English Honors and Independent Study

Blanchard Hall Tower in Spring with Blue Skies

English Honors Program

The Honors Program at Wheaton provides an opportunity for in-depth independent work, culminating in an honors paper, which is defended orally before a faculty committee. Students who complete this program successfully receive the designation of department honors on their transcript and on the printed graduation program.

The Prerequisites

  • An overall GPA of 3.5 and a GPA in literature classes of 3.7.
  • Make sure you have enough time to complete the honors degree. You must apply at least one year before your expected graduation date (typically by the end of your junior year).

The Requirements

  • Take a 300 or 400 level course for honors credit - In addition to the required class work, you will complete additional work that exceeds the class expectations in quantity and quality. Consult with the teacher of the class to determine the requirements, which may include student teaching or tutoring, an extra paper, a longer paper with more extensive research, or a combination of these. Prior to completing your application form, meet with the teacher of your chosen class to establish your honors requirements and if this teacher will supervise it.
  • Honors Thesis - The thesis may be related to your honors course, but it does not have to be. You should choose a tentative topic prior to completing the application form.

The Process

  • Choose the course for honors credit and contact the teacher.
  • Application Form - This will be looked over by the department; if everything is in order, it will be forwarded to the college-wide Honors Committee. Again, if everything is in order, it will be approved, and you may begin your honors work.
  • Choose an Honors thesis topic - In the first half of your penultimate semester at Wheaton, finalize your honors thesis topic. You also need to get a member of the English department to agree to be your thesis director.
  • Thesis proposal & outline - Describe your thesis topic in the proposal and include a tentative outline, which once again must be approved by the department and the Honors Committee. All this has to be done by the fall mid-term break. The Honors Committee, after approving your thesis proposal, will also choose two faculty members who, along with your thesis director, will serve as your examination board.
  • Independent Study - Once you obtain approval, register for a four-hour independent study (ENGL 495) for your final semester. Your thesis director will be the teacher of this class. Of course, you may begin your thesis prior to this class, but you will officially get credit for the work in your final semester.
  • The Honors Thesis - The honors thesis will typically be 35-50 pages (only under extraordinary circumstances may it be as short as 25 pages). The thesis will reflect thorough and intelligent research into your chosen topic. However, good research will not be enough to get you an honors degree; genuine creativity in synthesizing your sources and going beyond them will also be required.
  • Oral Examination - At the end of your last semester, after you complete your thesis, you will be examined orally by the board chosen by the Honors Committee, who will also decide your grade for the independent study. If they give you an A- or above, you will graduate with honors. If they think the work deserves a B+ or below, you will get credit for the four hours on independent study, but you will not graduate with honors.

If you complete this program successfully, your honors degree will appear on the printed graduation program and also on your transcript. A copy of your honors thesis will be kept in the college library.

Independent Study for English Majors

This course offers the English major whose grade point average is at least 3.00 the opportunity to pursue a topic or an idea of interest that has arisen out of another course already completed. It is not intended to be a means by which a student may take privately a course normally offered in the curriculum.

The student is expected to:

  • Secure a professor’s permission to be the student’s mentor. This must be done prior to the semester in which the work is to be pursued; the student may not register for Literature 495 without having first secured this permission. 
  • Submit the following in writing to the professor within one week after the semester has begun: the topic or area of interest to be pursued, a proposed reading list, a schedule of the number of private meetings desired with the professor, the types of papers to be submitted, and an indication of credit desired (1-4 hours) 
  • The professor will promptly make suggestions or additions to ensure that the amount of work proposed is sufficient for the credit desired and that the proposal does not put an unacceptable burden on the professor’s workload. A copy of the request should be returned to the student, and a time for the individual sessions should be agreed upon. 
  • Faithfully adhere to the schedule. The burden for completing the work according to the agreed-upon deadlines lies entirely with the student. The professor may drop a student from the course without credit whenever it is felt the student is not pursuing the work with sufficient diligence to achieve a satisfying outcome. 
  • Complete all work, including the submission of all papers, not later than one week prior to the conclusion of the semester in which the work is being done. 
  • Any deviation from the above guidelines must have the full concurrence of the student, advising professor, and chair of the department.