Honors Program

Kelly Anne McCullagh, '14, first discovered the poetry of W.B. Yeats in her grandfather's love letters.  For her senior thesis, she traced the Irish poet's literary evolution by studying his manuscripts.

 

The Department of English and Creative Writing offers one path to honors: the completion of significant independent work culminating in a thesis. Such a thesis can be a memorable intellectual experience if you choose your topic well and can sustain the motivation to work on your own for the two semesters involved.

All rising seniors who wish to write a thesis will apply for English 360 (Senior Thesis Research) to be taken in the fall semester. The second semester is registered as 370 (Senior Thesis).

The decision to award honors is made after the thesis, and an oral examination, are complete, and is based on both the thesis and the examination. In addition, progress on the thesis is evaluated at a mid-year meeting in December. At this mid-year point, students are expected to have completed at least the equivalent of a chapter of the thesis. Individual thesis advisors may require more work to be completed by this deadline. Students should speak with their advisor early in the fall semester about this requirement. Students writing creative writing theses should likewise speak with their advisors early in the fall semester about how much work should be completed by the mid-year meeting.

Students planning an honors thesis must apply in the spring of junior year by Friday, April 15th at 11:59 pm.

Decisions will be made on or before April 30th and students will receive an email from the chair.

Because decisions will be made after registration for Fall 2022 classes, please sign up for a back-up course during registration period.

If your proposal is accepted, your name will be included on an official list of students doing honors work that the English Department sends to the Registrar's Office at the time of registration. Students are enrolled in honors work by the Department; they do not register themselves.

Although the deadline for proposals will be the same, there will be a separate application process for creative writing theses. Creative writing proposals will be evaluated by a special committee. The number of students selected will be limited. Proposals for creative writing theses should be accompanied by a writing sample not to exceed 15 pages. If you would like additional information on the creative writing thesis process, please contact Marilyn Sides, Creative Writing Director.

1.  Eligibility

College legislation requires that a student should have earned at least a 3.5 average in all work above 100-level in the major field in order to be eligible for the Honors Program.  Exceptions to the GPA requirement are made only in rare instances, following a departmental recommendation and a formal appeal to the Curriculum Committee of the College. Except in special circumstances, it is expected that students applying for honors will have completed five courses in the major, at least four of which must be taken in the English department at Wellesley. 

2.  Preparation

Students interested in pursuing an honors project should have appropriate background in the area of research. This usually means prior courses in the field of study and/or course work in related fields.

3.  Advisor

Students should contact potential advisors well before the application deadline to discuss possible honors projects. The Chair of the Department does not assign students to advisors. Please also keep in mind that faculty work in particular fields and are unlikely to take on a project that they do not feel prepared to advise. If students wish to pursue honors work with the advisor, they should be open to revising a topic that falls within the faculty member’s area of expertise. In addition, the faculty member you contact should be someone who knows your work and with whom you have taken at least one course in a subject area related to your proposed thesis.  Most faculty members decline to accept students they have not taught. Please be aware that faculty members on academic or personal leave are not expected to supervise honors work.

Not all eligible students who wish to pursue honors work will be able to do so. It is sometimes the case that faculty cannot take on honors work in a given year or that too many students wish to work with faculty in a particular field.

4. Thesis Proposal

Your thesis proposal should take the form of a short essay (2-3 pages) in which you define the topic you plan to explore, the significance of that topic in terms understandable to the non-specialist, and describe the sources and methods you plan to use.  It is not necessary to know exactly what the project will reveal, or exactly how it will be shaped.  But you should try to describe as fully as possible what your interests are, what questions you plan to investigate, what texts you will read, and so on. 

You should explain how work in the major (and/or outside it) has led you to your proposed project.  Related courses should be named and any relevant intellectual work should be described. You should include a short bibliography identifying the most important primary and secondary sources you have discovered thus far. This proposal should be prepared in close consultation with your advisor and must be approved by the department chair.

Proposals for creative writing theses also must be accompanied by a writing sample, not to exceed 15 pages.

