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a Q&A conversation
Want to here what it's like to do your honors thesis from the student perspective? Leigh (class of 2010) discusses her experience writing an honors thesis the fall of her senior year at Colby. Included topics are the writing process, choosing an adviser, and helpful advice in picking the topic of your honors thesis.
What made you decide to do the honors thesis project?
I knew some people my freshman year that did it, and my sister did one when she was a senior. I wasn't necessarily expected to do one, but I always knew I would do an honors thesis project. The honors thesis doesn't count towards your English major, but I already had all of my English credits done, so I figured I would write the thesis. It wasn't the only reason, of course.
What was your honors thesis on?
Shakespeare and Homoeroticism. Laurie Osborn was my advisor, of course.
How did you decide you wanted to do Shakespeare?
I was pretty much born knowing I wanted to write about Shakespeare. It's funny though, since before this year Laurie hadn't had a Shakespeare thesis in 5 + years.
What did you do your junior year to prepare for your honors thesis project?
I was abroad in the spring, so I had to fill out a proposal about what I thought i want to do, and then I sent that to Laurie. We talked briefly, and I changed it a little, but it wasn't anything stressful. Then over the summer I read some books Laurie suggested, and then reread some of the plays I was eventually going to be working with. But I didn't start writing it until September.
What was your schedule like once school started?
Laurie and I had a meeting the first or second week of school and we met every Friday during the semester. The first week she had me write a five page "this is what I think I'm going to write about," and when we had the next meeting we narrowed that down. The next week I wrote the intro, then mailed her the stuff on Thursday, and then we would talk about it on Friday. Each week it was some sort of writing assignment. One week my assignment would be to write about Midsummer's Night Dream and another week I would edit my writing. We would spend about two or three weeks on each point before moving on to the next one.
So, Laurie was very involved?
Oh yeah. By the end of fall semester before I went home for winter break I had about forty pages written already. For me, it was a very regimented thing and I was in very good shape before I left.
is it a good idea to come up with a schedule and assignments, even if your advisor doesn't require it?
Definitely, or even write down a list of goals of what you want to reach by each point. I also worked a lot over Thanksgiving break on my thesis.
What was researching like?
I read about five to seven critics, and then the sections of the plays I was looking at. So, basically an overview on homosexuality in Renaissance England, and criticism on the play in terms of open silences or this character's point in being in the play at all – things like that. So researching, I didn't do it all at one point, but I did it throughout. When I was working on Twelfth Night, I would read all the Twelfth Night material before watching the movies.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I guess I just wish I had worked harder. I mean, I got it done, but there were a couple of weeks where I got sick, so I didn't write anything those weeks. But otherwise it was all fantastic.
What do you suggest for students considering the honors thesis?
*laughs* Do it. It is really great. I like it, even if it's a lot of work. I guess, I love Shakespeare, so it was something I was thrilled about digging into for an entire semester. So, make sure it's something that you will love for more than a couple of weeks.
How does the adviser picking process work?
I guess it depends if there is a professor here that specializes in it. In my case, Laurie specializes in Shakespeare, but she's also had theses on Virginia Wolf in the past, and last semester someone did Faulkner with Bryant. So basically just ask an advisor, and if they like it, or if they have the time, then they'll say yes. So ask around with different professors, see if they're interested.
So for the honors thesis, do you have first semester to do the writing and then you can use Jan term for edit?
You have two options. For four credits, you have to turn it in before winter break. Or you can take the honors thesis for two credits in the fall, and two credits in Jan term, and it's due by the first week of Spring semester, which is what I did. The only thing that can be frustrating about that is the minimum credits you can take is twelve for a semester, which means you have to take at least three other classes, plus the thesis, which can be stressful some times. So you need to plan your other classes based on the fact that you will need to spend a lot of time working on your thesis.
Looking for a thesis adviser? Check out the English Department's Faculty Directory for professors' specialties.