Writing a Senior Honors Thesis in History
As part of its commitment to student research and writing, the Department of History encourages students to write a senior honors thesis. Any student with a cumulative 3.5 GPA or higher is eligible to write a senior honors thesis.
If you are eligible to write a senior honors thesis, the History department will notify you by email in the spring of your junior year. Feel free to inquire if you do not hear.
Students who plan to write a senior honors thesis begin by identifying a topic of interest and a faculty member to serve as project director. The project director will help the student to create a thesis prospectus (at least 3 pages in length) and a full bibliography and to identify two additional readers for the work. This information goes on to the Honors Application, which the student submits to the Honors Program office.
Assuming that the Honors Program accepts the proposal, the student should also complete the History Department's History 499 Application. This form alerts the department to create a space for the student to enroll in History 499, Honors Thesis, for the two semesters of the senior year.
Students must maintain a GPA of 3.25 throughout the process.
The Department of History honors thesis should be sixty to seventy-five pages in length and make use of primary sources. Typically, the senior honors thesis is divided into chapters. The faculty director should be certain to record a final grade at the end of each semester’s work and should consult with the readers, where appropriate, to determine the grade.
The student should meet with his and her thesis committee sometime during April of the junior year to discuss the thesis. It is an opportunity to fine tune the topic, discuss possible research approaches, suggest primary sources and consider questions.
At this meeting, a basic review process should be agreed to. For example, does the committee want to review each chapter as it is submitted, or do they want the director to review chapters, then send them along later? Or, some committees may want to read a draft of the entire thesis. Finally, this meeting is designed to help the student begin work on the thesis in a collegial manner, and to set expectations.
It is urged that beginning with fall semester of the senior year, the student and thesis director meet on a regular basis (weekly or bi-weekly) to discuss the thesis and to help the student make satisfactory progress in research and writing. It is strongly recommended that a draft of about one half of the thesis be completed at the end of the fall semester. Students will receive a grade for HIST 499 fall semester, which indicates the progress made to that point.
A completed draft of the thesis should be submitted to the director before spring break. A draft should be given to the readers in late March. Such deadlines will allow all committee members the time to read and review the draft and allow the student the opportunity to make any necessary changes before the Honors Program deadline of mid-April. The thesis should be about sixty to seventy-five pages in length.
The Department of History encourages its senior honors thesis authors to present their research at conferences. Venues such as the National Council for Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and the regional Phi Alpha Theta conference (history honorary society) provide excellent opportunities for students to present a research paper based on their thesis.
The Department of History has a fund to help defray student travel research expenses. Students who need to travel to conduct research are encouraged to petition the Clive R. Hallman Fund for travel funds.Senior honors thesis authors will make a formal presentation of their research at a Department of History honors day that could also include recognition of other students and faculty (Mary Jackson Award, Carlton Smith Award, Raymond Dingledine Award). Phi Alpha Theta and the History Club will organize this day of recognition.