Junior and Senior Year

Introduction to the American Studies Senior Project Seminar
& Upper-Level Seminars

Deciding to embark upon a semester or year of researching and writing your senior essay is an ambitious affair. It requires fortitude, resourcefulness, organization, discipline, and great passion for your subject. Without fail, you will encounter unforeseen problems and many moments when you wonder why you took up the task in the first place. You will find as Sylvia Plath did, that “Every day one has to earn the name of ‘writer’ over again, with much wrestling.” [1] All of this while juggling not just the usual coursework and extracurricular activities, but also job searches and graduate school applications—and of course a very special type of spring fever.  

For those who venture forth the rewards can be immense, as it is the opportunity to demonstrate what you have learned over the past four years. In order to be successful, you must begin early. Projects that are triumphant, both in the experience of writing and research and in their reception, are those in which students have established their research plans and secured an advisor well in advance of enrolling in the course. Below you will find information on the process, expectations, and timeline for the completion of either a one-term or yearlong project.

As a course, the American Studies Senior Project Seminar meets regularly with assignments designed to facilitate the research and writing process. In addition, the seminar provides opportunities for students interested in designing a project that incorporates film, theater, dance, fine arts, music, electronic media, etc.  If you decide that such a special project is of interest to you, then it is all the more imperative that you secure a topic, a plan, the approval of the DUS, and a faculty advisor as early as possible. 


Below is a suggested timeline. You will see that the successful senior project begins in the junior year. It is during this penultimate year that you should focus on finding a topic and an advisor, as well as research funds, if needed. If you organize your work well, you can spend the summer doing research and putting together a draft prospectus. Note that the senior year starts off quickly. Within the first two weeks of the semester, you must submit a prospectus and an application form signed by your advisor. If you’ve completed these things before the semester begins, you’re well on your way. Regardless of whether you’re taking the one-term or yearlong course you will need to submit an annotated bibliography or bibliographic essay on the day you submit your schedule both for the fall and spring. Again, having an early handle on your topic makes this much easier. Full drafts are due within one month of submission of the bibliography. The final draft is due the following month. Without proper planning, meeting these deadlines can be a difficult proposition.

Junior Year
  • Fall: Narrow down subject area and potential faculty advisors. If interested in a project that would entail something such as making a film, ensure that you take the required courses. 
  • Spring: Secure an advisor. Submit applications for summer funding. Make sure you schedule an appointment with your advisor before the semester ends to help you develop a summer research plan.
  • Summer: Execute research plan. Stay in contact with your advisor. Draft prospectus.
Senior Year
  • September: Application form signed by advisor and prospectus submitted. If doing a special/multi-media project, it must be approved by the DUS as well. Meeting with James Kessenides, Kaplanoff librarian for U.S. history and American studies.
  • October: Annotated bibliography due.
  • November: Fall-term students’ rough drafts due.*
  • December: Presentation of work by fall-term students. Final 30-page drafts due for fall students.  First 15 pages or annotated outline due for yearlong students. Yearlong students devise research plans for winter break.
  • Winter Break: Execute research plan.
  • January: First meeting of yearlong students. 2nd set of 15 pages due by end of the month. 
  • February: 3rd set of 15 pages due for yearlong students.
  • March: Full 60-page draft due.
  • April: In-class presentations. Final 30- and 60-page drafts due. American Studies Senior Seminar Project Colloquium held.

*Ideally, spring semester students would secure an advisor by the end of November, and come up with a research plan and/or a draft of the prospectus during the winter break.

Upper-Level Seminars (AMST 400-470)

Students also have the option of fulfilling the American studies senior year requirement for work in the area of their concentration by taking an upper-level (AMST 400-470) seminar. In order to do so, you must submit a senior seminar registration form via email to the undergraduate registrar by the final day of open registration for the semester. The form, which must be signed by you, your advisor, and the DUS, outlines your intention of employing the course to fulfill your concentration requirement. Upon completion of the course, you also must submit a 20+ -page essay or its sanctioned equivalent via email to both your instructor and the undergraduate registrar. With the exception of the Norman Holmes Pearson Prize and the Richard Hegel Prize for a Senior Essay on New Haven, work completed for upper-level seminars also may be considered for departmental awards. For further information about these prizes, click here.