Senior Capstone and Senior Thesis in Asian Studies
All Asian Studies majors are required to do a senior capstone experience in the spring
semester of the senior year that consists of two components--
(1) a one credit Senior Seminar in Asian Studies, AS375: The course will normally be taught by the Director of Asian Studies and the topic will vary. In the senior seminar a range of issues will be discussed, and there will be opportunity to discuss the senior research being done in the next component.
(2) a three or four credit course that consists of a research paper or project on a topic in Asian Studies chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty mentor and approved by the Director of Asian Studies. Detailed guidelines follow below. Normally this course will be AS372 and the faculty mentor will be a person in Asian Studies.
Senior Thesis or Project
It is important that before registering for AS371 for the fall semester and for AS372 for the spring semester that the student identify a topic and obtain agreement from a faculty member to mentor AS371 and AS372 (or their equivalents). Approval for both AS371 and AS372 is also needed from the Director of Asian Studies.
Senior Capstone Experience Guidelines: Thesis or Project
Asian Studies requires a senior capstone experience of all its majors. That experience may take several forms: a capstone project (AS 372), a research paper (AS 372), or a senior thesis/project (AS 371/372), each to be completed in conjunction with AS 375: Asian Studies Senior Seminar, taken in the spring term of the senior year. To register for AS 375, students must show that they are enrolled in AS 372 (independent study). Students who hope to qualify for honors must complete a two-semester senior thesis/project, with a second reader in addition to the faculty advisor.
Why write a thesis or complete a project?
Whether or not you go on as a student to graduate school, the senior capstone experience offers the opportunity to build upon the knowledge gained in your field of study, to use the research and communication skills you have mastered, and to understand a topic that interests you at a very deep level. A project or research paper may be completed in one semester of focused work. If you undertake a senior thesis/project, that two-semester activity may be the most sustained, rigorous, and challenging academic experience of your life. By the end of the experience, you should be expert in the area you have chosen to research and explore and able to communicate your discoveries to others.
What is the difference between a research paper and a project, and how does the senior thesis/project differ from those? (What does each require, and are their different expectations for each?)
A research paper undertakes independent research within a discipline, with an Asian focus, under
the supervision of a single faculty member. Students submit at registration a request
for an independent study that includes a one-paragraph description of the topic and
a preliminary primary and secondary bibliography (usually one page), in the semester
before the independent study is undertaken.
The completed research paper is usually between 20 and 40 pages long, or about 10,000 words, excluding the bibliography.
A project may take many different forms: a dance performance, a film, a translation, a memoir or fiction. It too is supervised by a single faculty member as an independent study, and it includes a written component that addresses the place of the performance or work within the discipline. Students submit a request for an independent study that includes a one-paragraph description of the project and also a preliminary primary and/or secondary bibliography. For example, if the project were a translation, a primary bibliography might include the work itself, other works by the same author or various editions of the work, while a secondary bibliography might include works referring to the work to be translated, other material relating to the author, works of translation theory. The nature of the project will determine the length of the written component. The written component does not usually exceed 40 pages.
A senior thesis/project is a two-semester research, creative, or performance project, under the direction of a single faculty member, the "thesis director." If the student hopes to use the thesis to qualify for honors, a second reader is required. The thesis director is principally responsible for meeting with the student, reading the work as it progresses, and offering guidance to the project. The second reader meets with the thesis director and the student early in the project to discuss the plan of work, establish expectations, and propose additional questions and bibliography. At the beginning of the second semester, the student reports progress to the second reader and may present material to be read and discussed. At least three weeks before the end of the second semester, the student presents a completed draft to the second reader for discussion and suggestions. The thesis director, second reader, and student discuss what additional work or revisions may be necessary. The thesis director, after consultation with the second reader, is responsible for grading the senior thesis. To receive honors, a thesis must be awarded a grade of A or A-. Theses are ordinarily between 30 and 50 pages in length, or 10,000-15,000 words, excluding bibliography. Project length will depend on the nature of the project.
