BA Thesis

BA Major Thesis Overview

The BA thesis in the Program in Creative Writing is required of all creative writing majors. Typically in the form of a collection of stories, poems, essays, or a novel excerpt, the BA thesis is a significant, polished original creative work that is the culmination of your study at the University of Chicago and an opportunity to deepen your understanding of writing craft. Over the course of four quarters, and in consultation with a faculty advisor and writing and research advisor (WARA), students produce work informed by aesthetic, literary, and critical influences, as well as course work, sustained readings, and research.

Students work on their BA theses/projects throughout their fourth year. In spring quarter of the third year, students will be assigned a writing and research advisor who will mentor student reading and research throughout the completion of the creative writing thesis. Students, in conversation with the writing and research advisors, will complete a preliminary project proposal during the spring quarter of their third year. The preliminary proposal will then be submitted to the student affairs administrator.

Over the summer quarter students will craft a reading journal centered on a field list of readings; chosen texts will be based upon work, conversations, etc., students will have begun with their writing and research advisors. In autumn quarter, students and writing and research advisors will work together to adapt the reading journal into an annotated bibliography, a focus reading list, and a reading and research summary (summary of student writing plan and goals for the BA thesis/project).

In winter quarter, students will continue meeting with their writing and research advisor and must also enroll in the appropriate thesis/major projects workshop in their primary genre (CRWR 29200 Thesis/Major Projects: Fiction, CRWR 29300 Thesis/Major Projects: Poetry, or CRWR 29400 Thesis/Major Projects: Nonfiction). The thesis/major projects workshop is mandatory and only offered during winter quarter.

Students are not automatically enrolled in a workshop; they must apply for a spot by the course application deadline set by the program. The instructor for the thesis/major projects workshop will also serve as the faculty advisor for the BA thesis. Students should be aware that because of the high number of students writing fiction for their BA thesis, students will not necessarily get their first choice of faculty advisor. 

Students will work closely with their faculty advisor and peers in their thesis/major projects workshop and will receive course credit as well as a final grade for the course. In consultation with their faculty advisor and writing and research advisor, students will revise and submit a near-final draft of the BA thesis by the end of the second week of spring quarter. Students will submit the final version of their BA thesis to their writing and research advisor, faculty advisor, student affairs administrator, and the director of undergraduate studies by the beginning of the fifth week of spring quarter. 

The following timeline is an overview of the BA thesis process by academic quarter.

Creative Writing BA Thesis Timeline 2021-22


*If you plan to graduate early please confirm with the student affairs administrator or DUS as soon as possible

Spring (Rising Majors): Setting Up Summer Reading

  • Week 5, Tuesday: WARA group meeting to discuss the preliminary BA proposal and general strategies for drawing up a summer reading list. This required information session will take place the same day as the group discussion with the bibliographer for Literatures of Europe & the Americas 
  • Week 7, Friday: Preliminary BA proposals are due to the student affairs administrator (
  • Week 8, Friday: WARA groups will be finalized & confirmed. Your WARA will reach out to set up an individual meeting to discuss summer reading and research plans.
  • Weeks 8/9: Individual meetings with WARAs to finalize summer reading and research plans (specifically field and focus reading lists).


Autumn: Reading, Research, Planning

  • Week 0: Individual WARA and student check-ins regarding summer reading and research
  • Week 1 or 2: WARA group meetings
  • Week 4: Required Info Session for BA thesis writers
  • Week 7:
    • Deadline to apply to the Thesis/Major Projects Workshop
    • Submit annotated bibliography (composed of your field and focus reading lists) to WARA
  • Week 9, Friday: Submit completed BA reading & research summary form to WARA


Winter: Writing & Editorial Process (continue reading and research)

  • Weeks 1-9: Work on projects in Thesis/Major Projects workshops and continue supported reading, research with WARA groups
  • Week 9: Submit a complete draft of your thesis to writing and research advisors.


Spring: Revising

  • Week 2, Friday: Submit a second full (semi-final) draft of thesis to WARA and faculty advisor
  • Week 5, Monday: Submit final draft of thesis to faculty advisors, WARA, and the student affairs administrator (
  • TBD: Virtual BA Reading & Reception to celebrate your work!
    • Family & friends welcome
  • Week 9: Students notified about Honors decisions

Program Honors and Eligibility

College Catalog on Program Honors: The faculty in the program will award program honors based on their assessment of BA theses and the assessment of writing and research advisors. Students must complete all assignments set by writing and research advisors to be considered for honors. To be eligible, students must have a major GPA of at least 3.6 and overall GPA of 3.25. Honors will be awarded only to exceptional projects from a given cohort. 

Program Honors Criteria

1. GPA - writer must have at least 3.6 major GPA & 3.25 cum GPA

2. Conception - the BA project has emotional and intellectual resonance, and fulfills many of its artistic goals 

3. Execution - the BA project demonstrates strong technical knowledge, from its formal decisions to its execution of the fundamental mechanics of the genre:

            -BA project is developed through active writerly commitment

4. Revision - writer is diligent throughout the revision process

5. Program Citizenship/Engagement - the writer put in strong effort throughout the entirety of the BA writing and research process and worked well with both faculty advisor and WARA:

-Submitted all BA assignments by their deadlines to WARAs

-Checked in with WARAs per pre-determined schedule

-Conscientious colleague in and out of the Thesis Workshop

6. Risk and ambition - the BA project shows an impressive level of risk and ambition, whether through formal innovation or content

Assignment Checklist

-Preliminary BA Project Proposal

-Summer Reading Journal (based on field reading list)

-Annotated Bibliography

-Focus Reading List

-Reading and Research Summary