What is DS? Capstone


All concentrators must complete a senior capstone experience. Those who wish to complete a senior thesis must secure approval from the DS Concentration Advisor and DEVL 1500 (Methods) instructor at the end of the junior year. Approval will be contingent on the project’s viability. It is preferable but not required that the student secures a project advisor prior to approval. Students who do not receive approval for their senior thesis, or who choose not to complete a senior thesis, must complete a senior capstone seminar senior year.

The senior thesis can take the form of a thesis (academic paper), media project, or other projects (see more information on choosing an advisor and senior thesis options below). Students must receive approval for their topic, but generally any topic that fits within the general framework of development studies research will be appropriate. In developing, researching and writing the senior thesis students work closely with the DEVL 1500 (Methods) course instructor in the junior year, the DEVL 1980 (Writing) course instructor, faculty advisor, and second advisor in the senior year. The primary faculty advisor should be a regular Brown faculty member, while the second advisor may be a Ph.D. candidate, a Watson Institute visitor, or a faculty member at another university or college. The Concentration Advisor will give final approval to students’ advisor choices.

The senior capstone seminar will require that the student in his or her senior year write a research paper in a WRIT-designated senior seminar. The paper must utilize one’s regional expertise and/or foreign language skills.

Choosing an Advisor for Senior Thesis

Students should try to secure a primary advisor by the end of the junior year or early in their senior year. The advisor must be a faculty member who will be in residence at Brown throughout the student's senior year. You should be proactive in the search for your advisor – identify faculty members who might be interested in your thesis topic and approach them. The more interested they are in your project and the earlier you approach them, the more likely you are to greatly benefit from their mentoring. The DS Concentration Advisor, Advisory Committee, and DEVL 1500 and DEVL 1980 instructors are available to help students identify potential advisors.

There are at least three possible foundations on which a good working relationship may be built:

1. A faculty member you find interesting and stimulating, and someone who will engage your work and your ideas.

2. A faculty member who either has expertise in the area you are investigating (knowledge of the issue or region) or is conducting similar research.

3. A faculty member who has theoretical or methodological interests and expertise in areas that will be useful to your research topic. Such a person might actually know very little about the specific topic you are researching (e.g., access to agricultural land in Bihar, India) but may know a lot about a body of theory (gender and household dynamics) that is essential to your ability to develop the appropriate analytical framework for your research, or may have skills in a technique (statistics, ethnography) that will help you develop the appropriate investigative tools.

By early in your Senior year, you should also have reached an understanding with a second advisor.

If a senior capstone project requires the use of quantitative methods, by the end of the junior year students should take at least one course in statistics for social science in any of the following departments: economics, political science, sociology.

Senior Thesis Options

The senior thesis must utilize the student’s regional expertise and/or foreign language skills.

Option 1: Senior Thesis (academic paper)

The typical thesis is an individual research project that results in a sixty to one hundred-page document consisting of a theoretical chapter and several empirical chapters.

Students wishing to write a thesis that requires advanced knowledge and advising from a particular field should take extra coursework in that field before the senior year. (For example, students planning to do a project that requires advising from a professor in the economics department should take three of the following courses by the end of their junior year: ECON 1110 or 1130, 1210, 1560, 1620 or 1630).

Option 2: Media Project

For a multimedia project to be considered it must be based on an analytical framework and supported/supplemented by 2-3 written chapters: introduction, background, empirical, conclusion.

DEVL 1980 is designed to support media projects as well – with a focus on the supplementary chapters required.

Multimedia projects include but are not limited to:

-Documentary film
-Audio/Visual project
-Audio Podcast work-
-Multimedia Installation

If the senior thesis contains a multimedia/documentary project, by the end of the junior year students are required to take at least two of the following classes:

Highly Recommended:

MCM/VISA 0730: Introduction to Video Production
MCM 0780: Soundtracks
RISD FAV 5103: Introduction Video
RISD FAV 5110: Documentary Production

Approved Courses for requirement fulfillment:

MCM 0110: Introduction to Modern Culture and Media
MCM 0710: Introduction to Filmmaking
MCM 1700D: Reframing Documentary Production
FAV 5125: Film & Video Installation
MUSC1250: Sound Design

Understand that most of these classes will require an application process because they are small production classes. Prepare for this, to ensure your enrollment.

Note that fulfillment of course requirement does not automatically equip you with skills necessary to successfully execute the project. In addition to coursework, it is highly suggested that you incorporate production work into your extracurricular activity.


- Apply to work on documentary/film production teams (you can find these through MCM)
- BTV/MainGreen.TV – Practice with equipment/cameras
- WBRU – Production Department (Learn how to mix and master audio)

Get involved with as many audio/video projects as possible. They’re everywhere.

Option 3: Other

Other forms of projects are subject to the approval of the DEVL 1500 instructor and DS Concentration Advisor.