Undergraduate Study

Capstone & Thesis

Descriptions for Religious Studies Concentrators.  

What is the difference between a Capstone and a Thesis?

To complete a concentration in Religious Studies, a student must either a) complete a course designated as a capstone course, or b) write a senior Honors Thesis.  The decision regarding which of these options a student wishes to pursue must be made by the end of the student's sixth semester (normally the spring of junior year).

Capstone Course: 

The capstone requirement is designed to provide a culminating focus for a student's concentration.  The content of the course designated as a capstoen should build on a student's previous work in the department and at Brown.  The background should enable the student to engage the topic of the course with a depth and sophistication he or she could not bring to just any course.  In principle, any course offered by the department can be designated a capstone course, including independent studies.  In practice, most students designate an upper-level course or seminar as their capstone course.  When the student has a potential capstone course in mind, he or she should approach the faculty member teaching the course and ask about the possibility of using the course as a capstone.  If the faculty member agrees, a discussion about the nature and form of the capstone project itself should take place.  The faculty member may require periodic meetings in addition to the regularly scheduled class meetings, or may ask the student to write a more substantial research paper than the other students in the class, etc.  In the fall of senior year, the student should fill out a capstone proposal form, write the castone proposal itself, obtain the necessary signatures, and submit these materials to the Departmental Administrator, Tina Creamer.  

Honors Thesis:

To receive Honors in Religious Studies, a student must write an Honors Thesis.  A thesis is an opportunity for students to conduct extended independent research under the guidance of faculty.  To be eligible to write a thesis, a student must have earned a grade point average of greater than 3.5 (A=4, B=3, C=2) on courses that count toward the concentration. Additionally, to be eligible for honors, concentrators can elect to take no more than two of the concentration courses with the "S/NC" option, after declaring an RS concentration. (If a student is philosophically committed to taking the majority of her or his courses as Brown as “S/NC,” that student may petition the Department to waive the “S/NC” limit.) Writing the thesis is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for receiving Honors. The thesis must earn an A from its readers for the student to receive Honors, and the student must have earned a grade point average of greater than 3.5 in the concentration (as well as satisfy all the other concentration requirements).    

 Students write their thesis in their final two semesters.  In his or her sixth semester, a student contemplating a thesis should approach the faculty member with whom he or she hopes to work.  The student should ask the faculty member if he or she is open to the idea of working with the student on the thesis.  The faculty member may decline for any number of reasons or may suggest other members of the department better suited to work with the student.  If the faculty member agrees to advise the thesis, the student begins honing the topic of the thesis in consultation with the faculty member.  Before the student finishes the sixth semester, the contours of the project should be laid out so that the student can commence productive research at the very beginning of the sventh semester.  In the spring of junior year, the student should fill out a senior project information form, write a thesis proposal, obtain the necessary signatures, and submit all these materials to the Departmental Administrator, Tina Creamer.

Questions? Please contact Departmenatl Administrator, Tina Creamer or Director of Undergraduate Studies, Mark Cladis.