Undergraduate Honors Thesis Guidelines

Students wishing to graduate with honors in history must complete a thesis during their senior year.

Course Requirements

Successful completion of the thesis requires the following:

  • Minimum GPA requirements: 3.0 in History, and 3.0 overall
  • Fulfillment of a two-course sequence:
    • Step  ONE: Complete HY 498 (Independent Thesis research) OR HY497 (Capstone Research Class)
    • Step TWO: Complete HY 499 (Thesis writing)


The general process of beginning a thesis is as follows:

  • There are two paths for writing an Honors Thesis.
    • Path One: First complete HY497 (History Capstone Research Seminar) in an exemplary fashion. Then, if a student would like to expand the paper that they wrote for the seminar into an Honors Thesis, they should meet with the faculty member that they would like to have supervise them. If the faculty member agrees to supervise the student, the student and the faculty member will sign a contract for HY499 (Honors Thesis Independent Writing). The student will then be cleared to register for HY499.
    • Path Two: Student identifies a topic and a faculty member under whom they would like to write an Honors Thesis. Instead of taking HY497 (Capstone Research Seminar), the student completes a semester of independent research under the supervision of a tenured or tenure-track faculty member. If a student would like to take this path, they should contact the faculty member to see if they are willing to supervise. If the faculty member agrees, the student and faculty member will sign a contract for HY498 (Honors Thesis Independent Research). The student will then be cleared to register for HY498. After the student has completed HY498, the student and faculty member will meet to decide if the student should go on to register for HY499 (Honors Thesis Independent Writing). If they agree to move forward, they will sign a contract for HY499.
      • Note that a student must complete HY498 in an exemplary fashion, meeting all expectations spelled out in the contract, in order to be able to move on to HY499. Students will move on from HY498 to HY499 at the supervising faculty member’s discretion.
      • Note that if a student chooses to take HY498 followed by HY499, they DO NOT have to also take HY497 to complete the requirements for the History Major.
  • To ensure sufficient time for evaluation, the thesis will be due to all committee members by December/April 1, depending upon the student’s graduation date.

Thesis Requirements

The submitted thesis must also adhere to these requirements:

  • Originality: Theses must convey a spirit of originality and discovery, though they need not make a wholly original contribution to scholarship. That is, students must come to their arguments from their own reading of the sources, even if it turns out previous scholars have made those arguments before.
  • Sources: The thesis must draw from substantial work in primary sources, as is appropriate to the thesis subject. Students must also be reasonably conversant with the relevant secondary literature, as is appropriate to the thesis subject. It is up to the main thesis adviser to establish and monitor these standards.
  • Length: The thesis must be 10,000–20,000 words and include the relevant scholarly apparatus: footnotes, bibliographies, separate chapters, and sections.
  • Grades: Committee members will assign a grade of either “Honors” or “No Honors” to each thesis. Two of the three committee members must grant the thesis an “Honors” designation for the student to satisfy this portion of the honors program. Should a student fail to do so, he/she may revise the thesis before the end of the Spring semester at the discretion of the main thesis adviser and committee. Whatever the decision on Honors, the main thesis adviser will be responsible for assigning the student letter grades for HY 498 and 499.