Thesis & Distinction

Students who demonstrate excellence in their major area of study may qualify for admission to the department’s or programs honors program. By successfully completing a senior honors thesis/project, the candidate will graduate with distinction in the major. Each academic department and program offering a major, as well as Program II, has established procedures and standards for determining Graduation with Distinction. 

The English department offers its majors two options for earning distinction:

  1. Critical Thesis option
  2. Creative Writing option

Deadlines:

  • Spring-to-Fall theses are due by December 1.
  • Fall-to-Spring theses are due by March 30.

Thesis & Distinction


Structure

Either two Independent Studies or a "home seminar" and one Independent Study. (Fall/Spring or Spring/Fall.) Under most circumstances, a completed length of 35-70 pages. Home seminars entail enrolling in a course taught by your thesis adviser closely associated with your topic. You should first get your instructor's permission, and arrange to do extra reading and writing assignments for the class that translate the course work into the terms of your thesis. The home seminar option is only available the first semester you are working on your distinction project.

Coursework

Distinction courses count toward the major. Students must complete 11 total courses to graduate with distinction in the major instead of the standard 10.

Independent Study Numbers for Thesis:

  • Creative Writing Option: ENGLISH 495 and 496 Distinction Creative Writing Independent Study
  • Critical Option: ENGLISH 497 and 498 Distinction Critical Research Independent Study

Application

Eligible students must have completed (no later than the beginning of their senior year) at least five 200-level English courses (old 100 level) and must have a GPA of at least 3.5 in English courses.

Eligible students must submit:

  1. Critical and creative writing thesis application
  2. one writing sample of approximately 10 pages from an English course
  3. one letter of recommendation from an English faculty member
  4. a project description and basic bibliography (one page single spaced).

Applications must be submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies Offices (303AA).  Applications are due November 15 for a spring-to-fall option and March 15 for a fall-to-spring option.

Evaluation Procedure

Upon approval by the instructor, the completed thesis is submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies Office (303AA)  by December 1 (for a spring-to-fall honors project) or March 30 (for a fall-to-spring honors project) of the senior year for evaluation by the DUS, the thesis adviser, and one other faculty member.  

Please submit 3 spiral-bound copies to the DUS office (303AA Allen), along with an electronic copy via email to michelle.dove@duke.edu.

See these samples for help formatting and binding your thesis before submission:

Levels of Distinction

Three levels: Distinction, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction. Levels of distinction are based on the quality of the completed work. Students who have done satisfactory work in the seminar or independent study but whose theses are denied distinction will simply receive graded credit for their seminars and/or independent studies. Whereas the standard major in English asks for a total of ten courses, students pursuing honors in English will take nine courses plus either two independent studies or a home seminar to be followed by an independent study.


Class of 2017

  • "Full and by the Wind" Louis Garza
  • "The Resurrectionist" Ryan Eichenwald
  • "Delusions of Controls: The V-2 in Gravity's Rainbow" Sean McCroskey
  • "Surface and Symbol: Epigram and Genre in the Works of Oscar Wide" Sarah Atkinson
  • "Woman, Nature, and Observer in Tess of the D'Urbervilles and To the Lighthouses: An Ecofeminist Approach" Elizabeth George
  • "Creative Impulse in the Modern Age: The Embodiment of Anxiety in the Early Poetry of T.S. Eliot (1910-1917)" Anna Mukamal
  • "Inventions of the Human: Othering Caliban and the Ethic of Recognition" Issac Rubin
  • "F. Scott Fitzgerald's Women: Independence, Class, and the Superior Male" Margaret Booz

Class of 2016

  • "Upon the Face of the Deep: The Voyage of the Sparkling Wave" Gwen Hawkes
  • "Lelén: A Memoir for My Mother" Megan Pearson
  • "The Car Wreck Album" Josephine Ramseyer
  • "Bury Me at the Body Farm" Gabriel Sneed
  • "Push, momentum" Isabella Kwai
  • "A Cicada's Sorrow" Madeline Pron

  • "He Filled the Darkness with Fantasies" Dimeji Abidoye
  • "The Anamorphic ‘Figure in the Carpet’: James, Kafka, Morrison and Mitchell " Jacqueline Chipkin
  • "Politics and Poetics of the Novel: Using Domesticity to Create the Nation" Katherine Coric
  • "Modern Poetry: A Single Genre" JP Lucaci

