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Undergraduate Program

Majors: Senior Honors Thesis

In their senior year, English majors may apply to write an honors thesis. An honors thesis, as opposed to an independent study, represents an advanced level of work in an area that students have already studied as part of their major.


Because this is an honors program, admission is restricted to students whose names have appeared on the Dean's List at least two times before their senior year. Transfer students should have appeared on the Dean's List at least once at Tufts.

Thesis Types

Critical writing: The critical writing thesis should be a substantial piece of work (generally between 35 and 60 pages) that demonstrates the student's ability to develop and sustain a coherent and comprehensive argument. Questions of format, length, and chapter division are determined by the student in consultation with her or his director and committee. Students are expected to have done prior course work or other research in the proposed field, to have demonstrated an ability to sustain an extended independent project, and to present a detailed and seriously thought-out proposal.

Creative writing: The creative writing thesis should either be a unified set of works (poetry or short stories) or a single novel. Students must have taken at least two courses in the relevant genre, one of them above the beginning level, and must have the support of two full-time members of the department, having submitted for their consideration a substantial body of creative work.

Thesis Directors

Students are expected to confer with a potential thesis director about their projects well in advance, normally no later than the spring of their junior year. Directors must be full-time members of the English Department and are normally professors with whom the student has already completed coursework in the area to be covered by the honors thesis. Once the proposal in approved, students will work out a schedule and assemble a committee in consultation with their director.

Written Proposal

After consulting with the potential director, students who intend to undertake an honors thesis are expected to produce a written proposal over the summer between their junior and senior years.

Critical Thesis Proposal: The proposal for a critical writing thesis, which is generally two to three pages in length, should present an overview of the topic, a discussion of the method of investigation or analysis, and a description of the organization of the thesis by chapter. It will often include a short preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary works that the thesis will engage.

Creative Thesis Proposal: Understanding that the process of writing will dictate the results of a creative thesis, the proposal should be a brief, paragraph-long document simply giving a sense of the project. It should act as a point of entry for the work to be done. Students should submit a sample of prose or poetry along with the proposal. To do a senior thesis the students needs to have taken Advanced Fiction-ENG0013 at least once, received a grade of A or A-, and the permission of the director of the thesis project.

Proposal Submission Guidelines

  • The written proposal should be produced in consultation with the thesis director before the deadline (September 15) for submission to the department, along with a confirmation that the student's name has appeared on the Dean's List at least two times before their senior year (or at least once for transfer students).
  • The thesis director will then submit it for review to the full-time members of the Department of English for a vote. Only those theses whose proposals are approved by the vote of the English Department faculty will be permitted to go forward. Once the Department of English approves the written proposal, students will then be notified to go forward with registration.

Senior Honors Thesis Registration

The senior honors thesis is a year-long course. Approved students will receive an email with the following instructions:

  • Complete and submit a signed "Senior Honors Thesis Form" (available in the English Department Main Office) to the English Department Administration within a week of eceiving notification of project approval. Students are encouraged to keep a copy of this form.
  • Please be sure to complete the online Senior Honors Thesis Candidate Declaration Form.
  • Lastly, we will register you for the fall semester for ENG 0199 Senior Honors Thesis A. For the spring semester, you must register online via SIS for ENG 0199 Senior Honors Thesis B, and select the faculty directing your thesis. Please be sure to verify your registration on SIS and that there is no course overload for either semester.

Course Credits

  • A Senior Honors Thesis counts for a total of two courses, one for each semester registered.
  • A Senior Honors Thesis may count as two of the five elective courses required for the English Major.

Colloquium for Thesis Writers

All students doing senior honors theses are expected to attend the mandatory Colloquium for Thesis Writers meetings during the academic year. There will be 6-7 meetings during the academic year.

Thesis Defense

Approved honors theses culminate in a thesis defense, which is an hour-long meeting discussing and critiquing the student's work, at the end of which a letter grade is issued and the level of honors awarded.

The defense is attended by the student and the two readers on their committee: the thesis director and a second reader (who must also be a full-time English Department faculty member.)

Students are expected to hand in final versions of their thesis at least two weeks before their defense date. The defense usually takes place during the spring semester reading period and finals and must be completed before grades are due.

Archiving Manuscripts

After the defense, students should submit a final copy of their completed senior honors thesis to the Digital Collection and Archives (DCA) either in digital form or as a hard copy.

Students who have their thesis printed often make several extra copies for themselves and their family; in this case they should also provide a copy to the English department.

Fulfilling Major Requirements

The senior honors thesis counts as part of the required courses for the major. It is not necessary for a student to take ten courses in the major plus the two courses that the senior thesis confers; these two courses count towards the ten courses in the major. Additionally, students can complete the other requirements for the major while working on their senior thesis.

Further Information and Writing Support

Students are highly encouraged to visit the following links for extensive support in planning and writing their senior honors thesis: