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Capstone: Writing-Intensive

Handbook PDF


Class information

CAPS 4360

JBWN 204

MWF 9-9:50


Instructor information

Beth Eakman Re

Andre Hall #302




Capstone Handbook

Internet access membership (free!)

Justice Harvard Video Series



Before we go any farther, you might want to know what you've gotten yourself into.

BACKGROUND (or, what motivated me to challenge a petrified institution with potentially disastrous results): After teaching Capstone for several years, I saw writing majors struggling with the format. While our students should have had a huge advantage researching and composing a long sequenced-writing project, they were frustrated with the process, the conventions, and the product. The format was preventing our majors from using Capstone to showcase their hard-won writing skills. I spoke to students and ENGW faculty to get some ideas about how we could create a section that would allow our students to use their strengths while staying true to the mission-based Capstone components. I wrote a formal proposal to the office of University Programs, and thus began the long, strange trip, the star to which you have hitched your wagon.


WHAT, BIG-PICTURE-WISE, WE WILL BE DOING HERE: Capstone is basically a well-researched discussion of a "normative" question, one that asks what "should" be done. The university's Mission Statement says that we strive to prepare students "to confront the critical issues of society and to seek justice and peace. Students are helped to understand themselves, clarify their personal values and recognize their responsibility to the world community." Because you will use your skills are writers, researchers, and thinkers to answer your normative question, Capstone is an opportunity for the university to fulfill its mission and, in very concrete terms, contribute to a better, more peaceful and humane world.


You will look at a policy, one that's already in place or one that's been proposed, consider the arguments of the two sides, and argue for what you think should be done. Should the policy be implemented, rejected, or overturned? Examples include the legalization of marijuana, abstinence-only education, and the militarization of local police forces.


You've probably heard of "subs" from your friends who've taken Capstone. Subs are submissions--that just means the things you turn in. People from other majors have often never even heard of an annotated bibliography, for example, so you may have heard horror stories. For you, these subs will simply be components of a substantial research paper; you'll recognize these as standard parts of a sequenced assignment.

  1. SUB 1--Preliminary Research--has two parts. You'll do a Topic Analysis to make sure that your topic works well within the Capstone format; a topic that's a good fit makes for a LOT less work on your part. And then you'll write an Annotated Bibliography to make sure that there's enough literature on the topic (also to make it easier on yourself).

  2. SUB 2--Rough Narrative--for the general Capstone classes, is a preliminary stab at creating a narrative and, therefore, is probably the one about which you've heard the most complaining. Good news! For you this is just an expanded outline of your SUB 1. Flesh it out a bit. The biggest complaint I hear about our SUB 2 is that it can feel a bit redundant.

  3. SUB 3--Analysis--is when we look at the arguments of the debate and evaluate them in terms of effectiveness (good or bad) and ethics (right or wrong), using logical and ethical systems.

  4. SUB 4 is your Immersive Research component. You will go and do a thing associated with your topic and interview at least two people with some authority.

  5. SUB 5 is your Final paper. Because we are writers, you will submit it twice so that you can revise after you've seen my comments.



Because Capstone is unlike other courses you've taken as an undergraduate, it requires a different grading approach. Grades will be determined by a combination of what pedagogy scholars call "contract" and "portfolio" grading. Please read this section carefully and make sure you understand exactly how it works. 

This course will use a contract-grading system, with point additions or deductions for adjustments from the baseline grade of B/85. I hope that this system helps us all to focus more on your growth as a writer and on less on grading minutiae.

You are guaranteed a B/85 if you:

  • attend class regularly and on time—not missing more than three class meetings, including not missing any peer-review meetings;

  • READ the required textbook; It is available entirely free online and the link is on our calendar page. HOWEVER: some people have a hard time making themselves read their textbooks online. If this is a problem for you, fork out the $15ish dollars and get the paper copy from the book store.

