The Honors Program and Accelerated Graduate Degree Program

The Honors Program

To earn departmental honors, you must have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better.

You also need to complete a two-course sequence: 1) English 4996W: “Honors Seminar in English” and 2) English 4995: “Senior Honors Thesis.” 4996W always runs in the Fall. A seminar-style course, it provides you with the skills you’ll need to complete your honors thesis successfully while also engaging you in a sustained reflection on the value of being an English major. This course is WI (Writing Intensive) and fulfills the Capstone requirement for graduation.  4995 is the course number for the honors thesis (students take 4995 the following spring, though exceptions are occasionally made to this rule). For 4995, you will work closely with a faculty advisor to produce a thesis of roughly 25-40 pages. 4996W and 4995 may not be taken simultaneously or in reverse order (despite the numbers being out of sequence). Only students who complete 4996W and 4995 are eligible to graduate with departmental honors.

Honors Theses may be creative or critical (or both) in category. If you wish to pursue a creative thesis, you should have completed the three-course sequence in your chosen genre (fiction, non-fiction, or poetry) prior to taking 4996W (note: exceptions are made to this rule on a case-by-case basis). The creative thesis has two parts: 1) a substantive body of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction and 2) a critical essay that reflects on your creative work’s themes, ambitions, contexts, and influences. 

All students accepted into the honors program will attend a reception in their honor on Thursday, March 21, 2024 as well as several other mandatory workshops and events throughout the year. Those students who finish 4996W and 4995 successfully will receive a certificate of completion at the departmental awards ceremony the following year, where they will also give a brief presentation on their  thesis. 

How to Apply

To apply to the Honors Program, you need to have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better. You also need to complete an application packet by February 1 of your junior year. All applications must be submitted via email to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Lee Manion, at 

Your application packet needs to contain the following items (Please note that items 1-4 must be written in a Word document; Item 5 will be attached separately):

  1. Area: Indicate the area of English in which you wish to work (e.g.  “19th c. American,” “Film Studies,” “Linguistics,” “Creative Writing—Fiction."
  2. Proposal: Provide a 500-word description, double-spaced, of the topic you wish to pursue for your thesis. For those writing a critical thesis: you should identify a topic that is specific and complex enough to write about in 25-40 pages. It should also identify the possible authors and texts you wish to study; the key themes you intend to explore; and the reason why this topic is especially important to you as a thinker and writer. For those writing a creative thesis:  you should provide a description of the concept, themes, and form/s you intend to draw from for artistic inspiration. As part of the proposal, you should also describe how you plan to contextualize your work. That is, try to answer the question of how your topic fits into a larger intellectual and writerly        framework, such as “recent developments in memoir writing.”
  3. Advisor: List least three faculty members whom you think would be suitable advisors for this project. These faculty should be selected from the list of professors available on the English department website. Other advisors may be approved with permission from the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Note that while every effort will be made to secure an advisor you have specified, we cannot guarantee this.
  4. Writing Sample: Submit a 7-10 pp. writing sample that is the best example of your critical or creative work. You are more than welcome to submit something you wrote for a previous class, though it should have been written within the past year (If possible, students wishing to write creative theses should submit examples in the genre/form of the proposed thesis). You may also provide an excerpt of a longer piece if you wish.
  5. Unofficial Transcript of Courses (i.e. your academic profile from MyZou): Make sure to submit a transcript that is complete and up-to-date. Applications missing a transcript will not be considered.

You will be notified of a decision regarding your application sometime near February 15th. If you are accepted into the program, you will also be notified about your scheduled advisor. Soon afterward, the English department advisor, Ms. Mary Moore, will issue you a permission number to enroll in 4996W for the fall. Before you enroll in 4995 the following spring, you will be issued a second permission number.

 Petitioning to Apply 

If your overall GPA falls below 3.5 and you wish to apply to the Honors Program, you must do the following:

  1. Write a letter of petition to the Director of Undergraduate Studies, explaining any problem areas (e.g. a low grade in a course/s) of your transcript and why you wish to participate in the Honors Program.
  2. Submit an up-to-date course transcript and a writing sample of 7-10pp, along with your petition, to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Please note that the letter, transcript, and writing sample must be submitted by January 16th, 2024. If you successfully petition, you will then be asked to submit Items 1-3 above by February 1, 2024. 
Honors Thesis Guidelines

The Honors Senior Essay represents a significant independent project that culminates your undergraduate career.

Critical Thesis: The critical thesis is typically 25-40 pages in length and involves a significant component of research in its preparation and composition. Topics should be specific enough to enable a deep degree of inquiry, but broad enough to justify the thesis’s longer length. Above all, the thesis should represent the individual perspective and scholarly identity of the student—that is, it should reflect your ideas, your interests, your arguments.

Creative Thesis: The creative honors thesis consists of two parts: a 5-10 pp. critical, introductory essay as well as a 20-30 pp. creative work in fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction. The introductory essay should showcase your critical skills and complement your creative work; it can be scholarly or personal in nature (or both) but, whichever form you choose, it must exhibit a spirit of deep critical inquiry. Because the introduction should reflect your interests and strengths, you have quite a bit of freedom on how to write it. Some possible approaches include the following:

  1. To write a scholarly and/or personal essay on the form of your creative piece. For example, if you were producing a sonnet sequence, you could write an essay researching the history and theory of the sonnet sequence form or discuss why the sonnet holds particular appeal for you as a poet.
  2. To write an autobiographical essay that explains the personal reasons for undertaking this thesis. For example, you could write about a personal event that shaped your interest in the topic or perhaps describe why this topic appeals to your literary sensibilities and passions.
  3. To write a scholarly and/or personal essay on a theme you explore in your creative piece. For example, if you were writing a novella set on board a sailing ship, you could write an essay researching maritime travel or even blend your research with a personal account of your own fascination with ships.
  4. To write an essay, personal or critical, on the work of an author or group of authors. For example, if you were producing a memoir, you could write an essay on contemporary memoirists like Joan Didion or Cheryl Strayed, researching their careers and work while explaining why they hold such appeal for you.

