ENGLISH 483, 484


The Honors Thesis Program is for those who want to do and are capable of a certain kind of independent work. The honors student will be enrolled in EN483/EN484 in addition to his or her required courses in the English major.

The curriculum includes the opportunity for students to earn four-credits (via English 483, 484), write an honors thesis, and, if successful, graduate with honors. This is the only way to earn honors in the department. Latin Honors and Distinction in the Major are grade based. Students with a major average of at least 3.75 are eligible for consideration for Distinction in the Major.

Guidelines for Honors Projects in English Literature, 2022-23

The English department offers qualified majors the opportunity to undertake a honors thesis during their senior year. This is a significant independent undertaking in the realm of literary history and criticism; application, acceptance, and assessment are a separate process from creative writing theses. While all qualified English majors, including those with a creative writing concentration, may elect to undertake a lit honors thesis, students interested in pursuing an honors thesis in creative writing should follow the Creative Writing program’s guidelines. 


Students with at least a 3.5 GPA in the major and a 3.0 GPA overall may propose a project in the spring of their junior year. If approved, students undertake preparatory reading and research during the summer, continue researching and writing in the fall while also enrolled in an honors proseminar, and complete their work in late spring of their senior year, culminating in a presentation of their project at CLAS.


In the fall of their senior year, honors students enroll in EN482, the two-credit Honors Proseminar, and in two credits of EN483; the thesis is typically completed during the spring semester, during which students should enroll in two credits of EN484. EN482 is a CR/NC course; EN483 will be provisionally graded CR, and a letter grade will be assigned for it and for EN484 after the successful completion of the thesis. The honors thesis and the proseminar does not count toward the 11 courses required for the English major, or the 13 required for the English major with a concentration in creative writing.


The final thesis is generally 50-70 pages of polished academic writing, reviewed and assessed by both the primary advisor and a secondary reader. Students whose thesis projects may take them to libraries and other archives outside Colby are encouraged to apply for funding such as the John Barry Grant and fellowships from the Center for Arts and Humanities.



April of junior year: consult with your advisor on plans for your senior year, including the possibility of a thesis. You should check with your advisor to make sure you’re on track with other requirements for the major and understand how the honors thesis will factor into the 128 credits required for graduation.

Note: students whose projects involve research beyond Colby’s libraries are encouraged to apply for the Jon Barry Grant. The application deadline for the Barry Grant funding for work undertaken over the summer falls in mid-March, before honors proposals are due (there are separate, later deadlines for work during the academic year). If you have applied for and received Barry Grant funding for the summer, you should note this in your proposal.


Once you’ve decided to propose an honors project, you should begin developing a topic and find a faculty member in the English department who will agree to supervise your work.


During course selection for the fall in mid-April, students planning to write an honors thesis should enroll in EN482 and two credits of EN483.


April 22: honors proposals due. This proposal should consist of the following elements:

  • The name of the faculty member who will be advising the project
  • A 1-2 page, double-spaced description of the project
  • A 1 page research plan that describes the work you will undertake over the summer (usually preparatory reading), fall, Jan Plan, and spring semesters. If you intend to enroll in a non-thesis Jan Plan course, this should be noted here. Your plan should include time for reading, drafting the thesis, any research to be conducted away from Colby, and revision.


The honors proposals should be submitted to the honors coordinator (currently [email protected]) by midnight EDT on April 22.


Mid-May: student proposals are evaluated by a committee of English department faculty. Faculty may respond to proposals as follows:

  • Accept without revisions. The student is free to undertake their project as proposed.
  • Conditionally accepted. The committee would like the student to reconsider one or more aspects of the project as proposed. At this stage, the student may be asked to revise and resubmit their proposal.
  • Rejected. The committee does not feel that this is a viable honors project.


Summer: students undertake preparatory reading and research for their thesis


Early September:

Students submit a 5-page (double spaced) report on their research to date both to their advisor and to the honors coordinator. This report is in essence a revised and expanded version of the proposal submitted in May: it should discuss preliminary reading or other work the student has undertaken over the summer, explain the student’s current understanding of the topic and scope of the project (with an updated bibliography if necessary), and lay out a plan of work during the academic year.


Fall: students begin researching and writing the thesis, taking part in the weekly honors proseminar and meeting regularly with their advisor. The frequency of meetings depends on the student and advisor, generally it should not be less than once per month. Students may apply for research support through the Center for Arts and Humanities and the Jon Barry fund.


Students planning to complete their thesis in the spring should enroll in two credits of EN484 during registration for spring classes in November. (Any student planning on completing their thesis during JanPlan should instead enroll in two credits of EN484j during registration for JanPlan in October.)


Last week of fall classes: students present their work-in-progress to the department via a 10 minute oral presentation, followed by q&a.


Jan Plan: the honors coordinator will facilitate the exchange of work among students for peer review. Some students may elect to use this time to pursue off-campus research.


First week of Spring Semester: in consultation with their advisor, students should secure the services of a second reader, who may consult on the thesis during the writing-up period, and who, along with the primary advisor, will read and assess the completed thesis in April.


Spring: students continue meeting with their advisor and working on the thesis. The focus should be on crafting an argument and synthesizing research. Students are encouraged to share work with one another for peer review.


April 20: the completed thesis is submitted to both the primary advisor and secondary reader. Successful theses (B+ level work or better) are awarded the honors designation.


Late April/Early May: honors students present their work during a session at CLAS.


Last day of Spring classes: students deposit the final version of their honors thesis with the department. The student is responsible for sending printed and digital copies of their work to the department administrative assistant, their honors advisor, and their second reader. For formatting instructions, please contact the administrative assistant at [email protected]


For more information:

Finding an Honors Advisor