The Honors Thesis in Creative Writing

The Honors Thesis

The honors thesis at Coe College is an independent capstone experience that extends and deepens the student’s work in the major. It draws on the coursework the student has done in the major and on the writing, research, and analytical skills developed throughout the major.

What is an Honors Thesis in Creative Writing?

In Creative Writing, the thesis is a polished manuscript of significant length and scope, generally a collection of poems or short stories, a play, a screenplay, a novella, or a major portion of a novel with a complete outline.

Approximate Length Guidelines: a poetry collection will generally be the length of a chapbook, 25-30 pages; a short story collection or novella should be approximately 30,00 words; a play or screenplay should be a minimum of 60 pages and include a detailed outline of the rest of the script; and a portion of a novel should be approximately 30,000 words and include a detailed outline of the rest of the novel. More significant than length is concision, coherence, and polish.

In addition, an exploratory essay of approximately 3,000 words should introduce the creative work. This essay should investigate ideas of literary and critical influence, themes, cultural context, and future ambitions for the student’s creative work. The essay should include significant discussion of works that have been instrumental in the writing of the honors thesis manuscript, situating the honors thesis in relation to its antecedents and drawing out their significance in helping to inspire or shape the thesis. The works may be in any genre, including novels, collections of stories, poems, plays, screenplays, and critical and/or theoretical works, and should be chosen in consultation with the thesis advisor. All works discussed in the exploratory essay should be included in a bibliography (in MLA format) appended to the exploratory essay. There is no minimum number of works that must be included in the bibliography, and the number of works will vary from project to project, but the essay and bibliography should demonstrate a substantial engagement with an appropriate and well-chosen range of creative and/or critical sources.

What is the Benefit of Writing a Creative Writing Senior Honors Thesis?

Students who successfully defend a senior honors thesis receive Departmental Distinction at graduation. They are also eligible for the two highest levels of Latin honors, magna and summa cum laude, depending on their GPA.

Who Qualifies to Propose a Creative Writing Senior Honors Thesis?

To qualify for Departmental Distinction in any major, a student must have a GPA of 3.2 overall and 3.5 in courses counting toward the major. (Minors are not eligible for Departmental Distinction.)

Qualified Creative Writing majors working on thoroughly revised manuscripts that demonstrate the highest level of growth and accomplishment in Manuscript Workshop (CRW-492) may apply to the English Department to submit a senior thesis for Departmental Distinction. The honors thesis must be work that has been rigorously workshopped in the past, and is in most cases a further revision of the manuscript worked on during Manuscript Workshop.  

Creative Writing Senior Honors Thesis Proposal Process

By Thanksgiving Break, choose a thesis advisor (a member of the creative writing faculty). In consultation with your thesis advisor, prepare a thesis proposal according to the guidelines below. Submit the proposal to the English Department Chair no later than the end of the first week of Spring Term.

The Creative Writing Senior Honors Thesis Proposal

  1. A 500-word maximum description of the manuscript. This should include a summary of the manuscript’s story (where applicable), themes, and influences. In addition, briefly explain the composition and revision process to date with a description of proposed further revision and a proposed defense date. Don’t forget your name and the title (or working title).
  2. A short, representative sample of the manuscript. Prose writers should submit approximately 7,500 words; poets should submit 8-10 pages; and dramatic writers should submit approximately 15-20 pages.

Minimum Requirements for Having a Senior Honors Thesis Proposal Accepted

  1. Completion, in a revised state, of the manuscript by the end of classes in the fall term.
  2. A grade of at least A- in CRW-492. This grade will demonstrate the skills and discipline essential to becoming a professional writer: participating significantly in workshops, meeting deadlines, and completing serious, thorough revision.

Preparing the Creative Writing Senior Honors Thesis for Defense

  1. If approved, the student — with help from a thesis advisor — will further revise and polish as needed and then, defend the manuscript. Work on the thesis at this stage will consist of meticulous revision of the manuscript and developing ways of thinking critically about it.
  2. After the student has revised, polished, and copy-edited the thesis, s/he will submit it to a group of four faculty members for an hour-long thesis defense that must take place before Spring Break.
  3. Guidelines for formatting the senior thesis are available from the Registrar’s Office.
  4. Bound copies of the thesis are due to your committee two weeks before the defense. Give the copy shop 1-2 days to print and bind the copies.
  5. At the conclusion of the defense, the committee determines whether the thesis will receive Departmental Distinction. The committee typically requests minor revisions, but it may make Departmental Distinction contingent upon substantial changes.

Public Reading from the Creative Writing Senior Honors Thesis

All Creative Writing majors will give a senior reading; the major is not certified as complete until this takes place. Honors thesis students typically do this during the Student Research Symposium or, alternately, at another date in the spring after the defense.