The Department of English strongly encourages all undergraduates to consider completing a senior thesis under the direction of a faculty advisor(s). Undergraduate theses may involve the drafting of a scholarly research paper; the production of a novel, set of short stories or collection of poems; the analysis of narratives and/or other qualitative data collected from a particular cultural or regional community; and/or the creation of a digital media artifact. Indeed, because of the wide variety of creative and scholarly work undertaken by our nearly 100 faculty members, our undergraduates have the opportunity to compose theses on a seemingly endless array of topics, in a seemingly endless array of forms.
The thesis acts as a capstone experience for undergraduates: it allows them to explore issues of personal, scholarly, cultural, historical and/or creative importance; to solve complex problems using the knowledge and skills they have gained throughout their undergraduate careers and to produce new knowledge and new solutions that reflect their unique perspectives, talents and abilities. Students who complete a thesis graduate either "with research distinction" or "with honors research distinction;" while the latter phrasing is used for students who are members of the Arts & Sciences Honors Program, all students are encouraged to complete a thesis regardless of their honors status.
HOW AND WHERE TO BEGIN
For some students, the process of developing and completing a thesis project may seem a bit daunting at first; however, the following steps are designed to make this process manageable and to outline how students typically proceed. In addition to reading the information below, students interested in completing a thesis are encouraged to make an appointment and advisor. We can help students think through possible thesis topics, locate potential faculty advisors, and complete the appropriate thesis paperwork.
Students interested in completing a thesis first need to determine the scope and focus of their project. Oftentimes, a thesis project grows out of a paper/project that the student completed as part of an undergraduate course in English. In cases like these, the student decides to expand and develop the original paper/project, and in the end, for example, what starts out as an 10-page research paper with five or six sources eventually expands into a 50-page essay that responds to and builds upon the work of some 20 scholars and critics. Theses that take the form of scholarly essays typically run from 40 to 60 pages in length, whereas a creative thesis might involve the development of a 200-page novel or a collection of 15 poems. Length requirements are determined by the student's thesis advisor, who is also likely to be involved in determining the scope and focus of the student's project.
While deciding on a thesis topic, students should also seek out a member of the English faculty to serve as their thesis advisor. It is important to remember that faculty members tend to be more willing to direct theses if these requests come from students who have taken and performed well in the faculty members' courses. In addition, faculty are more likely to consider directing theses if the proposed topics overlap with their own areas of interest. Students should also be aware that faculty may be unavailable to direct their thesis for a wide variety of professional and personal reasons. Students are encouraged to seek advice from the department's Undergraduate Studies academic program manager if they need assistance finding a thesis advisor.
Once they have secured a faculty advisor, students should begin completing the Thesis Application, also known as the Application for Graduation With Research Distinction. This application must be accompanied by a summary of the student's proposed thesis project and contain the signatures of the thesis advisor and the department's Undergraduate Studies Program academic program manager. The application must be submitted to the appropriate College of Arts and Sciences office no later than one term prior to the student's graduation term; however, it is strongly recommended that students complete and submit the thesis application before they begin their thesis coursework. There are two versions of the thesis application: One version for undergraduates who are not members of the Arts & Sciences Honors Program and the other for those who are. Students can access the appropriate thesis application through the links at the bottom of this page.
Students will need to email the Undergraduate Studies Program academic program manager to enroll in thesis coursework for the upcoming term. Their email should include their name, the name of their faculty advisor, a request to enroll in thesis coursework for the upcoming term and the number of credit hours desired. Students must complete a total of four credit hours of thesis coursework in order to graduate with research distinction. Typically, students will enroll in two credit hours in the autumn and spring of their senior year. Occasionally, students may enroll in thesis hours in the spring of their junior year and through the autumn and spring of their senior year, or they may complete all for credit hours in a single term. Students will be enrolled in English 4999 or 4999H depending on whether they are members of the Arts & Sciences Honors Program. All enrollment requests must be emailed to the Undergraduate Studies Program academic program manager prior to the first day of the term.
All students must conclude their thesis coursework with a one-hour defense run by their thesis advisor and attended by a second faculty reader from the Department of English. Students who are members of the Arts & Sciences Honors Program must have a third faculty reader from another department. The defense must be completed and the accompanying paperwork signed and turned into the appropriate College of Arts and Sciences office before 5 p.m. on the last day of classes in the term of the student's graduation. The student also will be required to format and upload a copy of their thesis to the university's Knowledge Bank by the last day of final exams in the term of the student's graduation.
Thesis application and instructions to graduate with honors research distinction from the College of Arts and Sciences. Information is located at the bottom of the page under the "Research Distinction" heading.