Capstone Seminar

The priority deadline for Spring 2024 capstone seminars is October 26, 2023. View the capstone course descriptions and the capstone request form.

All CLA students earning BA degrees must complete a capstone project. To satisfy this requirement, English majors choose from ENGL 3885W, ENGW 3885W, and ENGL 3883V (see "Honors" below). Students completing multiple BA majors may choose to complete their capstone project in another major and substitute four elective upper-level ENGL/W credits for ENGL/W 3885W. Students who are completing English majors but not earning BA degrees (that is, those who are earning a different type of undergraduate degree and adding English as an "outside" major) must complete ENGL/W 3885W.

ENGL and ENGW 3885W both require department permission to register. English majors receive permission to register for a capstone seminar by submitting the capstone request form (including a writing sample for admission to a creative writing workshop). ENGL 3885W will include topics in literature and language, while ENGW 3885W is a creative writing workshop in either poetry or fiction and non-fiction.

Prerequisites for Admission

Prerequisites for admission to ENGL and ENGW 3885W include the following:

  • English major status
  • Completion of the Critical Theories and Methods requirement
  • Priority will be given to students who plan to graduate in the term they are requesting to take the capstone seminar

Please note that there are additional requirements if you wish to apply to ENGW 3885W:

  • Completion of at least six credits of creative writing courses including one intermediate (ENGW 3xxx-level) or advanced creative writing workshop, preferably in the genre of the ENGW 3885W workshop to which you are applying.
  • Submission of a creative writing sample. The sample should consist of 10-12 pages of your best creative work in the genre to which you are applying. If you have no appropriate work in the genre, submit a sample of what you consider to be your best work.


Honors students who wish to graduate magna cum laude or cum laude may write an Honors thesis in ENGL or ENGW 3885V. If you wish to use your capstone paper as an honors thesis, you must discuss your plans with your instructor by the end of the second week of the term. You and your instructor must decide together what additional or enriched work you will do in order to have your capstone paper count as an honors thesis. Examples of such work include covering the topic in greater depth, using primary sources more robustly, or incorporating more creativity, more synthesis, and/or advanced analysis. Consult with your honors adviser for more details.
Honors students who wish to complete an Option C thesis should consult with their capstone seminar instructor about alternative forms of the capstone paper. The Option C thesis must meet the minimum word count for the capstone paper of 4,000-5,500 words (13-17 pages), but the form of the thesis may vary. For example, an Option C thesis could take the form of a semester-long independent blogging project, a project that incorporates creative or personal elements into an academic paper, a government or NGO report on a major public issue, the writing of two or three shorter papers on a common theme, or the creation of a podcast, video, website, or some other means of documenting your skills and knowledge. As with an Option A thesis, an Option C thesis must involve additional or enriched work in order to count as an honors thesis.

Summa cum laude degree candidates complete a two-semester project via a directed study. See separate guidelines.

Instructors and Paper Topics

English and Creative Writing faculty teach ENGL 3885W and ENGW 3885W. Faculty choose the seminar topics and the assigned readings. In fall semesters, we offer two to three sections of ENGL 3885W and one section of ENGW 3885W (usually poetry writing). In spring semesters, we offer five to six sections of ENGL 3885W and one to two sections of ENGW 3885W (usually fiction and creative non-fiction writing).

Topics in Literature and Language (ENGL 3885W)

Your topic will be based on readings and/or writing required in ENGL 3885W. It will be developed in consultation with the instructor and must be approved by him or her. Your paper must be substantive and reflect original insights or approaches. Topics may include (but are not limited to) critical literary analyses, lesson plans for teaching literature to a specific audience, or the development of digital tools designed to engage readers in discussions about literature, language, writing, cultural studies, or the teaching thereof.

Topics in Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-Fiction Prose (ENGW 3885W)

Students intending to write a creative project should already have a body of work from the prerequisite ENGW 3xxx-level course(s) taken. The creative capstone project produced in ENGW 3885W may build on this body of work, but it must be substantive and original. This might be the opportunity to employ new techniques learned in previous writing workshops. Students share their writing with other students and participate in workshops discussing their work. ENGW 3885W will also include required readings


Capstone papers must be approximately 13–17 pages, typed, double spaced, 12-point font. It is not negotiable to write fewer than 13 pages. Your capstone paper or creative project may not exceed the maximum page length specified by the course instructor.


The professor teaching ENGL or ENGW 3885W will award a course grade only when the final draft of the capstone paper meets the department's and the professor's criteria for an acceptable capstone paper. By University and College policy, this grade must be at least C- to satisfy the capstone project requirement.

Evidence and Documentation

Students completing a capstone paper in literature and language should consider primary texts as the evidence or data for the claims they make in their arguments and analyses. Papers must refer to these primary texts by means of quotation, paraphrase, or allusion. Students are also expected to consult secondary sources and interact with critics, theoretical positions, and historical contexts; these interactions should reflect disagreement with, as well as indebtedness to, outside authorities. All sources must be properly cited within the text and at the end in the form of a "Works Cited" page. 

Organization and Mechanics

Capstone papers and creative projects should maintain a structure and follow a cohesive logic that allows for smooth transition between ideas. The work must also be free from mechanical errors; students should think of this project as an early example of their professional work. Professors expect students to complete careful editing through proofreading and to hand in work that is in no sense a "draft."

Student Writing Support

The Center for Writing (15 Nicholson Hall) provides free writing instruction for all University students at all stages of the writing process.