  • participate meaningfully in class meetings (i.e., not just show up/keep from being a distraction, but also read the assigned reading, bring it with you, print what I ask you to print, be ready to answer when called on, etc.);

  • meet due dates for assignments (you get one "free extension"--you may turn in one major assignment up to 24 hours past its due date);

  • bring "good faith full drafts" (your best effort-in-progress attempting the whole project) to peer review;

  • keep track of peer review evidence and turn it in;

  • meet the specifications and criteria for assignments (i.e., work is "on spec");

  • participate (not just attend, but dig in and work, contribute) in all in-class exercises, quizzes, and activities;

  • complete all informal, low-stakes writing assignments and activities;

  • give thoughtful, useful, honest peer feedback during class workshops (quality, quantity);

  • sustain effort and investment on each draft of all projects;

  • make substantive revisions when the task is to revise—extending or changing the thinking or organization—not just editing or touching up;

  • proofread and copyedit work the major projects until they conform to appropriate conventions of edited, revised English for the particular genre and context;

  • meet with me as desired to discuss your work (NB: if I ask you to meet with me, you must do so) and;

  • complete a midterm and final self-evaluation. INSERT PLAN OF WORK, PROGRESS REPORT, FINAL REFLECTION HERE

  • submit not only your final Capstone paper, but your Capstone paper as the centerpiece of a portfolio that will also include components such as reflections and relevant document design. 


You can see that you earn a B largely on the basis of what you do—on your conscientious effort and participation.



Major projects can be revised. You must request permission to revise your work in writing, via email. This request must include a revision plan Other course work cannot. NOT SURE THIS WORKS FOR ME AS EVERYTHING IS EXPECTED TO BE REVISED FOR FINAL PORTFOLIO.


The Path to an A

To earn an A, you must do everything necessary to earn a B and also a) produce written work on all major projects that I judge to be excellent ("above spec"), and b) submit that work in a final portfolio. The portfolio is a simple collection of your work with a reflective cover memo for each major project. I will describe the portfolio project in a separate assignment.


The Tricky Business of Evaluating Writing as "Above-Spec":

Each assignment will have detailed specifications particular to that assignment. It is impossible to set forth a single standard for what counts as "above specifications" writing in all situations because writing must be sensitive to genres, audiences, purposes, and occasions. However, in general, it is possible to observe qualities of "above specifications" writing, as I have done from reading thousands of student projects. "Above specifications" writing correlates strongly with early drafting and revision, as well as with seeking help by having others, such as me or Writing Center consultants, read drafts. Such writing will not only do all of what the assignment requires and do it with care, but it will probably also show abundant evidence of the following qualities within a particular writing situation:

Argumentation, Analysis, and Rhetoric

  • confronting and digging into complexity and (where relevant) contradiction or other points of view;

  • cogent argumentation and analysis (solid premises with sound connections between evidence, claims, and assumptions);

  • a clear and consistent focus on "so what?" and "where do we go from here?";

  • purposeful use of applicable expectations and possibilities of genre;

  • empathy for readers and understanding of what the reader needs to know, when and where to put it, what questions a reader would have, and how to design the reading experience;

  • proportion (i.e., that which is most important gets the most treatment);

Evidence and Sources

  • selection of high-quality, relevant evidence and sources, with a clear sense of what purpose the writer is using them for;

  • deep understanding of evidence and sources (i.e., careful, close reading);

  • careful and ethical handling of evidence and sources;

Voice, Style

  • conscious control of, and care for, tone, paragraphing, sentence craft, precise word choice, style, and voice; and


  • conscious control of, and care for, applicable conventions of usage and grammar.


The Path Downward from a B

I reserve the right to award C, D, or F grades for non-performance of the basic contract. I hope that no one will aim for lower grades. The quickest ways to slide down to a C, D, or F are to miss class, show up late habitually, don't meet with me, don't use workshop time well, blow deadlines, turn in sloppy or rushed work that does not meet the specifications, don't draft and revise your projects, don't read, text away your education, ignore feedback, or show up without assignments. You are not eligible for a grade of B unless you meet the attendance requirement (of course, if some genuine emergency or calamity befalls you, I will be reasonable). If you are missing classes and get behind in work, please stay in touch with me about your chances of passing the course. Please also see my general course policies about absences, tardiness, and intellectual honesty, which apply here.

