Franklin & Marshall College Franklin & Marshall College

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Student Research

Independent Research with Faculty

Faculty members supervise independent studies, a number of which have received honors. Recent projects include "Free Black Resistance to Slavery: A Case of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 1804-1851," "Beyond England’s Control: Anglo-American Pirates in the Americas," "The Historikerstreit: German Historians and National Socialism," and "Nowhere to Go: The Political History of Section 936 and Puerto Rico's Dependence." Faculty members also sponsor student internships in public history. Follow the link for the list of recent Honors Projects (1990-Present).

Independent Studies and Directed Readings

Students often develop strong interests in particular subjects, and seek to pursue their own research with a particular member of the History Department. If carried out over two terms, Independent Studies (IS) can be the basis of an Honors Project. Any student considering an IS should carefully review the new departmental guidelines, posted below. In addition, students can request that a faculty member supervise a Directed Readings course, usually a version of an existing course not being taught that semester. Click on the PDF to the right to download guidelines on pursuing an Independent Study for Honors.  This information is also reproduced below.

Departmental Guidelines for Independent Study

  • History Department advisers should see that students indicate on their History Department seminar registration form whether they intend to undertake an independent study in the following semester.
  • Advisers should guide students toward selecting a faculty member to direct the proposed project who has demonstrated expertise in the field of the project. Exceptions must be discussed with the Chair.
  • When the Project Director and student complete the required Registrar’s Office Independent Studies form, they should agree on a time for meetings and completion of the project. The Project Director and student meet in person weekly during the planning and research phase of the project. They should review in person corrected rough drafts of the project.
  • Typically, one-semester independent studies produce a paper of at least 30 to 35 pages. All History Department papers for independent studies, directed readings, and tutorials should be presented in conformity with The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Typically, two-semester independent studies produce papers of at least 60 pages.
  • One-semester independent studies should incorporate a substantial body of primary sources, either in the original language or in translation. Students typically do not submit one-semester projects for Honors.
  • Two-semester independent studies should have solid grounding in primary sources. Primary sources should drive the thesis or provide substantial support for it. Quotations lifted from secondary sources do not qualify as primary sources.
  • When appropriate, independent studies should show how their treatment of the topic relates to current scholarship.
  • Project Directors should encourage students to apply for funding to support travel to collections or other research-related expenses.
  • Project Directors also should suggest that students have an appointment with a Research Librarian for help in compiling a research bibliography and locating appropriate primary sources.
  • Independent studies always are designated as HIS 49xx and may be cross-listed, although 490s completed in other departments do not necessarily qualify for cross-listing with the History Department.


Guidelines for Directed Readings and Tutorials

  • Students may request of a faculty member that s/he teach his/her course as a tutorial at its usual level of difficulty.
  • A faculty member may decline to lead a tutorial, especially if the faculty member has substantial departmental or college obligations. (The guideline in the History Department is that faculty members may assume up to two independent studies, tutorials, or directed readings in a three-course semester and up to three in a two-course semester.) Tutorials may include more than one student and should meet at least one hour per week. 400-level courses are not offered as tutorials, except with the permission of the chair.
Directed Readings:
  • Directed readings always are designated as HIS 39xx. They may be cross-listed.
  • A directed reading course should extend no longer than one semester.
  • Typically, students produce paper(s) totaling at least 30-35 pages.
  • Directed readings are intended for a student wishing to investigate the historiography of a specific topic or to pursue in-depth reading of primary sources.
  • Faculty advisers should guide students toward working with the faculty member most qualified in the student’s area of interest. Exceptions must be discussed with the Chair.


Requirements for Honors in History

Students may follow several paths to an Honors project. All students will have first taken History 360. Then, they may pursue more focused study of a topic in a seminar that will culminate the following semester in an independent study that may be proposed for Honors. Alternately, a student may begin his/her independent course of study after History 360 by engaging in two semesters of intense academic research and writing. After consulting with the Project Director at the beginning of the first semester of independent study, students should declare their intention of presenting a project for consideration for Honors. During the course of the independent study, the faculty adviser will help the student assess the quality of the project. As early as possible in the second semester, the Project Director will help the student decide whether to present the project for Honors, encouraging promising projects and discouraging those that do not promise to show a high standard of academic achievement. All the requirements for an independent study project obtain for Honors theses. Project Directors should point students who wish to earn Honors in the History Department to the College's policy for departmental Honors in the current College Catalog. Additionally, they must fulfill departmental requirements by doing the following:

  1. Take a minimum of four History courses, in addition to the Independent Study Project.
  2. Have a minimum grade point average of 3.30 in History courses before the current semester.
  3. During the first semester of an independent project that may be proposed for Honors, the Project Director will guide the student toward choosing an appropriate committee for the Honors defense. The committee will be comprised of three to five faculty members. At least two of the committee members will be from the History Department, of which at least one will hold a tenure-track appointment in the History Department. Another one or more of the committee members will hold an appointment in a department other than History. The Project Director never belongs to the examination committee.
  4. The Project Director should consult with any proposed member of the committee who might aid the student with the design of the project. By the beginning of the second semester of the independent project, the student must circulate his/her proposal and bibliography to all members of the Honors Committee. It is anticipated that faculty members provide feedback on the outline and bibliography. Should outside faculty be willing, they may read over early drafts of the project. If committee members forego reading drafts submitted to them, the History Department expects that they have no fundamental objections to the project and will not raise such objections at a time, such as the defense, when the student has no opportunity to revise his/her project substantially.
  5. The Project Director will encourage the student to make sure that the final draft of the project is in the hands of all committee members no less than two weeks before the scheduled defense date. Missing this deadline will result in cancellation of the Honors defense.


The Honors Defense

The Project Director convenes the defense. S/he secures a room and publicizes the defense. The Project Director prepares the student to make a ten- to fifteen-minute opening statement. This statement should explain the project, the research process, and any problems encountered in completing the project. The defense lasts two hours. During the defense, Project Directors will try to see that students have the opportunity to speak at length, without interruption. During the defense, panel members will restrict themselves to questioning the student and will refrain from speaking on the project or discussing it or related topics among themselves. After the Project Director explains the format for the oral defense to those assembled for the Honors defense, the student makes his/her opening statement. The student should defend the thesis orally to the examining committee. The Project Director may choose from several examination formats. For example, s/he may have each panel member ask one question and then a follow-up question in sequence until the time expires. Alternately, the Project Director may choose to have panel members ask questions for a set number of minutes. If time allows, a second, shorter round of questioning may ensue. During the question and answer period, the Project Director should refrain from comment. After the question and answer session, the Project Director invites the candidate and the observers, if any, to leave the room. The Committee then discusses the merits of the project and defense. The Committee members vote on whether the project deserves Honors, deserves Honors after the student revises the paper, or does not deserve Honors. If the Committee voted that the project deserves Honors after revisions, then its members tell the Project Director what the student must do to complete the project. The Project Director then invites the student back into the room and informs him/her of the outcome. If the Committee called for no revisions, the Project Director delivers the appropriate paper work to the Department Chair. If revisions are required, the Project Director meets with the student, tells him/her what is required, and reviews the project after the student completes the stipulated revisions. Then, the required paper work is submitted to the Department Chair. Students do not qualify for Honors until the Chair has received notification of completion of the revisions and submitted the appropriate paperwork to the Registrar. Finally, the Project Director tries to assure that successful candidates file a copy of the Honors paper, with revisions if required (see above), with the College archivist.

Stand: January 2008