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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, in research, and in writing. Students in the program pursue additional course work and research and write a senior thesis.  Coordinator: Dr. Elizabeth Outka (Ryland 303J, 287-1806,


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. 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. Honors students must begin consulting with the Honors Coordinator in time to construct a coherent and challenging curriculum. Students studying abroad in the spring may submit an application electronically, but they should consult with the Honors 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 two 300- or 400-level courses from their major program as Honors Courses. In each case, the instructor, 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. When an Honors Course is complete, students should fill out the Honors Course Form (available on-line on the Department’s web page and in the Honors Guide) and submit it to the Honors Coordinator. During their senior year, Honors candidates will also enroll in the following:

           1. English 498: Honors Thesis Research (fall semester, .5 units)

           2. English 499: Honors Thesis Writing (spring semester, 1 unit)


By the first Friday in March of the junior year, the Honors candidate will submit a thesis proposal (along with other materials described in the Honors 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 him or her 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. It should articulate a line of inquiry that may be related to previous work but should not be a replication of that work. More detailed information on preparing the application packet can be found in the Honors Guide. 

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. The final thesis paper should be between thirty and forty pages, including notes and Works Cited; thesis papers that are longer than forty pages will only be accepted if there is a compelling reason for the greater length; otherwise they should be trimmed to forty pages or less. If, however, a student is expanding a seminar paper into a thesis, about thirty new pages of writing is required.   

Honors students are strongly encouraged to apply for summer research grants 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. We also recommend that students register for the Department of Modern Literatures and Cultures’ Contemporary Literary Theory course (MLC 351) before or during thesis research and writing.

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: determining how the thirty pages of thesis writing will evolve from the proposal; reading and commenting upon several drafts of the thesis; instructing the student in research methods; advising the candidate in matters of bibliography; commenting upon and grading the thesis; and, finally, in consultation with the Honors Coordinator and other readers, determining 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 outside the “classroom” per week. Because the thesis director has time consuming responsibilities, professors should only direct one thesis project a year (so students should ask professors early!). 

The thesis will be read, commented upon, and graded by three readers: the thesis director and two other faculty readers chosen by the thesis director in consultation with the student and the Honors Coordinator. The thesis director and Coordinator may choose to appoint no more than one reader from outside the University of Richmond English Department. 

Those 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 readers. If a majority of the readers feel the project should not be awarded honors, the ENGL 499 course is converted to an independent study. Should there be a wide discrepancy among the three grades, the Coordinator will deliberate with the readers to reach a consensus.