History Honors Thesis Program

What is the History Honors Thesis Program?

The History Honors Thesis Program is the most advanced program of study offered by the History Department and the only route to graduating with Honors in History. History Honors students select their own topic for their thesis. Under the supervision of the Honors Director and a Faculty adviser, students research and write a significant piece of historical scholarship based on primary and secondary sources. History Honors theses range from 70 – 200 pages. Through these projects, students develop and advance a historical argument based on their research.

Over the course of their senior year, Honors students enroll in a three-course sequence. This sequence commences in the fall term with HIST 98, Honors Seminar, a seminar in historical methods and historiography, and continues with HIST 99.01 and HIST 99.02, Honors Thesis, in winter and spring terms. Students receive one course credit in the major for HIST 98; HIST 99.01 and HIST 99.02 do not count towards the ten credits required for the history major, but each carries one course credit. Students are required to take all three course credits to complete the Honors program.

To receive Honors, students must successfully complete their thesis and maintain a B+ average in the Honors Program. Awards of Honors and High Honors in History are made by vote of the History Department faculty as a whole.

Can I—should I—write an Honors Thesis?

Students eligible to apply to the History Honors Program are History majors who, by the fall term of their senior year, have achieved an overall College grade point average of 3.0 and one of 3.5 in History, based upon a minimum of five graded History courses. If you meet these eligibility criteria, you should consider applying to the Honors Program. Keep in mind that a successful thesis requires a substantial commitment of time, energy, intelligence, and especially self-motivation. While in most courses, a syllabus tells you what you are to accomplish, week by week; to research and write a thesis you must set your own goals and work schedule. Your adviser will help you and monitor your progress, but the responsibility falls very much upon you.

This responsibility brings anxieties, but also enormous satisfaction and a justified sense of accomplishment. An Honors thesis allows you to "do" history, to conduct original research into a subject that fascinates you, to interpret and analyze your findings, and to make them your own by formulating them as a coherent narrative or argument. Such an experience is essential if you are considering graduate work, especially graduate work in history. It is also extremely valuable if you are not. The ability to conceive, structure, and see to the end a large independent project of this scope is a serious accomplishment, that will teach you – and convey to others – intellectual and organizational capacities that mere transcripts do not.

What if my academic record does not meet the eligibility criteria?

If you have a research project that you wish to pursue as part of the Honors Program but you do not meet the criteria of eligibility, either because your grades fall short of the required grade point average or because you have not yet taken enough History courses, you may petition for admission to the program. If there is space in the program, the History Department will consider such petitions. You should submit a petition, explaining why you should be admitted to the History Honors Program, along with the standard application form that includes the name of your faculty adviser. If you expect to petition for admission to the Honors Program in 2022-23, please contact Professor Paul Musselwhite (Paul.P.Musselwhite@Dartmouth.edu).

Does the History Department award any thesis prizes?

The History Department awards prizes every year to the best Honors theses in History. Go to our prizes page for a complete listing of prizes including current recipients. We announce the winners of the various prizes at the History Department's Senior Reception on the Saturday evening of Commencement Weekend and their names appear in the Commencement Program.

Is funding available?

There are a range of different funds available to help with the cost of research.

As you develop your research ideas, in consultation with your faculty adviser, you should consider what primary sources you need to use and how you will access them. You may need to travel to archives in other parts of the United States or abroad. Various grants exist across campus to fund thesis research, and they can cover expenses such as travel, a hotel room, food. They can also pay for copies and/or digitized materials from archives.

Funding is available through Undergraduate Advising and Research (UGAR), the Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Leslie Center for the Humanities. Funding from these sources is particularly necessary if your project requires extensive travel and/or travel outside the United States. It is important to be aware that applying for these funds may require advanced planning. The deadlines for funding come in the term before the term in which you hope to use the funds. If you hope to fund research in the Fall term you should apply in the Spring of your junior year. Along with thesis grants that can be used during the year, UGAR also offers leave term grants; enterprising students hoping to use the summer before their fourth year to conduct thesis research might consider applying for one of these grants.

The History Department also has limited funds available for History Honors projects that can help fund shorter research trips to nearby locations. Click here for the application.