Want to Write an Honors Thesis Next Year? Read This!

For students in the English Honors program who wish to write a thesis in Fall 2016, one-page proposals are due by Monday, May 2, in the English advising office, along with a registration form for English 391. Even if you are not planning to write your thesis until Spring 2017, you’ll find this memo informative.

First,  submit a hard copy of your proposal to Gail Trent in EB 200 by 4:30 p.m. on May 2.  You will also need to submit a registration form, signed by your faculty director, before you can register for the independent study hours (English 391).  (If necessary, your director can email approval to dbauer@illinois.edu.)   You can pick up a copy of the registration form in EB 200, or download it from our advising website.

Second, what is a proposal?  That’s detailed in the document called “How to Write a Proposal for Your English Honors Thesis” at  http://www.english.illinois.edu/undergraduate/honors/.  This handout talks about selecting a director, agreeing with your director on a general topic, and writing up a brief (non-binding) proposal.   From this same website you can access sample proposals from previous years, which will show you that students usually lay out a set of texts and some questions to investigate, without yet specifying the exact argument of the thesis, which will emerge next semester.

Please remember that the thesis topic needs to represent mutual interests of the student and director; indeed, for most students, the best process is to identify a professor you want to work with and then use the professor’s guidance to identify that area of common interest.  If you have come to the thesis with a particular topic in mind, you may need to revise your initial thoughts in order to find a suitable director, because even our large faculty can only have so much expertise over the vast field of literature.  Furthermore, we generally advise that faculty direct no more than two theses in a given semester; please note that only professors and senior lecturers can direct honors theses.  For a list of faculty with their titles and areas of interest, visit “Faculty by Areas of Specialty” at http://www.english.illinois.edu/people/.  If you are having trouble identifying a suitable director, or just want to talk through your proposal, email me for an appointment.

Remember that the thesis should be undertaken after completing the three Honors seminar, or concurrently with your third seminar if necessary.  For those of you planning ahead to write a thesis in 2016-17, do consider writing in the fall.  If you are a Teaching of English major, of course you will have to write your thesis in the fall because you will be doing your student teaching in the spring.

Finally, don’t forget that you can submit your thesis proposal to Re:Search, the undergraduate electronic journal of literary criticism at UIUC.  If your proposal is accepted, you’ll use the spring to develop your thesis not just for honors submission, but also for electronic publication!  See http://publish.illinois.edu/undergradliterarycriticismjournal/ for the call for proposals and information about the submission process.

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