Current Thesis Students

The Thesis

A thesis is an historical analysis based on a student’s individual research using primary materials that makes some original contribution to the field. The variety of methods and approaches currently used in the discipline of history means that no single type of thesis constitutes a model. The originality of the thesis may lie in its explication of untapped sources, its reinterpretations of familiar sources, its new synthesis of existing interpretations, or some other novelty. A thesis will almost invariably include: 1) an introduction to set out the problem, state the argument, limit the scope of the inquiry, and position the thesis in relation to the current state of historical opinion on the topic, 2) a set of chapters to present and analyze the relevant evidence, and 3) a conclusion to summarize the findings and suggest future avenues of research. A thesis is typically 40-60 pages in length including a thorough bibliography.

The final thesis is due in early May to allow your faculty adviser and seminar instructor time to read and review your work in advance of the mid-May deadline for submitting honors recommendations to the College.

Authors must submit three bound copies of their thesis: one for his or her advisor, one for the 398 instructor, and one for the department’s files. Costs incurred for printing shall be borne by the student. An additional digital copy must also be submitted to the Undergraduate Coordinator at the same time.

The submitted thesis must include a title page, acknowledgments, a one-page summary with five keywords, the core text, footnotes, and a bibliography. The thesis must be carefully proofread and the references prepared carefully and in a consistent style.

Recommendation for Honors

Completion of the 398 seminar does not assure the granting of Honors. The Undergraduate Awards Committee makes a recommendation on Honors, and its recommendation is subject to approval by the WCAS Committee on Undergraduate Academic Excellence. The department uses the following criteria in its deliberations:

  • Two readers of the thesis must judge it to be of very high quality. One will be the faculty advisor; the other is the instructor of the senior thesis seminar. In all cases, both readers must submit a written evaluation of the thesis, explaining their recommendation for (or against) the granting of Honors, and commenting on the originality and quality of the work. In rare cases where there is a difference of opinion the Director of Undergraduate Studies will read and report on the thesis as well.
  • The candidate should have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in history courses.
  • The candidate should have a minimum GPA of 3.5 overall.
  • Exceptions will be made to the minimum GPA requirement in items 2 and 3 if the thesis is judged to be of extraordinarily high quality.

If the department recommends Honors, the candidate’s name is forwarded to the WCAS Committee on Undergraduate Academic Excellence, which makes the final determination of honors. Be advised that there have been cases in which the department has recommended Honors but the College has declined to confer Honors.

Undergraduate Research Support Grants

The History Department provides eligible students with up to $250 to help support research undertaken as part of the senior Honors Thesis program.

In order to be eligible for an Undergraduate Research Support Grant from the History Department, students must:

  1. Be writing a senior thesis in the History department;
  2. Have already applied for and been granted an Academic Year research grant from either the Office of Undergraduate Research or the College of Arts and Sciences;
  3. Have documented expenses above and beyond those covered by the AY grant

In order to apply for funds, students should submit the following to the Director of Undergraduate Studies:

  1. The original proposal and budget provided for the Academic Year grant
  2. Receipts demonstrating that the student's costs went beyond the funds provided by the AY grant

Undergraduate Research Support Grants will be assessed on a rolling basis between October and May of each academic year.

The Johnston Prize

The Grace Douglas Johnston prize is awarded to the student whose honors thesis is judged to be of the highest quality. The award is made by the department’s Undergraduate Awards Committee.

Mechanism for Student Complaints

The department Chair will hear cases in which a student feels that he or she has received unsatisfactory consideration from the department’s Undergraduate Awards Committee.