The Capstone

A two-semester project, the capstone requires the following:

  1. Prospectus and annotated bibliography
  2. Proficiency exam(s) [in primary and secondary languages for track-II majors]
  3. First draft
  4. Final version
  5. List of MLL courses taken with reflection on plan of study
  6. Capstone interview(s) [in primary and secondary languages for track-II majors]

Irrespective of major track (I, II, or III), students typically undertake the written portions of the project in their primary language of study, though in some cases (and in consultation with the first reader), writing in English may be an option.

Some MLL majors might also choose to use the capstone as an opportunity to develop previous coursework. In these cases, students should consult carefully with the first reader beforehand, sharing what was done previously, in order to discuss plans for how it might be improved, if used as a foundation for the capstone. Should MLL majors choose this option, however, what they submit for the capstone must be substantially different from earlier coursework and must adhere to the same criteria of academic integrity as any other assignment.

Collaboration with Faculty

Within the first weeks of the fall semester of senior year, majors will be paired with faculty first and second readers based on the nature of their proposed projects, prior coursework, and other factors, such as study abroad and advising. Whenever possible, majors will be matched with faculty who are knowledgeable about the chosen topic, and while first readers act as the primary resource throughout the capstone, the second reader can also assist with drafts, finding sources, and related questions. Additionally, the second reader may take part in the capstone interview in the spring. The first reader will provide written feedback on each component of the project, normally within two weeks from submission. The MLL senior liaison assists all majors by ensuring a successful, fair, and timely process. Questions about policies and procedures can be directed to the senior liaison.


The capstone follows a timeline, with majors remaining in close contact with their first readers at every stage. If it becomes apparent that satisfactory progress is not being made toward completion of the capstone, graduation could be at risk and a notification will be sent by the MLL chair to the student, faculty readers, senior liaison, registrar and the dean of academic advising.

Spring Semester, Junior Year

  • Majors interested in honors should consult with a faculty member and then seek approval from the MLL chair through a written request and with support of the faculty member who has agreed to supervise the thesis.
  • All majors will receive the capstone information packet.

Summer after Junior Year

  • Majors should be thinking about possible capstone topics and approaches.
  • Toward the end of the summer, majors receive information on the capstone workshops and links to student information forms to be filled out by early September.

Fall Semester, Senior Year

  • In the first week of classes, all majors attend a required workshop on the capstone, during which the various components, timeline, and expectations will be explained in detail with examples — and there will be an opportunity to ask questions.
  • By the second week in September, majors will have the option to create, using a provided template in Google Sites, digital portfolios in skeletal form, ready for adding content.
  • By the first week in November, the prospectus and annotated bibliography will be submitted.
  • Mid- to late November, the STAMP language proficiency exam(s) will be administered.

Spring Semester, Senior Year

  • By the last week in January, the first draft will be submitted.
  • By the third week of March, the final version will be submitted.
  • By the first week of April, the Reflection on the Course of Study (including a list of MLL and related courses taken) will be submitted.
  • By the second week in April, majors will carry out the capstone interview(s) with their first and, possibly, second, reader.
  • After the capstone interview(s) and, by the third week in April, the first reader will determine holistically whether the requirements of the capstone have been satisfied, and will communicate this result to the senior liaison and MLL chair.

The Components

In light of the opportunities MLL majors might wish to pursue after Kenyon, they have the option to organize and present their capstone work using a digital portfolio model. At a minimum, majors will use the portfolio to submit the written portions of the capstone: prospectus and annotated bibliography, first draft, final version, and reflection on the course of study.

Students may also wish to complement the required components of the portfolio with other uploaded pieces of supplemental writing, audio or video files, and other media. Students might elect to include things like a résumé (with support from the Career Development Office), information about the results of their proficiency exams (especially given how useful such points of reference can be for MLL faculty mentors who might be asked later to write recommendations), and/or personal or course projects of digital storytelling, blogs, or visual art images, for example.

The Prospectus and Annotated Bibliography

The prospectus is typically two pages in length and should describe the scope of the project, including, when possible, discussion of the research problem, the cultural artifact to be explored, the critical conversation, the working thesis, and the methodology. The annotated bibliography must have at least five secondary sources annotated, but may list more sources without annotation. All written components of the capstone are to follow MLA style guidelines.

The Language Proficiency Exam(s)

The recommended STAMP benchmarks in each of the four modalities (reading, writing, speaking, listening) are language-specific, which means students are encouraged to discuss their target scores with their MLL faculty advisor(s) in the language(s) of study before and after taking the exam.

Occasionally, students may be asked or may themselves request to retake the proficiency exam(s) in the spring in order to improve their scores, with permission granted at the discretion of the faculty from the language discipline and, when necessary, in consultation with the senior liaison and MLL chair. The ultimate purpose of the proficiency exam component of the capstone relates to measuring, concretely, the outcome of language study in the department, and the results are often useful to students after Kenyon as documentation of language ability for employers and graduate programs.

