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ENGL 496 B: Major Conference for Honors

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
OUG 141
Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges
Kimberlee Gillis-Bridges

Syllabus Description:


English 496 supports students as they propose, develop, and complete an Honors thesis project. Although projects must incorporate research, they may take the form most appropriate for the intended audience(s) and students’ academic and career goals: a print essay, videoessay, critical digital edition, long unit plan, or podcast, among other possible forms. Course topics include:

  • Developing a line inquiry
  • Identifying the stakes of your project
  • Research: Determining what type of sources will help you explore your line of inquiry; assessing and managing sources; maintaining voice by writing as you research
  • Defining your audience(s)
  • Considering potential genres for your project and learning how to produce them
  • Engaging in peer review as a professional practice
  • Revising your work based on feedback

Our course schedule and meeting modes will vary as student projects advance. Some weeks may blend in-person meetings with asynchronous discussion of work-in-progress, common questions, or research and composition strategies. Moreover, will not meet some weeks. Instead, this time will be set aside for individual work and conferences with the instructor. During the final three weeks of the quarter, we will work exclusively in person as we workshop multiple thesis drafts. Our overarching goal is to create an intellectual community that inspires and challenges each student to create meaningful work.


Class Participation

Our class operates on a workshop model that requires consistent, engaged participation. Students provide accountability, support, and critique for one another throughout the research and composition process. Whether working in person or asynchronously online, expect to share resources with your peers, read their work carefully, and respond constructively and substantively to their ideas. You should also expect to reexamine your own project as you learn from peers’ approaches to theirs.

Our classroom technology allows both instructor and students to share electronic materials. Therefore, I encourage you to bring a laptop or tablet to class if possible. Because the presence of student laptops and wireless internet access present the temptation of email and the web, students must follow basic ground rules:

  • Students should switch off and stow their cell phones before class begins.
  • Students may use laptops to take notes, share content, and access peers’ work; however, they should not check email, electronically chat, update their social networking status or surf the web during class unless asked to do so.

I assess participation weekly on a credit/partial credit/no credit basis. Students who participate in good faith receive full credit. Lack of engagement in class activities, inadequate preparation, and failure to adhere to classroom climate norms will substantially lower your participation grade for the course.

Research Log

Throughout the quarter, students will document their ideas-in-progress, research process, source notes, and questions in a research log.  The log requires you not only to collect materials, but also to reflect on how individual sources complement, supplement and challenge one another. Moreover, you will frequently consider how sources lead you to reframe your line of inquiry or revise preliminary conclusions. You’ll periodically submit research log entries for feedback during the first half of the quarter. Researcher logs are graded on a credit/partial credit/no-credit basis. Work that meets minimum length requirements and demonstrates genuine engagement with the research process or fully articulates ideas-in-progress will receive full points.



You’ll complete your thesis project via a series of steps that allows you to outline your project, assess potential sources, describe the existing scholarly conversation on your topic, and produce several iterations of the project for feedback. These checkpoints include:


  • A proposal.
  • A literature review and working bibliography.
  • Two to three drafts. Note that the format of your drafts will depend upon your chosen project format. Moreover, I expect thoughtful—not polished—work. Use the drafting process to take risks.


Your peers and I will offer feedback on all checkpoints. You can also seek feedback from consultants at the Odegaard Writing and Research Center or the CLUE Writing Center, both of which will offer online sessions during fall quarter. Checkpoints are graded on a credit/partial credit/no-credit basis. Work that meets minimum length requirements and demonstrates genuine engagement with the assignment prompt or project will receive full points.


Ignite Presentation

During week ten, students will give a five-minute, Ignite-style “lightning talk” that summarizes their project.  They will present their talks, answer audience questions, and gather feedback during our final course session. Your presentation will be graded on a credit/partial credit/no-credit basis. Presentations that include all required content will receive full points.

Thesis Project

You thesis project represents the culmination of your work in the Honors Program. To quote from the English Department’s description, the project allows you to engage in “the critical conversation” around texts and topics, demonstrate “a clear and consistent critical perspective” of your own while making “arguments based on textual evidence and grounded in attentive close reading.”


While Honors Program literature conceptualizes the thesis as a print academic essay, the project can take any form you choose. Consider your goals post-graduation and the type of project that will help you fulfill those goals. Example formats include:

  • A 3000- to 3800-word essay in MLA format (note that I’ve modified the department’s suggested 20- to 30-page length to one that mirrors the length of an academic conference paper).
  • A critical digital edition of a text that includes a 2500- to 3000-word introduction and 1-2 annotated chapters.
  • A 20- to 30-minute video presenting a cultural studies approach to a popular text.
  • A 30- to 40-minute podcast or series of short podcasts offering a deep dive into a key context for understanding a text or group of texts.
  • A long unit lesson plan with framing analysis of why you would teach particular approach to a text or texts, assignments, and descriptions of day-to-day class activities

No matter the format you select, you’ll submit a 1250- to 1500-word methodology essay along with your project. The methodology essay provides an analysis of how your research informs your project.


Lateness Policy

I do not accept late research log entries, checkpoints, or online replies to peers’ work, nor do I allow students reschedule their presentation. Late final drafts of the thesis project will receive a 10-point deduction per day late, including weekends and holidays. I will make exceptions to the lateness policy only when students become ill, experience family emergencies, or make prior arrangements with me.

