Senior Capstone in Asian Studies
I. Senior Capstone Experience: Thesis, Research Paper, or Research Project
The Asian Studies Program requires a senior capstone experience of all its majors.
That experience may take one of the following three forms: a research paper, a research
project, or a two-semester senior thesis, one of which to be completed in AS372: Independent
Study course in conjunction with AS375: Asian Studies Senior Seminar, both taken in
the spring semester of the senior year. (Refer to Section III for the difference
between a research paper, a research project, and a thesis.) To register for AS375,
students must show that they are enrolled in AS372 in the spring semester. Students who hope to qualify for honors must complete a two-semester senior thesis. For the requirement for being eligible for Honors in Asian Studies, see Section
II "Honors in Asian Studies" below.
Capstone Experience Courses:
(a) Thesis Option: If a student intends to write a thesis or hopes to qualify for honors, the student must take the following courses during the senior year:
- AS371*: a three-credit Independent Study course in the fall semester. In the Independent Study course, the student begins undertaking the thesis under the direction of the thesis director, who is a faculty member in Asian Studies. The student who intends to use the thesis to qualify for honors must turn in the honor thesis prospectus to the director of Asian Studies by December 1.
- AS375: a one-credit Senior Seminar in Asian Studies in the spring semester. In the Senior Seminar a range of issues will be discussed, and there will be opportunity to discuss the senior thesis.
- AS372: a three-credit Independent Study course in the spring semester. In the independent Study course, the student continues to work on the senior thesis under the direction of the thesis director.
- * Under exceptional circumstances, and with the permission of the thesis director and the director of the Asian Studies program, a student may use work completed in another Asian Studies course at the 300-level to replace AS371. In such cases, the earlier course serves as the equivalent to AS371 and the thesis is completed in the second semester in AS372. Usually the instructor of the earlier course serves as the thesis director.
(b) Non-Thesis Option: If a student chooses not to write a thesis, the student must take the following courses during the senior year:
- AS375: a one-credit Senior Seminar in Asian Studies in the spring semester. In the senior seminar a range of issues will be discussed, and there will be opportunity to discuss the senior research being done in AS372.
- AS372: a three-credit Independent Study course in the spring semester. In the Independent Study course, a student undertakes a research paper or a research project on a topic in Asian Studies chosen by the student in consultation with a research paper/project director, who is a faculty member in Asian Studies, and approved by the Director of Asian Studies.
Why write a thesis, research paper, or complete a research 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 research project or research paper may be completed in one semester of focused work. If you undertake a senior thesis, 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 be able to communicate your discoveries to others.
II. Honors in Asian Studies
A grade of A or A- is required on an approved senior thesis to be eligible for Honors
in Asian Studies, in addition to a 3.5 GPA or better in Asian Studies courses and
a 3.0 GPA or better in all courses taken at Skidmore. With the approval of the thesis
director and the Director of Asian Studies, a student may undertake a senior thesis,
which is a two-semester project during the senior year. Research must occur in the
fall semester in AS371 (or its equivalent) and be completed during the spring semester
in AS372. The senior thesis will be graded by the thesis director in consultation
with a second
reader approved by the Director of Asian Studies. To receive honors, a thesis must be awarded a grade of A or A-. For detailed guidelines of a senior thesis, see Section III (c) below.
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. Approval for both AS371 and AS372 is also needed from the Director of Asian Studies.
A student who hopes to qualify for honors must submit a 2-3 page honors thesis prospectus to the Director of Asian Studies by December 1 with the signatures of the thesis director and the second reader. The prospectus form can be downloaded HERE. If the prospectus is not submitted by the due date, the student will not qualify for honors.
III. Research Paper, Research Project, and Thesis: Differences and Guidelines
(a) A research paper undertakes independent research within a discipline, with an Asian focus, under the
supervision of a single faculty member (a research paper director). 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. The completed paper is due to the research paper director one day prior to the last day of classes in the spring semester.
(b) A research 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 (a research project director) 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, but the written component is usually between 15 and 40 pages long. The written component is due to the project director one day prior to the last day of classes in the spring semester.
(c) A senior thesis is a two-semester research project under the direction of a single faculty member (a thesis director). It 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 student who hopes to qualify for honors in Asian Studies must write a senior thesis. Normally the student will enroll in AS371 in the fall semester to begin undertaking the thesis, although another advanced course in the program may be substituted if approved by the thesis director and the Director of Asian Studies. Students intending to use the thesis to qualify for honors should, in consultation with a thesis director, seek out a second reader. The second reader does not have to be a faculty member of the Asian Studies but needs to be approved by the Director of Asian Studies. The second reader is required and must be identified by September 30. 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 (by October 15) to discuss the plan of work, establish expectations, and propose, when appropriate, additional questions and bibliography. By December 1, the student who hopes to qualify for honors must submit an honors thesis prospectus to the director of Asian Studies. By the end of the second week of the spring semester, the student reports progress to the second reader and may present material to be read and discussed. The first draft of the thesis is due to the thesis director one week after the spring break at the latest. At least three weeks before the end of the spring semester, the student presents a final 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. If the thesis director and the second reader disagree significantly on the merits of the completed thesis, a third reader agreed upon by both readers will be invited to offer a third, deciding opinion. 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.
The timeline of thesis for those who hope to qualify for honors:
Spring, Junior Year
• Before April registration, identify a thesis director and a topic.
• Register for AS371 during the April registration.
Fall, Senior Year
• By September 30: identify the second reader.
• By October 15: meet with the second reader and the thesis director.
• Register for AS372 during the November registration.
• By December 1: submit an honors thesis prospectus to the director of Asian Studies.
Spring, Senior Year
• By the end of the second week of the semester: report progress to the second reader.
• One week after the spring break (at the latest): submit the first draft to the thesis director.
• At least three weeks before the end of the semester: submit the final draft to the thesis director and the second reader, then have a meeting with them.
IV. The Role of AS 375: Asian Studies Seminar
In AS375, Asian Studies majors undertaking research papers, research projects, 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.
VI. Double Majors and Integrating Thesis or a Research Paper
As a principle, the Asian Studies Program does not allow a student to count a single
thesis or a research paper for two majors. However, under exceptional circumstances and
with the permission of a thesis director and the director of the Asian Studies program,
a student may be allowed to count a single thesis for two majors. In such cases,
a special condition (e.g., additional page requirements) determined by the thesis
director and the director of the Asian Studies may be applied. A student is not allowed
to count a single research paper for two majors or for AS372 and another course.