Senior Honors Thesis

English majors may apply to write an honors thesis in their senior year. An honors thesis, as opposed to an independent study, is a two-semester project involving an advanced level of work in an area that students have already studied as part of their major.  Please note that majors cannot pre-register for this course until a proposal has been approved by full-time faculty members of the English Department in September.

Please note: Starting Spring 2024, the timeline for submitting thesis proposals will change. For students interested in working on a creative thesis, please review the following application process, which requires submitting a draft of a project proposal and a writing sample by April 1st. Updated details and the timeline for submitting proposals for both critical and creative theses will be available in March. 


Because this is an honors program, 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 below for other prerequisites and details about the application process.

Thesis Types

  • Critical Writing: The critical writing thesis is 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 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 thesis advisor.
  • Creative Writing: The creative writing thesis can be either a unified set of works (poems, short stories, creative nonfiction essays, etc.) or a single creative work (minimum 80 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

Students are expected to confer with potential thesis advisors about their projects well in advance, normally no later than the spring of their junior year. Advisors must be full-time members of 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. 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 Department early in the Fall term; once the proposal is approved by the Department, the student will determine a writing schedule and identify a second reader in consultation with the thesis advisor. 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, students who intend to undertake an honors thesis are expected to produce a written proposal over the summer to submit for final approval by the English Department at the beginning of the Fall term.

  • Critical Thesis Proposal: The proposal for a critical writing thesis should be two to three pages. 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 be one or two paragraphs setting out the main ideas or situations the student wants to address and what themes (or kinds of characters or narrative style or poetic forms) they want to explore in their thesis. It should act as a point of entry for the writing work to be done.

Proposal Submission Guidelines

  • The written proposal should be produced in consultation with the thesis advisor and submitted to the advisor before September 15th for circulation 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 advisor will submit the proposal by September 15th for review and a vote by the full-time members of the English Department. Only those theses whose proposals are approved by vote of the English Department faculty will be permitted to go forward. Once the Department approves the proposal, students will be notified to go forward with registration for the thesis course.

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 facilitated by the 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. Approved students will receive an email with the following instructions:

  • Complete and submit a signed "Senior Honors Thesis Form" to the English Department Administration within a week of receiving notification of project approval. Students are encouraged to keep a copy of this form.
  • 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.
  • 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

An approved honors thesis culminates in a Thesis Defense, 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, during reading period, or, at latest, in the early part of finals week. The defense must take place before senior grades are due.

Archiving Manuscripts

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

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

One course of the Senior Honors Thesis counts 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: