A Guide to Comps in Cinema & Media Studies 

In Carleton’s Department of Cinema & Media Studies, the senior integrative exercise—popularly known as “Comps”—is an independent, self-directed student project.  The goal for students is to produce a work of substantial accomplishment that builds on and synthesizes their coursework in the major.

CAMS majors enroll in CAMS 400: Integrative Exercise fall term of their senior year.

Note: Students proposing a production comps (film or moving image installation) also enroll in CAMS 370 Junior Production Workshop in the spring of their junior year and CAMS 371 Senior Production Workshop (required) in the fall of their senior year.

Students enrolled in CAMS 400 are assigned two faculty advisers. While students are required to meet with advisers at three specific checkpoints (check-in, midterm, and final feedback meetings), Comps is an opportunity to demonstrate independence, maturity and mastery as an emerging scholar and/or media producer, and the capacity for self-direction appropriate to a culminating senior-year project.

Comps in Cinema & Media Studies is evaluated based on these six components:

  1. Pitch: A 1-2 page project pitch.
  2. Proposal: Once the pitch is approved, a 4-5 page proposal with accompanying bibliography.
  3. Project: A single major project (typically a research-analysis paper, screenplay, short film, sound project, or moving image installation).
  4. Methods Essay: A 4-5 page essay that reflects on the relevant historical, theoretical, cultural and artistic contexts for the project, with accompanying bibliography, appropriately documented (MLA or Chicago style). Students should be able to take a step back and analyze their own work.
  5. Presentation: Attendance and participation in Comps Symposium, scheduled for the third weekend of winter term. In addition to presenting their own work, students are expected to respond to the work of their peers during Q&A.
  6. Process: Students are expected to follow the syllabus, attend to details, meet deadlines, etc.

Comps Courses

CAMS 400: Integrative Exercise (a.k.a. Comps).  Students enroll in CAMS 400 fall term of their senior year. The workload for CAMS 400 is equivalent to that of a typical six-credit course. Passing CAMS 400 entails the successful and timely completion of all required components of Comps as listed above: pitch, proposal, project, methods essay, public presentation and process.

CAMS 370 Junior Production Workshop and CAMS 371 Senior Production Workshop: Students proposing a production comps (film or moving image installation) also enroll in CAMS 370 Junior Production Workshop in the spring of their junior year and CAMS 371 Senior Production Workshop (required) in the fall of their senior year.

Pitch & Proposal

The Comps Pitch is a 1-2 page document in which students outline their working title, project type, a brief project description, a brief justification of their curricular preparation for proposing the project, and supplemental materials.

The Comps Proposal is 4-5 pages (double-spaced) with an accompanying bibliography listing 7-10 sources of inspiration and influence for the project (books, journal articles, films, etc.) Proposals for a collaborative project—two or more students—may be accepted if individual contributions are substantial and clearly delineated.

Successful Comps Proposals demonstrate preparation for the project as reflected in CAMS coursework. The objective is to ensure that projects build upon a solid foundation of study and mastery. Majors are encouraged to plan ahead and enroll in courses that will give them the foundation they need to be able to propose the Comps projects they wish to do. For example, students proposing to write a research or analysis paper should have taken, at minimum, CAMS 110 and a 200-level course in which they have developed the necessary skills in research and/or analysis.

Students thinking to produce a moving image project should have taken, at minimum, CAMS 111 and a 200-level production course in the relevant genre (fiction, nonfiction, animation, or experimental film). Students proposing a moving image installation should offer a clear vision of the installation based on where it will be installed. Students are encouraged to think creatively about their Comps topics but to avoid proposing topics that are not supported by their coursework.

Once the proposal is accepted, students are assigned first and second advisors.  Students develop and execute their projects in consultation with their first advisors. Second advisors serve as additional evaluators at the mid-course review and final feedback meeting.

Papers & Projects

Scholarly papers are typically a development or furthering of a previous course paper or related topic.  Recommended length for scholarly papers is 25-30 pages, double-spaced, not to exceed 35 pages.

Media production projects are typically video/film, sound and/or moving image media installations. Students proposing production projects must understand that associated expenses for production, documentation and final submission are their own responsibility. Recommended duration for moving image projects is 5-7 minutes, with a maximum of 10 minutes. Sound projects, screenplays, moving image installations, or similar projects will have expectations for scope clearly established in advance with faculty advisors. Projects exceeding these limits or not achieving specified scope will not be accepted.

The Methods Essay is a 4-5 page (double-spaced) analysis of the historical, theoretical and artistic contexts for one’s work, and includes a bibliography of relevant sources of inspiration and influence, appropriately documented (typically MLA or Chicago style).  The methods essay typicaly involves a critical analysis of one’s own work, but it will differ in form and conception for varying projects. None of us works in a vacuum; we create in a continuing tradition of individuals and ideas that constitute a living conversation. Thus we benefit from placing our work in a tradition and understanding the whys and wherefores of our work in relation to our predecessors. Because the methods essay is meant to inform the development and unfolding of a Comps project, it should be developed early and nurtured frequently. A complete rough draft is due at mid-course review.

Comps Symposium

The Comps Symposium is held the third weekend of winter term. It is the public forum in which students are expected to present their work and respond to the work of their peers. Each student has 20 minutes to present and 10 minutes for questions. Attendance and participation in Comps Symposium is required, with the date posted in advanced. Students are expected to arrange their busy schedules to accommodate this requirement.


CAMS 400 Grades will be recorded with the Registrar late spring term. Students receive a brief letter of notification from the faculty at that time, indicating that they have satisfactorily passed Comps. Passing comps entails the successful completion of all six components related to comps: pitch, proposal, project, methods essay, presentation and process. Distinction in the Major is awarded at the discretion of the faculty, and is based on a combination of academic excellence in the Major (having a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.5 in CAMS) and in exceeding expectations in all components of Comps.