Department of Rhetoric & Writing
Department of Rhetoric & Writing

Honors Program

The faculty of the Department of Rhetoric and Writing (DRW) invite 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 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 and/or in applications for law school, graduate school, and other professional opportunities.

How do I gain admission to the Honors Program?

1.     Meet with your academic adviser to determine whether you will be academically eligible as of Fall 2018. The requirements include:
  • Completion in residence of at least six upper-division in-residence hours in rhetoric and writing
  • Achievement of a 3.50 GPA in in-residence RHE courses and a 3.00 GPA in UT-Austin courses

2.    Submit the honors program application online by 4pm on March 23, 2018. 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 an RHE course
  • The names of two faculty members you intend to approach for recommendations, at least one of whom instructed you in an upper-division RHE course at UT-Austin. The rhetoric faculty member writing the recommendation may be someone other than your potential thesis adviser. One of your recommenders may be a faculty member from another department.

If you have questions, contact Professor Linda Ferreira-Buckley (lfb@utexas.edu).

3.     Download two copies of the Faculty Recommendation Form  (Download Faculty Recommendation here). Fill in the top sections of each form, save them as pdfs, and then send one form to each of your recommenders.     

Faculty members must complete the recommendation form and send it directly to the Director of the Honors Program, Professor Linda Ferreira-Buckley (lfb@utexas.edu), by 4pm on March 23, 2018.    

A faculty committee will review your completed application and notify you of its decision in early April. 

Application Deadline: March 23, 2018

How do I find a thesis advisor?

A key to the Honors Program experience is identifying and working with a rhetoric and writing faculty member on an extended project. A thesis enables you to develop your own interests and insights under expert guidance. Think about potential advisors and projects while you are taking upper-division courses in the major, and pay close attention to what research and scholarship in the field looks like. You do not need to have selected a topic and an advisor before applying to the program.

Ideally, your thesis advisor 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, faculty members and 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 have a project idea or at least a topic area to discuss. Talk frankly about expectations, standards, work habits and schedules. Be certain you understand what he or she will expect from you.

If you have questions about choosing a topic or an advisor, discuss the matter with your academic advisor or with the Honors Program Director, Professor Linda Ferreira-Buckley.

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 and completion 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 director; 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. Your grade will be assigned by the Honors Program Director.

RHE 679HB meets in the spring.  In this graded, three-hour course, you will work one-on-one with your thesis advisor 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. Your grade will be assigned by your thesis advisor, in consultation with your second reader.

What topics are appropriate for a thesis?

Honors theses may explore a wide range of contemporar or historical issues related to rhetoric, composition, and writing. The variety of upper-division course offerings in the major reflects the range of possibilities.

You might, for instance, 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, which includes finding, reading, evaluating, and using primary and secondary sources.

Recent theses directed by DRW faculty include these:

  • Danielle Brown, "The Cost of Waking Up: Economic Cults and Religious Rhetoric"
  • Kaiser Hwang, "Real-time Rhetoric: A Consequentialist View of Interactive Persuasion"
  • Timothy Harakal, "A Reverend's Rhetoric"
  • Jill Rubinger, "#Girl Power: A Rhetorical Analysis of Hillary Clinton's 2016 Social Media Campaign"
  • Emily Robinson, "Negotiating Dialogue: Non-Persuasive Rhetoric in Writing Centers"
  • Heather Yarrish, "White Protests, Black Riots: Racialized Representation in American Media"

Honors theses may also take less conventional forms, including creative projects in non-fiction writing and technology/media. All work must clearly demonstrate command of core rhetorical concepts and principles.

What is the timetable for beginning and completing 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, composed an annotated bibliography of relevant sources, and written a prospectus.  In the spring, in close consultation with your advisor, you will research, write, receive feedback, and revise.


Undergraduate theses generally run between 50–80 pages. They need to be carefully edited and fully documented, following a professional style guide, often that of the Modern Language Association (MLA). Your final versions must be approved by your thesis advisor and second reader following your oral defense. For more about writing an honors thesis, review the College of Liberal Arts Senior Thesis Manual.

The Director of the Honors Program will convene an Honors Symposium at which writers will present their projects to faculty, staff, students, and visitors. Students are encouraged to create a large poster to showcase their project to post in Parlin Hall.

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
  • Completion of 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-, which includes the successful defense of a finished thesis or project. For honors to be conferred, the thesis advisor (supervisor) and second reader must agree on a grade of A- or higher. Credit for RHE 679HB is earned with any passing grade.
  • Submission of the final bound thesis by May 11, 2018

Important dates for Spring 2018 Honors Program

  • March 27, 2018: Complete draft due to Supervisor and Second Reader. Supervisor sends brief progress report due to the Director of DRW Honors Program, Linda Ferreira-Buckley
  • April 23-27, 2018: Recommended defense dates
  • May 3, 2018: Revised thesis due to Supervisor and Second Reader
  • May 4, 2018: Honors Symposium 2:30-4:00pm, location TBA
  • May 11, 2018: Signed and bound thesis and signed and completed faculty form due in DRW Office (Parlin 3) by 5pm.