Distinction in History
Distinction Thesis in History – Letter from Undergraduate Director, Mark Schmeller
Dear History Majors,
The History Department offers a program of “Distinction in History.” Undergraduate majors who demonstrate outstanding academic accomplishment by successfully completing a senior thesis project, and by maintaining a 3.4 cumulative GPA through graduation, will earn this designation upon graduation. Juniors and seniors are eligible to participate.
The thesis is a substantial piece of research and writing carried out over two or more semesters. Such an accomplishment, distinguishing its author as an outstanding student, will provide a very impressive credential for those applying to graduate school or law school. The experience of thesis research and writing will also serve as valuable preparation for graduate-level coursework.
The Distinction Thesis in History
Beginning the Project: Students who wish to undertake a thesis should first locate a faculty advisor who agrees to supervise the project and approves the topic. This should normally be done during spring of junior year, but in no case later than early September of senior year. (For December graduates, it should be done at least one year prior to graduation.) Students who will be seniors next year need to be making these arrangements now. Students should have a GPA of at least 3.4 when beginning thesis work, and must end with a cumulative GPA of 3.4 or better in order to earn distinction.
Coursework: While the Department does not dictate a specific program of coursework for thesis students, we strongly recommend that students consult with their thesis advisor to select advanced courses (including graduate-level courses, if any are available) that might be relevant to their research. Students completing a senior thesis are not required to take HST 401, the senior research seminar. However, the research and writing skills emphasized in this course offer excellent preparation for thesis work, and we encourage thesis students to consider taking a 401 during junior year.
Thesis Credits: In each semester of their final year (normally fall and spring of senior year), students enroll in 3 credits of thesis work under HST 495 (first semester) and HST 496 (second semester)* for a total of 6 credits, with a letter grade to be given each term by the thesis advisor. Students register for 495 and 496* by obtaining approval from their thesis advisor to secure a student specific permission from the Office Coordinator. HST 495 and HST 496 may count as upper-level coursework toward the major. A student who fails to complete the thesis, or fails to earn distinction, may still (at the advisor’s discretion) receive credit for one or both semesters.
*Honors students should also register for HST 496 at the start of the second semester; the Honors Program will accept this course in lieu of HST 499.
Thesis Proposal: By the end of the first semester of their senior year, but no later than the last day of final exams for the semester, students must submit a formal thesis proposal which must be approved by at least two of the three faculty who will form the student’s final committee. Approval is necessary before the student can continue into the final semester of thesis work.
Completion and Defense: The completed thesis will be read and evaluated by a committee consisting of the advisor and two other faculty readers. At least two of the three evaluators must be members of the History Department. At the end of the final semester, students must give an oral presentation (“defense”) based on their thesis work and take questions from their committee. The thesis draft for the oral defense should be completed and submitted no later than the last day of classes for that semester. The committee will then judge the thesis as either “Satisfactory” or “Not Satisfactory” for purposes of meeting the Department’s standards for Distinction. The final thesis should be submitted no later than the date final grades are due.