The First Draft

The first draft of the capstone is normally at least 15 pages in length with works cited, double-spaced, in 12 pt. font. The quality of the first draft, in combination with the work done during the fall semester, may result in consideration for distinction.

The Final Version

This is a fully revised and polished version of the first draft, incorporating the suggestions made by the first reader on the previously submitted draft. The recommended length for the final version is at least 20 pages with works cited, double-spaced, in 12 pt. font.

Reflection on the Course of Study

This component is intended to encourage majors to explain the coherence of their coursework for themselves and in anticipation of the capstone interview(s). Majors are advised to produce a first version of this reflection with a list of courses taken in MLL and any related fields at the beginning of the year, and then revise it prior to the capstone interview. For track-III majors, the list of courses should include those taken that count toward completion of the interdisciplinary major, whether inside or outside MLL. The final version should be 2 pages in length, double-spaced, in 12 pt. font.

The Capstone Interview(s)

This culminating discussion between the major and the first reader (and occasionally the second reader) about the capstone should focus on the project’s process, merits, and areas for possible improvement. It is an opportunity for the student to speak substantively about the capstone experience and may address general questions (for example, regarding interest in the topic, obstacles, methodology, core theoretical, analytical, and/or creative concepts, and what was learned). These types of questions, complemented by others anchored more directly in the project itself, will be provided to the student ahead of time in writing by the first reader. Other questions may arise during the interview prompting further elaboration on specific points. On the whole, this component of the capstone allows for an assessment of how well the student is able to communicate the aims and outcomes of the work undertaken.

Track-II majors will also need to schedule a similar interview in their secondary language with a faculty member in that language, though the discussion itself in these cases may concern readings or topics other than the capstone, as selected and agreed upon in advance by the student and the selected faculty member of that secondary language.

Capstone Evaluation Procedure

MLL faculty and majors should keep in mind the following procedures for evaluating the capstone:

  1. In consultation with their first and second readers, majors will pursue the research and/or creative work involved in the capstone in an independent and supervised study without credit. Students must complete all required components of the capstone as outlined above.
  2. Majors are expected to be familiar with College policies on plagiarism and documentation as outlined by the academic integrity guidelines in the course catalog. Any questions on these guidelines may be directed to the senior liaison. Students may not receive any help in the preparation or writing of the capstone, other than from the first and second readers. If writing in the target language, MLL majors may not use translation programs in the preparation of their papers.
  3. Majors will receive written comments from their first reader within two weeks of submission of each phase (i.e., prospectus/annotated bibliography, first draft, final version). In some cases, the major may also receive commentary from the second reader.
  4. In the event that the final version of the capstone is deemed unsatisfactory by the two faculty readers, the student will be allowed a maximum of two weeks to submit a revised final version. (This is in accordance with College regulations that a student be given a second opportunity to pass the capstone.)
  5. Once the final version is deemed satisfactory, the capstone interview will be scheduled with the student by the first reader. As described above, the discussion will be conducted in the target language, at least in part, and based on the topic treated in the capstone. Track-II majors are responsible for contacting a faculty member for their secondary-language capstone interview by the first week in April.
  6. A capstone evaluated by both readers to merit a straight “A” will be nominated for distinction in cases where:
    a. The first version was also of very high quality;
    b. The capstone in its entirety was carried out as a well-paced process with regular consultation between the student and the first reader; and
    c. The capstone interview demonstrates a high level of proficiency in the target language and familiarity with the relevant critical discourse.
  7. When all components of the capstone have been completed, the first reader notifies the senior liaison of the result.
  8. The senior liaison will then inform the major of the result of the capstone (Pass/Fail/Distinction) by the last day of classes. If the capstone is deemed unsatisfactory, students will learn the result sooner so that there is time for revisions. Honors candidates may be informed at a later date, depending on the date of the honors defense (see additional information on honors).

Departmental Policy Regarding First Versions Submitted Late

The MLL Department agrees that first readers of students who submit the first version of the capstone late are under no obligation to provide a critique of the first version. In all cases, any critique provided will be less thorough than that to which students submitting the first version on time are entitled. Since input from the faculty advisor may make the difference between a passing paper and a failing paper, the student who submits the first version late risks being at a considerable disadvantage. The department’s motivation in setting this penalty is constructive rather than punitive: we wish to encourage students to get the maximum benefit from the first reader’s timely and thoughtful suggestions for revisions, and we want to make sure that students then have sufficient time before the final version is due to work on the suggested revisions.

Departmental Policy Regarding Final Versions Submitted Late

Students who submit the final version of the capstone late will be considered to have failed the capstone on the first try. Since the College requires that all students who fail the capstone initially be given a second opportunity to pass it, the department will consider the paper which the student eventually submits as the final (second) submission. On the basis of that paper and of the capstone interview, the student will pass or fail the capstone.

Departmental Policy Regarding First and Final Versions Not Submitted

Students who do not submit a completed first version and do not submit the final version by its deadline will be considered to have failed the senior capstone for the second time. These students will not be given another chance to pass the capstone in that academic year. The next opportunity to pass the capstone will take place in the first semester of the following academic year.