Honors for the English Major

For all undergraduates at UF, there are two different kinds of honors program:

The Lower-Division University Honors Program

The University Honors Program is a university-wide program to which freshmen are invited to apply when they are admitted to the university--though some students apply to the program after they have finished a semester at UF. The University Honors program is located at Hume Hall, where there are Honors Program housing facilities, classrooms for Honors Program courses, and an office for the program where students will find Honors Program advisors. In order to find out more about the University Honors program, please consult its website at http://www.honors.ufl.edu/.

Upper-Division Departmental Honors

Upper-Division GPA Requirement

Beyond the University Honors Program are the various college and departmental upper-division honors programs that permit students to attempt to graduate cum laude (with honors), magna cum laude (with high honors), or summa cum laude (with highest honors). Because English majors are students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, they must fulfill the minimum requirement established by the college to graduate with any level of honors. That minimum requirement is a 3.5 upper-division UF GPA. Upper-division GPA’s are calculated on the basis of the grades students earn in all the courses they take starting in the semester they are ranked 3LS--or to put it somewhat differently, they are calculated on the basis of all the courses students take starting in the semester after the one in which they pass the 60-hour mark. It does not matter if these courses are taught at the upper- or the lower-division level; nor does it matter if the courses count for the major or not. It only matters when students take them.

Honors Seminar and Honors Thesis Requirements

If an English major has an upper-division GPA of 3.5 or better, he or she will graduate cum laude. Majors who establish an upper-division GPA of 3.5 or better once they are ranked 3LS are eligible to take honors seminars and write honors theses in order to attempt to graduate either magna or summa cum laude. To graduate magna cum laude, students must have an upper-division GPA of 3.5, have earned an “A” or “B” in at least one semester of ENG 4936 (Honors Seminar); and have completed one semester of ENG 4970 Honors Thesis, earning at least a “B+.”

To graduate summa cum laude, students must have earned no less than a “B” and at least one “A” in no fewer than two semesters of ENG 4936, as well as an “A” in one semester of ENG 4970. Completion of an honors seminar with a grade of “B” or better is prerequisite to registering for an honors thesis.

Honors Seminars (ENG 4936)

The honors seminars are 15-student classes offered only in the fall and spring semesters. Enrollment for honors seminars is limited to students who meet the 3.5 upper-division GPA requirement. The topics of the seminars change from year to year. Because enrollment is limited to students who have 3.5 upper-division GPA’s, the seminars are typically more intensive and more interactive than the Department’s standard 35-student classes. They will often be organized in ways that anticipate graduate-level courses, and require students to complete assignments that are more demanding than those assigned in standard 35-student classes. Enrollment for honors seminars is controlled by the Department.

The Honors Thesis (ENG 4970)

Honors theses give students the opportunity to work independently on original scholarly, critical, or creative projects under the direction of faculty members who work in the relevant fields. Students’ honors theses can be the culmination of their undergraduate experiences, and even anticipate the interests they will pursue in graduate studies.

In the English Department, honors theses may take a variety of forms. Most often, students write essays of 30–50 pages in length dealing with topics in literary criticism, history, or theory; film and media studies; or, cultural studies. Such essays are appropriate for students who hope to go on to graduate or professional degree programs. However, students who have pursued the Creative Writing model of study may write short stories, poetry, or even a novella to fulfill the thesis requirement, and students who have followed the Film and Media Studies model of study can produce a short film or video (often accompanied by a brief essay providing a rationale for the project).

Students who register for honors thesis projects must have a 3.5 upper-division GPA, and have earned a grade of “B” or better in at least one English Department Honors Seminar (ENG 4936). Students work with two readers (known as the first and second readers), whom they choose from among the members of the English Department faculty. These two readers may co-direct the thesis, or the first reader may direct the work, with the second reader offering suggestions for revision and improvement only when the project is fairly well-advanced.

Planning to Graduate magna or summa cum laude

Because students must complete one honors seminar with a grade of B or better before writing an honors thesis, and honors seminars are taught only in the fall and spring semesters, they need to plan ahead in order to fulfill the requirements to graduate either magna or summa cum laude. They must expect that it will take them at least two fall/spring semesters to complete the requirements. So, at the very least, students will need to devote time in their last two fall/spring semesters to fulfilling the requirements. Indeed, depending on seat availability in the seminars, students may want to try to secure seats in honors seminars as second-semester juniors. Students need not worry that the honors seminars and the thesis will impose an extra course burden over and above the 10-course requirement for the major. Honors seminar and thesis registrations count toward fulfillment of that 10-course requirement.

