Capstone Thesis

All students in the History Department are required to write a senior paper or to produce a senior project to demonstrate competency as a history major. Visit Ramsey Library Special Collections to view papers from previous years.

Capstone Thesis Requirement


Preparatory work:

  1. Successful completion of HIST 250 and 451
  2. A thesis-proposal approved by instructor and a second reader chosen in consultation with the instructor
  3. An annotated bibliography approved by instructor and the designated second reader
  4. On-time submission of all outlines, drafts, peer critiques, etc. for HIST 452

A Senior Thesis must have:

  1. 20-25 pages of text (not counting front and back matter, notes, maps, photos, biblio., etc.)
  2. A clear thesis that makes a contribution to the field or offers a fresh perspective
  3. A historiographical section that surveys pertinent secondary literature
  4. Strong, well-developed arguments based on original research in primary sources. The argument must not rely too heavily on one or two sources
  5. Documentation in Chicago (Turabian) style
  6. A thorough survey of sources, both primary and secondary (we recommend at least TWENTY primary and secondary sources)
  7. The thesis should be driven by primary sources, and at least 60% of the footnotes must be primary sources
  8. Nuanced interpretations of primary sources, including an awareness of authorship, dating, bias, audience, and type of document
  9. Footnotes rather than endnotes
  10. An average of at least one footnote per paragraph
  11. An annotated bibliography including only sources actually cited in the paper, divided into two sections: primary and secondary sources
  12. Secondary sources that include journal articles, but not survey textbooks or general encyclopedias (and not Wikipedia or other dubious online sources)
  13. Justifications for secondary sources older than thirty years must be included in the annotated bibliography

Students must demonstrate these basic historical skills:

  1. Thorough research
  2. Critical analysis of sources
  3. Creative synthesis
  4. Cogent argumentation
  5. Clear writing
  6. Responsible quotation
  7. Impeccable documentation
  8. The ability to collaborate with other historians, demonstrated through documented consultation with the designated Second Reader a minimum of two times during the 452 semester