Senior Thesis Option

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This page describes the senior thesis option. You may also browse a list of completed theses or read student perspectives on the experience.

Literature majors with at least a 3.75 major QPA now have the option of doing a Senior Thesis like their peers in other Pitt Humanities departments and in other English departments across the country.

The two directed study courses that comprise the Senior Thesis option will allow qualified students to do specialized, advanced research and critical writing while working closely with two faculty members.

The Senior Thesis is a good opportunity for students to a more extensive project on an area of interest and for students who would like a competitive edge in applications to graduate and professional schools.

The Senior Thesis is not for everyone, though. It is a two-term project that requires substantial research and reading, a serious time commitment, a great deal of discipline, and an ability to devote sustained attention to one study.

During the first semester, the student enrolls in a course called Advanced Research in Literature (ENGLIT 1913). The student will read most of the literature on which the Senior Thesis of 50–60 pages will be written. The student will also read a significant amount of criticism on those texts, report on the readings to his/her committee members in regular meetings, and submit a minimum of 20 pages of writing toward the Senior Thesis. At the end of this semester, committee members will tell the student whether or not they recommend the project for a Senior Thesis. The student must be nominated by the committee members before taking the next course in the sequence. If the student is not nominated to enroll in Senior Honors Thesis, work in Advanced Research would not be all for nought; this course does count as an upper level elective.

The second semester, the student enrolls in Senior Honors Thesis (ENGLIT 1914). This course will culminate in the revised Senior Thesis of 50–60 pages. During this semester, the student will complete all the reading from the original proposal and all other reading suggested by faculty members. The student will submit writing toward the Thesis at regular intervals and a full first draft to committee members, who will ask for revisions to the Thesis for final submission.

Basic Steps:

  1. Think of a project.
  2. Identify some of the key texts for this project.
  3. Talk to a faculty member who may be interested in working with you on this project. This faculty member may be able to give you advice on fine-tuning the project proposal. This faculty member may or may not also agree to work with you on the project. (Don't worry; we have a system for getting you connected with potential faculty committee members. Note, however, that there is no guarantee that you will be connected with a faculty member; working on the Senior Thesis is voluntary for faculty members; it requires a time commitment over and above other teaching and departmental obligations.)
  4. Write and submit to the Literature Program Director a 2–3 page statement of the research project and a preliminary bibliography. Accompanying these materials, you should also submit a list of provisional committee members. All this has to be completed by the end of the ninth week of the Fall or Spring semester prior to taking Advanced Research in Literature (ENGLIT 1913).
  5. After reviewing the materials, the Literature Program Director will sign off on the proposal and finalize faculty selection.
  6. Faculty committee members will sign the commitment document that goes to the Advisors.
  7. Documentation of this approval then goes to the Advisors.

You will now be able to register for Advanced Research in Literature.