Undergraduate Studies

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 three-course sequence:
    • HY 399 (Honors Colloquium)
    • HY 498 (Thesis research)
    • HY 499 (Thesis writing)

Note that while all three of these courses are required to complete the Thesis, HY 399 may be taken concurrently with either HY 498 or 499, should scheduling concerns require doing so.


The general process of beginning a thesis is as follows:

  • In the spring semester of their junior year, interested students should enroll in HY 399 and secure an adviser who shares their research interests and agrees to direct the thesis. In the Fall of their senior year, thesis writers should enroll in HY 498. In the spring, they should enroll in HY 499.
  • As early as possible (ideally during HY 399), the student and adviser should solicit two other faculty members to serve as readers/graders of the thesis. (Note that one member of the committee may be selected from outside the Department of History.)
  • Student and adviser will then meet regularly with their main adviser throughout the following year, spending the Fall conducting research and the spring drafting the thesis itself. Students may consult periodically with the other two committee members as well, though the main adviser is responsible for overseeing completion of the thesis.

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.