History Department

Research Requirement in History

The creative exploration of a historical problem through independent research is an essential part of learning to do history. The History Department therefore requires its majors to undertake at least one substantial research project under faculty supervision before graduation. A research project includes the delineation of a topic and the evidence relating to it (both primary and secondary), mastery of this evidence, and the interpretation of it in the form of a long paper. The faculty member supervising the project provides guidance about basic reference materials in the field, comments on outlines and drafts of the paper, and at the conclusion of the project supplies the student with a detailed written evaluation of the work.

Students may satisfy the research requirement in one of three ways:

1. Senior Honors thesis. To write an Honors thesis a student finds a thesis supervisor (preferably in the spring of his or her junior year), enrolls in a senior thesis tutorial (HIST 409) at the start of the senior year, and continues during the second semester (HIST 410) until the completion of the thesis, due on Friday, April 11, 2014 by 4:00 p.m.  The writers of successful theses not only satisfy the research requirement and receive two tutorial credits, but also graduate with Honors in History. Majors who are writing theses are expected to make a presentation about their research to the department's Honors Colloquium, which meets late in the first semester. (NB: History thesis writers are normally eligible for Davenport Grants that provide research support during the preceding summer; this can give the work an advantageous head start.)

2. Senior Essay. This project requires work roughly equivalent to a semester course, in the form of an individual tutorial leading to a substantial research paper. Normally between thirty-five and fifty pages in length, a senior essay usually pursues in greater depth an interest developed in another course. A student who elects to write a senior essay enrolls in HIST 403 in the fall of their senior year and carries on research and writing under the regular supervision of a faculty member throughout the semester. Exceptionally, the project may be undertaken in the spring, as HIST 404.

3. Seminar. Students who do not undertake an Honors thesis or senior essay enroll in an upper-level History seminar (numbered 300-399) during the senior year and arrange with the instructor to complete a special research project in conjunction with the course, with the aim of meeting the research requirement. This research project (commonly a considerably more substantial version of the term paper required in the course) is similar in its purpose to a senior essay and is closely supervised by the instructor, but it is undertaken as an adjunct to a course (normally for no extra credit) instead of as an individual tutorial.

For students entering the major after January 1, 2013, who satisfy the research requirement in an advanced seminar.  The seminar must be in one of the student's chosen modules and the seminar cannot count toward the three-seminar requirement which is part of the major program.

In unusual circumstances, and with the approval of the chair of the department, the research requirement may be met by an arrangement other than those specified above.

Work submitted in fulfillment of the research requirement, no matter in which of the above forms, must receive a grade of B- or better. When the research requirement is complete, a form is filled out and signed by the supervisor and major adviser to that effect. 

Click to download the Junior Research Requirements and Senior Research Requirements forms.