Technology glitches do not constitute valid excuses for lateness. To avoid computer problems, you should save frequently while working, and you should back up work saved on a hard drive to Dropbox, iCloud, UW Google Drive, or your personal file space on Canvas. When submitting files or URLs to Canvas, you are responsible for copying/pasting the correct URL or selecting the correct file. If Canvas breaks down, contact UW-IT technical support ( and email your work directly to me ( 

Academic Integrity

English 496 adheres to the University of Washington’s Student Conduct Code, which prohibits academic misconduct like distributing instructional materials outside class without permission and plagiarism, or the unacknowledged use of others' words or ideas. The course also prohibits using generative AI like ChatGPT to compose your analysis.

All course materials are for enrolled students only. When drawing upon sources in your research log, checkpoints, presentation, and project, make clear to your audience that you are incorporating others’ work by placing quotation marks around exact words and noting the author’s name whenever you quote, summarize or paraphrase. Failure to credit sources, submitting work produced for another class without permission, or submitting work authored by another person or AI may result in a failing grade for the assignment, a failing grade for the course, or other disciplinary action. Disseminating course materials without permission may result in sanctions, including dismissal. If I see evidence of academic misconduct, I will make a report to the Community Standards & Student Conduct Team.



Assessment System

Grades in English 496 will be computed by points, with 400 points equaling a 4.0, 300 points a 3.0, and so on. If your total falls between grades, I will round up if you score one to five points below the higher grade and round down if you score one to four points above the lower grade. For example, 274 points equals a 2.7 and 275 points a 2.8. Students who score less than 65 points total will receive a 0 for the course, as the UW grading system does not scale grades lower than .7. I also assign a 4.0 to students who score between 385 and 400 points.

Research log entries, checkpoints, and the presentation receive full credit for meeting minimum length requirements and thoughtfully engaging with instructor prompts or project ideas-in-progress. Students who regularly participate as outlined in “Class Participation” will receive full participation points. The project is evaluated based on quality of work submitted, with criteria we negotiate together.

Total Points for the Course

Each component of the course is worth the following number of points. Please note that Canvas does not integrate well with my point schema. Canvas automatically converts points into percentages, a conversion that can make your grade seem lower than it actually is. For example, 10/20 points represents the C range under my system and the F range (50%) under a percentage system. For this reason, I include point range information on each assignment. In short, keep track of your total points and ignore Canvas's percentage conversion.

Grade Component

Possible Points

Class Participation

80 points


100 points


20 points

Final Project

200 points


400 points


Technology Requirements

The following technology is essential to accessing materials and submitting assignments:

  • Reliable Internet access.
  • Web browser and computer specifications adequate for using the Canvas Learning Management system and Zoom.
  • Webcam and microphone or phone camera and microphone to participate in online conferences or drop-in hours. Note that the Student Technology Fee loan program has laptops available for checkout if you need a computer.
  • Headphones or speakers (internal or external) to hear audio during online conferences or drop-in hours.
  • Word processing software. Note that although you may use any software, you must submit written assignments in PDF or Microsoft Word format (.doc or .docx). If you use any other program, use the Help function for instructions on converting your files to PDF or Word format. Students may get Microsoft Office 365 Pro Plus and a UW-licensed version of Google Apps for free (
  • PDF viewer (Adobe PDF Reader or Apple Preview)
  • UW Net ID and Email. The class email list uses your UW email. If you want UW email to go to another account, you must configure forwarding preferences with UW Net ID account management tools.

Connecting with Others

In addition to interacting with others in asynchronous discussions and live class sessions, you have other opportunities to connect with peers and the instructor:

  • Community Forum: The Community Forum is an asynchronous space where you can ask general questions about the course or assignment prompts. Posting questions in the Community Forum helps others with the same question. It also allows students to share answers the instructor might not have.
  • Drop-in Hours: You need not have a specific question about the class, course texts, an assignment, or work-in-progress to attend drop-in hours. The instructor will be in Padelford A-305 and on Zoom every Thursday from 9:30-11:20 a.m. (Pacific) to talk about your interests, experience in the major, future plans, or even the class. If you cannot make my scheduled drop-in hours, please contact me to set up an alternative time.


Disability Accommodations

Disability accommodations grant students with ongoing or temporary disabilities access to educational opportunities. Disability Resource for Students (DRS) works to ensure access for students with disabilities by designing and implementing accommodations.  If you experience educational barriers based on disability, please visit Disability Resources for Students (DRS) online for more information about requesting accommodations. The DRS office in Mary Gates 011 is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Staff can work with you in person, by phone, TTY, video chat, or email (

If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

Your experience in this class is important to me, and you may have accessibility needs not covered under DRS’s umbrella—for example spotty internet access, an unreliable computer, etc. Please talk with me as soon as possible so we can brainstorm solutions.

Religious Accommodations

In accordance with state law, UW provides reasonable accommodations for student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available on the Religious Accommodations Policy site. Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form.

Catalog Description: 
Individual study (reading, papers) by arrangement with the instructor. Required of, and limited to, Honors seniors in English.
Other Requirements Met: 
Honors Course
Last updated: 
January 14, 2023 - 5:54am