This version of the McGill Department of English, Undergraduate Studies site is deprecated but has been preserved for archival reasons. The information on this site is not up to date and should not be consulted. Students, faculty, and staff should consult the new site using the link below.

Honours Essay Proposal: Frequently Asked Questions

How do I register for the honours essay?

The honours essay is a two part course, usually taken in the Fall and Winter terms of the student’s final year. You should register for ENGL 491-D1 in the first term when you will be writing the honours essay, and ENGL 491-D2 in the second term.

What should my honours essay proposal include?

A proposal should clearly identify the topic of the essay, and describe its goals and significance. It should include an outline of the essay’s probable organization into parts or chapters. It should also include a selected bibliography of primary and secondary works to be consulted.

What makes a good topic for an honours essay?

Bear in mind that the honours essay project is neither an open-ended reading course nor a term paper. Proposals should both (a) describe an area of inquiry or critical problem commensurate with a six-credit course and (b) within that area identify the specific topic that will be explored in the essay itself, the normal length of which is 40-to-50 pages plus notes and bibliography.

Is it possible to do a “creative” Honours Essay—in any of the department’s three streams? How would such a project work?

In rare cases, students are allowed to plan a “creative” thesis—usually involving the writing of a collection of poems or short stories; the making of a film; or the writing/production of a play. In such cases, the student should of course have had a great deal of previous experience in such creative work, evidenced through course work, independent study projects, or a strong portfolio of prior creative projects. The student would also have to find a professor who would approve the project and agree to supervise it. All creative projects must also include an analytical component—an accompanying research essay exploring issues related to the creative work done for the project.

How long should my honours essay proposal be?

Proposals must be double-spaced and should include from 3 to 5 pages of text as well as about 3 pages of bibliography.

Is there a form to fill out?

No. But you must include your current email address and telephone number on the first page of the proposal. Your supervisor must also sign the first page of your proposal to confirm his or her willingness to supervise the essay. Remember that your supervisor may wish to see several drafts of your proposal before agreeing to sign it.

What should go in the bibliography?

Firstly, it should include all the primary texts you will study. Secondly, it should include up-to-date secondary materials relating not only to the primary materials of your project but also to any historical or theoretical concepts mentioned in the proposal. You may find it helpful to divide the bibliography into sections relating to different aspects of your proposal.

Where do I submit the honours essay proposal?

When you have completed your proposal and your supervisor has signed it, submit the proposal to the Honours Director, who will announce the method that is appropriate for this submission.

When is the deadline?

The deadline is usually in the third week of October. Look out for announcements giving the exact date.

When is the honours essay itself due?

The exact deadline has to be agreed in discussion with your supervisor. It will usually be at the end of the winter term. Supervisors have to submit marks for honours essays for the University deadline at the end of the term in which students are registered for ENGL 491-D2.

Where can I get more information?
An information session on honours essay proposals is usually organized at the beginning of October. In this session members of the honours committee and former honours students are available to talk about writing the honours essay and to answer questions. An honours essay colloquium is held at the end of the winter term, in which students present the work they have done for their honours essays. Look out for announcements for these two events.


Back to top