April 1, 1998
The Department of History Honors Program offers students a unique opportunity to work intensively on a year-long project with one or two faculty members and a small group of peers. We encourage history majors to consider this option, which over the years students and faculty have always considered one of their most rewarding experiences at Kenyon.
The Honors Program allows qualified history majors to pursue a year-long independent research project on a topic of their choice, in close consultation with one or more History faculty members. Students will produce a written work of approximately 80 to 100 or more pages, complete with footnotes, bibliography, illustrations, maps, etc. In the spring, the department will invite outside examiners to read and assess the students' work, and they will suggest the degree of honors to be assigned to each student's honors thesis. To clarify the stages of the program and the expectations of all participants -- students, faculty advisors, and outside examiners -- the department has composed the following guidelines.
Students should start thinking about whether they wish to pursue honors toward the end of the sophomore year. They should figure out if they will be likely to meet the GPA requirement, and plan to take one junior honors seminar in their junior year. Juniors interested in pursuing honors should start thinking about the topic of their future research, and discussing their interests with members of the history faculty. Juniors who go off campus for one or both semesters need to plan ahead carefully, and contact the history department and relevant faculty members about their honors project while they are away (if they are absent in the spring semester).
B. Requirements and Procedures
1) GPA: An overall cumulative average of 3.2 is required by the Social Sciences Division of the College for participation in Honors. The Department of History requires a cumulative average of 3.33 in all history courses by the end of the junior year.
2) A student who expects to meet the GPA requirement should enroll in one semester of junior honors seminar, normally in the junior year. Sophomores who know in advance that they will be off campus for the entire junior year may take a junior honors seminar in the second semester of the sophomore year, or in the first semester of the senior year.
3) IN THE SPRING OF THE JUNIOR YEAR, all students who plan to pursue honors MUST make contact with (office visit, phone, e-mail, letter, fax, etc.) a member of the history faculty and discuss research topics for their honors essay. Once students have discussed plans for honors with a faculty member, and received positive encouragement to proceed with their plans, they should go ahead and enroll in senior honors during the spring registration period.
4) OVER THE SUMMER BEFORE THE FIRST SEMESTER OF THE SENIOR YEAR, students planning to pursue honors should follow up their exploratory discussions with faculty members by preparing a preliminary bibliography of the major scholarship and some primary sources on the subject they plan to research. This bibliography normally will be several pages in length, depending on the topic, and should be arranged in some kind of order (by types of sources, alphabetized overall and within categories). It need not be perfectly polished or completely definitive. Prospective honor students, therefore, should try to plan their summers so as to allow some time in a library or access to a computer connected to online library catalogues.
Over the summer students should feel free to contact faculty for help and further consultation, keeping in mind, of course, that faculty may be away or unreachable for all or part of the summer. In addition, students may make adjustments in the framework or conceptualization of their original topics, in accordance with their initial findings in compiling the preliminary bibliography. The preliminary bibliography is NOT a CONTRACT IN STONE, but should get students started in order to make the best possible use of time in the fall.
5) Formal admissions into the honors program will be determined in the fall of the senior year, and will depend on students' GPA standing, on their preparation for the first fall meeting of prospective honors students, and on the viability of their proposed research project.
II. Structure and Expectations of the Honors Program.
Honors students and faculty members will meet at least three times in small groups throughout the fall, and once in the spring before the March break. Groups will consist of no more than six students. Students and advisors in each small group are responsible for reading all the first chapters discussed in the fall meetings. At the end of the year, advisors are responsible for reading all the theses produced by the students in their small group. Students and advisors should maintain close and regular contact throughout the year (e-mail, regular office meetings, etc.), and advisors should return students' draft chapters with written comments in a timely fashion.
Every year at least one faculty member is assigned to supervise the senior honors program. The supervisor should make sure throughout the course of the year that both students and advisors understand the guidelines laid out here, and that groups are meeting regularly. The supervisor is also responsible for arranging the visits of outside examiners in the spring.
B. Schedule of Meetings and Submissions
1. First fall meeting: normally held in the second week of classes.
All prospective honors students and history faculty will meet together to discuss the
students' preliminary bibliographies and research plans. Students must submit sufficient copies of their bibliographies in advance, so that they can be distributed to all participants. At this time, each student will be assigned to a principal faculty advisor, ordinarily the member with whom the student has already been working. Depending on the number of honors students, efforts will be made to ensure that all faculty members are advising a student. Students and faculty will also be assigned to small groups, each group consisting of no more than six students and their faculty advisors, with the faculty distributed as evenly as possible (area-wise) among or between the groups.
2. Second fall meeting: end of September.
Students will present a prospectus and fuller bibliography of their topic at small group meetings. The prospectus should set forth the lines of inquiry motivating the project, and suggest a framework for the analysis.
3. Third fall meeting: end of October.
Students will present a chapter (it may, but need not, be the first chapter) to their small groups. All group members must read all the chapters presented to their group, and everyone is expected to contribute to the discussion of each chapter.
