Acropolis, Greece

Honors Program

The History Department invites outstanding students to write a 40- to 80-page honors thesis. To qualify, you need to be a senior in the top 20% of the major. This means an upper-division History GPA of at least 3.65. You must have completed at least four 400- and 500-level History courses. One of these courses must be History 400W, in which you must have earned either an A- or an A.

Researching and writing an honors thesis will go with you into graduate school, into a profession, or into business – anywhere that the ability to do substantial, evidence-based, well-written research is prized. It will add extra depth to your undergraduate History major, and it will allow you to explore a topic of your own choosing more fully than you could in any other undergraduate course.

The Project

The honors thesis needs to include substantial work with primary sources. It also needs to include the scholarly context from relevant historical literature. Your thesis may also consider other perspectives, especially those that you can find in major, historiographically significant works about distant times and places. Such works – even if they are about societies hundreds of years and thousands of miles from your own sources and questions— can serve as a model for how to work with your material. You may base your honors thesis on a topic about which you have already written for another course. To be turned into a 40- to 80-page thesis, any project based upon work in a previous course will require complete reworking and rewriting. The size limit is 80 pages. This is not a goal but a limit. The goal is 40-50 pages of good prose, excluding apparatus and bibliography. This assumes the kind of formatting that publishers require -- generous margins and double-spacing for everything, including notes and block quotations.


Dr. Kate Edgerton-Tarpley
Phone: (619) 594-6985
Office: AL 538
Email: [email protected]

Beginning the Process

If you think you qualify, and you have some idea about one or more topics that you might want to research, please see the Honors Adviser. Bring an unofficial copy of your transcripts. The Honors Adviser will verify that you meet the GPA and other requirements. They will also help you to refine your ideas about a topic, and select a faculty member whom you could then ask to become your honors thesis supervisor, based upon that faculty-member’s areas of expertise. You will work with your supervisor to research and write the honors thesis. Once your supervisor has agreed, you will enroll for the 3-unit course, History 490, “Senior Honors Thesis,” with the permission of the Honors Adviser. Successful completion of History 490 will satisfy three units of History Elective for the Major.

Meeting Others Along the Way

Whether you are writing an undergraduate honors thesis, a Masters thesis, or a doctoral dissertation, one of pleasantest and most useful things to do is to join your fellow students in a thesis writers group. You will find that you want to compare notes – maybe literally. You can share insights and concerns about research methods, archival issues, historiographical questions, and the writing process itself. Once most everyone is well along in their first drafts, your group can meet frequently enough to circulate chapters, discussing a different member’s work every week. The insights that you would get from reading each other’s work can be very valuable; even more valuable is the need to get a chapter done in time for the other people to read it. Groups of three or four people can work great; so can groups of eight or ten, although you might have to have two presentations a week towards the end of the term. To help kick things off, the Honors Adviser will call everyone in the honors program together around week three of the term. This organizational meeting is a requirement. To help you stay in touch with your fellows, and to give you more insight into how other people carry out their research projects and write their works of history, everyone in the honors program is also required to attend each of the department’s brown bag research seminars (they are typically held about three times a semester), as well as the Appleby lecture in the spring.

And Finally…

Your supervisor will establish a due date somewhat before the end of the semester in which you take History 490 – early enough so there is time for the supervisor to evaluate the thesis well before finals week. Please give a copy of the thesis to the Honors Adviser as well. Completing the honors thesis brings special recognition at the History Department’s annual awards ceremony in the spring, and a Certificate of Recognition in History at graduation.