Department of English Department of English College of Arts and Sciences
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English Honors Thesis/ Major Paper Guidelines

Deadlines for final copy:

  • Early April of senior year for students graduating in spring; first week of December for students graduating in fall
  • Submit either thesis or major paper in electronic form to Dr. Kathy Lou Schultz, the Director of the English Honors Program.


  • Theses are typically 40-50 pages; they may be longer, and some (particularly those consisting of poetry) may be shorter. Ultimately, the thesis will be of the length appropriate to the subject as proposed by the student and mentor and approved by the English Honors Committee.
  • Only 15 pages are required for a major paper.

Overview--thesis vs. major paper:

  • You are encouraged to allow two semesters for completion of your thesis. The major paper may be written and submitted at any time, but its final deadline is the same as that of the thesis.
  • Like the thesis, the major paper is written with the supervision of a faculty advisor. It similarly requires independent research or original creative writing and is produced in multiple drafts. The thesis requires a second reader as well as a director; only one supervisor is needed for the major paper.
  • You receive 3 hours of credit for the thesis (ENGL 4996 -- which counts as an elective, not towards your concentration); the major paper does not receive degree credit.
  • Like the thesis, the major paper should entail independent scholarly or creative work; its options for topics (see below) are equally broad. Either may develop from initial work in one of your classes.
  • The major paper option does not entail a formal prospectus, as does the thesis. It does, however, require you to inform the honors director of your plans: the topic of your paper, your advisor's name, and when you plan to submit the paper.


  • Format guidelines for the final thesis draft are available from the University Honors Program Thesis Manual, pp. 8-11. The English department does not require a particular method of binding, but we do stipulate a consistent citational style, etc., for either thesis or major paper.
  • Submit a signed acceptance form with your final draft of either thesis or major paper. You may prepare this form yourself. Include the text "I recommend that this thesis be accepted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for Honors in English," and provide lines for your supervisor(s) to sign.
  • For thesis organizational options, see Prospectus Guidelines.


Students design topics with assistance from their advisors. Possible types of inquiry include:

  • Original research, in which the student works with primary documents previously untreated by scholars, such as journals, letters, and other types of private writing, in combination with interviews where appropriate; field research in linguistics or ESL; empirical studies in professional writing.
  • Scholarly argument which casts a new view on an old topic.
  • Review of a substantial body of material (literature, field research, document analysis, theoretical schools, etc.) representing primarily new knowledge for the student, with a presentation that synthesizes, evaluates or discusses its implications.
  • Original work in fiction, poetry, or creative nonfiction.

For further guidance in selecting a topic, see advice!

Thesis scheduling:

  • You should meet with your thesis director early in the fall of your thesis year to confirm arrangements and prepare to write the prospectus. Ideally, you may schedule a preliminary meeting in the spring before your thesis year.
  • Set up a schedule of intermediary deadlines and conferences with your director to discuss research, and, once you begin writing, sections of your initial draft.
  • Expect to write multiple drafts of at least some sections of your thesis.
  • Always allow your director ample time to read your manuscript and suggest corrections.
  • After your director has approved your final draft, your second reader may also suggest changes. Allow two weeks for the second reading and your final corrections. Never give a draft to the second reader without previously consulting with your thesis director.
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Last Updated: 4/26/13