The Senior Seminar & Research Workshop is an immersive, year-long, research and writing methods course. Its aim is to prepare Rice English majors to produce a significant piece of independent work, critical and/or creative. Unlike the previous capstone requirement, this course has no specific content. Instead, students decide on their project's content depending on their own interests and goals! Each year, the Senior Seminar & Research Workshop will be co-taught by three English faculty members from different areas of expertise, including one creative writer. Beginning with the graduating class of 2023, the course will be a requirement for all matriculating English majors. For students graduating between 2020 and 2022, the Senior Seminar & Research Workshop will be optional but recommended.
The Fall Senior Seminar will guide each year’s senior cohort through the methods and best-practices that invigorate longer-forms of creative inquiry and research. The Spring Research Workshop functions as a more hybridized course, with some classes exploring topics relevant to the entire cohort, and others geared towards smaller, workshop-style discussions. At strategic points throughout the Spring writing process, students will meet individually with one of the faculty instructors, as well as with an outside faculty reader in their field of interest. All students will have the opportunity to present and celebrate their work at an end-of-the-year departmental symposium.
The culmination of the course is an in-depth critical or creative work with the potential for public-facing components (ex. performances, websites, e-zines, podcasts, community events), as well as collaborations with a student’s secondary major or minor. While some projects will grow out of previous coursework in students’ area of specialization, or in the creative writing concentration, we would hope that others will use the project as a way to articulate creative intersections between your other intellectual pursuits and/or your professional areas of interest.
Similar to other senior design and research courses throughout the university, the Senior Seminar & Research Workshop engages students in the deeper and more rewarding processes of sustained writing and research. The course helps students regard both forms of inquiry as powerful skills within their professional set.
Note: For students who intend to graduate in December or who plan to study abroad in their senior year, the senior seminar may be begun in the junior year and completed in the senior year. Special circumstances such as this one will be advised by the DUS.
A: Prior to this offering, students had to take a single capstone requirement. But the capstones felt hyper-specific, and there were often too few offered.
In early 2017, the faculty embarked on a mission to create a more unified experience for our majors. We wanted a more immersive and inclusive experience that could build community amongst the graduating cohort; we wanted to create an environment for a freer exchange of ideas and research methods; and we wanted to give our students that chance to pursue their own unique interests with the same kinds of sustained research and questioning that their professors engage in. We, as a faculty, believe that it is this last and most essential skill that sets English majors apart from any other on campus. One of our ultimate hopes is that the senior seminar experience helps our students to understand this as a crucial skill within their professional set.
A: In accordance with the General Announcements, the new course will not be required for those of you who matriculated in 2018/19 or before. However, we strongly encourage current majors to consider taking the new course. Students who do so will not also be required to take a capstone. Any student who matriculated in 2018/2019 or before may still opt to take a capstone course in fulfillment of their research requirement. Though some from this cohort may still opt to pursue a traditional senior thesis, we particularly encourage students who wish to write theses to do so within the more supportive structure of the senior seminar & research workshop.
A: There is no one definition of a successful senior thesis project. Significant research, critical thought, and writing will be central to all endeavors. But there will be variety amongst your cohort’s topics, and the projects themselves will take many different shapes and forms. Even as some of you pursue a longer-form critical paper (25-40 pages) others might embark on a more traditional thesis (50-100 pages). In some instances, critical writing might be coupled with a public-facing component (i.e. e-zine, performance, podcast, or public campaign), or it might be interspersed with your own creative material. Majors with the appropriate prerequisites in creative writing might pursue a collection of poetry or short fiction, a novel or screenplay or graphic novel. Students with majors or minors outside the department could collaborate with those other areas of interest, and would hopefully choose projects and products that compliment those intersections.
A: Think about your interests and your passions. Think about your skills.
Perhaps you go back to a topic that you were introduced to in a previous English class. Think not only about what surprised and excited you, but also to what confused or even frustrated you. Great research questions come from places where we understand less than we’d like to, or where we felt emotion.
Your senior thesis might use a previous paper as a point of departure, or it might be a new investigation entirely. Your thesis could even make connection to coursework that you’ve done outside the department - in another major or minor, perhaps. But any project should involve deep connections to what we study here as majors.
Your project should be focused on a topic with which you have some familiarity and that you can execute at a high level. While significant writing will be required of all projects, some projects will take different forms - so long as you are proficient and well-versed in them. For example, if you’ve never used a camera or taken a screenwriting class or acted, it might be inadvisable to think that you could use your senior thesis project to write, direct, and star in a short film.
A: The senior seminar enables students to work closely with all three of the faculty members teaching the course.
Twice in the spring semester, students will be asked to meet with an additional, outside faculty reader of their choice to seek advising and share their progress. Ideally, this faculty reader will be someone with whom you’ve studied before, and who shares your areas of interest or specialization.
Of course, it is entirely possible to establish a more consistent relationship with a faculty member who is not teaching the class, or outside your area of specific interest. Make sure, however, to reach out to this faculty member and make sure that they would be willing to take on this additional work.
A: Distinction for final projects produced in the Senior Seminar & Research Workshop will work as it previously did for the senior thesis. Students with a minimum English GPA of 3.8 are eligible to apply with a letter of support from an English faculty member. Applications for Distinction will be judged by a faculty committee within the department.
A: In an effort to avoid scheduling conflicts, the senior seminar & research workshop will be scheduled as an evening course. In the fall of 2019, the course will meet once a week on Tuesday evenings from 5-7:50pm.
A: As said, students with majors or minors outside the department are encouraged to collaborate with those other areas of interest, and would hopefully choose projects and products that compliment those intersections.
It’s advisable to start thinking about such collaborations long in advance, especially if those projects require travel, community-based research, or deliverables other than writing.