5.  Application Materials

For the Class of 2022, eligible students should submit the following materials to english-honors@wellesley.edu by Friday, April 15, 2022, at 11:59 p.m.:

  • a cover sheet (see here). This cover sheet must signed by your faculty advisor unless you are proposing a creative writing thesis. If you are proposing a creative writing thesis, please submit the sheet without an advisor’s signature.
  • your thesis proposal and bibliography
  • an unofficial copy of your transcript.

The Chair of the Department will read the applications and discuss them with advisors who have signed off on the students’ forms to assess the student's fitness to do an independent project.  In the case of creative writing proposals, the applications are evaluated by a special committee.  It is thus important that the proposal represent the student well -- that it be thoughtful and well-written. Decisions will be made on or before April 30th. Students will receive email notification from the Chair.

The Registrar will not permit students to sign themselves up for honors, or to be signed up by a member of the faculty other than the Chair. The English Department will send the Registrar's Office an official list of approved students to be registered for an honors project; students do not need -- nor will they be able -- to register themselves for honors work.

Because decisions will be made after registration for Fall 2022 classes, please sign up for a back-up course during registration period.

6.  Mid-Year Meeting

Each student working on an honors project will have a mid-December meeting with the advisor and two other members of the department, at which the student will present the work done (roughly one chapter or the equivalent) and discuss their plans for completing the project.  If these faculty members judge that progress on the thesis has been satisfactory and that the project is likely to be successfully completed, they will approve the student's second semester of honors work.  Student writing theses will then be registered (by the Department) for English 370.  If the faculty members judge that the thesis is not likely to be successfully completed, the student's name will be withdrawn from the official list of students doing honors work in the spring, and the student will not be registered for English 370. In such cases, credit and a grade are then given for the semester of 360 work already completed.

Funding

The English Department and the College have a number of ways to help fund student research projects. You might consider applying for one of the following:

Tezak Fund for English Department Honors Students: this fund supports a limited amount of research-related and photocopying costs. Speak directly to Lisa Easley about getting reimbursement for expenses through the Tezak.

The Jerome A. Schiff Fellowship: Schiff Fellowships are merit-based awards available to students currently registered in 360 Senior Thesis Research and to students intending to enroll in a 360. Awards range from $2,000 to 3,000 and students from all departments and programs are eligible to apply. For further information about the application process and deadlines, click here.

Student Research Grants: The Office of the Dean of the College administers a number of grants to support student research and travel. The maximum award is $750. For more information, click here.

Pamela Daniels '59 Fellowship: the Pamela Daniels Fellowship is offered annually in the fall to support an original senior project. One or two fellowships, in the amount of $3000, will be awarded. Seniors in good standing are eligible to apply. Completed fellowship applications are due in early October. Finalists will be interviewed by the Selection Committee in the last week of October. (N.B. A recipient of the Daniels Fellowship is not eligible also to receive a Schiff Fellowship.) For more information and specific application deadline, click here.

Samuel and Hilda Levitt Fellowship: the Samuel and Hilda Levitt fellowships are intended to support the thesis work of nine honors students, three each in the humanities, the social sciences and the sciences. Each fellowship consists of $3500 and is awarded in the spring of the recipient’s junior year, so that it can facilitate honors work, both during the summer preceding the senior year, if needed, and during the senior year. The fellowship is also intended to recognize students with a commitment to service. Students planning to enroll in a 360 course in the first semester of their senior year, who have the approval of their thesis advisor and department, are eligible to apply. Levitt Scholars are not eligible to apply for either a Daniels Fellowship or a Schiff Fellowship. Special note for 2021: The Levitt Fellowship application process overlaps with both the Schiff and the Daniels Fellowship applications in Fall 2021.  A student may apply for more than one fellowship but may only be awarded one of these fellowships. For more information, click here.

For information about Honors at Wellesley, click here.

The Wellesley libraries have carrels available for honors students. Sign up online or contact the Clapp Library service desk at x2166.