Capstone: Information and Reflections
The capstone requirement in Religious Studies is fulfilled by the writing of either a Senior Essay or an Honors Thesis, which provides students with the opportunity to pursue independent research on a topic of interest under the direction of a Religious Studies faculty member. Two required courses support the successful completion of this senior project: RELIGST 297 (Senior Essay/Honors Thesis research) and RELIGST 298 (Senior Colloquium).
Students routinely find the research and writing of their capstone to be one of the most meaningful aspects of their intellectual journey. Working closely with a faculty mentor, students deepen their knowledge and skills by pursuing research into a topic of interest. Through regular meetings with the senior cohort throughout the year and in the Senior Colloquium, students share their findings and get feedback from their peers.
What's the difference?
A 25- to 30-page essay on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the capstone advisor, who must be a regular member of the Department of Religious Studies faculty but not necessarily the student’s advisor for the RS major. Students develop a proposal and bibliography in close consultation with their capstone advisor and submit this proposal by the end of the third quarter prior to expected graduation (usually the end of autumn quarter, senior year). They spend two quarters researching, writing, and revising their essay in RELIGST 297 and RELIGST 298. The character and content of the essay, which is meant to allow the student to utilize knowledge and skills learned in the course of the major, may take several forms. For example, a student may return to a subject studied earlier but now pursued with more questions or from a new perspective, or research a recent or new topic of interest in the field, or offer a carefully framed critical assessment of what has been learned in the major based on a review of influential sources, theories, and methods of studying religion. The Senior Essay is read and graded by the student’s capstone advisor and one other member of the Religious Studies faculty assigned by the DUS.
A 40- to 80-page research paper on a topic chosen by the student and approved by the capstone advisor, who must be a regular member of the Department of Religious Studies faculty but not necessarily the student’s advisor for the RS major. Students develop a proposal and bibliography in close consultation with their capstone advisor and submit this along with an application for honors by in the fourth quarter prior to expected graduation (usually, spring quarter, junior year). Applicants for honors must have a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 in Religious Studies courses, and at least 3.2 overall, at the time of application. They must also already have demonstrated success in writing research papers. Students meeting these prerequisites are strongly encouraged to enroll in units of RELIGST 199 with a potential thesis advisor (who must be a regular member of the Religious Studies faculty) during spring quarter junior year to develop the proposal and gather other materials for the application, which is due on May 31. Students whose applications for honors are approved by the DUS and Director of senior capstone research then spend three quarters researching, writing, and revising their thesis in RELIGST 297 and RELIGST 298. The paper, supported by thorough acquaintance with the primary literature and secondary scholarship, advances a well-reasoned, supportable thesis. The Honors Thesis is read and graded by the student’s advisor and one other member of the Religious Studies faculty assigned by the DUS. Theses earning a grade of B+ or above receive honors.
For more information on the honors track, see the Honors tab in the menu.
Recent Capstone Projects
“Holy Unity: The Connection between Paul and Mark” (Honors Thesis, 2023)
“In Contrast with Your Delicate Form: Bodily Disruption as Defeminization in Christian and Buddhist Female Hagiography” (Honors Thesis, 2022)
“Paul and the Problem of the Universal: Daniel Boyarin’s A Radical Jew and the Question of Difference” (Honors Thesis, 2022)
“Searching for the True Nation of Israel: When Prophecy Becomes Genealogy” (Senior Essay, 2021)
“Queer Yiddishkeit and Radical Jewish Politics: Modern Yiddish Identity” (Honors Thesis, 2020)