4. Second chapter: due before December break.
Small groups will NOT meet to discuss the second chapter, but students MUST turn in a complete draft, in prose form (not outline) of a second chapter before leaving campus for the winter vacation. Non-submission of a second chapter will result in withdrawal from the honors program. Students who withdraw thus from the program will retroactively receive credit and a letter grade for a senior seminar, based on their advisor's evaluation of their first chapter.
5. Fourth meeting: early February, within 2 weeks of students' return to campus.
Small groups should meet once in the early part of the second semester to share progress and frustrations in research and writing. Any students who wishes to have the group read part of work in progress, or a revised chapter, may submit that to the group at this meeting. Students and advisors should construct a schedule specifying dates for submission of chapter outlines and/or draft chapters.
6. Final Submission: late April.
It is critical that advisors maintain close contact with students in the final stages of writing, revising, and preparing a polished version of the honors thesis.
7. Outside examination: early May.
A copy of these guidelines should be sent to each outside examiner.
Outside examiners advise the department on the degree of honors awarded to each student, and the department determines the letter grade. The degree of honors may be: highest, high, and honors. It is possible that a student may also receive no honors.
At the conclusion of the oral examinations, outside examiners will meet with the faculty in small groups, then with the department as a whole.
C. Withdrawal from the honors program.
Students may withdraw voluntarily at the end of the first semester or at the beginning of the second semester. They will retroactively receive credit and a letter grade for an independent study based on their advisor's evaluation of the work completed in the first semester. Students who fail to submit a second chapter before winter vacation will also be asked to withdraw from the program. The inability to lay eyes on a major source or archive should not prevent a student from completing a second chapter (which will undoubtedly be revised anyway) before winter break, and so will not be accepted as an excuse for an extension.
Students who withdraw later in the spring will likewise receive appropriate credit and a grade for a senior seminar based on their advisor's evaluation of their work.
Advisors may sometimes suggest that a student withdraw from honors. In such a case, the faculty supervisor should review the case and make a final determination.
D. Expectations of students.
"What is an honors thesis?"
An honors thesis is a product of original research based upon the use of appropriate primary sources and relevant secondary materials. The thesis should articulate a clear argument or conceptualization of an issue or set of issues. The focus of the argument should be narrow enough to allow the student to finish the thesis within the allotted time and in about 100 pages, but broad enough to allow the student to consider the scope and significance of the argument being developed.
The honors thesis provides the student with an opportunity to polish writing and composition skills, and construct a coherent narrative and a unified argument supported by an analysis of varieties of evidence. It will have a beginning, a middle, and most importantly an end, which students should strive always to keep in mind, indeed to visualize.
"How can I possibly write a thesis?"
Experience shows that the success and satisfaction of the honors students' experience will depend largely on their relationship with their advisors. Choosing a topic, finding and using materials, identifying and developing the argument, writing and revising the various parts, then assembling them into a completed manuscript are all stages of the process that students should negotiate with the advisors' help. Students should therefore arrange with the advisor a regular schedule for meeting and discussing progress on the project.
The process of researching and writing is often a solitary one, but to the extent possible we encourage students to share their experiences with each other and to seek the advice of faculty members as well as their peers. Thus we stress the importance of promoting solidarity in the small groups, reading each other's work, offering helpful and friendly criticism or praise, and sharing methodological or documentary discoveries.
E. Expectations of Advisors.
The single most important task of the advisor is to establish and maintain regular contact with the honors student. This contact, however it takes place, is critical to the success of the student's project. Advisors should help students to assess the viability of the project and the availability of the sources, to define and clarify topics and arguments, to use and to cite properly primary and secondary sources, to compose chapters, to revise arguments and to correlate the overall structure of the thesis. Advisors should make written comments on submitted chapters and return them to students in a timely fashion (within two weeks). In the fall advisors should read and prepare oral comments on all the first chapters submitted to the small group; in the spring advisors will read all completed theses submitted by students within the small group.
F. Expectations of Outside Examiners.
1. Read the thesis, paying attention to the various qualities mentioned above, and assess its merits.
2. Prepare questions and comments to initiate and guide the discussion during the oral examination.
3. Prior to the campus visit, should questions or concerns arise over a student's work, consult with department members.
4. On the basis of a comparative evaluation of the senior theses, initiate suggestions for the degree of honors in consultation with members of the department, keeping in mind that an oral examination can only help a student; it cannot lower a prior evaluation of the written work.
5. General criteria for degrees of honors:
a) highest: creative use of primary and secondary sources, strong interpretative and analytical skills, excellent writing, and composition.
b) high: good use of primary and secondary sources, makes an effort to analyze and interpret, writes well, very good, but of uneven quality.
c) honors: competent use of materials, ability to construct and sustain a coherent argument.
d) no honors: fails to use sources competently, does not construct and maintain a clear argument.