Senior Thesis Option

Thinking about doing a senior thesis in literature? This page describes the process in detail. You can also take a look at a list of completed theses.

Working closely with literature faculty members who are leaders in their fields, thesis students delve more deeply into areas of personal interest. For students interested in graduate and professional schools, the thesis builds a wealth of skills and offers a competitive edge in applications. For students entering the job market after graduating, the thesis demonstrates advanced creative and critical thinking as well as skills of independent project management. For students who don't intend to complete post-baccalaureate study, completing a thesis caps off the undergraduate degree with the experience of pursuing graduate-caliber research and writing.

Literature majors are usually expected to have a 3.75 major QPA (or higher) in order to be eligible. Requiring substantial research, reading, writing, and revision, the senior thesis is for students who have a great deal of discipline and are able to devote sustained time and attention to one project. Talk to the English advisors or one of your favorite literature professors to find out if it’s right for you!

If you decide to do the thesis, you will enroll in a course called Senior Honors Thesis (ENGLIT 1914). This course will culminate in a senior thesis of approximately 35 pages. During the semester, you will read a significant amount of literature and literary criticism, report on the readings to your committee chair in regular meetings, and submit drafts of components of the thesis during the course of the semester.


Basic Steps:

  1. Think of a project. This might involve extending work you have done in a previous literature course: What authors, historical periods, or genres do you find most interesting? What theoretical problems or other puzzles do you want to tackle?  
  2. Identify some of the key texts for this project.
  3. Talk to a faculty member who may be interested in working with you on this project. This faculty member may be able to give you advice on fine-tuning the project proposal. This faculty member may or may not also agree to work with you on the project. (Don't worry: we have a system for connecting you with potential faculty committee members. Note, however, that you’ll need to engage the attention of a faculty member with a compelling project proposal. Working on the Senior Thesis is voluntary extra labor for faculty members; it requires a time commitment over and above other teaching and departmental obligations.)
  4. Write and submit to the Literature Program Director a two- to three-page statement of the research project and a preliminary bibliography. You should also submit a list of provisional committee members. The formal submission of the Senior Thesis proposal should be completed midway into the term prior to taking ENGLIT 1914. However, the project takes time to develop, and the student should begin working with their thesis supervisor at the beginning of the prior term.
  5. After reviewing the materials, the Literature Program Director will sign off on the proposal and approve the committee.
  6. Faculty committee members will sign the commitment document, which will go to the English Department Advisors.

You will now be able to register for the Senior Honors Thesis!