Senior Honors Thesis

English majors may apply to write a Senior Honors Thesis, which is a two-semester critical or creative project involving an advanced level of work in an area that students have already studied as part of their major. The thesis is guided by a faculty advisor and a second reader, both of whom should be full-time members in the English Department. The application process is different for critical and creative writing projects, so read below for specific instructions. Once the proposal is approved by the English Department, students register for ENG 0199A (Fall) and ENG 0199B (Spring), both 4 credit courses that also include a required year-long senior thesis workshop.

Please note that students cannot register for the Fall honors thesis course until a proposal has been approved by the English Department. Potential thesis writers should begin the proposal submission process early in the Spring semester of their junior year.

Qualifications

By Tufts policy, application to write a thesis is limited to students whose names have appeared on the Dean’s List at least twice before their senior year. Transfer students should have appeared on the Dean’s List at least once at Tufts. See “thesis types” for additional creative writing thesis prerequisites.  

Thesis Types

  • Critical Writing: The critical writing thesis is a substantial piece of work (generally between 35 and 60 double spaced pages) that demonstrates the student’s ability to develop and sustain a coherent and comprehensive critical argument. Students are expected to have done prior course work or other research in the proposed field, to demonstrate their ability to sustain an extended independent project, and to present a detailed and seriously thought-out proposal. Questions of organization, format, and length are determined in consultation with the faculty thesis advisor.
  • Creative Writing: The creative writing thesis can be either a unified set of works of varying lengths (poems, short stories, creative nonfiction essays, etc.) or a single creative work (minimum 80 double spaced pages). Students must have taken at least two courses in the relevant genre, one of them at the advanced level, if applicable, which means fiction writers must have taken Writing Fiction: Advanced-ENG 0013 (and received a grade of A or A-) and poets must have taken Writing Poetry: Advanced-ENG 0016 (and received a grade of A or A-).  

Thesis Advisors

Thesis advisors and second readers must be full-time faculty in the English Department and are usually (though not always) professors with whom the student has already completed coursework in the area to be covered in the honors thesis. See the current list of full-time faculty members

  • Critical Writing: Students interested in doing a critical thesis are expected to confer with potential thesis advisor(s) about their projects well in advance, normally by the start of the Spring term of their junior year. Once a faculty member has agreed to serve as thesis advisor, the student consults with them in developing a proposal to be submitted for approval to the English Department [english@tufts.edu] by the last day of classes during the Spring term of their junior year. 
  • Creative Writing: Students interested in doing a creative writing thesis are required to submit a proposal and writing sample to the English Department Office [english@tufts.edu] by April 1st of their junior year, as described below and consolidated in this handout. A committee of faculty will review the applications and select proposals to go forward to submit to the Department for official approval. Students will be informed of the results by mid-April and at this stage will also be matched with a thesis advisor, who will work with them to refine their proposal before submitting to the Department by the last day of classes during the Spring term of their junior year

Once the proposal (both critical and creative) is approved by the Department, the student will have permission to register for ENG 0199A.  At the start of Fall semester, they will determine a writing and meeting schedule and identify a second reader in consultation with the thesis advisor (if they have not already done so). The second reader should also be a full-time faculty member of the English Department except under extraordinary circumstances, in which case approval of the Department Chair should be sought as early in the Fall semester as possible.  

Written Proposal

After consulting with the potential advisor (or, for creative projects, the Director of Creative Writing), students who intend to undertake an honors thesis are expected to produce a written proposal during the Spring term of their junior year to submit for final approval by the English Department by the last day of classes of Spring term. 

  • Critical Thesis Proposal: The proposal for a critical writing thesis should be two to three pages (double spaced). It should present an overview of the topic, outline the specific questions to be explored, discuss the method of investigation or analysis, and describe the organization of the thesis by section or chapter. It should also include a short preliminary bibliography of works (both primary and secondary) that the thesis will engage.
  • Creative Thesis Proposal: Though it is understood that creative projects will evolve during the writing process, the proposal for a creative thesis should act as a point of entry for the writing to be done. In one to two pages (double spaced), it should set out the genre/sub-genres the project will undertake (e.g. novella, story collection, poetry collection, memoir, long-form journalism, hybrid, etc.) and provide a sense of the project, including, when relevant, the premise, driving questions/themes, structures/forms, plot/characters, and influences. It should also name 1 or 2 preferred thesis advisors from the full-time English Department faculty.  

    In addition, along with the proposal, students should submit a writing sample in their intended genre, as follows: for poetry, 3-5 poems; for fiction/creative non-fiction/journalism/hybrid, 5-10 pages (double spaced).

Required Thesis Workshop

All students doing senior honors theses are required to attend the Senior Thesis Workshop that accompanies registration for the Senior Honors Thesis. There will be 3-4 meetings of the Workshop scheduled and facilitated by the English Department Senior Honors Thesis Coordinator each term, including a Thesis Presentation event that will be held in April before the annual English Major Celebration.

Senior Honors Thesis Registration

The senior honors thesis is a year-long course for which students need permission to register for the Fall semester. Once the thesis proposal has been approved by the English Department in May, students will be able to register for ENG 0199A for Fall and ENG 0199B for Spring by selecting the faculty member who is serving as the thesis advisor from the drop down list available on SIS. In addition, students must submit the following two forms:

Course Credits

  • A Senior Honors Thesis counts for a total of two 4-credit courses, one for each semester registered.
  • One course of a Senior Honors Thesis may count as one of the five elective courses required for the English Major. The second course of a Senior Honors Thesis is additional to the ten courses required for the English Major.

Thesis Defense

The Senior Honors Thesis culminates in a thesis defense conversation, which is an hour-long discussion and critique of the thesis work with the thesis advisor and second reader. After the defense, the two faculty readers determine a letter grade and the level of honors to be awarded.

Students are expected to hand in final versions of their theses at least two weeks before their defense date. The defense usually takes place at the end of the Spring term, or at the latest by the last day of reading period. 

Archiving Manuscripts

After the defense and after making any necessary corrections, students should submit a final, corrected copy of their completed senior honors thesis to the Digital Collection and Archives (DCA) at Tufts either in digital form or as a hard copy. Deposit Form for the Tufts Digital Library.

Students are encouraged to provide a printed copy of their thesis to the English Department. 

Fulfilling Major Requirements

One course of the Senior Honors Thesis can count as one among the five elective courses required for the ten course English Major. The second course of the Senior Honors Thesis is additional to the ten course English Major, making a total of eleven courses for those students doing the Senior Honors Thesis. Students can complete the other requirements for the English Major while working on their Senior Honors Thesis.

Further Information and Writing Support

Students are highly encouraged to visit the following websites for extensive support in planning and writing their senior honors thesis: StAAR Center and Tisch Library.