Sample Honors Thesis Proposal

A thesis proposal should be at least 250 words in body length and include these components :

  • a statement of your objectives for the thesis;
  • a description of the project;
  • a bibliography that includes both primary and secondary materials;
  • a timeline for completing the project.

Please Note: Students who wish to receive English department credit for a Thesis, for a Directed Reading, or for any Honors Research or Honors Thesis hours MUST turn in all their forms, syllabi, reading lists and other documentation at least THREE WEEKS before the end of classes in Fall Semester (for a directed reading or thesis the following Spring) or Spring Semester (for a directed reading or thesis planned for the following Summer or Fall). It is the students' responsibility to read these guidelines and turn in these materials on time, NOT your Honors or English advisor's responsibility to remind you to do so. Students who fail to turn in their materials in time have the option of clearing their Thesis and Research/Directed Reading hours through Honors, in which case the courses will appear with the HONS prefix, NOT the ENGL prefix, on the transcript, and will NOT count towards the English major.

Creative Writing Thesis proposals should include specific information about the nature of the creative writing project, including genre and estimated length. If the work is a collection of poems, an estimated number of poems should be included; for fiction and nonfiction, an estimated page length.

Remember, the more specific your proposal is, the more likely it is to be approved .

Here is an example of an excellent proposal. This one was submitted by Nadia Behizadeh, and her thesis is directed by Dr. Tricia Lootens.


Honors Thesis Proposal 
Nadia Behizadeh 

Proposed Title :

The Sensitive Poet: The influence of negative reviews on Matthew Arnold

Objective :

To discover what were the effects of negative reviews on Matthew Arnold. This thesis project will be a continuation of my work during the summer with CURO.

Description of Project :

My research focuses on Matthew Arnold, who set very high goals for his poetry, but let other people determine whether he had reached his goals. By studying Arnold's poetry, his correspondence, the reviews written of his poetry, and his reactions to these reviews, it becomes apparent that Arnold depended on outside criticisms of his poems to determine their worth. A key poem is Arnold's "Empedocles on Etna," a poem he published in 1852, then abused in the 1853 Preface to Poems, and then suddenly republished in 1867. Why did Arnold publish and then abuse "Empedocles," only to republish it years later? My theory is that his ideas on the function of poetry emphasize the effect on the reader, and negative reviews to "Empedocles" showed him that his reviewers did not experience the desired reaction to his poem, which in turn translated into his rejection of the poem. Only with the insistence of the highly regarded poet, Robert Browning, was Arnold able to once again see the merit of "Empedocles on Etna" and republish.

To complete this project, I need to do a more careful study of Arnold's 1853 Preface, so that I can say what Arnold specifically found wrong with "Empedocles," and then revise the analysis of "Empedocles" that I give in the paper using these specifics. The next phase of research also includes consulting modern criticisms of Arnold and "Empedocles" and then incorporating these more recent criticisms into my work, so that I am engaged in a dialogue with current Arnoldian critics. Another possibility for further research is looking at "reader response criticism" and seeing how that relates to Arnold's situation.

The final phase of this project will be learning revision techniques and working on polishing prose. This will be accomplished by reading books on revising, as well as turning in drafts to my supervising professor on a regular basis for criticism. Then, I will convert my research into an article for possible submission to a journal to gain experience regarding the submission process.

Bibliography :

[Ms. Behizadeh provided a detailed bibliography which included works she had already read during an earlier directed research course and works she intended to read in order to extend her research.]

Final Product :

A thesis paper to complete Honors requirements.

Timeline :

August-September: Revision of rough draft, continued research and final details. 
October-November: Final revisions, submit paper to reader. Begin conversion into a journal article. 
December: Completion of thesis and submission to CURO. Possible submission of article to a Victorian journal.

Proposed reader: Dr. Roxanne Eberle, English department