The Senior Capstone in Religious Studies consists of two components:
I. Senior Paper
II. Senior Conference
Each senior is required to write a 15-20 page paper on a topic of particular interest to her or him. A draft of the senior paper will be written during the course of the fall semester in the Senior Seminar. A final version of the paper will be submitted in the spring semester. The Senior Paper should be a significantly revised version of the essay submitted in the Senior Seminar.
The student will work in tandem with a faculty mentor (or two when appropriate), chosen because of their relevant expertise and knowledge of the topic, and the Senior Seminar professor. The faculty mentor for the Senior Paper does not have to be the student's faculty advisor. Students must have completed course work that prepares them to write on the topic they propose. After the conclusion of the senior seminar in the fall semester, the mentor(s) continues to work with students on revisions, but the senior seminar instructor (having completed the course and having assigned a grade) does not. Majors would have had the benefit of two readers, but the senior seminar instructor bows out of the final revision process and passes the reins to the mentor. Following the completion of the fall seminar course, all faculty members will have access to the paper drafts and are invited to comment on the papers produced for the senior seminar. Students are obliged to be responsive to all feedback. In the event that students receive conflicting feedback, it will be the responsibility of the mentor to help the student be responsive to all feedback while yet producing a final paper. The mentor (or mentors when appropriate) decides whether the essay passes, and all faculty will take their assessment of the quality of each paper into consideration when voting on who receives distinction on the capstone. Students should take into account the guidance and feedback received from the Senior Seminar instructor and from faculty mentors.
All students are expected to use element(s) of theory and methodologies learned in religious studies courses to illuminate their topics. All members of the Religious Studies faculty will evaluate all senior papers on the basis of the following factors: 1) the clarity of the thesis, 2) demonstration of careful research, 3) organization and cohesive argument, including polished articulation of ideas and careful attention to English grammar and style, 4) proper citation, and 5) intellectual ambition. Deficiencies in these areas will require further editing or rewriting.
Throughout the process, students must consult with their faculty mentor(s). The final version of the paper is due in early February.
In preparation for the Senior Conference, which is held in February, seniors will read the papers of their fellow majors and formulate questions and discussion points. The Conference consists of panels of three to five students. Panelists are encouraged to work together to prepare for their panel discussions. At the Conference, the panelists are expected to engage in a conversation focused, in succession, on each paper under discussion. Individual students will be given an opportunity to briefly introduce his or her topic. This is not intended to be a comprehensive summary of the senior paper, but, rather, a statement of the thesis and how the paper is either a culmination of, or a contribution to, the student’s work in Religious Studies. After the panels complete their comments, other seniors and faculty members may join the discussion.
Evaluation of a student’s work in the Senior Conference is based on the following factors: 1) thorough preparation for critical discussion of all the papers treated on one’s panel; 2) competence in answering questions about one’s own work; 3) one’s ability to address relevant connections between one’s own work and the work of other panelists and 4) thoughtful reflection on the papers’ contributions to the study of religion. Senior majors are required to attend the panels.
Attendance is highly encouraged for junior and sophomore majors and all minors. Panelists are also encouraged to invite friends and fellow students to attend the Conference.
DISTINCTION on the Senior Capstone is awarded based on the overall quality of the Senior Paper and by thoughtful and productive engagement in the Senior Conference as judged by all members of the department faculty.
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 write the Senior Paper 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 to fulfill the Senior Paper, should the student choose not to continue with Honors; it will also be used by the faculty to determine whether the student should 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 to 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.