Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
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Honors Thesis /Advice Paper Advice

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

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 class.
  • 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 gratitude.


  • 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.
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Last Updated: 4/26/13