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English 4900: Senior Capstone Seminar
Spring 2017
(CRN 25506)

Macon campus, Wednesdays 5:30-8:00, Jones 123
3 credit hours


Dr. Chip Rogers
Email: chip@chipspage.com
Website: www.chipspage.com

Office: Arts and Sciences (COAS) 203
: (478) 471-5366
Office hours: M 12:00-1:00, Tu 10:00-12:30, 2:00-4:00
     W 4:00-5:30, Th 11:30-12:30, and by appointment


The MGA Catalog indicates that English 4900 is "a capstone course required of candidates in the traditional track of the B.A. in English. The course engages students in advanced critical analysis, leading to an original research project. Students produce an extended critical essay based on the research and make an oral presentation of their research." As the word "capstone" suggests, this course is the culmination of the English major's journey in advanced undergraduate studies of literature. The Senior Capstone Seminar aims to refine and showcase the knowledge and skills students have achieved through the English B.A. curriculum.

MGA Liberal Education and America’s Promise (LEAP) States Initiative: This course contains an assignment or project with a LEAP designation. LEAP is an initiative of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U), and Georgia was named a LEAP State in 2016.  The primary goal of LEAP is to make excellence in college-level learning inclusive through essential learning outcomes, high impact practices, and authentic assessments. All students will complete the assignment or project, and guidelines will be provided. 

Liberal Education and America's Promise (LEAP) Essential Learning Outcomes: Students will demonstrate intellectual and practical skills, including:

  • Inquiry and analysis
  • Critical and creative thinking
  • Written and oral communication
  • Information literacy.

Student Learning Outcomes: Students will:

  • engage in advanced analytical research to stimulate critical thinking and generate ideas for written expression (measured in the capstone paper),
  • exercise cumulative skills acquired in critical thinking, research, and evaluation (measured by the annotated bibliography),
  • exercise advanced analytical and stylistic skills in writing, demonstrating the ability to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate (measured in the capstone paper),
  • exercise skill in the techniques of advanced library research and appropriate MLA documentation (measured by the capstone paper),
  • present their analysis and research findings orally with evident rhetorical skill (measured by the oral presentation).
At least a "C" in English 3010 and 90 or more earned credit hours.


No textbooks are required for the course, though all students should have access to the 8th edition of the MLA Handbook or some other authoritative handbook containing full coverage of the 2016 MLA style update.

Course requirements/assignments

Faculty advisors: It is a requirement of the course that each student formally secure one of the department's faculty members to guide and mentor the student throughout the capstone process. Choose capstone advisors carefully, aiming most importantly for faculty who have specific expertise in the content area or critical or theoretical concerns central to your project. Note that faculty members should not be expected to advise more than one capstone student per semester.

Reflective responses: periodic writings reflecting on the challenges and achievements you experience over course of the capstone project. Reflective responses are informal, journal-like writings of 250-500 words; you will receive specific prompts for these assignments throughout the semester.

Statement of topic: a brief (150-200 word) statement of the central question(s) you plan to address in the seminar paper. 

Project prospectus: a 500-700 word description of your plans for development of the seminar paper (once your topic is approved).

Annotated bibliography: an initial working bibliography of sources pertinent to your topic (eight sources minimum).

Seminar paper: the guts of the course: an essay of 20-25 pages (exclusive of works cited pages), written in in five-page increments, workshopped by the class and reviewed by the professor as they are composed. The paper will establish a critical or theoretical context for the project, engage significant and substantial scholarly commentary on its central issues, and analyze and explore the most essential implications of the project. As befitting a capstone experience, papers will be carefully reasoned, well-supported with evidence, and of polished quality in grammar, diction, mechanics, and documentation of sources.

Peer workshops: thoughtful and critically helpful responses, both oral and written, to installments of classmates' papers as they are composed.

Oral presentation: a carefully rehearsed 15-20 minute presentation of the most compelling portion(s) of the seminar paper, with five minutes for question and answer with the audience, to be delivered in a professional setting to the faculty of the English Department and other interested members of the MGA community.


Attendance: Each class is important, so it is crucial that you be in class for face-to-face meetings on time every day. Students with more than two absences cannot pass the class, regardless of the reasons for any of the absences—I make no distinction between "excused" and "unexcused" absences. I understand that "stuff happens," and not every student will be able to attend every class meeting. I will try to work with you on any major work you happen to miss, especially when you let me know about the absence before missing class: call me or email anytime you simply must miss class. Some weeks, in lieu of class meetings, students will have one-on-one conferences with the instructor: missed scheduled conferences will count as absences.

