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, 2019-20

The English Department has a two-semester timeline for honors projects in literature. Students will propose a project in the spring of their junior year. If approved, students will undertake preparatory reading and research during the summer, continue researching and writing in the fall and spring semesters, and complete their work in late spring of their senior year, including a presentation at CLAS. In order to support their work, honors students are required in the fall semester of their senior year to complete the Honors Proseminar (2 credit hours, graded credit/no credit).

Under this plan, students enroll in EN483 for two credits in the fall, and EN484 for two credits in the spring. 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 does not count toward the 11 courses required for the English major, or the 12 required for the English with a concentration in creative writing major. (Note: this applies only to literature honors theses; for procedures regarding creative writing theses, click here.

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 from the John Barry grant and fellowships from the Center for the 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 four-credit honors thesis will factor into the 128 credits required for graduation.

Once you’ve decided to propose a honors project, you should work on developing a topic and finding a faculty member in the English Department who will agree to supervise your work.

May 1: 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. Your plan should also include the fall proseminar.

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 late April 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.

The thesis proposal should be submitted to the honors coordinator (currently Associate Professor Megan Cookby midnight EDT on May 1.

Mid-May: student proposals 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 students 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.

June: students must have 3.0 cumulative GPA and a 3.5 GPA in the major at the end of their junior year.

Summer: students undertake preparatory reading and research for their thesis

September: students enroll in the 2 credit hour Proseminar as soon as possible. In the early fall, students present their work-in-progress to the department via a five-minute oral presentation, followed by a Q&A.

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

Early December: students submit a 5-page (double spaced) report on their research to date both to their advisor and to the honors coordinator.

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

Late April/Early May: honors students defend their work during a session at CLAS. Successful theses are awarded the honors designation.

Last day of spring classes: students submit the final version of their honors thesis to the department administrative assistant, Johanna Clift.

For more information:

Finding an Honors Advisor