Q: Why should I consider honors study?
Undertaking an honors project (English 497-498) in your senior year can provide an intellectual experience unlike anything else available at the undergraduate level. It provides the opportunity to 1) spend a full year working on a specific literary issue focusing on a single text, author, genre, or period, and 2) write a substantial critical essay, fifty pages or more in length, on the results of your study.
Honors study is open to students in the Creative Writing concentration. Interested students should consult Professors Hartman or Boyd.
A word of advice: sophomore majors who think that they may be interested in honors study and who also intend to take junior year abroad should discuss their schedules with their advisers.
Q: What do I need to undertake honors study?
You need two things. First, a GPA of 3.5 in English courses taken after your freshman year. Second, a project: some reason for studying the text(s), author(s), or issue(s) you are interested in, some problem that intrigues you and that you think will sustain your interest for a full year.
Q: What is the difference between honors study and an independent study?
An independent study takes one semester rather than two to complete. Both the length of the final result and the magnitude and complexity of the problem addressed differ as a result. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Would I find a two-semester intensive study on a subject of my own choosing more valuable than two separate courses?
-Would I profit from the exercise of researching, organizing and writing an essay of such length?
- Would I enjoy working on my own, under the supervision of one faculty member?
- Can I manage my time without the guidance of a syllabus or regular classroom meetings?
If the answer to these questions is yes, and if you have both the requisite departmental GPA and an idea for substantial project you would be interested in pursuing, you should seriously consider honors study.
Q: What is the timeline for undertaking honors study in English?
There are several stages to producing an honors thesis.
The first two stages must be completed by the end of junior year. By then, you will need to have selected a faculty member whose area of specialization encompasses the subject you plan to pursue and who is willing to advise your thesis throughout your senior year. (You may want to consult with your adviser about who might be the best choice.) Other things being equal, a professor from whom you’ve already taken classes is preferable. Contact the faculty member you’ve chosen and present your proposal. If the project is received favorably, that professor will be your thesis adviser during the next year.
The second junior-year requirement is that by April 21 you must have submitted a prospectus to the Director of Honors. Instructions on writing this prospectus are given in a handout, available from the English department office, called "Guidelines for Preparing an English Honors Thesis."
The prospectus should be written in consultation with your thesis adviser. It must be submitted by the April 21st deadline, even if you are abroad. The department will then meet to vote on whether to accept it.
If your prospectus has been accepted, you and your adviser will meet to decide on your future course of action toward completing the thesis. If your prospectus is not approved at the end of junior year, you may submit a revised version at the beginning of your senior year. This revision will be due before the end of the add-drop period. Before completing the revision, you should have consulted with your thesis adviser and used the summer vacation to further your knowledge of the subject. The department will meet once more to consider your thesis, and will be looking for evidence that you have a surer grasp of your project than was evident in the earlier submission.
Before the end of the first semester of your senior year, you must submit at least one complete chapter to your thesis adviser, who may also give copies to two colleagues designated as likely to be the readers of the completed thesis. If your adviser approves of your work so far, you can continue your project. If not, it will be submitted as a one-semester Individual Study (Eng 491).
By the date established (usually before the end of classes – the exact date will be available on the official college calendar), three copies of the completed thesis must be submitted for review. It will be evaluated by your adviser and the two other faculty members, at least one of them from the Department of Literatures in English, who may have been consulted at the end of the first semester. After considering their recommendations, your adviser will assign either a grade of A or A- for honors, or a lower grade designating credit for two individual studies.