Senior Project

The senior project requirement gives students the opportunity to research a specific topic in greater depth than is possible in a normal semester.

Religious studies majors should select a topic that relates to the area concentration in their major program.

Begin early! Plan ahead!

One semester prior to your senior project:

  1. Begin defining your research topic.
    • Consider building on a topic you’ve already researched in a class
    • Consider new ways to put together ideas from across different classes
  2. Begin defining your research method.
    • What types of data will you use and how will you gather it?
    • How long will it take you to gather your information?
      • Literary material: fiction, narratives, religious texts
      • Historical information collected from secondary sources, government offices, archives, newspapers or other periodicals
      • Ethnographic information collected through observation, interviews, surveys
  3. Begin gathering secondary sources and building a bibliography.
    • Who are the main scholars who have addressed your topic? What have they had to say about it?
    • What primary sources will be included? How will you decide which editions to use?
  4. Seek out a faculty member to serve as your senior project advisor
    • Make an appointment with the faculty member to discuss your topic and whether he/she would be able to direct the project.


Students in religious studies do the senior project as a directed research project with a faculty member of their choice, who serves as the senior project advisor.

  • 4 senior project credits are required. This may be fulfilled by a 4-credit independent project or, with the approval of the faculty advisor and the DUS, by an augmented course project.  In this case, students should register for the course (typically 3 credits) and register for one RELS 4952 credit.
  • Print the Student/Faculty Contract Form.
  • Fill out the form with your senior project advisor. Faculty members vary greatly in how much detail they will require on the contract. Be sure to discuss the entire process and his/her expectations with your faculty advisor.
  • The course number is RELS 4952.
  • Make sure your senior project advisor signs the form.
  • Sign the form yourself.
  • Bring the form to the religious studies director of undergraduate studies office in Nicholson 150C for a signature.
  • Bring the form to 245 Nicholson to verify the section number.
  • Bring the form to 49 Johnson to receive a registration permission number.
  • Use the permission number to register through OneStop.


During most semesters, religious studies offers a voluntary writing workshop for students working on senior projects in religious studies. The workshop focuses on research and writing strategies throughout the semester—providing tips on such aspects as:

  • Developing your topic focus through defining a problem statement
  • Developing a research plan
  • Developing and writing a review of the secondary literature
  • Gathering and keeping track of information
  • Outlining and rough drafting
  • Drafting
  • Polishing

Workshop participants will read one another's work and provide feedback.


Senior projects should consist of original research on a topic related to religion, carried out by the student in consultation with a faculty member. Senior projects in most cases will deal with a topic related to the area concentration of the individual student.

Senior projects usually take the final form of an analytical research paper of approximately 25 pages in length. Such papers must be fully documented and include a bibliography. Other forms may be negotiated with the senior project advisor.

The final grade of a senior project is given exclusively by the senior project advisor.