Honors in English

Cadets seeking honors in this major must first of all have demonstrated excellence in their course of study during the first half of their careers at VMI: they will have completed most major  requirements, except the capstone course, while maintaining a 3.2 average in the major.  They are encouraged to join and become active members of the VMI chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the international English honor society. 

Majors who qualify must prepare and present a thesis on a topic of significance which involves their creativity as well as their intellectual gifts.    A thesis advisor will be of assistance for this interdisciplinary and reflective project which typically is carried out over the course of a year and earns six hours of academic credit.  The proposed project and its presentation must receive the approval of the department head and the departmental honors committee.

Note: An honors thesis may build upon a capstone project (or another major project, e.g. SURI) but must differ significantly from it.  If a thesis is related to another project, it must include a statement describing that relationship.

Early in the fall of the cadet's junior year, the major discusses his or her intentions with his or her academic advisor.  They identify a prospective honors advisor whom the cadet approaches by late February of the junior year.

Consulting with the honors advisor, the major then prepares a project proposal of 250-500 words for approval by the honors committee and the department head.  The proposal must include reflection on what the cadet has learned in two-plus years of study and explain how that has contributed to the project in mind.  The project must involve application of the major's academic and/or creative gifts to a considerable degree, and its topic and thesis must be appropriate for 40-60 pages of development (or, in cases of mixed media work, the equivalent, as determined by the honors advisor).  The proposal will consist of five parts:

Introduction:  This provides general information and background on the subject, including pertinent scholarly or other perspectives.  The candidate's prior experience, academic or otherwise, within the general subject area may be included.

Proposed Project: This defines and details the candidate's specific goal(s) and focus within the subject area.

Methodology:  The candidate explains how the project's goal or goals will be reached, and  includes a preliminary annotated bibliography and/or list of pertinent materials, as well as an estimate of possible expenses (e.g. equipment, materials, travel) where needed. 

Significance:  The candidate indicates the difference that completion and publication (whether in hard copy or on web) of the project can make in his or her own life and development, and in that of his or her peers.   The candidate indicates its practical, academic, and personal value, as well as its value to the Institute and its larger community, to fellow scholars and/or creative artists, and to a larger audience in general.  

Calendar: A schedule organized around preparation, completion, and presentation, designed by major in consultation with advisor, is elaborated below: 

To conceive of a possible thesis topic and proposal, the candidate should start thinking and reflecting upon not only what he or she has learned, but upon what may remain as a challenging area of focus that  would significantly further the cadet's intellectual and/or creative capabilities and accomplishments.  The emphasis is on the major's own vision and initiative, and should involve considerations such as those listed below:

  • Area(s) of study or creation the cadet has found particularly intriguing 
  • Ways of expanding most rewarding moments of study into a year's intensive exploration 
  • Input from thesis advisor and other instructors
  • Possible effects of project in larger world 
  • The personal value that completing the project would hold 
  • Areas, genres, and/or formats-from rhetorical analysis to audio and visual images and webpage--that might be integral parts of the project  
  • Possible use of much of the cadet's writings and/or images in his or her VMI career
  • Possible creation of a website to display honors work
  • What others have done
  • The possibility, for those who are Institute Honors candidates, for their English Honors thesis to   fulfill Institute Honors requirements. 

Once the candidate's proposal has been approved by honors committee and department head, the candidate will begin work, following the calendar he or she has created in the proposal. The calendar must be as specific as possible; particular dates and time frames must be tied to particular tasks (e.g., drafting and revising).  The calendar necessarily includes two courses of three hours' credit apiece, and may or may not involve summer work. The first half of that calendar (Honors Thesis I) focuses on preparation (whether it be research and drafting, practice of an art, or both), and the second half (Honors Thesis II, which requires a "B" in Honors Thesis I) on completion, which must be achieved no later than the deadlines for Institute Honors.  Institute Honors projects are presented during Honors Week (usually the last full week of March).  (The full draft of the thesis to be presented must have been reviewed by the advisor.)  Approximately two weeks later the final thesis, with full letter of endorsement from faculty advisor, will be due (Both documents are to be in electronic form.). 

Late submissions or revisions are not accepted. 

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