Critical Thesis Prep


The English Department sees the thesis option for fulfilling the Senior Capstone Experience as a privilege. Therefore, it is vital that the student demonstrate sufficient preparation though coursework, have a good working knowledge of the topic proposed, and show evidence of strong research and writing skills.

A student writing a thesis can use an essay written in a particular course as the foundation for further development into a thesis. A student electing to write a thesis must show initiative by conducting preliminary research to develop an appropriate topic. The completed thesis should demonstrate the student’s ability to interpret literary texts and support the interpretation with secondary critical sources.

During the period of proposal formulation, a student should work in close contact with a member of the English Department. A student should contact a member of the English Department who represents the field or literary period in which the student proposes to work to ask if that faculty member would be willing to serve as his or her thesis advisor.

Each member of the English faculty may limit his or her Senior Capstone Experience students to six, thus students may not have their choice of advisors. If their first choice of advisor is not possible, students must select an alternative period to study.

After the student and advisor have agreed on a topic and approach, the student must complete a written proposal. Once completed, and approved by the individual faculty member who has agreed to direct the thesis, the proposal must be sent electronically to the chair of the department, who will bring it to the entire department for its consideration.

Guidelines for Thesis Proposals

The proposal should be approximately two pages long (though it may be longer). It should be narrative and free of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. The more specific the proposal (including the argument) is, the more likely it is to be approved without problems.

The thesis proposal must detail the project carefully. It must include a description of the scope and range of the projected thesis, an explanation of the problem or problems to be investigated, and a description of what strategies will be used in the investigation. The proposal must also include a clearly articulated thesis statement and well-documented bibliography.
It must include the following specific elements:

  • A description of the proposed project (what the argument will be).
  • A description of what has already been done. (This should include a list of relevant coursework and other preparation. It should also indicate if the thesis is an expansion of a paper from a class.)
  • A description of critical or theoretical problems the thesis will investigate and the questions to be explored.
  • A chapter outline with brief details about what each chapter will cover. For example, an introduction to the problem, chapter descriptions (this number will vary), and a conclusion.
  • A working bibliography, including books and articles likely to be used, that shows familiarity with the field of study.
  • A writing sample. This should be a sample chapter, if available, or the essay, submitted for a course, upon which the thesis will be developed.

For those graduating in May of 2015 (those who are juniors in the 2013-14 academic year), the deadline for a thesis proposal is March 28, 2014.

Thesis Completion

Research should begin as soon as the proposal receives formal approval from the English department. Following notification of approval during the spring of the junior year, students should begin researching their topic by surveying the critical literature related to the chosen subject. Students are expected to work through the summer. In early fall of the senior year, chapters must be completed to meet deadlines established by each thesis advisor. In the final semester of a student’s undergraduate career, when the student is completing the thesis, he or she should register for ENG SCE for academic credit.

The thesis itself should be at least 50 pages. Theses are to be turned in electronically. The digitized theses will be made available to the college community via the library catalog.

Sample Thesis Proposals


David Thesis Proposal

Walter Thesis Proposal