Prior to your Senior year

You should begin thinking about and planning your thesis as soon as possible, but certainly during your Junior year. Before you apply to the History Honors program you must find a faculty member who approves your proposed topic and agrees to work with you to develop it and to advise your project throughout your Senior year. Typically you will already have taken courses with this professor and are proposing a topic within that professor's field of specialization.

By the end of the winter term of your Junior year you should have a thesis topic and arranged to work with a faculty advisor. Your proposal is due by the end of the second week of the spring term (by 4 pm on April 6, 2018). You may begin researching and refining your topic during the summer. Typically you will return to campus in the fall term with a much clearer understanding of the subject of your research, the questions your research will answer and what these answers are likely to be.

Senior Fall Term

You will enroll in HIST 98: Honors Seminar with the permission of the instructor. HIST 98 meets at least once a week and counts for one course credit toward the degree requirement. Please note that History 98 does not fulfill the seminar requirement of the current History major. The focus of the seminar is historiographic and methodological; it emphasizes the skills you need to research and write a thesis in history. You will also complete the bulk of your research for your thesis and begin its organization. HIST 98 will hone your research skills and introduce you to History's interim reference librarian, Ridie Ghezzi, an important source of information.

It is important to begin writing as soon as possible. Typically as part of the requirements of HIST 98 you will write an introduction to your thesis that includes a summary of the historiography of your topic. You will also meet regularly with your thesis advisor who may request a draft of another chapter or chapters. An Honors Thesis always requires rewriting and careful editing and this process always takes longer than one expects. Getting an early start prevents you from running out of time and producing a hastily written thesis that does not do justice to its subject or your abilities.

A special event connected to the Honors Program is the annual Allabough lecture. Each fall a distinguished historian visits Dartmouth to give a major public lecture. Afterwards, the speaker meets over dinner with the History Honors students to discuss historical research and writing. Past Allabough lecturers include: Professors Daniel T. Rodgers (Princeton University), "Age of Fracture: Social Ideas and Arguments at the End of the 20th Century”; Leonard Smith (Oberlin College), “Paris 1919: Rethinking Sovereignty at the Peace Conference”; Sir John Elliott (Oxford), "Contrasting Empires: Britain and Spain in America"; Benjamin Elman (Princeton), “Culture and Science in an East Asian Context, 1650-1800”; Martha Howell (Columbia), “The Dangers of Dress: The Clothing Laws of Western Europe, ca. 1300-1700"; Maya Jasanoff (Harvard), "Globalization at Sea: Writing History with Joseph Conrad"; and Ruth Ben-Ghiat (NYU), "The Long War of Italian Prisoners of War, 1940-1950: What We Learn from Studying Defeat," among others.

Continuation in the Honors Program after the fall term will depend on you obtaining a grade of at least B+ in History 98. In addition, your thesis advisor must be satisfied with your progress and recommend your continued participation. At the end of the fall term, you and your advisor will decide whether to continue with the thesis.

Senior Winter Term

You will enroll in HIST 99: Honors Thesis, with the permission of your thesis advisor. Normally HIST 99 is a two-term endeavor, carrying two credits toward the degree requirement but does not count toward the ten courses required for the major. A one-term thesis is possible but rare. In the past, History theses have ranged between 70 and 200 pages in length. Your thesis should present an original argument based upon your research in primary sources.

During this term you will meet regularly with your thesis advisor, complete your research and surge forward with drafting your thesis. You and your advisor will establish a schedule for when chapter drafts will be due. At the end of the winter term, you and your advisor will once again decide whether to continue with the thesis. If you do not continue, HIST 99 will be converted into HIST 97: Independent Study and your advisor will grade you on your work for the term. If you continue your thesis work, typically you will receive a grade of “ON” for the winter term. After you complete your thesis in the spring, your advisor will assign one or two letter grades  depending on whether you signed up for HIST 99 for one or two terms.

Senior Spring term

The push is on: this is the term that you must complete your thesis. We recommend that you arrive at the beginning of spring term with your entire thesis drafted so that you may use most of the term to incorporate your advisor's comments, fill any holes in your argument with additional research, and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite.

In mid-April, you will present your thesis to an audience of History faculty, students and any guests that you invite. This is not a thesis defense but a public presentation followed by questions. It is not an adversarial proceeding but rather one that, at this point in your thesis project, requires that you step back from the details of your argument to assess and articulate its overall interest, importance and point. This is often helpful for revising the introduction and writing the conclusion. During the week of April 9th, our current senior Honors Majors will be presenting their theses. If you are planning a History Honors thesis, we encourage you to attend some of these presentations. They will help you to understand the extent of thesis work, but also the extraordinary intellectual enjoyment of undertaking a thesis project.

May will be consumed with final revisions and the finishing process known as preparing your manuscript. This involves checking references, careful proofreading, assembling illustrations, tables, graphs or other non-text material, creating the bibliography, etc. We direct you to the Chicago Manual of Style or, for a more user-friendly version, to Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations, 7th edition (University of Chicago Press). And it involves having the final version copied and bound.


All theses are due in to the History Department Office by 4 pm on Monday, May 14, 2018.