Massachussetts Hall Students who have excelled in their English courses are encouraged to write an honors thesis over the course of their senior year, typically on an area or author familiar to them from their previous coursework. Under the direction of a faculty member who has expertise in their chosen subject, students embark on an extensive research or writing program in the fall semester, completing a substantive essay or piece of creative writing in the spring. In this way, students become adept in an area of particular interest to them and experience the joys and tribulations of producing a serious, extensive, and original piece of writing.

Thesis Requirements

A student who maintains an A/B average or better in the courses offered in the English major may decide to become an honors candidate at the end of his or her junior year and prepare an honors thesis (at the 400 level) under supervision during his or her senior year.

The student must present a definitive plan for the honors thesis to a member of the department within whose field the project falls. This should take place in the spring of the candidate's junior year so work can begin in the fall semester of his or her senior year. The honors advisor/project director signs the honors candidate's fall semester registration card, and signs again for spring semester. The honors work is graded and may count (at the 400 level) as one or two of the elective course units required for the major.

The honors thesis must be a thorough and sophisticated literary essay growing out of

  1. a course paper, as an expansion of it
    (in which case it may do double duty only with the consent of the instructors involved)
  2. an English course
  3. an extension of an English course, or
  4. a fresh subject not explored in another connection.

Strict compliance with the directions for manuscript preparation specified by the library - where the original copy will be permanently filed - is required. Any student contemplating application to graduate school should be advised that honors, or even candidacy for honors, is a highly significant element of his or her record.

Meetings, Examinations, and Procedures

Each honors candidate will work with an honors advisor/project director. Candidate and advisor will choose two additional readers in September of the candidate's senior year, to ensure collaboration throughout the process.  In late October, all English faculty will meet each honors candidate in a colloquium to hear him or her speak briefly on the candidate's three-page thesis prospectus. (All English faculty will have read the prospectus prior to meeting with the candidates). During the colloquium, faculty will respond to the candidate with suggestions for improving or sharpening his or her approach to the subject. After the colloquium, each  candidate will meet with his or her advisor to discuss the faculty's suggestions.  In the remaining months of the semester, the candidate will revise the project accordingly and begin drafting the thesis. Candidates must complete a chapter of their thesis by the end of the fall semester.

The student should submit draft portions of the project to the advisor and additional readers beginning in the early weeks of the spring semester, and no later than one week before spring vacation begins, when a rough draft of the project is due. A final version is due approximately ten days before the last day of classes for spring semester.

Honors candidates are no longer required to defend the thesis in an oral examination with the department. Instead, honors theses will be reviewed by a committee of English department faculty. An announcement giving the specific due date for the final honors thesis and when projects will be reviewed will be mailed to each candidate early in April.  After committee review, the candidate will receive a summary of the evaluation from his or her advisor/project director. The advisor/project director, in collaboration with the two additional readers, will assign the final grade for the honors project. Note: the English department awards only one level of honors.