Students aspiring to graduate with Honors must complete in their two final semesters at Wesleyan a thesis, usually no shorter than 60 and no longer than 100 pages. Theses are ordinarily written over the course of two, semester-long tutorials in the senior year. To prepare for writing a thesis, students should begin developing a topic during their junior year. During the spring semester of the junior year, aspiring candidates for Honors should secure the agreement of a faculty member to serve as a thesis Tutor.
Students who expect to graduate in three years and who wish to be candidates for Honors should consult with their major advisors and with the Honors Coordinator about the steps they will need to take in order to be eligible. In such situations, careful planning and consultation will be necessary.
Honors theses in English can be of two types:
Critical Theses must be original works based on research in both primary and secondary texts. They must meet high standards of style, organization, and argumentation and must comport with professional standards of citation.
Creative Writing Theses may be in any of the major genres (short story, poem, play, novel, biography, essay). They should demonstrate skill in technique and should be sustained and coherent imaginative acts. Because of the demands of particular creative genres, creative theses on occasion may be shorter or longer than the normally expected 60-100 pages in length. But candidates for Honors should keep the Department’s ordinary page expectations in mind and should be aware that the Department anticipates that theses will be substantial, finished, and well-formed projects that readers can complete in one or two sittings.
Students considering becoming candidates for Honors should consult examples of previous theses submitted in English. All completed Honors Theses are deposited with the Wesleyan University Library and are available in Olin Library’s Special Collections. Since 2009, most Honors Theses have been deposited as e-files and are available as PDFs through the Wesleyan University Library’s WesScholar page: WESSCHOLAR. In addition, individual English faculty members may have particular theses available that they wish prospective candidates for Honors to consult.
Eligibility and Qualification for Honors
Students must first be eligible and then qualify to write an Honors Thesis.
To be eligible for candidacy for Honors in English, students must have an average of 91.7 in the courses counting toward the major (at least six courses by the end of the junior year).
In addition, students who wish to write a critical thesis must have completed a substantial research paper, at least 6000 words long, in a departmental course designated “research” or “research option” and have received a grade of B+ or better in the course. The research paper must advance a coherent argument, demonstrate the appropriate mastery of college-level English, draw on both primary and secondary sources, and comport with professional standards of citation. Guidance on citation methods can be found at the Wesleyan University Library page on citing sources: CITING SOURCES. The English Department prefers the Modern Language Association or Chicago Manual of Style methods of citation.
Students wishing to do a thesis in creative writing need not fulfill the research paper requirement. In order to establish eligibility, they must have a 91.7 average in the courses counting toward the English major (at least six courses by the end of the junior year.) In addition, they must have received an A- in two creative writing courses that count towards the major, one of which must be an Intermediate or Advanced Workshop taken at Wesleyan. If a student wants to offer for consideration an ungraded credit/noncredit course in creative writing that counted towards the major, s/he must present to the departmental Honors Coordinator (HC) a copy of the instructor’s “report.” The HC will determine whether it testifies to excellence equivalent to an A.
Petitioning for Eligibility
Students who are not eligible for candidacy in Honors because they do not meet one of the Department’s criteria, may petition the Department for a waiver. Petitions should be submitted as email messages to the HC and should include a concise and clear explanation of the failure of eligibility and the reasons the student believes the criteria should be waived in his or her case. Petitions are weighed and voted on by the English Department. They are most likely to be successful when accompanied by the support of a faculty member who has agreed to work as a Tutor on the proposed thesis project.
In order to qualify to write a thesis, students must complete the following steps:
- secure the agreement of a faculty member to serve as the thesis Tutor
- submit an application to write an Honors Thesis, normally by the end of classes in the spring semester of the junior year
- submit a prospectus outlining the thesis project to the HC, normally by the first day of classes in the senior year
- have the prospectus approved by the Tutor and the HC.
Students become formal candidates for Honors in English when, with the approval of the HC and a thesis tutor, they enroll in a Senior Honors Tutorial during drop/add of the first semester of the senior year.
Samples of model prospectuses for creative and critical theses may be obtained from the HC.
Students who wish to pursue independent critical or creative projects but who are not eligible or who do not qualify for candidacy in Honors may wish to consider pursuing a one- or two-semester Senior Essay project.
Schedule and Process
During the junior year, prospective candidates for Honors should make an effort to define a viable thesis project and to secure the agreement of a faculty member to serve as thesis Tutor. Successful thesis projects often grow out of work that students have done for courses in the major, but they may also reflect students’ independent interests. Aspiring candidates for Honors should consult with several faculty members (by e-mail if either student or faculty member is away from campus). Students should be assiduous in seeking out guidance and advice so as to avoid the risk of developing a project unsuitable for an English thesis or that no faculty member on duty is competent to advise.
