I. Senior Seminar (RLST 490)
II. Objective Examination (short answers)
III. Senior Paper: Standard or Longer Option
IV. Senior Conference
All seniors must pass the senior seminar, RLST 490, offered every Fall semester. The topic for the senior seminar varies from year to year.
This is a one and a half hour examination consisting of 100 questions divided by traditions. This examination is intended to determine how well students have learned the basic facts, terms, and characteristics of the religious traditions taught in the Department. In addition, the examination will test a student's knowledge of fundamental theories and methods in the study of religion. A comprehensive list of terms will be handed out at Senior Seminar early in the Fall semester. Students are encouraged to study for the examination together. Opportunities to sit for this examination will be given at the end of the first semester and early in the spring semester. Minimum passing grade is 65. A student who fails the examination at the first sitting may be allowed to take it again.
The paper should be theoretically informed and based on course work previously completed. The longer paper option is for those who have a specific topic that they have been longing to write about and for which they have the necessary expertise to complete. The longer paper option does not give a student a greater possibility for Distinction. Most students choose the standard option.
The paper will be judged on content, but also on its polished articulation of ideas and cohesive argument, with careful attention to grammar, style, spelling, organization, and proper citation. Deficiencies in these areas will cause the paper to be rejected.
A. Standard Option:
Students choosing this option will write a 10-12 page paper over a period of 10 days (a week plus two week-ends) in November, before the Thanksgiving Break. There will be no reading assigned or meeting of the Senior Seminar that week. The student chooses the tradition and general topic area; the relevant faculty member will formulate a specific topic or question. Students must discuss this with that faculty member in a timely manner, no later than the third week of October. The topic will be assigned in early November, and the paper will be due November ten days later by 5 p.m.
Pass/Fail notification will be made by the end of the first semester. NOTE: No paper has passed until its final copy has been read and evaluated by the entire Religious Studies Department faculty. If you do not pass, you will write a paper on an assigned topic over a 72-hour period early in the second semester.
B. Longer Paper Option:
It you choose this option, you will write a 16-20 page paper on a selected topic, subject to approval by the Religious Studies faculty. A page-long topic proposal (single-spaced), short bibliography, and a list of courses you have taken that prepare you to do your proposed topic will be due by the second meeting of the Senior Seminar. The paper will be due the end of the first full week of December. Pass/Fail notification will be given by the end of the semester. If you fail, you will write a paper on an assigned topic over a 72-hour period early in the second semester. NOTE: No paper has passed until its final copy has been read and evaluated by the entire Religious Studies Department faculty. Regular consultation with your faculty mentor(s) is required. A final draft of the paper must be shown to the mentor(s) at least 3 weeks before the due date.
The Senior Conference, held before Spring Break (late February), consists of a one-day series of small-group panels for brief presentations and discussion of the papers (both types) written for the Senior Exercise. Each panel will include three or four students; each student will make a short presentation (about ten minutes); the panelists will discuss the papers among themselves; and eventually Faculty members and other seniors will join the discussion. Evaluation is based both on the presentation of your own work and on your thorough preparation for critical discussion of the work of the others on your panel. Senior Majors are required to attend all the panels and the lunch. Attendance is optional for Junior Majors and for Minors. Panelists are also allowed to invite friends and fellow students.
NOTE: Distinction on the Senior Exercise is determined by the combined performance in the paper, the Conference, the Senior Seminar, and the objective examination.
Students with an overall collegiate grade-point average of 3.25 or better and 3.50 or better in Religious Studies courses are eligible to submit a proposal for an honors project. Honors candidates will not do either of the paper options described above, but a chapter of the Honors paper due in December will substitute. Honors candidates select a field of concentration entailing 1 unit of advanced research and writing in an independent study under the supervision of one or more faculty mentors. Research will culminate in a thesis of 60-100 pages. One chapter of the thesis must be completed by the end of the first semester. (This chapter may be submitted as the longer paper option should the student choose not to continue with Honors; it will also be used by the faculty to determine whether the student will be allowed to continue with Honors).
The finished thesis is due in April. An outside examiner in the field of Religious Studies will read the thesis and will conduct an hour-long oral examination with the candidate for Honors, late in April or early in May. If you intend to propose Honors, please be in touch in a timely fashion with both the Chair and the faculty member(s) most likely to be overseeing your independent research. Soon after classes begin, submit a 2-3 page (double-spaced) Honors proposal, a bibliography, and the list of courses you have taken in Religious Studies, as well as any other relevant coursework, either at Kenyon or elsewhere.