Guidelines for Honors in History
All students considering Honors in History will have first taken HIS 260. Following successful completion of that course, a student may pursue one of two paths to Honors:
1. Continue focused study of a topic from a seminar that produced a strong research paper based on substantial original research. Upon the seminar’s completion, the student should approach either the seminar instructor or another member of the History Department qualified in the topic’s field with the request to supervise an additional semester of research and writing under the auspices of an Independent Study (HIS 490), with the goal of producing a final paper of at least 27,000 words.
2. Begin their independent course of study by engaging in two semesters of Independent Study dedicated to intense academic research and writing with the goal of producing a paper of at least 27,000 words eligible for Honors. During the course of the Independent Study, the Project Director will assess the quality of the project. As early as possible, the Project Director will help the student decide whether to present the project for Honors by encouraging outstanding projects and discouraging those that do not promise to reach a high standard of academic achievement.
By the beginning of the second semester of the independent project that may be proposed for Honors, the Project Director will guide the student toward choosing an appropriate Committee for a potential Honors defense. The Committee will comprise at least three but no more than five faculty members, with the option of including one from another department, program, or institution. (These guidelines should be shared with all external Committee members.) At least two of the Committee members will come from the History Department, of which at least one will hold a tenure-track appointment in the History Department. The Project Director never belongs to the Honors Committee. After organizing an Honors Committee, the student must distribute their draft proposal and bibliography to all members of the Committee to determine if any Committee member has particular concerns regarding the project’s methodology or direction. Thereafter, Committee members are expected to provide substantive feedback on the project as it develops. Throughout the process, the Project Director should consult with any member of the campus community who might aid the student with the project.
All the requirements for an Independent Study project obtain for Honors theses. Project Directors will 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, students must fulfill departmental requirements by having a minimum grade point average of 3.30 in History courses before the semester in which Honors is to be awarded.
The final project should be delivered to all Committee members no less than two weeks before the scheduled defense date. Missing this deadline will result in cancellation of the Honors defense. At least one week before the scheduled defense date, members of the Honors Committee are obligated to indicate if they believe that the project is of insufficient quality to warrant Honors no matter the quality of the oral defense.
The Honors Defense
The Project Director convenes the defense. They secure a room and publicize 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 their opening statement. The student should defend the thesis orally to the examining committee. The Project Director may choose from several examination formats. For example, they 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 them 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 them 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.