In all cases, the department expects that honors-caliber work be equally on display in the introduction and main part of the thesis. Whether writing a critical or creative thesis, you should cite a minimum of eight sources on a Works Cited page following MLA format.  Students with questions about the content and form of the introduction should contact their advisor or the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Meeting Schedule and Approach: Decisions about the time frame for writing your thesis will be arranged by you and your thesis advisor. In the fall, you should meet with your advisor at least twice to discuss and refine your topic; by December 15th, you must submit to them a 500 word proposal for your thesis and a tentative list of sources. In the spring, you should plan to meet with your advisor at least once a month. You will also need to set up a schedule with them for submitting drafts and revisions and identify a final due date.  

Grading: Your thesis advisor will assign you a grade for 4995 at the end of the spring semester. It will reflect the quality of your work throughout the semester and the quality of your final product. You must receive a grade of a B or above in both 4996W and 4995 to be awarded departmental honors in English. Your thesis advisor reserves the right to issue an incomplete or failing grade if the project is not completed according to agreed-upon guidelines.

Honors Thesis Prizes

In recognition of the tremendous work often accomplished by honors students writing their thesis, the English department established the Honors Thesis Prize years ago. Beginning in 2023, there will be two such prizes, each $500.00. One will be given to the best thesis in Creative Writing. The other will be given to the best thesis in Criticism.  These prizes are open to all students who will complete English 4996 in the fall and will be writing an Honors Thesis the following spring. To be considered for the prize, submit a final copy of your thesis to the Honors Thesis Prize via Scholarship Universe by Friday, April 19, 2024.

Accelerated Graduate Degree Application

Accelerated BA to MA

The Accelerated Graduate Degree program offers strong English majors the opportunity to acquire an MA in English by pursuing one extra year of study. Students in the accelerated program take 108 undergraduate credits and 31 graduate credits, for a total of 139 credits. Applicants choose whether to pursue Literature or Creative Writing as a concentration. Students who complete the accelerated program will earn a BA in English with honors and an MA in English. 

A Master’s program typically takes two additional years to complete and requires teaching undergraduates; in this Accelerated Graduate Degree Program, students finish in one extra year of study after their undergraduate degree and there is no teaching. The first year of the accelerated program is the student’s senior year. In it, students take a minimum of 18 hours in English (6 hours are the honors thesis, 4996 and 4995, and 12 are 7000-level graduate courses that count for both the undergraduate BA and the graduate MA). In the second year of the program, after a student receives their BA, they take an additional 19 graduate credit hours, 15 of which will be at the 8000-level. Three of the 19 hours will be MA thesis hours. The honors thesis written in the first year of the program can become the basis for the MA thesis in the second year. For more on the Master’s thesis, see information on the MA Program.

How to Apply

Submit the materials below to MU’s Graduate School application website here:

Master's Supplement: Once the English (MA) option is selected from the Application Information section, the Master's Supplement section will appear. Complete all required fields in the section. Applicants to the accelerated program should select the year that corresponds to their senior year of undergraduate study, during which time they would be writing their Honors thesis.

Eligibility: Only junior English majors who are qualified and applying for the Honors Thesis are eligible.

Application due date: February 1.

Application Materials:

Students applying for the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program must submit the following materials in addition to those required for the separate application for the Honors Thesis:

  1. 1-2 page (double spaced) statement of purpose. The statement of purpose should express: your intended concentration (Literature or Creative Writing, and then what particular area within the concentration); why you are ready for graduate level study (previous academic experience, any scholarly experience beyond the classroom, related work experience or other activities); and what you hope to gain by pursuing the degree.
  2. Letter of recommendation from an MU faculty member, preferably someone in the English Department, that comments on your past performance and your potential to succeed in graduate classes. It is strongly advised that your letter writer be in the same concentration (Literature or Creative Writing) as your application.
  3. Names of two faculty references (separate from the letter of recommendation above). The committee may contact them during the application review about your qualifications.
  4. Writing sample. For Literature applications: Submit your strongest analytical paper of 5-10 pages from a previous class. The sample need not be related to your application area of interest, but should show your skills in argumentation, use of sources, or theoretical methods. For Creative Writing applications: Submit two writing samples. One should be a writing sample in your chosen genre (poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction) of 7-12 pages that best illustrates your creative work. The other should be an analytical paper of 5-10 pages from a previous class that shows your skills in argumentation, use of sources, or theoretical methods.
Accelerated Graduate Degree Advising and Course Planning

Accelerated Graduate Degree Advising and Course Planning

Students interested in the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and with the Academic Advisor. Most successful applicants will have taken English 2100 and at least one 4000-level English course.

Year 1:

Students are still undergraduates and their primary advisor is Mary Moore (

An orientation meeting will be held by the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) in the fall of Year 1. It is recommended that students meet with the DGS to discuss their 7000-level course selection for the first year of the program and before signing up for 8000-level courses for the second year of the program.

Year 2:

Students are now graduate students and their primary advisor is the Director of Graduate Studies, who will help them select a master's advisor and committee if they have not done so already. Students will take ENGL 8005: Introduction to Graduate Studies with other first-year MA and PhD students.