What is DS? Capstone


All concentrators must complete a senior capstone experience. Students from the class of 2016 and beyond may choose to complete a thesis or alternative capstone project (described below) OR complete a senior capstone seminar. Those who wish to complete a thesis/capstone project must secure approval from the DS Advisory Committee and DEVL 1500 (Methods) instructor at the end of the junior year. Approval will be contingent on the project’s viability and the student having secured a project advisor. Students who do not receive approval for their project or who choose not to complete a capstone project, must complete a senior capstone seminar in the senior year. The seminar will require that the student write a research paper that utilizes his or her foreign language skills.

ALL students graduating prior to 2016 are required to complete a senior capstone project.

The capstone can take the form of a thesis, media project, or other. Students must receive approval for their topic, but generally any topic that fits within the general framework of development studies research will be appropriate. In developing, researching and writing the capstone students work closely with the DEVL 1500 (Methods) course instructor in the junior year, with a faculty advisor, and with a second advisor. The primary faculty advisor should be a regular Brown faculty member, while the second advisor may be a Ph.D. candidate, a Watson Institute visitor, or a faculty member at another university or college. The Concentration Advisor will give final approval to students’ advisor choices.

The capstone should be an original piece of research that addresses a substantive or theoretical problem in development studies. The research must involve the collection and analysis of primary data, as well as engage theories and debates in existing scholarship. Whenever possible, students are encouraged to use data collected from fieldwork. In analyzing their data students can draw from any of the established methodologies in the social sciences (for example, ethnography, statistics, content analysis, comparative historical).

Choosing an Advisor
Students must secure a primary advisor by the end of the junior year. The advisor must be a faculty member who will be in residence throughout the student's senior year. Students must be proactive in their search for an advisor: possible advisors will not come to you, you must go to them. You should approach any faculty member who you believe to be interested in your thesis topic. The DS Concentration Advisor, Advisory Committee, and DEVL 1500 instructor are available to help students identify potential advisors.

Your final choice of advisor and their willingness to advise you will be the result of many factors, but there are at least three possible foundations on which a good working relationship may be built:

1. A faculty member you find interesting and stimulating, and someone you are confident will engage your work and your ideas.

2. A faculty member who has theoretical or methodological interests and expertise in areas that will be useful to your research topic. Such a person might actually know very little about the specific topic you are researching (e.g., access to agricultural land in Bihar, India) but may know a lot about a body of theory (gender and household dynamics) that is essential to your ability to develop the appropriate analytical framework for your research, or may have skills in a technique (statistics, ethnography) that will help you develop the appropriate investigative tools.

3. A faculty member who either has expertise in the area you are investigating (knowledge of the issue or region) or is conducting similar research.

By early in your Senior year, you should also have reached an understanding with a second advisor.

If a senior capstone project requires the use of quantitative methods, by the end of the junior year students should take at least one course in statistics for social science in any of the following departments: economics, political science, sociology.

Capstone Project Option 1: Senior Thesis
Students take DEVL 1980: Senior Seminar in Thesis Writing, in the fall of the senior year.  In the spring of the senior year,  students enroll in DEVL 1990: Independent Study in Thesis Writing (with their primary advisor as their instructor) while working on their thesis. The typical thesis is an individual research project that results in an eighty to one hundred page document consisting of a theoretical chapter and several empirical chapters.

Students wishing to write a thesis that requires advanced knowledge and advising from a particular field should take extra coursework in that field before the senior year. For example, students planning to do a project that requires advising from a professor in the economics department should take three of the following courses by the end of their junior year: ECON 1110 or 1130, 1210, 1560, 1620 or 1630 (this is all in addition to the required 510/1510). It’s best to take ECON 0110 and calculus in the first year, although starting later is possible. Complete ECON 1110 or 1130 and ECON 1210 by the end of your sophomore year.


Option 2: Media Project
For a multimedia project to be considered it must be based on an analytical framework and supported/supplemented by 2-3 chapters: introduction, background, empirical, conclusion.

Multimedia projects include but are not limited to:
-Documentary film
-Audio/Visual project
-Audio Podcast work
-Multimedia Installation

If the senior thesis contains a multimedia/documentary project, by the end of the junior year students are required to take at least two of the following classes:

Highly Recommended:
MCM/VISA 0730: Introduction to Video Production
MCM 0780: Soundtracks
RISD FAV 5103: Introduction Video
RISD FAV 5110: Documentary Production

Approved Courses for requirement fulfillment:
MCM 0110: Introduction to Modern Culture and Media
MCM 0710: Introduction to Filmmaking
MCM 1700D: Reframing Documentary Production
FAV 5125: Film & Video Installation
MUSC1250: Sound Design

Understand that most of these classes will require an application process because they are such small production classes. Prepare for this, to ensure your enrollment.

Note that fulfillment of course requirement does not automatically equip you with skills necessary to successfully execute the project. Among coursework, it is highly suggested that you incorporate production work into your extracurricular activity.

- Apply to work on documentary/film production teams (you can find these through MCM)
- BTV/MainGreen.TV – Practice with equipment/cameras
- WBRU – Production Department (Learn how to mix and master audio)
Get involved with as many audio/video projects as possible. They’re everywhere.

Option 3: Other
Other forms of non-thesis projects are subject to the approval of the DEVL 1500 instructor and DS Advisory Committee.