Honors students and faculty members will meet at least three times in small groups throughout the fall, and once in the spring before the March break. Groups will consist of no more than six students. Students and advisors in each small group are responsible for reading all the first chapters discussed in the fall meetings. Each student will be assigned a primary and secondary faculty advisor.
At the end of the year, the primary and secondary advisors are responsible for reading the theses assigned to them. Students and their primary and secondary advisers should maintain close and regular contact throughout the year (email, regular office meetings, etc.), and advisors should return students' draft chapters with written comments in a timely fashion. (Students are of course free to consult with other History faculty as the circumstances dictate.)
Every year at least one faculty member (normally the department chair) is assigned to supervise the Honors program. The supervisor should make sure throughout the course of the year that both students and advisors understand the guidelines laid out here, and that groups are meeting regularly. The supervisor is also responsible for arranging the visits of outside examiners in the spring.
1. First fall meeting: normally held in the second week of classes
All prospective Honors students and history faculty will meet together to discuss the requirements of the Honors program and the schedule for the year. It is also at this meeting that each student will be assigned primary and secondary faculty advisors. The primary advisor will ordinarily the member with whom the student has already been working. Depending on the number of Honors students, efforts will be made to ensure that all faculty members are advising a student. Students and faculty will also be assigned to small groups, each group consisting of no more than six students and their faculty advisors, with the faculty distributed as evenly as possible (area-wise) among or between the groups.
2. Second fall meeting: early October
Students will present to their small groups a thesis proposal revised as a result of discussions with their advisors and other faculty members. (The revised proposal should include an expanded bibliography.) At this point each student should be able to clearly articulate their project's lines of inquiry and analytical framework, and have sufficient primary and secondary sources to enable them to successfully complete the first stages of the project.
3. Third fall meeting: early November
Students will present a chapter (it may, but need not, be the first chapter) to their small groups. All group members must read all the chapters presented to their group, and everyone is expected to contribute to the discussion of each chapter.
4. Second chapter: due before December break
Small groups will NOT meet to discuss the second chapter, but students MUST turn in a complete draft, in prose form (not outline) of a second chapter before leaving campus for the winter vacation. Non-submission of a second chapter will result in withdrawal from the Honors program. Students who withdraw thus from the program will retroactively receive credit and a letter grade for the fall honor’s seminar, based on their advisor’s evaluation of their first chapter.
5. Fourth meeting: early February, within 2 weeks of students' return to campus
All students and advisors should meet once as a single group in the early part of the second semester to share progress and frustrations in research and writing. Any student who wishes to have the group read part of work in progress, or a revised chapter, may submit that to the group at this meeting. Students and advisors should construct a schedule specifying dates for submission of chapter outlines and/or draft chapters.
6. Complete draft and final submission: late March, mid to late April
It is critical that advisors maintain close contact with students in the final stages of writing, revising, and preparing a polished version of the Honors thesis. A complete draft of the thesis will normally be due to all readers at the end of March. A final, polished version of the thesis will normally be due in mid or late April.
7. Outside examination: early May
A copy of these guidelines should be sent to each outside examiner. Outside examiners will read the theses and come to campus to conduct oral examinations. At the conclusion of the oral examinations, outside examiners will meet with the department as a whole to determine the degree of honors. The degrees of honors are: Highest Honors, High Honors, and Honors. It is possible that a student may also receive no honors. The outside examiner and each faculty member who has read the thesis will provide their assessment of its strengths and weaknesses. These faculty members and the outside examiner will then engage in the discussion for the purpose of arriving at a consensus on the degree of honors to be awarded. If no such consensus can be reached, the outside examiner will determine the degree of honors.
Students may withdraw voluntarily at the end of the first semester. They will receive credit and a letter grade for the fall honors seminar, HIST 497, based on their advisor’s evaluation of the work completed in the first semester. Students who fail to submit a second chapter before winter vacation will be asked to withdraw from the program.
The inability to lay eyes on a major source or archive should not prevent a student from completing a second chapter (which will undoubtedly be revised anyway) before winter break, and so will not be accepted as an excuse for an extension.
Students who withdraw later in the spring will likewise receive appropriate credit and a grade for a senior seminar based on their advisor’s evaluation of their work.
Advisors may sometimes suggest that a student withdraw from Honors. In such a case, the faculty supervisor should review the case with the chair and make a final determination. Students whose work does not measure up to the expected standard at any point in the process may be asked to withdraw from the program and convert to an independent study.
“What is an honors thesis?”
An honors thesis is a product of original research based upon the use of appropriate primary sources and relevant secondary materials. The thesis should articulate a clear argument or conceptualization of an issue or set of issues. The focus of the argument should be narrow enough to allow the student to finish the thesis within the allotted time and in about 100 pages, but broad enough to allow the student to consider the scope and significance of the argument being developed.
