Form and Style of Synopsis and Bibliography
The preparation for the written synopsis will require thorough and in-depth research into the most recent primary literature on your topic. Individual students have different styles of doing their comps and of interacting with their faculty committee. You are strongly encouraged to meet with your comps chair early in the term in which you are preparing your synopsis, so that together you can work out an approach to the assignment that will work well for you. Many students find it useful to make a series of deadlines during the term to keep them moving toward successful completion of the synopsis. It is especially important to determine your list of key references (see below) in consultation with your entire committee, well before the time that you produce a rough draft.
You can meet with your committee members (or in fact any member of the department) as often as you and the faculty feel is appropriate. At the discretion of the faculty author(s) of a particular question, there may be one or more meetings for all of the students doing that question. Every faculty member handles comps differently, and it's up to you to determine the pace of writing and to adhere to deadlines. It is your responsibility to turn in a draft of your comps to your committee (in a timely fashion) and seek feedback during your writing term.
You are not in competition with other students who are working on the same question. To the contrary, you are strongly encouraged to discuss your ideas and research with others working on the same question (or related ones) during your preparation. However, it is important to keep in mind that your submitted comps work is ultimately an individual and original effort.
Late submission of the Synopsis and Bibliography is not allowed except under extraordinary circumstances. If you fail to submit the paper on time, you may not be allowed to complete the Integrative Exercise during the current academic year.
Your oral presentation will be scheduled in the term after you prepare your synopsis and bibliography (unless you will be off-campus winter term – see Schedule and Deadlines, above). Assignment of dates and times for the oral presentation is done in a random manner, except where requests have been made for early scheduling. (Requests for "late scheduling" are not accepted.) For those doing Fall/Winter comps, we can inform you by e-mail of the time of your Winter Term oral presentation if you send a request to Lorie Tuma (firstname.lastname@example.org) after the decisions have been made in December or check the website.
When we initially schedule the oral presentations, we do not take into account the student's schedule. This is a matter of practical necessity since students often do not know their final course schedule until after the start of the term. If the assigned comps time conflicts with a legitimate academic exercise (i.e., another class), the student should discuss this problem with their comps advisor and another meeting time will be sought. We respect the importance of class attendance in all Carleton courses.
The synopsis, bibliography, oral presentation, and question period will be the basis upon which a decision of Distinction, Pass, or Failure of the Senior Integrative Exercise will be made. Format (see Form and Style of the Synopsis and Bibliography), correct English usage, spelling, punctuation, number of typographical errors, etc. will be considered in the Distinction, Pass, or Failure decision.
If the committee determines that further work is required to pass comps, the student may be required to prepare and submit additional work after the oral presentation. This work can be of various forms, and in some cases may consist of a 25-page paper on the question. If further written work is required, it should be submitted both in print (three copies) and electronically.
Each student will be notified in writing shortly after completing the oral presentation of either Pass or Fail by the Senior Integrative Exercise Coordinator. Notification of Distinction will be made after all examinations and comps requirements are completed in the spring term.
Formatting and Style
All papers (including remedial) are to be formatted in 12-point font with 1-inch margins on all sides. The body of the synopsis should be double-spaced throughout, but the bibliography should be single-spaced. Number all pages after the cover page, including the bibliography. The synopsis should begin with a title page, which includes your paper title and your name.
The character count includes only the body of the text and not the title page, bibliography, figures, or tables. The count also does not include spaces or literature citations within the text. To get an accurate count without citations, it may be necessary to make a copy of your final paper with references deleted.
Your audience for this work is the faculty, not other students. Assume that the readers are familiar with the area under study and much of the background material. It is important that the synopsis be written with care and in the proper professional style. If there are serious errors of writing, punctuation, spelling, etc., it sometimes has been necessary for students to correct these and resubmit the paper. This may delay re-evaluation until after the end of the Spring Term.
Note that you should submit a Bibliography, not a Literature Cited. The bibliography must include any papers cited in the text, but should also include non-cited papers that you read during preparation of the synopsis. This provides the faculty committee with a basis for understanding your general background and the breadth of your investigation into the literature.
Within the Bibliography, there should be 8-10 key references indicated by an asterisk as the first character in the listing. These are the papers that you judge to be the most essential contributions to the topic of your paper. Avoid using review articles (as in the "Trends" journals) for these key references. Choose papers in which important research results or conceptual advances first appear. Each of these key references should be cited at least once in the text. During the question period after your oral presentation, you will be expected to be able to explain why you chose these key references and to have a thorough understanding of all elements of the papers.
Literature citation is a critical part of any scientific paper, and to avoid plagiarism it is essential to cite the work of others correctly. It is assumed that you are familiar with the College pamphlet on "Academic Honesty in the Writing of Essays and Other Papers." Unless the idea is your own, you should let the reader know where you got it. If the idea is yours, it is better to use the first person ("I conclude that...") than to use ambiguous phrases such as "the author concludes..." (which author?) or "it is concluded that..." (concluded by whom?).
Footnotes are very rare in scientific writing and should be avoided. Direct quotations from sources should be used only when it is essential for the reader to know exact wording; the usual practice is to paraphrase sources. Figures and tables are sometimes useful, but excessive use of these can become cumbersome. Discuss with your comps advisor the nature and number of your figures and tables.
There are many differences among scientific journals in the style of citing references in the text and listing them in the Bibliography. For your synopsis, you should choose the style of one of two model journals selected by the Biology faculty: Cell or The American Naturalist. Once you select your style, it will be essential to consult a recent issue of the model journal for details of how to proceed. Please note that there is a standard way of listing an article in a journal, a chapter in a book, an entire book, etc. References should be cited within the text by author(s) and year. Do not use the numbered reference format found in Science or Nature; the bibliography should be arranged alphabetically by author. The asterisked key references should be alphabetized with all the other sources in the bibliography.