Senior Thesis

All candidates for honors in History & Literature prepare a senior thesis of between 10,000 and 20,000 words focused on a topic of interest to the student. The senior thesis is a researched critical essay that demonstrates an argument through analysis of relevant primary and secondary sources. 

In addition to your thesis adviser, who will be with you at every stage of the process, all of us in History & Literature are here to guide you through the capstone experience of your undergraduate career. A tentative choice of subject for the thesis is required in the spring of the junior year because we choose a senior tutor for you based on your topic. Then, in late September, you will submit a thesis proposal to the Tutorial Board for feedback and approval. In mid-November, seniors submit a substantial work-in-progress (usually in the form of a first chapter) that are read by other tutors and your classmates in peer writing workshops. Check our Calendar for the specific deadlines.

The completed thesis is due on March 1; in cases when March 1 falls on a weekend, the thesis will be due the preceding Friday. The 4:00 p.m. deadline on the thesis due date is firm. There are no exceptions without a dean’s permission. Students submitting theses after the 4:00 p.m. deadline will receive credit for HL99, but the thesis will not be sent out to readers for evaluation, and therefore the student will not be eligible for concentration honors. Students must turn in two identical copies of the thesis to the History & Literature office, Barker 122. 

While History & Literature students are encouraged to think creatively as they research and write their senior theses, genres conventionally grouped under the rubric of “creative” writing—novels, plays, poetry—do not meet the requirements for the senior thesis. Occasionally, a student may wish to include primary source material that s/he has produced him/herself, such as an oral history, photography, or a documentary film. Students wishing to include such primary source material should discuss the possibility with their tutor, include a description of the primary source material and the conditions of its production in the senior thesis proposal, and, somewhere within the thesis, include a justification for its inclusion. 

The thesis is graded by at least two outside readers who are members of the Committee on Degrees or Tutorial Board. If a reader determines that a thesis represents honors-level work, he or she will assign one of the following Latin grades: cum laude minus, cum laude, cum laude plus, magna cum laude minus, magna cum laude, magna cum laude plus, summa cum laude minus, summa cum laude. In the event that a reader decides that a thesis does not merit an honors designation, he or she may assign it a non-honors grade. In order to be eligible to graduate with highest honors in History & Literature, a student must receive at least one summa reading on the thesis.

History and Literature senior theses receiving at least two grades of magna and above are sent to the University Archives. Archived theses are catalogued in HOLLIS and can be read in the Archives' reading room in Pusey Library.