Department of Religious Studies

Capstone & Honors

Like many concentrations at Brown, the Department of Religious Studies requires all of its concentrators to complete a senior capstone project. The capstone project is intended to serve as a culminating experience for the Religious Studies concentration.

While introductory gateway courses introduced concentrators to the discipline and upper-level courses examined particular topics or methodologies, a capstone project provides concentrators with an opportunity to synthesize what they have learned, while also delving more deeply into the themes and topics they find most central to their own interests. 

The required Senior Capstone Seminar (RELS 1995) serves as a venue for concentrators to pursue a capstone project.  All rising seniors are required to sign up for this course, including students electing to write honors theses.  A passing grade in the course satisfies the department's capstone requirement.  By the end of the Capstone Seminar, thesis writers will complete a portion of their thesis, while students not electing to write an honors thesis will complete a project that builds on their interests and earlier work.  Examples of non-thesis capstone projects include academic essays as well as more creative projects, including podcasts and works of visual art.  Ideally, capstone projects will be useful to the concentrator in some way - whether as part of a graduate school application, a creative portfolio for a job, or simply as a response to a friend or family member who asks "what was Religious Studies about (for you)?"

In extraordinary circumstances, students may petition the DUS to complete a capstone by other means.  This would involve following the former capstone process, in which students completed a project in conjunction with an advanced seminar or independent study.  


To receive Honors in Religious Studies, a student must write an Honors Thesis. An honors thesis is an opportunity for students to conduct extended independent research under the guidance of a faculty member.

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). 

Additional Information

The Bishop McVickar Prize is awarded for the best senior honors theses on any topic related to the academic study of religion