The History Department encourages superior history majors to pursue independent research and writing in the creation of an honors thesis. The honors thesis is a multi-chaptered, original piece of historical research that typically runs at least 45 pages, and no more than 100 pages, in length. Writing an honors thesis is an excellent opportunity for students to pursue their research interests and to work closely with a faculty member on a topic of historical importance. The research, writing, and analytical skills acquired in the composition of a thesis better prepare students for graduate work in history, law, business, and other professional schools or for future careers in other fields as well. Preparing an honors thesis is a serious undertaking; the most successful theses exhibit deep thought and a sustained argument about an important historical problem. Usually, honors theses are based on extensive research in primary historical sources and also reflect a keen understanding of the secondary literature. Depending upon the level of achievement, students may be awarded "Honors," "High Honors," or "Highest Honors" for the successful completion of thesis work.
Students who expect to write honors theses should consider fulfilling their Capstone Seminar (History 490C/491C) in their junior year to gain the appropriate writing and research experience, although the department is experimenting with a research seminar designed for seniors and M.A. candidates that honors candidates may take during fall semester of their senior year. Ideally, students who intend to apply to graduate programs in history should write honors theses in the historical field they expect to pursue, since the thesis can testify to their ability to think critically, work independently, and understand complex primary and secondary literature.
The first step in pursuing honors is to think about a potential research topic and to carry out some preliminary investigations to determine whether that topic is feasible. (A subject could involve documents that lie in an inaccessible archive, for example, or require foreign language ability that the student does not possess.)
As a general guideline, students should gauge their interest in the honors program and their academic abilities between the start of their sophomore year and the beginning of their second semester as a junior. A minimum GPA of 3.0 on a cumulative basis by the end of the junior year, or a 3.0 for the junior year alone, is required for participation in the Honors Program. When a student has not met the GPA requirement for Honors, the student and the Department of History can jointly request the Committee on Honors and Interdisciplinary Studies (CHIS) to review the student's application. The CHIS will only hear appeals that come from both the student and the department. Exceptions to the GPA rule are rarely made, however.
The Department of History and the Charles Center provide funding opportunities to assist students undertaking honors research. Consult the department website for Funding Opportunities for Undergraduate Research or the Charles Center website for information about Batten Scholarships for Pre-Honors Research and other summer scholarships or contact the Director of Undergraduate Studies for more information.
Applications for History Honors are due in the spring semester of junior year, two weeks before the beginning of online registration for fall semester. For deadlines and additional information on the honors program, please consult the following handouts: 2008-2009 Honors Program Guidelines (pdf), Pursuing Honors in History (pdf), and Completing an Honors Thesis in History (pdf).