The Honors Program

The English Department Honors Program allows students to deepen and enrich their knowledge of literature beyond what would normally be required by the major. The program is designed for strong, academically motivated students who wish to advance their skills in analysis, research, and writing. Students in the program pursue additional coursework and research and write a senior thesis. Coordinator: Dr. Elizabeth Outka (Ryland 303J;


To be eligible for admission to the Honors program, a student should have 18.5 or more units of completed work, a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3, a major GPA of 3.5, and 3.5 or more units completed in the major with evidence of distinguished achievement; a creative writing thesis requires at least 2 of the 3.5 units be completed within the Creative Writing program. In addition, candidates are required to maintain an overall GPA of at least 3.3 and a major GPA of 3.5 while participating in the program. Please note that the Honors Program is distinct from Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honors Society, which has a different set of eligibility requirements.

Applying to the Program

A student who wishes to pursue honors and who meets the GPA requirements will submit a formal application and thesis proposal in the spring semester of the junior year (students who would like to apply earlier, and who already have a developed thesis project in mind, should consult with the honors coordinator). Information meetings for qualifying juniors will be held in the fall. Candidates should be sure to read the Honor Program Guide carefully, as it lays out deadlines and requirements in detail. Students studying abroad in the spring may submit an application electronically; ideally, they should consult with the coordinator before they leave.

Course Work

Honors candidates will follow the same set of course requirements as other English majors. In addition, they will designate one 300- or 400-level course from their major program as an honors course. The professor, in consultation with the student and the honors coordinator, will determine an appropriate honors component for the course. An honors component might involve writing a more in-depth paper in a particular area of interest, additional readings, a presentation, or other modifications to a course’s requirements. By midterm, students should turn into the coordinator the honors course proposal form. When the honors course is complete, students should turn in the honors course completion form. During their senior year, honors candidates should also enroll in the following:

1. ENGL 498: Honors Thesis Research (fall semester, .5 units)
2. ENGL 499: Honors Thesis Writing (spring semester, 1 unit)

Note: For both courses, please be sure to select the section taught by your director.


By the first Friday in March of the junior year, the honors candidate will submit a thesis proposal (along with other materials described in this guide) to the honors coordinator. The student should already have shown drafts of the proposal to the faculty member who will be directing the thesis. The student should also have received from that faculty member a commitment to direct the thesis and should ask her or him to send a letter of recommendation to the honors coordinator by the application deadline. The proposal should, ideally, be developed from work done by the student in a 300- or 400-level English course but should not be a replication of that work.

Several types of thesis projects are possible: (1) a scholarly thesis of about 30-40 pages focused around a key work or works; the thesis should engage with literary criticism and form an original argument; (2) a creative writing thesis consisting of a collection of short stories, poems, or a section of a novel or play; for fiction or non-fiction, about 50-100 pages are expected, and for poetry, about 30-60 pages; (3) a combination thesis, consisting of a scholarly treatment of a particular subject (about 15-20 pages) combined with a related creative writing component (about 25-50 pages for fiction or non-fiction, and about 15-30 for poetry). If a student is expanding an earlier paper or project into a thesis, about thirty new pages of writing are required. Please note that you must be an English major to complete any of these projects for honors credit.

The student will complete the research for the project in the fall term of the senior year and will write the thesis in the spring term.

Honors students are strongly encouraged to apply for a summer research fellowship from the School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office in the spring semester of the junior year and to present their work during their senior year at the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium.

The department recommends that students take ENGL 376: Modern Literary Theory, in their junior or senior year.

During the spring semester, while the student is enrolled in Honors Thesis Writing, the thesis director will meet with the candidate regularly. The thesis director’s responsibilities will include the following: helping the student move from the proposal stage to writing; reading and commenting on several drafts of the thesis; guiding the student in research methods and in matters of bibliography; and, finally, in consultation with the second reader, determining the grade and whether or not the candidate will receive departmental Honors. Honors candidates will be expected to do at least six to eight hours of thesis-related work per week. Because of the time commitment involved, professors should only direct one thesis project a year.

The thesis will be read, commented upon, and graded by the thesis director and a second faculty reader chosen by the thesis director in consultation with the student and the Honors Coordinator.

Candidates who earn two grades of “A-” or better on the thesis, and who have satisfactorily met all the other requirements, will automatically be granted departmental Honors. Candidates receiving fewer than two grades of “A-” and no grade lower than a “B” on the Honors thesis, and who have met all other program requirements, will still be considered for Honors by the thesis director and the second reader. If the director and second reader feel the project should not be awarded honors, the ENGL 499 course is converted to an independent study. Should there be a wide discrepancy in the grades, the Coordinator will deliberate with the director and second reader to reach a consensus.