Class of 2015

  • "How to Run Away Without Moving" Mary Hoch 
  • "The Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: The Dangers of Metaphorizing Ebola as War in the United States" Roshini Jain
  • "Dear Master: A Screenplay" Jamie Kessler
  • "A Hawk from a Handsaw:  "How Historical Perceptions of Madness Dictated Portrayals of Insanity in British Literature, 1300-1900" Danielle Muoio
  • "Every Dram of Woman’s Flesh: "Paulina’s Role and Remedy in The Winter’s Tale" Bailey Sincox
  • "The Violence of Alienation in Morrison and Faulkner: A Study in Family, Religion, and Class" Meredith Stabe

Class of 2014

  • “Breaking and Entering” Audrey Adu-Appiah 
  • “Wilfred Owen, Isaac Rosenberg, Siegfried Sassoon, and the Birth of Modernism” Christopher Broderick Honorable Mention:  Bascom Palmer Literary Prize
  • “Forms of Femininity: A Modernist Approach to Female Psychology” Grace Chandler
  • “This is the Hour of Lead: Emily Dickinson in 1862" Shibani Das
  • “Presidential Persuasiveness in Justifying Use of Force In the Post 9/11-Era” Maureen Dolan
  • “A Harvard Man” Amanda Egan
  • “A Light in the Stairwell” Sarah Elsakr
  • “Women in Medicine: What Medical Narratives Reveal About Patriarchy in the Medical System” Jennifer Hong 
  • “In Your Own Bosom You Bear Your Heaven and Earth Interiority and Imagination in William Blake’s Jerusalem: The Emanation of Giant Albion” Emmie Le Marchand
  • “A Shakespearean Ecology: Interconnected Nature In A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Winter’s Tale” Paige Meier
  • “It is I you Hold and Who Holds You: The Persuasive Grip of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass in the Age of Slam Poetry” Haley Millner
  • “Bright Grey:  an Unfinished Novel” Lindsey Osteen
  • “Once Upon Our Time: Five Fairy Tale Retellings” Nicholas William Prey
  • “Crumbling” Emily Schon
  • “Fashion Cues: Visual Politics of Liminality in Quicksand and Quartet” Allison Shen
  • “The Search for Transcendence: W.B. Yeats and His Dance Plays” Caitlin Tutterow
  • “Soul Power: The Psychology and Politics of Asian American Melancholia” Katherine Zhang

Independent Study Courses

  • ENGLISH 491 Independent Study - Independent projects in creative writing, under the supervision of a faculty member. Open to juniors and seniors. Consent of both the instructor and the director of undergraduate studies required.
  • ENGLISH 493 Research Independent Study - Individual research in a field of special interest under the supervision of a faculty member, the central goal of which is a substantive paper or written report containing significant analysis and interpretation of a previously approved topic. Open to juniors and seniors. Consent of both the instructor and the director of undergraduate studies required.

Application

You must apply for approval to register for independent study. The procedure, approval process and application form are posted on the Trinity College of Arts & Sciences web site here: http://trinity.duke.edu/undergraduate/academic-policies/independent-study

Completed applications must be submitted to the Director of Undergraduate Studies by one week prior to drop/add. Please bring to 303AA Allen. The Undergraduate Assistant will give a permission number to students whose applications have been approved by both the professor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Departmental Guidelines

The Faculty of the English Department have agreed on these desiderata: tutorial and independent study must not duplicate available course offerings the subject of study must be in the instructor's general field of professional competence the amount of work required must be approximately equivalent to that required in a regular course the student must have had 200-level course work in the general field of the proposal or otherwise have made acceptable preparation to study independently in that area. 

To maintain a high quality of independent study, the faculty member directing the study must have sufficient time to give the course careful attention. The Department has therefore decided that no faculty member shall direct more than three independent study courses in any semester. No student with an incomplete (I) in a course in independent study will be permitted to enroll in a second course. The application (one page only) must include the following information:

Name; year; mailing address, email, student ID (non English majors), and phone number; Semester of study, English courses taken and in progress (with the instructor's name) and any other courses that bear upon the proposed study; title of the independent study, including an abbreviated title of twenty five spaces (including blanks) that will appear on registration records; description of the proposed study including a tentative plan of reading and procedure; the signature of the supervising professor.