Senior Honors Thesis
Students must have (and maintain) a 3.3 overall GPA and a 3.6 in their major. If a student whose overall or major GPA falls slightly under these cut-offs, s/he may petition to apply for the honors thesis with the proviso that both the overall and major GPA will meet these limits by the end of autumn term in the senior year.
Transfer students: if you are a junior transfer student, you qualify to write the honors thesis so long as you meet the overall GPA minimum (3.3) and have earned an A-minus grade or above in at least two classes in your major.
Step 1. Fill out an application to pursue an honors thesis, and schedule a meeting with Reid Barbour (firstname.lastname@example.org)] to have your application approved.
Step 2 (if not already done along with Step 1). Choose an advisor. It is recommended that you approach an advisor either at the time of application, or shortly afterwards. In choosing an advisor, remember that faculty will be more likely to work with you if they have already taught you in a class, and if your project intersects with their research or teaching interests. If you are having trouble finding a suitable advisor, come talk to Barbour.
Step 3. Complete an Honors Thesis Learning Contract. This contract establishes an agreement between you and your advisor concerning how often you will meet (generally once a week) and a list of readings that you will undertake (this list will be selected, just a portion of what you will end up reading once the thesis develops). You will need your honors advisor’s signature to submit this form. Forms should be submitted either to Barbour or to Anita Braxton, whose office is in the main administrative suite on the second floor of Greenlaw Hall.
Registration for 691/692H: once your application is approved, you will be registered in English 691H / CMPL 691H for the fall semester. Unless you decide not to proceed with the thesis in the second semester, you will be registered for 692H in the spring term.
Grades for 691/692H: students who have satisfactorily completed the first semester of a two-semester honors thesis will be given a temporary grade of ‘S’ (satisfactory) for their work. Once the thesis is completed, your advisor will submit a letter grade for each of the two semesters that you are enrolled in the thesis.
Writing the honors thesis in English and Comparative Literature
Recommended timeline for writing the thesis:
Spring before enrollment in 691H: choose an advisor, fill out application, the learning contract, and compile bibliography or plans for summer reading prior to the official start of the honors thesis.
Summer before enrollment: it is highly recommended that you pursue some provisional or exploratory work on the thesis over the summer. Ideally, you will return at the beginning of autumn term with a focused topic, and a reading list that you have honed over the summer.
Autumn thesis term: Weekly meetings with your advisor(s) to discuss readings and plan thesis. By mid-November, it is recommended that you begin writing small portions of the thesis; individual advisors will provide their own deadlines for the first chapter or installment of the thesis.
Spring thesis term: writing and revising the thesis; weekly meetings with advisor to discuss writing and revision. It is recommended that you complete a full rough draft of the thesis by the end of February, allowing three or four weeks for revision, composition of bibliography, and so on.
Anticipated due date for spring: close-to-final draft due first Friday after spring break. This is the *departmental* deadline — the point at which you will be asked to submit two printed copies and a digital copy of the thesis to Anita Bfaxton which will be read by the two outside faculty serving on your oral defense.
After the oral defense, you will then make any final corrections to the thesis and resubmit it, both in printed and electronic form. (More information on the submission process will be distributed when needed.)
How do I pick a topic?
Begin by considering what work you’ve most enjoyed doing in your major. You might focus on a beloved author, or perhaps choose a broad category (French film; African-American slave narratives) and then narrow the topic from there. Your advisor should be able to help point you towards a topic that is promising and original.
How long should the thesis be?
In most cases, senior honors theses in English and Comparative Literature range between 35-80 pages. Your advisor may have guidelines tailored to your project, especially if your thesis is unconventional.
An oral defense?
For an hour or so, a productive, supportive conversation about your research. Faculty are assigned on the basis of their interests, and you and your advisor can recommend suitable people.
Note: you can ‘opt out’ of the second semester of the thesis by writing a 15-20 page paper to your advisor, and then earn credit for 691H as a stand-alone course.
Honors Thesis Student Spotlight
Read more about students who completed an honors thesis in English & Comparative Literature.