Stolen almost outright from Dr. Drew Loewe, whom I quote liberally above and again with the following acknowledgement: 

Based on, and borrowing heavily from, "A Unilateral Grading Contract to Improve Learning and Teaching" by Jane Danielewicz and Peter Elbow, "English 160W's Grading Contract" by Asao Inoue, and Cathy Davidson's "Contract Grading + Peer Review: Here's How it Works")

Sub 1                         10

Sub 2                         10

Sub 3                         10

Sub 4                         10

Sub 5                         10

Final Revision*         20

Attendance*             10

Participation*           10

Quizzes*                    12


Total possible         102


Final Revision

After you've had your first revision returned with my comments, you will revise it for your most heavily weighted assignment. This one will be graded not only on the Capstone components, but on the narrative elements. You will submit two versions: one in hard copy and one uploaded to ISSUU.COM and emailed to me. You have the option of using your student ID instead of your name on both of these if you are concerned about privacy. The format will be a combination of MLA-style documentation and magazine/journal style for your final revision.


Formatting and Submission

We will discuss formatting and submission issues extensively in class, but these are the rough guidelines.

  • Submissions are due at the beginning of class on the day that the are due.

  • I do not accept submissions by email.

  • Late work may (<--might: modal verb) be accepted, with permission, for half credit.

  • Each assignment will have formatting specifications (see previous paragraph)



You must attend. I will give you a couple of days off for research, usually around SUB 4 as that's when you have to go places, do things, and talk to people. I do not distinguish between absence types. While I do appreciate an email to let me know you can't make it, further explanation is not necessary and does not affect your grade. Here's how I determine your attendance grade.


  • Perfect attendance adds three points to your final grade.

  • Two or fewer absences does not add or subtract from your grade.

  • More than two absences subtracts 3-7 points (each) from your final grade.


I reserve the right to handle genuine emergencies, such as a death in the family, on an individual basis.  If you have an emergency, please notify me as soon as possible with as much documentation as you can gather. I recommend that you take any emergency situation to the counseling center or office of Academic Planning and Support Services first. Their offices are much more efficient at dealing with emergencies than your individual professors.


A note about the still-somewhat-experimental nature of this special section: Because this section is still newish and doesn’t have the strictly prescribed format of regular sections, we will occasionally be making group decisions about how we want to handle any gaps that arise—and they DO. We are doing a lot of this on the fly, so problems caused by absences and late submissions are amplified. If you become ill or have a family emergency or find yourself facing any kind of obstacle to your ability to attend class, I strongly recommend that you consider taking the regular Capstone course in order to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed. Please contact me immediately if you are concerned about anything like this.



Come to class prepared, having done the reading, and ready to contribute to class discussions. Don't be rude (texting, side conversations, abusive outbursts, etc.). It's a pretty easy ten points.


Justice Quizzes

The videos are short, entertaining, and will help you develop the vocabulary necessary for discussing ethical analysis. There are twelve episodes and each quiz is worth one point toward your final grade, with the possiblity of two extra points if you do them all.


Academic Honesty

Because of the oddball nature of this section, if you find a way to cheat, I will be impressed. Your evil genius will not exempt you from the horrible penalties of cheating, but I will be impressed. Please read your handbook, pages 13-17, if you are at all unsure about the finer points of what constitutes plagiarism.


To keep everyone honest, you must submit your final revision to Please note: you will get a zero for your final submission if it is not uploaded to Turnitin.



Your student fees pay for extensive support services and I encourage you to take advantage of them. The Counseling Center (along with Health and Wellness) is in Johnson; Student Support Services are in Moody Hall, Campus Ministry is in Mang House, and the Library will save you with the Writing Center, IT support, and Reference Librarians. Within the Writing Center, special tutors are trained to work with Capstone projects. This is the Mission Resource Center.  I am also a resource. They pay me to help you. Let me help you.


Need a quiet place to read, write, or study? Book a study room at the library.


504 Accommodations

If you require accommodations, please submit your 504 form to me the first week of class. Email me directly with specific accommodations as soon as possible so that we can have a written agreement and make sure that your needs are met in advance rather than trying to deal with it if a problem arises.