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Jeffrey Walker, Chair PAR 3, Mailcode B5500, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-6109

Honors Program

The faculty of the Department of Rhetoric and Writing (DRW) invite and encourage qualified majors to apply to the honors program.  Completing a research thesis gives students a chance to work closely with some of the department's most distinguished faculty and develop advanced skills in writing, analysis, and research. In addition to these intellectual benefits, graduating with honors may prove a valuable credential on the job market or in applications for law school, graduate school, or other professional opportunities.

To graduate with honors, you must be admitted to the honors program by a faculty committee; find a faculty member to serve as a thesis adviser; successfully complete the two-semester honors thesis sequence (RHE 679HA and 679HB); and produce a satisfactory thesis.

How do I gain admission to the Honors Program?

1.     Meet with your academic adviser to determine whether you are academically eligible. The requirements are:
  • Completion in residence of at least six upper-division in-residence hours rhetoric and writing
  • Achievement of a 3.50 GPA in in-residence RHE courses and a 3.00 GPA in UT-Austin courses
  • Students must be following the 2014-2016 Undergraduate Catalog

2.    Identify a thesis adviser from the DRW faculty who is willing to work with you on an honors project. You should discuss thesis ideas with several instructors and have a faculty adviser in mind when you apply to the program.

3.    Complete the honors program application (Download Application Form here) and bring it to Parlin 3, the DRW office. The application asks for the following items:

  • A brief description of your general background and project goals
  • A sample of academic writing displaying your critical, analytic or research skills, preferably from a previous RHE course
  • Two faculty recommendations (Download Recommendation Form here), at least one of them from the instructor of an upper-division RHE course at UT-Austin. The rhetoric faculty member writing the recommendation may be someone other than your potential thesis adviser.  

Faculty members will complete a standard recommendation form and send it directly to the Director of the Honors Program.    

A committee of the DRW will review your completed application to the Honors Program, and you will be notified of its decision in early April. 

Application Deadline: March 7, 2014

How do I find a thesis adviser?

A key to the Honors Program experience is identifying and working with a member of the rhetoric and writing faculty on an extended project. A thesis enables you to develop your own interests and insights under expert guidance. Think about potential advisers and projects while you are taking upper-division courses in the major. Pay close attention as well to what research and scholarship in the field looks like.

Ideally, your thesis adviser will be a professor from an upper-division rhetoric course— someone from whom you’d like to learn more and with whom you’d be comfortable working on a year-long project. To discover more about faculty specialties, check out the courses they teach, locate their Web pages (and CVs), by following the DRW faculty link.

If you haven't taken a class with the faculty member you want as your advisor, be professional in your approach. Meet with him or her during office hours (or make an appointment), introduce yourself, and be sure to have a project idea or at least a topic area to discuss. Talk frankly about expectations, standards, and work habits and schedules. Be certain you understand what he or she expects from you. Remember, too, that the two required honors courses will be graded.

If you have questions about choosing an adviser, discuss the matter with your academic advisor or with the Honors Program Director, Professor Linda Ferreira-Buckley. You might also notify her when a faculty member has agreed to serve as your adviser.

What courses do I take in the Honors Program?

Following your admission to the honors program, you will take a two-semester Honors Tutorial Course to support your development of an honors project. Here is the official catalog description of that course:  

RHE 679H Honors Tutorial Course. Research into and development of a thesis/project topic and proposal followed by the writing and defense of an honors thesis or development and defense of an honors project. The equivalent of three lecture hours a week for two semesters. Prerequisite: For 679HA, upper-division standing, completion of at least six hours of upper-division RHE courses, admission to the Rhetoric and Writing Honors Program, and consent of the honors adviser; for 679HB, completion of 679HA.

RHE 679HA is a three-hour graded course that meets in the fall. During the semester, you will be introduced to research methodologies, narrow the focus of your project, begin gathering data, complete an annotated bibliography, and develop a detailed prospectus or partial draft.  RHE 679HA is taught by the Honors Program Director, working with other members of the rhetoric and writing faculty directing honors projects.

RHE 679HB meets in the spring.  In this graded, three-hour course, you will work one-on-one with your thesis adviser to complete the honors project. You will also receive feedback and advice from a second reader. Your thesis advisor and second reader will meet with you for a formal defense of the completed thesis or project and will submit a form indicating that you have completed your thesis and successfully defended it. The final revised project must be submitted along with paper and electronic copies of the project to the Rhetoric and Writing Department office (Parlin 3) by the last class day.

What topics are appropriate for a thesis?

Honors theses in rhetoric and writing can explore a wide range of issues related to rhetoric, composition, and writing—reflecting the variety of upper-division course offerings in the major.

You might explore a important historical figure or movement, study or apply some aspect of rhetorical or composition theory, or examine contemporary developments in technology and media. Most theses will be grounded in traditional academic research and reading, using primary and secondary sources.

Recent theses directed by DRW faculty include these:

  • Greta Ralston, "A Synchronic Analysis of Tea Party Rhetoric on the National and Local Level," 2011, Plan II Honors
  • Andrew Bowman, "Prophetic Education: Churchill’s Embodiment of the Prophetic Ethos 1938-1940,"  2013, Humanities Honors
  • Danny Pino, "Rhetorical Power and the Reception of Roald Dahl's 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,'" 2011, Independent Project

Honors theses may, however, also take the form of creative projects in non-fiction writing and technology/media— though such work should clearly demonstrate command of core rhetorical concepts and principles.

How do I prepare for an honors thesis or project?

Ideally, you will have a topic or question in mind when you apply.  Early in the fall, you will begin refining your question, planning your research, and setting deadlines. By the end of the fall, you will have secured an advisor, begun collecting relevant material, and written a brief prospectus.  In the spring, in close consultation with your advisor, you will cycle through research, writing, getting feedback, and revising.

Conventional theses, carefully edited and documented, typically run between 50–80 pages. They need to be carefully edited and fully documented, following a professional style sheet, usually that of the Modern Language Association (MLA). Final versions must gain approval from the thesis adviser and a second reader, following an oral defense of the work by the writer. For more about writing an honors thesis, you can review the College of Liberal Arts Senior Thesis Manual.

When possible, the Director of the Honors Program will arrange for a public presentation and celebration of all honors projects completed in the spring term.

What exactly are the requirements for graduating with Honors in Rhetoric and Writing?

  • Admission to the honors program in rhetoric and writing
  • A 3.50 GPA in in-residence RHE courses and a 3.00 GPA in courses at UT-Austin
  • Completion in residence of at least sixty semester hours of coursework counted toward the degree
  • Students must be following the 2014-2016 Undergraduate Catalog
  • Completion of the coursework requirements for the major in rhetoric and writing
  • Completion of RHE 679HA with a minimum grade of A-.
  • Completion of RHE 679HB with a minimum grade of A-, based on the defense of a finished thesis or project.

Both the thesis director and second reader must concur on a grade of A- or higher for honors to be conferred. You may, however, receive credit for RHE 679HB with any passing grade.

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