The following are the four components of the Senior Capstone:
I. Senior Seminar (RLST 490)
II. Objective Examination (short answers)
III. Senior Paper
IV. Senior Conference
At the beginning of the fall semester the instructor of Senior Seminar will supply students with a schedule outlining when each of these components will take place. The Senior Seminar instructor will also set dates for the submission of the Senior Paper topic proposal and preliminary bibliography, an outline with thesis statement and a working bibliography, first draft and final paper submission (all of which take place within the fall semester). You can find a calendar of dates here.
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 one-half hour examination consisting of 100 questions divided by traditions, with a section on fundamental theories and methods in the study of religion. The exam is intended to determine how well students have learned significant names and dates, terms, and other characteristics of various religious traditions as well as religious studies theories and methodologies taught in the Department. A comprehensive list of terms will be handed out in Senior Seminar early in the first semester. Students are encouraged to prepare for this exam in study groups. Opportunities to sit for the exam 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 exam will be allowed to take it again.
Each senior is required to write a 13 to 15 page paper on a topic of particular interest to her or him. Both a draft of the paper and a final paper will be written during the course of the fall semester.
The topic should be formulated in discussion with a faculty mentor in whose area of expertise the topic falls. The faculty mentor for the Senior Paper does not have to be the student's faculty advisor. It is presumed that seniors have completed course work that has prepared them to write on the proposed topic that they have chosen to pursue. All students are expected to use element(s) of theory and methodologies learned in religious studies courses to illuminate their topics. The paper will be evaluated on the basis of these 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 and 4) proper citation. Deficiencies in these areas will require further editing or rewriting.
Throughout the process, students must consult with their Senior Seminar instructor and faculty mentor(s). The paper will be submitted to the Senior Seminar instructor for evaluation as part of the Senior Seminar grade. In addition, it will also be turned in to the faculty mentor(s) who will provide comments and further suggestions for revisions. The final submission of the paper, revised in response to faculty comments, will be due in early February.
In preparation for the Senior Conference, which is held in February, seniors will read the papers 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, 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 other seniors and faculty members may join the discussion. Evaluation of a student’s work in the Senior Conference is based on several factors including: 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 allowed to invite friends and fellow students to attend the Conference. A meal with the faculty of the Department of Religious Studies will conclude the Conference.
DISTINCTION on the Senior Capstone is determined by the combined performance in the Senior 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 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.