Required course components: Regardless of your mathematical average in the course, you must complete all assignments in a timely manner to pass the class: the statement of topic, project prospectus, annotated bibliography, reflective responses, seminar paper, and oral presentation.

Late penalties: Even more than in other classes, keeping up with the workload is essential in a capstone course: any assignment turned in late will incur a 10% grade penalty on the assignment for each calendar day late. Five-page installments of the seminar paper turned in late will incur a 10% grade penalty on the overall paper grade. Oral presentations may not be given late, and failure to deliver the oral presentation to the faculty at the scheduled time results in failure of the course.

Incompletes: Incompletes are exceedingly rare, virtually nonexistent, in the capstone course. If you are unable to make satisfactory progress on your work, you must withdraw from the course by the published deadline (March 15th) and retake the course at the soonest available opportunity.

Plagiarism: Except for assignments expressly calling for collaborative effort, all written work must be your own. Any unacknowledged borrowing from the writings of others will be considered plagiarism, a serious breach of academic integrity. I will submit cases of plagiarism or other academic dishonesty for review by the Student Conduct Officer. The penalty for plagiarism in this class is an "F" for the entire course, not just the assignment in question. 

Note that the Department of English's definition of plagiarism is operative in this class:

1. It is plagiarism to copy another’s words directly and present them as your own without quotation marks and direct indication of whose words you are copying.  All significant phrases, clauses, and passages copied from another source require quotation marks and proper acknowledgment, down to the page number(s) of printed texts.

2. It is plagiarism to paraphrase another writer’s work by altering some words but communicating the same essential point(s) made by the original author without proper acknowledgment.  Though quotation marks are not needed with paraphrasing, you must still acknowledge the original source directly.

3. Plagiarism includes presenting someone else’s ideas or factual discoveries as your own.  If you follow another person’s general outline or approach to a topic, presenting another’s original thinking or specific conclusions as your own, you must cite the source even if your work is in your own words entirely.  When you present another’s statistics, definitions, or statements of fact in your own work, you must also cite the source.

4. Plagiarism includes allowing someone else to prepare work that you present as your own.

5. Plagiarism applies in other media besides traditional written texts, including, but not limited to, oral presentations, graphs, charts, diagrams, artwork, video and audio compositions, and other electronic media such as web pages, PowerPoint presentations, and postings to online discussions.

Withdrawal Policies: Students are encouraged to read the withdrawal policy found at http://www.mga.edu/registrar/dropadd.aspx before dropping/withdrawing from the class. Students may withdraw from the course and earn a grade of “W” up to and including the midterm date (Wednesday, March 15, 2017). After midterm, students who withdraw will receive a grade of “WF.” A WF is calculated in the GPA as an “F.” Instructors may assign “W” grades for students with excessive absences (beyond the number of absences permitted by the instructor’s stated attendance policy). Students may withdraw from a maximum of five courses throughout their enrollment at Middle Georgia State. Beyond the five-course limit, withdrawals result in “F” grades. 

Class Behavior Expectations and Consequences for Violations: Middle Georgia State University students are responsible for reading, understanding, and abiding by the MGA Student Code of Conduct. Student Code of Conduct, Responsibilities, Procedures, and Rights are found at  

MGA Policy on Disability Accommodations: Students seeking academic accommodations for a special need must contact the Middle Georgia State University Office of Disability Services in Macon at (478) 471-2985 or in Cochran at (478) 934-3023. See http://www.mga.edu/disability-services/

“Technical Policy” (re: plagiarism detection): a plagiarism prevention service is used in evaluation of written work submitted for this course. As directed by the instructor, students are expected to submit or have their assignments submitted through the service in order to meet requirements for this course. The papers may be retained by the service for the sole purpose of checking for plagiarized content in future student submissions.

End of Course Evaluations: Student evaluations of faculty are administered online at the end of each term/session for all courses with five or more students. Students will receive an email containing a link to a survey for each course in which they are enrolled. All responses are anonymous.

Cell phones/personal electronics: The use of cell phones, ipods, and other hand-held personal electronics devices is not permitted during face-to-face classtime.  All such devices must be kept out of sight for the duration of class—off of desks and out of laps. I will count absent any student texting or viewing a personal electronic device, and if the problem persists I will ask students not abiding by this policy to leave the classroom. Students who wish to take notes on laptops may do so, but only if they sit in the back row.

Final grade composition

 Project prospectus
 Annotated bibliography
 Reflective responses
 Seminar paper
 Oral presentation 

Addendum to the syllabus:
bulletEnglish 4900 schedule of meetings and assignments