Honors Thesis Timeline

Spring of Junior Year - Preliminary Thesis Proposal

Preliminary honors thesis proposals need to be worked out in conjunction with your two advisors. Please submit the form signed by both of them to the Comparative Literature Program for approval by mid May.

In your proposal you need to spell out the rationale of your project. What is the comparative nature of your project? Why is your topic important? How are you going to approach your problem conceptually or theoretically? At the end of your proposal you should include a bibliography listing primary and secondary sources such as critical articles or studies on the specific works you are studying (this may be a book or an article) or general critical or theoretical texts. Please make sure that you can read the primary items listed in your bibliography in their original language.

Before leaving campus work out a summer reading list with your two advisors and give the Chair of the Program a copy of it.

Fall of Senior Year - Formal Thesis Proposal

You need to get to work immediately on formulating a formal thesis proposal with your two advisors. Formal thesis proposals need to be signed by your two advisors and submitted to the Chair for approval by mid October.

Please schedule regular weekly meetings with your advisors for the rest of the year. Your primary advisor is your most important resource and all your work should be approved by him or her. Secondary advisors can play a variety of roles—from weekly consultants to readers of the final thesis. Establish an early understanding with each of them what role they will play in the thesis writing process.

Majors also work together in a senior methodology seminar (CL 85) that runs fall and winter with meetings every two weeks. In CL 85 you pursue research for your thesis, you present your work to fellow students, and you workshop each other’s work.

By the end of winter term you are expected to have completed writing the first draft of the entire thesis.

Spring of Senior Year - Oral Presentation and Final Draft of Thesis

You will be enrolled in CL 87, an honors course where you will finish editing the thesis and also prepare for the oral presentations. Meetings are every other week throughout the term. Thesis presentations take place in April.

The oral presentation is intended as a public acknowledgment of your personal effort and achievement. At this presentation you are asked to share the findings of your research with the community of professors and fellow students in Comparative Literature and across campus. The oral presentation takes place while your thesis is still in progress and you can benefit from questions and suggestions. Your presentation should be no longer than 20 minutes and should include a general statement about your topic and approach as well as a specific textual reading.

Written drafts of the entire thesis need to be submitted to the two advisors for comments and editing at the end of April.

Three final bound copies approved by the two advisors need to be submitted to the Program by mid May.

Two-paper Option

You may choose to write two senior papers (about 20 pages each) in lieu of a thesis. This is a non-honors option. You still have to file a preliminary proposal in the spring of your junior year and a final proposal in the fall of your senior year along with the honors theses. Please note the deadlines.

The first paper will be written for CL 85 in the winter. The second paper is usually written in the context of a course taken in spring term or an independent study (CL 79). If you do the two-paper option you will not enroll in CL 87.

The two papers may be related, but this is not required. They do have to integrate your areas of interest in the languages you have studied. You will work closely with your advisors while writing both essays. You can opt to do the oral presentation.

Grading of Seniors in CL85 and CL87

In order to graduate with honors standing, Comparative Literature honors majors must achieve an average of at least a B+ in CL 85 and CL 87.

Grades for CL 85 and CL 87 are awarded at the end of the two-term sequence. The criteria for evaluating the Honors Thesis is as follows:

The grade for CL 85 will reflect effort and participation in the seminar, the quality of prepared work for the thesis, the balance between close work with an advisor and intellectual independence achieved, and the quality of the oral presentation.

The grade for CL 87 will be based on the scholarly quality of the completed thesis and will be given by the advisors. A number of factors will be considered in the evaluation process: cogency and critical sophistication of the argument; quality of the writing (style, elegance); appropriateness and consistency of approach; presence within the thesis of the comparative approach studied throughout the major; and ambition, clarity, and complexity of the questions raised.


High honors are recommended by a committee of independent readers and approved by the Steering Committee.

  • Deadlines
  • Formal proposal – fall term
  • Oral Presentations – spring term
  • Written draft – mid May
  • Bound copies – late May
  • Preliminary proposal (for juniors) – spring term
  • Two papers:
  • End of winter term
  • Same as thesis due date