The first semester (course title: Honors Thesis I; offered every Spring semester) is dedicated to understanding how historical arguments are made and how historical data is collected and utilized. In professional parlance, this would be considered an introductory “methodology and historiography course.” In practice, students will approach different specific historical times and issues in a small group setting with a distinguished member of the faculty and work together to gain insight on how historical explanations are produced and what stakes are involved in the different strategies employed.

At the end of the first semester, students will produce a thesis prospectus that outlines what topic they would like to write their Honor’s thesis on in the second semester. This thesis prospectus will be written with the help and input of the seminar. It will outline the question the thesis will try to answer, the source base that will be used to answer it, and the big “so what” of the project. Each student will also enlist a topic-specific advisor from a member of the History Department with whom she or he will consult on how to produce the thesis proposed. This advisor will remain in contact with the student throughout the remaining time of the Honor’s Track program, will offer advice, will read one draft of the paper, and will participate in the final reading of the thesis for the seminar.

The second semester of the seminar (course title:  Honors Thesis II; offered every Fall semester) is dedicated to producing the thesis outlined in the prospectus. Seminar meetings will be held 4-5 times over the course of the semester, allowing students to share the progress of their work with each other, consult each other on problems they are facing, and generally help each other with the process of writing the thesis. There will be additional special one-on-one meetings with the seminar’s presiding faculty member and the student’s particular thesis advisor in order to review the progress of the work, provide advice to the student, read outlines, and in general to facilitate the work. A rough draft of the thesis will be handed in around Week 9 of the semester, on which both the advisor and seminar faculty leader will provide comments. A revised version of the seminar paper will be submitted at the end of the semester (Week 15). Upon submitting the final draft all students will provide a short presentation of their project to faculty and fellow students after which an Honor’s certificate will be awarded.

During the entire process, faculty will help interested students in applying for grants or summer research and to prepare presentations of the research both at UM and at history conferences for undergraduates. Students will be encouraged to join the national history honor society, Phi Alpha Theta.

To participate in the Honors Thesis Track students must contact the presiding faculty member during the registration period in the Fall semester prior to the beginning of the course in the Spring, upon which point the faculty member will sign a course admit slip if he or she deems the student is serious and prepared for the Honors Track program.  In 2017, Professor Karl Gunther will be leading the Honors Thesis seminars.

Completion of the Honors Thesis program will provide students with a revised writing sample that could be useful in applying for graduate-level professional schools. It will also help students build their resumés through winning grants and making presentations, as well as graduating with honors in history. Most importantly, participation in the Honors Thesis Track program promises to enrich the student’s capabilities as a writer, researcher, thinker, and historian.