The honors thesis provides the student with an opportunity to polish writing and composition skills, and construct a coherent narrative and a unified argument supported by an analysis of varieties of evidence. It will have a beginning, a middle, and most importantly and end, which students should strive always to keep in mind, indeed to visualize.
“How can I possibly write a thesis?”
Experience shows that the success and satisfaction of the Honors students’ experience will depend largely on their relationship with their advisors. Choosing a topic, finding and using materials, identifying and developing the argument, writing and revising the various parts, then assembling them into a completed manuscript are all stages of the process that students should negotiate with the advisors’ help. Students should therefore arrange with the advisor a regular schedule for meeting and discussing progress on the project.
The process of researching and writing is often a solitary one, but to the extent possible we encourage students to share their experiences with each other and to seek the advice of faculty members as well as their peers. Thus we stress the importance of promoting solidarity in the small groups, reading each other’s work, offering helpful and friendly criticism or praise, and sharing methodological or documentary discoveries.
The single most important task of the advisor is to establish and maintain regular contact with the Honors student. This contact, however it takes place, is critical to the success of the student’s project. Advisors should help students to assess the viability of the project and the availability of the sources, to define and clarify topics and arguments, to use and to cite properly primary and secondary sources, to compose chapters, to revise arguments and to correlate the overall structure of the thesis. Advisors should make written comments on submitted chapters and return them to students in a timely fashion (within two weeks). In the fall advisors should read and prepare oral comments on all the first chapters submitted to the small group; in the spring advisors will read all completed theses submitted by students within the small group.
1. Read the thesis, paying attention to the various qualities mentioned above, and assess its merits.
2. Prepare questions and comments to initiate and guide the discussion during the oral examination. Please also prepare a version of questions and comments to share with the student.
3. Prior to the campus visit, should questions or concerns arise over a student's work, consult with department members.
4. On the basis of a comparative evaluation of the senior theses, be prepared to engage in discussion with faculty members to reach a consensus as to the degree of honors to be awarded. In the event that a consensus cannot be reached, the outside examiner will decide the degree of honors, based on their assessment of the written work and the faculty-examiner discussion. The outside examiner should keep in mind that an oral examination can only help a student; it cannot lower a prior evaluation of the written work.
5. General criteria for degrees of honors:
a) Highest Honors: Student demonstrates rigorous use of primary and secondary sources, notably strong analytical and interpretative skills, and the exemplary exercise of independent judgment in the crafting of a forceful argument. The writing is excellent.
b) High: Student makes more than competent use of primary and secondary sources, displays sound analytical and interpretative skills, and demonstrates the effective exercise of independent judgment in the crafting of a coherent argument. The thesis is very well-written and of even quality.
c) Honors: Student makes competent use of primary and secondary sources, displays adequate analytical and interpretative skills, and shows some evidence of independent judgment in the crafting of a coherent argument. The thesis is well-written but of uneven quality.
d) No honors: Student fails to use primary and secondary sources competently and does not construct and sustain a clear argument.
Guidelines for Thesis Formatting and Submission
Theses are to be double-spaced (except for reduced quotations), copied front and back, and in black ink. Print copies should be 16 or 20# white bond paper of good quality, 8 ½ x 11 inches. Footnotes and matters of style should conform to Kate Turabian’s Manual for Writers or the Chicago Manual of Style
The opening pages will be as follows:
p. 1 Half-title page: the title of the thesis, in CAPS, centered in both directions.
p. 2 Title-page, arranged thus:
(just above center, in CAPS and lower case)
(your name as it will appear in the commencement program)
A thesis presented for the A. B. Degree with Honors in History
(Center these words toward bottom)
(Lower right corner)
p. 3 Author may include acknowledgments on this page.
p. 4 Abstract (one page or less)
p. 5 (Table of) Contents
Reference notes may appear on the proper pages, or they may be collected at the end of each chapter, and may be numbered by either pages or chapters. The thesis concludes with appendices, if any, and then a bibliography of works consulted that is divided into primary sources and secondary studies. Left-hand margins must measure 1 ½ inches, the other 1 inch. Page-numbers appear in upper right-hand corners and run consecutively throughout, including appendix and bibliography pages.
The title on the spine of the bound copy can accommodate only 65 characters including the author’s last name and a space between each word. It is advisable that the first part of the title be indicative of the content of the thesis.
Students may wish to see examples of Department of History honors theses located in Seitz lounge.
Submission of Theses
Honors students will submit two hard copies of their thesis and one electronic copy as follows:
Please copy and paste the following link into a new browser for instructions:
If you encounter any issues or have questions, email Abigail Miller at: firstname.lastname@example.org or call at 740-427-5668.