Qualified history majors are encouraged to apply for the departmental honors program, consisting of six additional credits of research leading to a thesis. The honors program encourages students to develop high-level skills of analysis, argument, and expression through collective discussion of common research issues and through the preparation of individual research projects using primary materials. It places particular emphasis on the interpretation of historical evidence.
Admission to the honors program is based on the evaluation of the following criteria: the number of history credits (a minimum of 12), an overall QPA of 3.35 or above, a QPA of 3.5 or above in history, and proven writing ability. The honors program, which represents an additional six credits beyond the standard major, has distinct elements.
The newly created Honors Seminar (HIST 1902), normally taken in the junior year, familiarizes students with a variety of approaches for writing history, while focusing on a theme, issue, historical event, or era. The seminar encourages the development of basic research tools, stresses the use of documents and evidence in historical analysis, and provides an opportunity for students to work as part of an academically coherent group.
The second element, an Independent Study (HIST 1901), allows the students to work with an individual faculty member to produce a working plan for the honors thesis.
The third element is the Honors Thesis itself (HIST 1903), a paper of 25–50 pages based on original research, demonstrating familiarity with literature (plus a foreign language if relevant), the ability to use documents and other forms of primary evidence, a high level of writing skills, and the ability to construct a complex historical argument. Students orally defend their thesis. The experience of bringing a significant undergraduate research project to successful completion under the guidance of a professor is of substantial intellectual benefit to the student, and provides the student with a paper for applications to graduate school.
Finally, each honors candidate must complete one history course offered through the David C. Frederick Honors College.
Many students who have graduated with departmental honors find that the chance to write an original research paper on a topic of their choosing makes a very satisfying way to complete their undergraduate major in history.