Capstone and Honors Information
In their senior year, all English majors must engage in a capstone experience that synthesizes and reflects back upon work already completed in the major. This capstone experience takes the form of a sustained piece of written work such as a research paper or a creative project that challenges students to go beyond previous levels of accomplishment. Goals for this project include the following:
Learning to plan and organize the project
Learning to work independently through the project’s various stages
Demonstrating awareness of the wider critical or artistic context that informs the project being completed
Writing prose, poetry, or literary scholarship with increased technical sophistication in handling the conventions and in understanding and achieving the writer’s goals.
The capstone requirement is satisfied in most cases by one of the following classes:
- EN 375: Senior Seminar in Literary Studies
EN 381: Advanced Projects in Writing
Some seniors may elect to fulfill the capstone requirement by working independently with a project or thesis director:
- EN 376: Senior Projects
EN 389, 390: Senior Thesis
EN 375: Senior Seminar in Literary Studies
A seminar in which students explore a topic, author, or text while progressing through the stages of writing a research paper of 20-25 pages. Common discussion of individual projects and reading of published scholarship emphasize research as a process of shared inquiry. Students may choose among four topics, two offered in the fall and two in the spring of their senior year. The seminar topics are announced in the spring of their junior year. Senior Seminar is limited to senior English majors. May be repeated once for credit with the permission of the department chair.
EN 381: Advanced Projects in Writing
Advanced Projects in Writing offers to serious creative writing students an opportunity to produce a significant piece of fiction, poetry, or nonfiction – a novella, for example, or a collection of short pieces. Advanced Projects in Writing combines the group experience of a workshop with the private experience of individual conferences. The course typically requires weekly group meetings in workshop format and individual meetings at least every two weeks. Students must have completed EN 377 in the appropriate genre and one advanced workshop in the appropriate genre (EN 378: Nonfiction, EN 379: Poetry, EN 380: Fiction) before enrolling in EN 381. For example, Advanced Projects in Writing: Poetry, requires the completion of two semesters of EN 379.
EN 376: Senior Projects
A senior project offers students an opportunity to work independently, with the guidance of a faculty project supervisor, on a product that can be evaluated. Such products may include an interdisciplinary project; a translation project; a collection of poems, stories, or essays; a series of newspaper articles; a long magazine article; or other such projects. Students must find a project supervisor in advance of registering for EN 376 in the fall or the spring of their senior year. May be repeated once for credit.
EN 389, 390: Senior Thesis
This capstone option offers students a carefully sequenced period of reading, writing, and revising that extends over two semesters. Students may not enroll in EN 390 without first completing EN 389 or its equivalent preparation in one or more 300-level courses. The decision to identify an equivalent for EN389 is made by the student and the thesis advisor.
All theses must show evidence of research, thoroughness, coherence, and depth of perception. The finished paper must be at least 40 pages, excluding end notes and a bibliography. Students identify a workable thesis topic and plan for research and writing with the guidance of their thesis director. Students interested in fulfilling the capstone requirement through a senior thesis should find a thesis director by the end of their junior year. The prospective thesis director should see a written proposal at that time. In the first week of classes, the student and supervisor may revise the proposal and will plan a detailed schedule of the semester’s work; the student registers for EN389: Preparation for Senior Thesis (or its equivalent) in the fall and EN390: Senior Thesis in the spring.
Departmental Honors (see also Honors)
To qualify for Departmental Honors in English, a senior must complete a capstone paper, project, or thesis that merits a grade of A or A-. All work submitted for Honors consideration must have a second reader. In addition, the student must have a GPA of at least 3.5 in the major and 3.0 overall after no fewer than three semesters at Skidmore.
In order to qualify for Departmental Honors or Distinction (see below), work must meet the following page lengths:
- Senior Seminar paper: 30 pages, excluding end notes, bibliography, or supplementary materials
- Advanced Project in Writing: 20-40 pages, depending on genre
- Senior Thesis: 40 pages, excluding end notes, bibliography, and supplementary materials
- Senior Project: 30 pages, excluding end notes, bibliography, or supplementary materials.
Students intending to submit their work for Departmental Honors must complete the form “Declaration to Qualify for Honors.” Students working on a senior thesis or senior project must find a second reader; students in the senior seminars (EN 375 and 381) will be assigned second readers by the Chair in consultation with the seminar instructor. Papers and projects that receive Honors are bound and kept by the department.
The second reader serves as a representative of the department and, along with the seminar instructor, assesses the completed project. The two readers must agree for the student to qualify for Honors; in case of disagreement, the Chair will assign a third reader, who will assess the project independently to determine whether it is Honors worthy.
The following calendar may be helpful for students intending to qualify for Honors:
- By the end of the first week of the semester, submit the form “Declaration to Qualify for Honors.”
- For students working on a senior thesis or senior project, choose a second reader, in consultation with the thesis or project supervisor, no later than mid term.
- No less than three weeks before the end of classes, students working on a senior thesis or senior project complete the project and meet with the supervisor and second reader.
- For students working on senior seminar papers and advanced projects in writing, the instructor will determine the date students must complete the project in consultation with the second reader and in respect to the academic calendar.
- Last day of classes (FIRM DEADLINE), all students submit final version of manuscript.
- A fall Senior Seminar student who wishes to be considered for Honors must submit the paper at the conclusion of the course. He or she may not carry work into the spring.
- Senior projects serve to culminate a sequence of courses. Students who wish to be considered for Honors for a senior project (for example, a film or journalism project) must complete at least two preparatory courses in that genre.
Work of Distinction
Students whose GPA does not qualify them for Departmental Honors may receive Distinction on their papers or projects if that work has merited an A or A- by the faculty supervisor and a second reader. Papers or projects that receive Distinction are bound and kept by the department.