previous versions

I plan to update this as soon as I hear more with a more accurate timeline of start to published. Thank you to everyone up to this point for their love and support.


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