Writing the Thesis Proposal

In November of your senior year, you will submit a proposal for the essay to the Department of Literatures in English.

Be sure your name and the project title are on the prospectus. Please turn in two hard copies to the Department of Literatures in English office.


  • To demonstrate to your audience the viability of your project.
  • To define the project for your senior thesis.
  • To locate yourself within the critical debate about your chosen literary texts.

The faculty members who read your proposal will evaluate its viability:

  • Will the question or problem you intend to investigate work as a project? I.e., is it a substantial problem, not trivial or obvious? Is it focused enough? Can it be explored in 30 to 40 pages and completed in one semester?
  • Can you use the tools of literary analysis to which you've been introduced in other courses?
  • Are you familiar enough with the works in question? Are you far enough along in your thinking for a one-semester project?

Your proposal should also be useful to you, the writer.

It should help you crystallize your thinking, sharply define the problem you wish to address, and provide you with direction for the early stages of your investigation. A successful proposal will:

  • Define the problem that makes this paper important, even necessary; suggest why you want to pursue it.
  • Explain how you will proceed: What is your strategy for addressing this problem and for clarifying its issues? What is your method or theoretical approach? It need not be a named school; it may simply be a focused close reading. Whatever method you choose, explain why it suits this problem.
  • Give some indication of how far along you are in the project: What research has been done? Are any sources particularly relevant? Does your project grow out of significant reading or writing you've already done, or out of a course you've taken?
  • Suggest what you hope to discover in writing the thesis; this may take the form of some tentative conclusions or a set of hypotheses that build on your current understanding of the problem.

You need not describe your sources in the proposal itself, unless your project involves a well-known critical debate — or if you've learned something particular from a critic who applies the same analytic tools to similar texts.

As part of your thesis proposal, you are required to submit a preliminary bibliography that gives readers a sense of the scope of your research to date, and possible future directions. You should include both primary and secondary sources, including texts that you will use to support the methodological or theoretical underpinnings of your thesis. You can also include some works that you have not yet read, but that you think may be useful based on initial research.

  • Remember to pay scrupulous attention to sentence structure, diction, grammar and punctuation!

Reminder: Your proposal is not a contract. Your project is likely to change, expand, or shrink in unexpected ways as your thinking and your research evolve. Your proposal, however, must stand on its own as a workable plan.

Contact Us

Department of Literatures in English

English House
Bryn Mawr College
101 N. Merion Avenue
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010-2899
Phone: 610-526-5306

Bryn Thompson, Administrative Assistant