By the final day of classes in the second semester of the junior year, prospective candidates for Honors should submit to the HC an Honors Application Form, including a brief description of the proposed topic and the signature of a faculty member agreeing to serve as the thesis Tutor. (Students who are away from campus can obtain the honors Application Form online through the English Department website; an email confirmation sent by the tutor to the HC can serve in place of a signature.) Students who have difficulty finding a tutor should consult the HC for advice. However, the Department cannot guarantee that all students eligible for candidacy in Honors will find a tutor or that all thesis projects will be viable. Students who are unable to secure the signature of a Tutor by the end of the second semester of the junior year may submit an unsigned Application form to be kept on file by the HC for possible later matching with a faculty member.
Before the conclusion of the junior year, prospective candidates for Honors should consult with the faculty Tutor and/or other faculty members and prepare a plan for reading, research, or other preparation. It is usually advisable for prospective candidates for Honors to begin work on their thesis projects, as possible, during the summer before the senior year.
Prospectus, Eligibility Form, and Enrollment Request
By the first Monday of the first term of the senior year, prospective candidates for Honors must submit a prospectus to the HC. The prospectus should demonstrate that the student has done some work in preparation for writing a thesis and offer an outline of the topic.
In the case of critical theses, the prospectus should explain, e.g., what questions the thesis writer expects to ask; what issues will be explored; what primary texts will be considered; what secondary texts will be consulted ) Prospectuses for critical theses are normally 4-5 pages long and should include an annotated bibliography listing important primary and secondary sources.
In the case of creative theses, the prospectus should indicate the genre or genres in which the writer expects to work (e. g,.short story, poetry, biography) novel) and should identify the topics the thesis is expected to address. Where possible, the Honors candidate may wish to further identify the expected structures (e.g., poem cycle, linked short stories, one-act play), styles, or influences of the thesis. (Such information will be useful to the HC in identifying potential readers for the thesis.) Prospectuses for creative writing thesis may be as brief as a page or two and need not include a formal bibliography.
Along with the prospectus, by the first Monday of the first term in the senior year , students must fill out and submit to the HC an Eligibility Form, with a copy of the student’s transcript or course history attached. In addition, as soon as possible during Drop/Add the student should submit through the electronic portfolio an enrollment request for a Senior Honors Tutorial (ENGL 409). .
First Semester and Evaluation for Continued Candidacy
During the first semester of the senior year, candidates for Honors should work energetically and consistently on their thesis projects and should meet regularly with their thesis Tutors. Weekly meetings are advisable.
By the last day of classes of the first semester of the senior year, candidates for Honors must submit to the HC a sample if their work in progress, usually a substantial draft of around 20 pages.. In consultation with Tutors, the HC will determine whether candidates for Honors are likely to complete their theses in a satisfactory and timely manner. Students whose work seems likely to meet those criteria will be informed by the HC that they remain candidates for Honors in English and may enroll in a Senior Honors tutorial in the second semester of the senior year. Students whose work seems unlikely to be completed in a timely and satisfactory manner will receive course credit and a grade for the first semester’s work from their Tutors, but will not be permitted to go on to complete the Honors thesis during the second semester.
Second Semester and Evaluation
During the second semester of the senior year, candidates for Honors should work energetically and consistently to bring their theses to completion. Students should keep in mind that theses must be completed by the Registrar-determined submission date, typically in the second week in April.
Upon completion, Honors Theses will be read by two Readers appointed by the HC. Ordinarily, the Readers will be members of the English department. Your Tutor will not serve as a reader of the completed thesis, but will assign a letter grade for the thesis tutorial. The Readers independently rank the thesis as deserving of High Honors, Honors, or Credit with no honors. The Readers will convey their decisions, and written evaluations, to the HC. Should their recommendations differ, the HC will appoint a third Reader, who will render a judgment but not submit a written evaluation. At the end of the evaluation process, the HC will make the written evaluations available to the candidate.
Please keep in mind that the standards for Honors are high and that writing a thesis does not guarantee that you will receive Honors in English. You may complete a thesis that Readers judge worthy of Credit, but not Honors or High Honors. Please be aware, as well, that the judgments made by the English Department’s Readers are independent of the views of your thesis Tutor. A thesis Tutor may believe that a thesis should receive Honors or High Honors, and the Readers, who are responsible for the Department’s ultimate determination, may disagree. Even in cases in which the Tutor grades your work in the thesis Tutorial to have earned an A, Readers may judge the thesis worthy of Credit. .
Celebration and Reading
Toward the end of the spring semester of each Academic year, the English Department will host a celebration and reading to recognize the efforts and achievements of candidates for Honors. Shortly after the conclusion of the evaluation process, the HC will invite all candidates for Honors to present a sample of their work to an audience of friends, colleagues, family and faculty members. Please consider attending and taking part.
Students who wish to be candidates for Honors in English are responsible for understanding the University’s policies on Honors, which can be found at the REGISTRAR'S OFFICE. Candidates for Honors may also wish to consult the services and advice for thesis writers provided by the Wesleyan University Library: SERVICES AND ADVICE.
Requests for further clarification or advice should be addressed to the English Department Honors Coordinator.
The following forms can be viewed or downloaded as Word documents.