The honors thesis 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 English Department and on the writing, research, and analytical skills developed throughout the major.
A thesis should have a core emphasis on literary analysis and may be approached in different ways. It may closely examine a single work, investigate the works of a single author, take up a question and explore it through the works of several authors, or address an interdisciplinary problem or question. The starting point for a thesis is sometimes, but not always, an essay from a seminar or another literature course.
A thesis should take into account original sources and important secondary literature. It should also demonstrate awareness of significant counterarguments. Above all, a thesis should unfold an original and clearly formulated argument over its pages.
Proposals that fall significantly outside of this general rubric will need to include a description of the student's preparation through coursework or other experiences for any elements of the project that depart from the guidelines above. In such cases, the proposal should explain how the project draws on the analytical, interpretive, and research skills of the English major.
After the student has revised, polished, and copy-edited the thesis, she or he will submit it to a group of four faculty members for an hour-long thesis defense. The defense committee determines whether the thesis will receive Departmental Distinction. The committee typically requests minor revisions, but may make Departmental Distinction contingent upon substantial changes.
Departmental Distinction is awarded at graduation for successful completion of the honors thesis. This is different from Latin Honors (see "Honors at Graduation" page for more information on honors at graduation).