Distinguished Thesis Guidelines

English Department Distinguished Thesis Guidelines

English majors may substitute the Distinguished Thesis for ENGL 365 (or 368) Capstone.

The CSB/SJU Distinguished Thesis is a three semester long independent research or creative work project on a subject of your own choosing. Students work under the direction of a thesis committee, composed of a primary advisor who is the expert in the area of research and two readers who have peripheral expertise. For many students, the pursuit of the Distinguished Thesis is the highlight of their academic career. Preparation for such a project – the research, experimentation, or rehearsals – can focus interests, provide perspective in one’s major, develop basic scholarly skills, foster creativity and independent effort, and synthesize educational experiences in a way that other academic projects do not. Read more.

Distinguished Thesis Timeline

Students enroll in COLG 396 (for 0-1 credits) in the second semester of their junior year to develop their proposal and identify their thesis committee. Students enroll in COLG 398 during their senior year, for up to 4 credits. The senior year is spent researching, writing, preparing for public defense, and finally defending within the last 6 weeks of their graduating semester.

Thesis Expectations

Students enrolled in Distinguished Thesis are expected to follow the deadlines set by The Office of Undergraduate Research & Scholars.

If students enroll in COLG 396 or COLG 398 and decide not to complete the thesis, they should 1) drop or withdraw from the class and 2) consult with their English department thesis director and the English department about how to fulfill their capstone requirement for the major.

Supplementary English Department Guidelines for a Distinguished Thesis

The English department encourages students to pursue a distinguished thesis, which can substitute for the English capstone if it is successfully completed.  In addition to the information on the distinguished thesis website, the department has the following guidelines.

  • Students should begin discussing the distinguished thesis with their advisor and have an English faculty member agree to direct the thesis no later than the fall of their junior year. To begin the thesis process, students must register for COLG 396 in the spring of their junior year.
  • Students are expected to work on their thesis for at least 3 semesters and not only during the semesters they are enrolled in COLG 396 and COLG 398.
  • If the work on the thesis submitted in the fall of the senior year is inadequate and unlikely to lead to the completion of a successful thesis in spring of senior year, the director should meet with the student to: 1) assist the student with enrollment in ENGL 365/368 Capstone for the spring of their senior year and 2) consider if the work completed on the thesis thus far is substantive enough to seek English elective credit by changing it into an ILP, with the approval of the department chair.
  • If the work completed on the thesis submitted in the spring of the senior year (during the third semester of work on the thesis) is inadequate but the student is otherwise on track to graduate, the director should meet with the student and change the project to an ILP. If this ILP receives the approval of the chair, the department will accept the ILP for ENGL 365/368 Capstone.
  • If a student is on an alternative timeline and the work completed on their thesis is inadequate, the director should meet with the student and determine how to move forward. The student may enroll in a capstone course or complete a Capstone-equivalent project in an ENGL 3XX class taught by an English department faculty member.  
  • The director of a distinguished thesis that is intended to substitute for the English capstone must be a member of the English faculty.
  • English faculty should ordinarily direct no more than one distinguished thesis per year.
  • A distinguished thesis that substitutes for the English capstone may not count for a capstone in another major.
  • A student who chooses to write poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction for the thesis must have completed a course in the genre of the proposed thesis.
  • A student who chooses to write poetry, fiction, or creative nonfiction for the thesis must also complete a critical essay. In this essay, the student describes the research that informs the project and outlines the process of developing the project. The critical essay must document sources and include a list of works cited.
College of Saint Benedict
Saint John’s University

Jessica Harkins
Chair, English Department
SJU Quad 350B

Laura Schmitz
Temporary Department Coordinator (Through spring 2024)
SJU Quad 362D/451