• Student in Chair Studying

    History Research

    Senior Honors Essay

    As seniors, history majors have the option to pursue Departmental Honors by writing a Senior Honors Essay. Students are encouraged to consider this demanding option. The College requires that a student has a GPA of 3.25 or higher in the major and a demonstrated competency for pursuing independent work. The department recommends that a student has a GPA of 3.5 or higher in the major, a demonstrated competency for pursuing independent work, a demonstrated ability to write a thorough historiography, and a demonstrated ability to engage extensively with primary sources. The departmental expectations regarding a Senior Honors Essay in History are as follows: 

    The paper  

    A Senior Honors Essay in History must make an original contribution to scholarship. In the words of the College guidelines, “it should exhibit distinctive scholarship, originality of thought, relevance to a major issue in the discipline, and competent writing ability.”  

    A Senior Honors Essay in History is a long paper—typically between 40 and 100 pages (10,000 – 25,000 words)—the heart of which is the student’s critical interpretation of primary sources. Interpretation of primary sources should constitute approximately one-half of the paper.  

    A Senior Honors Essay in History is expected to follow the standard format for essays in the discipline, which include an argument, a thorough historiographical review, a statement of the contribution the essay makes to the field, and an interpretation of primary sources to support the argument.  

    Students are expected to master the historiographical field or fields appropriate to their topic. This involves reading and reviewing many secondary sources, at least 30 and often many more.  

    While the differing nature of primary sources precludes a guideline as to how many the student need interpret, the primary sources must justify the student’s sustained interpretation.

    The process

    Proposals must be approved by the entire department and are due on April 1 of the year prior to graduation (In accordance with CLA Departmental Honors Project Guidelines: under extraordinary circumstances, such as when the student has been studying abroad during spring semester, the proposal MUST be turned in the first Monday after the start of Fall semester). This means that students should begin identifying a topic, working with an advisor, and preparing the proposal, at the start of the spring semester.  

    Students are registered for the honors essay as HIST 5010 in the fall of the senior year. (They do not take a senior seminar.) However, students must expect to work on the project for a full year including the summer before senior year, the fall semester, and the spring semester.  

    If at any point in the process, the project advisor decides that the project is not of honors quality, the honors essay will be converted to an Independent Study (HIST 5980). The student will still be able to graduate, but will not receive departmental honors. Conversion to an Independent Study is at the advisor’s discretion. The student may also decide to withdraw from the honors project or to switch to an independent study, in which case it is the student’s responsibility to notify in writing Registration and Records of this decision.   

    The student needs to complete the first draft of the honors essay by the end of the fall semester. If the draft is not completed at that point, and in the absence of compelling circumstances, the project will be converted to an Independent Study.   

    Following submission of a completed first draft, the advisor will work with the student on an extensive revision process that typically requires additional secondary research; additional primary research; deleting large amounts of text; adding large amounts of text; rewriting the entire draft. Typically a senior honors essay will go through at least four full drafts before it is ready for defense. Please note that this rewriting process and the demands it places on the student-scholar are the most difficult part of the honors essay experience. The nature of undergraduate education in the United States means that prior to this, students have written papers until they were due; many have never rewritten in any meaningful way. Here, for the first time, we demand that you write and rewrite a paper not until it is due but until it is excellent. This is a difficult and demanding process, intellectually and psychologically.  

    During the fall semester of the senior year, the student and project advisor compile a committee of scholars who will read the paper and question the student at the honors defense. A committee is made up of (1) the advisor; (2) another historian in the Hamline History Department; (3) another member of the faculty of Hamline University; (4) a scholar from outside Hamline, typically an historian with expertise on the topic. Early in the spring semester, the student contacts the members of the committee to agree on a two-hour meeting time in late March or April. [According to CLA guidelines the defense must take place a full month before the day of that year’s commencement]

    The defense

    At the defense, the student makes a brief (10-minute) presentation on the process and on the paper. The members of the committee then ask the student a series of questions. The student then leaves the room and the committee confers. The student is then informed of the committee’s assessment. The committee may choose to pass the essay with no revisions, pass the essay with minor revisions, pass the essay with major revisions, or deny the essay honors status and convert it to an Independent Study. Students who are asked to make revisions have until the end of April to do so, under the supervision of their advisor.

    Recent Collaborative Research

    Summer 2016: Joseph Grundhoefer, The Katyn Massacre
    Summer 2017: Alex Schmidt, The Rise of the Washburn Crosby Company