The senior thesis is an ambitious research paper in which the student demonstrates superior analytic, critical, research, and writing skills. At the end of the process, the student will have mastered a considerable body of secondary and primary materials and have made an original contribution to knowledge. A senior thesis need not be longer than a single semester research paper, but it will have mastered and synthesized more material and made a more ambitious and finished contribution, reflecting the additional time the student has had to read, think, and write.
Under exceptional circumstances, and with the permission of the thesis director and director of the Asian Studies program, a student may use work completed in another course at the 300-level to replace AS 371. In such cases, the earlier course serves as the equivalent to AS 371 and the thesis/project is completed in the second semester in AS 372.
What is the role of the second reader, and when is one to be found?
Students intending to write a two-semester thesis/project or to qualify for honors should, in consultation with the thesis director, seek out a second reader during the first semester of the thesis/project. In order to register for the Senior Seminar AS375 and AS372, the student will notify the instructor of the Senior Seminar and the Director of Asian Studies as to who will be the second reader of the thesis/project. The second reader meets with the thesis director and the student at the beginning of the second semester to discuss the plan of work, establish expectations, and propose, when appropriate, additional questions and bibliography. Early in the second semester, the student reports progress to the second reader and may present material to be read or discussed. At least three weeks before the end of the second semester, the student presents a completed draft to the second reader for discussion and suggestions. The thesis director, second reader, and student discuss what additional work or revisions may be necessary.
What is the role of AS 375: Asian Studies Senior Seminar?
In AS 375, AS majors undertaking projects, research papers, or theses meet together
weekly to reflect critically on their experience as Asian Studies majors at Skidmore;
to share in an open, informed forum their experience and knowledge with each other,
including, but not limited to, their senior projects in Asian Studies; to discuss
contemporary issues in Asian Studies across disciplinary and cultural boundaries;
to enhance their skills in critical thinking, writing, and communication.
In AS 375, each student assembles an Asian Studies Portfolio to showcase the career of an Asian Studies major and presents that portfolio to the seminar. The portfolio includes an annotated outline of Asian Studies courses, summaries of papers or projects completed, study abroad experience(s), influential experiences and activities outside of class work, selected written work completed earlier in the career, and a conclusion assessing the Asian Studies program and the student's individual experience. From this retrospective of the undergraduate career, students are encouraged to consider how they might apply their Asian Studies expertise beyond college.
The seminar meetings include writing assignments that stimulate interdisciplinary and intercultural discussions of issues in Asian Studies. Students apply their skills and expertise in research and analysis, along with their particular focus in Asian Studies and often other disciplinary perspectives, to develop a thoughtful response. Among the writing assignments, they may undertake a résumé, presenting their achievements to the world beyond Skidmore.
The culmination of AS 375 is the Senior Project Presentation. Each student prepares a 20-minute presentation to the class based on the senior project undertaken. Each student selects one academic reading for the class to read in preparation for the presentation. A question-and-answer period (usually 10 minutes) follows each student's presentation.
Double majors and integrating final projects/theses.
Many Asian Studies majors are double majors who have pursued the study of Asia not
only through the variety of courses available in the Asian Studies program but also
through the particular perspective of another discipline. Such students will often
be writing a senior thesis or capstone project in another discipline, but with an
Asian focus that reflects the student's experience as an Asian Studies major. Asian
Studies encourages students to integrate disciplinary perspectives.
A student may complete a thesis in another department and still have Asian Studies recognize it for this major as long as the student presents it in the context of the senior seminar and the Asian Studies program. The student must participate in AS 375 and AS 372. Students cannot receive credit for the same paper in AS 372 and another discipline's 300-level required thesis course. In such cases, the AS thesis director and second reader may stipulate additional page requirements and/or define the project so that different or complementary kinds of work occur in both courses. In such cases the thesis/project director and reader will also confer with the director of Asian Studies.