Honors Thesis and Accelerated Graduate Degree

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Honors Thesis Application

To graduate with departmental honors, students must have a 3.5 GPA or above in English and a 3.3 GPA overall and have completed the two-course sequence beginning with English 4996: “The Honors Seminar in English” and ending with English 4995: “The Honors Thesis.” The courses may not be taken simultaneously or in reverse order (despite the numbers being out of sequence). 4996: “The Honors Seminar” fulfills the Capstone requirement for graduation, but only students who complete both 4996 and 4995 are eligible to graduate with departmental honors.

Honors Theses may be critical or creative in category. Students interested in pursuing a creative writing thesis should have completed the three-course sequence in their chosen genre prior to taking 4996. The creative writing thesis has two parts: first, a substantive creative work of poetry, fiction, or nonfiction, and second, a critical essay that accompanies the creative work’s key themes.

How to Apply

Students must complete an application packet to be submitted electronically to the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the spring semester before their senior year.

Application due date: February 1.

The application packet should contain the following (items 1-4 should be in one document, item 5 can be attached separately):

  1. Area: indicate the field or area of English in which you wish to work (such as “19th c. American,” “Linguistics,” “Creative writing—Fiction”).
  2. Topic: a brief description of the topic or topics that you are interested in pursuing in your thesis.
  3. Advisor: a ranked list of at least three faculty members who would be suitable advisors for this project. These faculty should be selected from the list of faculty available on the English department website. Other advisors may be approved with permission from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.
  4. Writing sample of 5-15 pages (students wishing to write creative theses should submit examples in the genre of the proposed thesis). This is most likely a paper from a previous class. The sample need not be related to your proposed thesis topic but should be the best possible example of your critical or creative work.
  5. Unofficial transcript of courses.

The Director of Undergraduate Studies will route applications to the faculty; each faculty member will select no more than two theses to direct. If your application is not selected by your first choice of advisor, it will be passed on to your second choice, and so on. Note that neither advisor nor topic can be guaranteed.

Upon the conclusion of the process, and prior to the start of early registration, the Director of Undergraduate Studies will notify you of your advisor. At that time you will be issued a permission number to enroll in 4996. Before you enroll in 4995 with your faculty advisor, you will be issued a second permission number. The Director of Undergraduate Studies will do all possible to make sure all qualified students complete honors theses but unfortunately can offer no guarantees.

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Honors Thesis Guidelines

The Honors Senior Essay represents a significant independent project that culminates a student’s undergraduate career.

Critical Thesis: The critical essay is a thesis of 25-40 pages in length involving 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.

Creative Thesis: The creative honors thesis consists of two parts: a critical essay as well as a creative work (or works) in fiction, poetry, or creative non-fiction. The creative work and/or collection of works should be from 20-30 pages in length. The critical introduction showcases the research skills of the creative writer as a complement to the creative work spotlighted in the body of the thesis. This introduction should reflect the capacities and interests of the individual student, and therefore will be quite various in approach. It is up to the student to decide how explicitly he or she wants to make the connections between the critical and creative portions of the thesis. Some possible approaches, however, may include:

  1. The student may choose to write a research essay on a question of form that relates to the longer creative piece. For example, a student producing a sonnet sequence in her poetry thesis may choose to write an essay researching the history and theory of the sonnet sequence form in Renaissance England.
  2. The student may choose to write a research essay on a thematic topic that intersects with the longer creative essay. For example, a student writing a novella set on board a sailing ship may choose to write an essay researching several notable works of maritime fiction.
  3. The student may choose to write a research essay on the work of an individual writer or group of writers. For example, a student writing a memoir may choose to write an essay on contemporary memoirists such as Joan Didion or Cheryl Strayed.

In all cases, the department expects that honors-caliber work be equally on display in the introduction and the main creative thesis. The introduction should be approximately 10-15 pages in length and demonstrate familiarity with research methodologies appropriate to the discipline. Students should cite a minimum of 8 sources on a Works Cited page. 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: Final decisions about the time frame for thesis composition will be arranged by thesis-writer and advisor, but thesis-writers should plan to meet with their advisors at the minimum once a month during the spring semester. At the beginning of the semester, a schedule for submitting drafts and revisions as well as a final due date for the essay should be established. At the same time, advisor and advisee should agree on mutually acceptable critical orientations and approaches to research.

Grading: Grades on the final honors thesis are given by the individual faculty thesis advisors and should reflect both the student’s work throughout the semester and the quality of the final product. Students should consult with their faculty thesis advisors about their grading policies. Students must receive a grade of a B or above on the honors thesis (4995) to be awarded departmental honors in English. The faculty advisor will submit the final grade to MyZou at the completion of the semester. The faculty member reserves the right to issue an incomplete or failing grade if the project is not completed according to agreed-upon guidelines.

Honors Thesis Prize

The Honors Thesis Prize is awarded to the best honor thesis written during that calendar year. The prize is open to all students registered in English 4996 in the fall and who are writing an Honors Thesis the following spring. To be considered, complete the cover sheet on the Scholarships and Prizes page. The deadline is April 20.

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Accelerated Graduate Degree Information

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.

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

Application due date: February 1.

How to Apply: Submit the materials below to MU’s Graduate School application website here: https://applygrad.missouri.edu/apply/

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.
  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.

Students interested in the Accelerated Graduate Degree Program should consult with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and with the Academic Advisor.