The following tips were compiled, in part, from student commentary; much of this advice
applies also to the major paper option. If you have a suggestion to add, please contact
the Director of the English Honors Program, Dr. Kathy Lou Schultz, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Developing a topic:
- In each of your upper-level English courses, consider the papers you write in terms
of their potential as the beginning of a thesis project.Your upper-division honors
courses should help you think about how to define research problems and to identify
approaches pertinent to your subject.
- If you already have a research topic in mind, you might contract for honors credit
in a related course in order to pursue a special research project that would lead
to an honors thesis in a later semester.
- If your thesis research is based on a study begun in one of your upper-division classes,
you might ask the instructor of the course to be your advisor.
- Pick a subject that you really like: it will be with you for quite a while!
- Get started early. It's best to pick a subject you have already started working on
- In one of your first meetings with your advisor, make a schedule--setting up appointments,
being sure your advisor knows all your deadlines, etc. Then, keep track of your progress.
Your advisor can help you think about how to schedule things, because your advisor
has more experience in determining how long you will need to spend on the various
stages of research, writing, and revising. Your advisor will not, however, supervise
you to see that you meet deadliness; that is your responsibility.
- Plan to spend a lot more time in reading and research than in the actual writing.
- Don't start to write your paper until you are sure you have a clear focus and know
what you are doing!
- Meet with your mentor regularly.
- Treat self-imposed deadlines and appointment with your advisor just as if you were
going to a class meeting and a grade were riding on your preparation and attendance.
Do not allow yourself excuses.
- Reward yourself in some small way for meeting each goal you have set.
- Save time in bibliographic searches by using the bibliography and footnotes in one
or more of your sources. This will lead you quickly to the most importance sources.
To save desperate searches later, note the source where you found the item listed.
- Take notes by topic instead of source-by-source to prevent confusion later.
Working with your faculty mentor:
- Your mentor is an advisor, consultant, and resource person. A mentor expects a student
to make changes in response to suggestions about the direction, scope, and methodology
of the study. But the mentor is neither parent nor taskmaster; the scholarship, the
organization and production of your draft, your ideas and conclusions, the adherence
to instructions and deadlines--these are up to you.
- Your mentor has agreed to serve in this capacity as a favor to you; having seen your
earlier work, the faculty member believes in your ability to carry out the work. Your
advisor receives no rewards for enabling you to conduct this project within the framework
of the English Honors Program--none, that is, other than the pleasure of observing
your success! Please respond appropriately to your mentor's efforts on your behalf
by taking initiative in your work, keeping your appointments, and expressing your
- As you're working on your thesis, don't forget to participate in the opportunities
afforded by the University Honors Program! The Works-in-Progress Symposium provides opportunities to present and receive feedback
on your work right here at the University of Memphis, and you can also travel to present
your research at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, with financial
support from the university.