Department of English

Honors in Nonfiction Writing

The Nonfiction Writing Honors Program is intended for students who have been highly successful in their English concentration work.

Specifically, it allows those who have an expressed and proven interest in nonfiction writing to pursue more completely a single project under the supervision of a first reader and the support of a second reader. Honors students complete a thesis worthy of publication during their senior year.

View Honors Rubric (PDF)


Students apply to the Nonfiction Writing Honors Program in the second semester of their junior year. December or mid-year graduates may apply in their sixth semester, but are encouraged to apply during their fifth semester and write their theses alongside May graduates.  Interested students should already have made contact with at least one member of the Nonfiction Writing faculty and should meet with the Honors Advisor to discuss their proposed plans before applying. Specific deadlines for admission are announced annually and are available on the department website. Students who are studying off campus are expected to meet the application submission deadline.

Admission to the Honors Program in Nonfiction Writing depends upon a student's demonstrated superior ability in nonfiction writing. Students must have taken either one intermediate and one advanced writing course, or two advanced writing courses by the end of their sixth semester and completed each with an S. To be eligible for admission, students must have earned more As than Bs (and no Cs or below) in other courses in the concentration plan. Students must submit an application, two letters of recommendation, a writing sample from an advanced writing course, and a project proposal. Admission is decided by the Nonfiction Honors Committee, which includes the Honors Advisor and two other Nonfiction faculty members.

Application Options

Mid-year graduates who wish to apply for nonfiction honors have two options, but the first is highly encouraged:

  1. In their fifth semester (Spring), students can apply to the Nonfiction Writing Honors Program along with other juniors. Accepted students will be incorporated into the regular nonfiction writing honors cohort and must meet the same deadlines: i.e. they must complete their theses at the same time as the other honors students (though for mid-years this will be at the end of their seventh semester). They register for ENGL1993 Nonfiction Honors Seminar in the Fall and ENGL1994 Senior Honors Thesis in Nonfiction in the Spring.
  2. In their seventh semester (the Spring of their final year) students take ENGL1200 and in their eighth semester (the Fall of their final year) they take ENGL1994. (Students choosing this option must consult with the Honors Advisor for information on deadlines.)

Course Requirements

Students in the Nonfiction Writing Honors Program take two additional courses beyond the ten courses required by the Nonfiction Writing Track -- ENGL1993 Honors Seminar in Nonfiction Writing and ENGL1994 Senior Honors Thesis in Nonfiction Writing; the Honors track will bring to twelve the total number of required courses. The ENGL1993 grade option is S/NC; ENGL1994 must be taken for a grade. Honors candidates should discuss their proposed course of study with the faculty member they choose to direct their thesis.

Honors candidates must continue to receive more As than Bs in courses taken as part of the concentration.  Courses completed with a grade of C will not count toward an Honors concentration. A student who receives a "C" after admission to Nonfiction Honors and wishes to continue in the program must complete an additional course in a comparable subject area, with a grade higher than C.

The Honors Thesis

The Nonfiction Writing Honors thesis is an extended project, usually of between 50 and 80 pages, written under the supervision of one of the Nonfiction Writing faculty and a second reader (who can be from literature or another department). The specific topic and approach of the thesis are worked out between the student and the first reader, with assistance from the student's second reader. Writers may choose to write critical analysis, literary journalism, memoir, lyric essay, or narrative based on travel, science, history, or cultural critique, or in any other nonfiction genre or subgenre.

For students starting their theses in the fall, full thesis drafts are usually due by mid-March; final copies of the thesis are due in mid-April. For students who started in the previous spring, full drafts are due in mid-November and final copies in mid-December. Late theses will not be accepted for honors after the April (or December) deadline; students who hand in theses after the deadline and before the end of the term will receive a grade for the thesis course, but they will not be eligible for departmental honors. The completed thesis will be evaluated by its first and second readers, each of whom provides written commentary and suggests a grade for ENGL1994.


The English Department reviews the academic record as well as the thesis evaluations for each senior completing the Nonfiction Writing Honors Program. Following a successful review, the student will be eligible to graduate with Honors in Nonfiction Writing.

View List of Previous Honors Projects