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Abbott English Honors Program

The Abbott English Honors Program welcomes and promotes original work produced by senior majors in the Department of English, work of exceptional quality and polish that makes a contribution to the field.

Students admitted to the program may work either for one or two semesters on a single project, under the direction of a faculty member and with the insights of a faculty reader, and will participate fully in all Abbott Scholars Program events. Here are a few ways to pursue Honors in English:

  • A student may produce a scholarly or creative thesis in the senior year, and work over the course of both fall and spring semesters. To pursue this option, students enroll in English 498 in the fall and English 499 in the spring.
  • A student may produce a one-semester scholarly or creative thesis either semester in the senior year. To pursue this option, students enroll in English 499.
  • A student may extend work done in a 300- or 400-level course, and in the following semester produce a scholarly or creative thesis born of that course work.
  • A student may extend work done over the summer through such opportunities as the Davidson Research Initiative or an Abernethy Grant, and produce a scholarly or creative thesis born of that summer's work.

Each of these projects requires that students apply the semester prior to their Honors work.

Why Honors

Honors is an unparalleled opportunity to explore a research topic in depth, or draft a major work in the genre of your own choosing. At graduation, you will not only have the Honors designation, but a substantive work that you'll have created over an extended period of time.

We strongly encourage you to apply for Honors if you are:

  • Eager to pursue an extended independent research or creative project.
  • Considering applying to a graduate program. It will enhance your experiences, your candidacy, and may even help you decide whether to pursue graduate studies.
  • seeking to publish your creative work after graduation.

Prerequisites For Application

  • GPA 3.5 in major; 3.2 overall
  • Appropriate course work in proposed field

Preparing To Apply For Honors

  • Review your transcript. Consider what you have studied, what you wish to pursue, and how your intellectual and creative interests might benefit from the Honors process.
  • Talk with your adviser about whether Honors will complement your development as an English major and seek guidance from the Program Director.
  • When contemplating a thesis, remember that Honors English Theses take two forms—Critical and Creative—and be conducted over one semester (for candidates with considerable advanced preparation) or two semesters.
  • Discuss your ideas with a potential thesis Director.
  • Attend the spring Honors Information session and send the Program Director a 200- to 300-word statement of intent explaining your topic of interests, preparation in field, and faculty member who have interest in working with you.

All applicants must demonstrate sufficient course work in the area of the proposed thesis. Also, all applicants must have the support of an English Department faculty member-that is, a professor willing to direct and advise the project for its duration. The department will review all statements of intent and provide feedback, through the Program Director, on the viability of and possible revisions to the proposed thesis.

Application For Critical Theses 

If you wish to form a thesis statement about an existing literary work or works and perform critical research and analysis you must complete and submit by the first week in May (date TBD):

  • A maximum two-page (double-spaced) topic proposal accompanied by the Honors application form.
  • Writing sample (maximum five pages)
  • Due first week in May

Application For Creative Theses

If you wish to hone your creative writing skills within a specific literary discipline, you must complete and submit by the first week of May (date to come):

  • Maximum two-page (double-spaced) descriptive document in which candidates identify the genre or genres in which they propose to write, list contemporary writers whose works inform their own writing, and briefly detail aesthetic concerns and literary interests.
  • Writing sample (maximum five pages of poetry; 10 pages of prose)
  • Due first week in May

Whether you draft a critical or creative proposal, remember it will be read by all English Department faculty, many of whom will not be familiar with your work or with the specifics of your proposed project. So be clear, concrete, and use accessible language. Equally, your writing sample should showcase your verbal abilities and reveal you at your intellectual and creative best.

Turn in the Honors Application Form, your proposal, and your writing sample in hard copy to the Program Director. Collate and paper clip, but do not staple the pages.

Evaluation Of Applications

An evaluation meeting is conducted by the Honors Coordinator with an identical process for each applicant. The proposals are discussed and accepted by departmental vote using the following criteria:

  • Prerequisite course work
  • Quality of proposal and writing sample
  • Willingness of a faculty member to direct the proposed project
  • Comments from faculty

The Coordinator notifies those admitted to Honors by the end of May on the composition of their committee.

For a timetable of what happens if you're accepted as an Honors Candidate, see Honors Curriculum and Designation.

For additional inspiration and clarification regarding potential theses, we encourage you to visit the College Archives, where all English theses are on file for your review.

Honors Thesis Standards

Honors will be awarded on the following criteria:

  • A thesis that makes a contribution to the field by demonstrating a sustained, sophisticated, and elegant exploration of a topic or in a creative discipline.
  • A successful defense that shows mastery of the subject.
  • A strong colloquium presentation to a mostly non-specialist audience.
  • Active participation in all Honors-related activities, such as workshops.