The Senior Integrative Exercise (Comps) consists primarily of an essay (25–30 pages) in which you explore some topic in the field of Religion. In addition, you will give an oral presentation on your essay in the spring term of your senior year.

Goals of Religion Comps

The two goals of the comps process are:

  1. That you demonstrate competence in some aspect of the academic study of religion, and
  2. That you integrate skills and knowledge that you have gleaned from classes you have taken in college.

It is especially important that you draw on work you have done in courses for your major, but your comps project may also integrate work you have done in off-campus study programs, a concentration (if you have one), or other fields.

Whatever topic you choose for your comps project, it should demonstrate that you have acquired certain intellectual skills (both in content and in theory) and that you can apply these to some aspect of religious life and/or thought.

Key skills include:

  • Reading carefully
  • Asking critical questions
  • Thinking analytically
  • Formulating cogent arguments
  • Using evidence from primary sources, and
  • Writing clearly and gracefully

You will be expected to utilize these skills as you research some dimension of religion, whether that be religious ideas, symbols, practices, communities, figures, or movements.

Comps Timeline

Ultimately, your comps papers will be 7500–9000 words, inclusive of footnotes, but exclusive of bibliography. A proposal outlining your comps will be due early in October. See sections titled Comps Proposals: Expectations and Criteria for Evaluation and Elements and Format of Proposal. Once your proposal is approved and two readers assigned, you will have until the middle of Winter term (senior year) to complete your initial comps paper. It will then be read by your two readers and returned to you with their comments before the end of Winter term. Early in the Spring term you will submit a revised final version of your comps paper; later in the term, you will participate in the oral presentation of your research.

Criteria for Acceptance and Distinction

Upon final submission, Comps essays will be judged Not Passing/Pass/Pass with Distinction. They may be judged as having “Passed with Distinction” if they meet the following criteria:

  1. Methodologically sophisticated and self-conscious;
  2. Thoroughly researched, with clear mastery of material;
  3. Subtle and nuanced in argument;
  4. Exceptionally well written, in polished and graceful prose;
  5. Highly integrative, effectively synthesizing work in the major;
  6. Creative: intellectually adventurous or risky;
  7. Polished, effective oral presentation;
  8. Has met all deadlines and been conscientious about fulfilling all requirements of the process.

A student whose work merits this rating and who also has a GPA in the major of 3.5 will graduate with “Distinction in the Major,” and will be so listed on the commencement program.

Final Words of Advice

  • Begin work on your proposal early. 
  • Consult with faculty (both inside and outside of the Religion Department, as appropriate) for help as you choose a topic, formulate your research questions, and gather resources. Preliminary conversations using the Pre-Proposal Comps Worksheet process should help keep you from over-committing to an unworkable or unmanageable proposal
  • Choose a topic about which you are enthusiastic, since this project will need to sustain your interest for most of the academic year.
  • Most of all: Prepare this proposal carefully. This is not the sort of thing that you can “throw together” in the last few days before it is due. This should be a thorough, thoughtful, well-crafted explanation of what you plan to study, how, and why. The department wants to assure your successful completion of the comps requirement and your proposal will indicate you have developed the sort of substantive, well-designed research plan that is necessary to launching your comps research.

In the sections that follow, you will learn about deadlines, formatting, and content guidelines for the proposal (due in fall of your senior year), as well as sample comps topics.