Independent Study as Preparation for the Honors Thesis

Many faculty members who serve as first readers on scholarly, critical or theoretical honors thesis projects encourage (and, in some cases, require) the students whose work they direct to register for independent study (ENG 4905) in the semester prior to the one in which the students will be registered for the honors thesis course. Independent Study registration permits students to pursue preliminary research, reading, and drafting for the thesis project itself so that it is possible to use the thesis registration almost exclusively for writing the thesis. Students should, then, have at least preliminary ideas about their thesis topics before they enter their final two semesters at UF, and they should discuss with the English Department faculty members who will be directing their projects whether or not independent study registrations would benefit them. If a faculty member believes independent study registration is warranted, then the student should follow the instructions to register for ENG 4905. As long as a student registers for ENG 4905 for 3 credits, it will count toward fulfillment of the ten-course requirement for the English major.

The Honors Thesis Registration

Once students have worked out the focus and scope of their theses with their readers, they must submit completed Undergraduate Registration Request Forms in order to be registered for ENG 4970 Honors Thesis. These forms provide space in which students must describe their thesis projects. Students and readers must sign and date the forms. Copies of the Undergraduate Registration Request Form are available from an undergraduate departmental advisor in Turlington 4012, and must be returned to Turlington 4012 once they are completed. After students submit completed forms, and the Undergraduate Coordinator approves their projects, they will be registered for ENG 4970.

In Fall and Spring semesters, final copies of honors theses must be submitted to the English Department Undergraduate Coordinator in Turlington 4012 no later than the last day of classes for the semester.  In Summer B/C semesters, final copies are due approximately 10 days before the end of classes.  Each honors thesis submitted must be accompanied by two copies of a completed Honors Thesis Submission Form (available at the Honors Program website), which require the signature of the Undergraduate Coordinator.  Once the Honors Thesis Submission Forms have been signed, one copy must be submitted to Ms. Linda O’Donnell in the Academic Advising Center for Liberal Arts and Sciences (Farrior Hall, 100 Fletcher Dr.).  Finally, students must also upload electronic copies of their theses at the Honors Program website along with an Honors Thesis Abstract Submission Form. 

In the semester in which they are registered for ENG 4970 Honors Thesis, students must establish with their two readers schedules for completing and submitting their projects by the final deadline, keeping in mind that the final copies submitted to the Department on the last day of classes must already have been given approval by the two readers. If students submit first completed drafts no later than week 12 of the semester, that would typically give their readers time to read and respond to those drafts, and students time to make the necessary changes before submitting the final versions on the last day of classes. Given that most students do not get truly settled into their work for a semester until sometime in the second week of classes, a week 12 deadline for a completed first draft means that students have approximately 10 weeks in which to complete 30-50-page projects. This is a tough task if one is simultaneously trying to keep up with deadlines for other courses. So, students need to establish schedules and keep to them.

Deciding Whether or Not You Want to Pursue High or Highest Honors

Before embarking on pursuit of graduation magna or summa cum laude, students should think seriously about their motivations for doing so, and about the level of commitment they can give to the work. Honors seminars are generally demanding, and the honors thesis is a project unlike any other they will have undertaken in their work as English majors. The thesis, in particular, requires a level of dedication and a compelling interest in the topic that together make the research and writing pleasures as well as requirements to be fulfilled. Students need to be able to say to themselves, “I can’t imagine completing my undergraduate degree without writing a thesis on this topic,” if they are to make worthwhile use of the opportunity presented by the thesis course.

Those students who attempt to graduate magna or summa cum laude simply in order to be able to list this accomplishment on their resumes rarely have a rewarding experience in the upper-division honors program. They often find the demands too great, and sometimes end up looking to do the minimum amount of work to fulfill the requirements. This is not a recipe for success. By contrast, students who hope to go to graduate school for English, for Film and Media, or for Creative Writing should seriously consider taking honors seminars and writing honors theses. Undergraduate honors seminars provide students with an experience of the seminar setting typical of graduate education in humanities disciplines, and a scholarly honors thesis ideally will prepare students to write the kind of complex extended arguments expected in coursework at the graduate level. This is not, by any means, to say that only students interested in going to graduate school should take honors seminars and write honors theses. For students who excel in English, and who have a passionate interest in their studies, the seminars and the thesis project can be the perfect culmination of their experience as majors, giving them the opportunity to do the kind of advanced independent work for which their earlier coursework has been preparing them.

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Department of English

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