English Department 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.

Meet Honors Student Nicole Iverson

In her honors thesis, recent graduate Nicole Iverson examined the role of capitalism in many contemporary authors' works. Hear how her interactions with professors and with the texts made the process rewarding.


Meet Honors Student Lindsey Brigham

In her honors thesis, recent graduate Lindsey Brigham explored the role of religious image in modern literature. Hear her original interests and eventual conclusions as well as her experience writing a thesis at the end of her senior year.


Meet Honors Student Sarah Coogan

In her honors thesis, graduate Sarah Coogan investigated C.S. Lewis' opinions of T.S. Eliot. Hear how that investigation continues to impact her academic interests.