Close menu Resources for... William & Mary
W&M menu close William & Mary

Major Writing Requirement

The Major Writing Requirement is a writing assignment done as an extra part of a course. The assignment is designed so you can practice your writing and get instructor feedback. This will help shape your writing into clear, effective prose that shows evidence of sustained and well-developed thought. 

Planning the Major Writing Requirement

Consult with your major advisor when you're declaring your major. They can help you choose the course in which you will complete this requirement. The course should be numbered 300 or above, and be in your area of special interest. Most students will complete the writing requirement during the junior or senior years. It is best to complete the Major Writing Requirement before your final semester.

Meeting with Your Major Writing Advisor

Your Major Writing Advisor is the instructor of the course in which you will complete the Major Writing Requirement. You should meet with that instructor before registration. Make sure the instructor knows that you plan to take their course as part of the Requirement, and that they can fulfill its objectives. You should meet with the instructor again during the first week of classes. The second meeting will help you choose a topic and make a timetable for completing the project.

Choosing a Topic

Work closely with your major writing advisor, as they must approve the chosen topic. You may have a topic in mind before meeting with the instructor, or the instructor might propose one based on discussions with you. The topic should reflect your special interests and must fall broadly within the scope of the course. Choose a topic early in the semester, so you can meet timeline goals.


The Department requires that you become familiar with the discipline's standard scholarly resources, including electronic resources. Examples include bibliographies such as the L'Année Philologique or Zenon, and familiarity with standard sites such as Perseus. The choice of resources will vary by topic, but all students should have a basic familiarity with these tools. Demonstrating proficiency in this area will automatically fulfill the department's Major Computing Requirement.

You will also need to seek out specialized literature on your specific topic. Your major writing advisor can help identify these resources. The Swem reference librarian in classical studies can also help you find and use appropriate resources.


Specific requirements such as length, citation format and bibliography will vary according to topic and major writing advisor. The advisor will make these requirements clear to you at the beginning of the project.


A reasonable timeline for completing the Major Writing Requirement is as follows:

  • First week of classes: Meet with major writing advisor. Discuss expectations and requirements and begin identifying possible topic.
  • Second week of classes: Submit your topic statement and preliminary bibliography. These are based on the initial meetings with your writing advisor.
  • Seventh week of classes: Submit your research outline and bibliography. Begin writing. Understand that most advisors require preliminary drafts before you can submit a complete draft. The major writing advisor will make such requirements clear during your initial meetings.
  • One month before end of semester: Submit the first draft of complete paper.
  • Two weeks before the end of semester: Submit the final draft. Only minor revisions should occur after this date.
  • Final day of classes: Submit the corrected copy of the paper

The paper will be graded on a Pass/Fail basis to fulfill the Requirement itself. It will also make up a part of the final course grade as determined by the major writing advisor.

Honors Theses

If you submit an acceptable thesis, you will be certified by the Department as satisfying the Major Writing Requirement. This applies only to Classical Studies majors. Non-Classical Studies majors who do a thesis in the Classics Department should check the requirements in their major.