The Department of History encourages highly qualified history majors with junior standing to consider pursuing history honors, which entails preparation of a research thesis under the guidance of a faculty director, during two of the student’s last four terms at Gordon. The minimum requirement for application to the honors program is a cumulative GPA of 3.65 in the major and 3.00 overall as of the first term of the student’s junior year. Also required are academic excellence and good writing skills, as demonstrated in the student’s course work. If a student’s research proposal receives departmental approval, the candidate then enrolls in HIS 471 and 472 (Research I and II), develops a substantial thesis paper, and defends the thesis orally to history faculty and fellow students.
Preparing a Thesis Proposal
Interested students should discuss their thesis topic ideas with a potential proposal sponsor—normally the faculty member whose teaching specialty is closest to the student’s field of historical interest, and who would ultimately become the thesis director. It will be at this faculty member’s discretion (in consultation with other History Department members) as to whether the student’s academic record and topic ideas merit proceeding to the stage of preparing a proposal.
Having given this approval, the sponsor assists the student in the preparation of a proposal to be submitted to the department chair and evaluated by the department as a whole, leading to a decision as to whether the student should enter the program and proceed to the preparation of the thesis itself.
Only those topics can be done that pertain to some faculty member’s general field of specialty. If a student’s intended topic falls within the specialty of more than one faculty member, the student has the option of consulting more than one potential sponsor.
Finally, it should be noted that the History Department is interested in the quality of its honors projects more than the quantity. Please be aware that, as a practical matter, the history faculty are able to work with only a limited number of honors students each year: each department member is restricted to directing two theses at the most in a given academic year. If a student wants to do a thesis and the appropriate faculty member is unable because of prior commitments, the student will need to find a topic within the field of expertise of some other available faculty member.
Template for Thesis Proposal
1. Formal Abstract (about one page, double spaced).
2. Initial "research plan," including guiding research questions and strategy for finding sources, worked out with a faculty member or library reference staff (about one page).
3. "Bibliography starter," describing prospective research (about one page).
Deadlines for submitting a proposal to the department chair
Fall: First Tuesday after fall recess/quad break (for those wishing to begin their thesis research in the spring term of that year).
Spring: First Tuesday after spring recess.
Samples of Thesis Topics
(Note that a copy of each completed honors thesis is placed in a book binding and housed permanently in Jenks Library.)
- Katie Gilbert: “Understanding the Person of John Climacus: A Syriac Codex, Ladder Illuminations, and Byzantine Iconography" (2015)
- Nathan Landis: "Humus Romanus: Evidence for Ecological Responsibility in Roman Agricultural Thought and Practice" (2015)
- Haley Drolet: "Between Artemis and Astarte: A Study in Religious Psychology and Literary Transmission" (2015)
- David Hicks, "Community Planning in Postwar Boston: A political and social history of a renewing urban landscape" (2014)
- Laz Mancilla, "Seeking the Place: Landscape, Spiritual Experience, and Theological Developments in the Eastern Mediterranean (100-400 A.D.)" (2013)
- Abigail Sargent, "Serving God Alone: Developments in the Practice of Anglo-Saxon Female Monasticism" (2013)
- Anna Yearwood, "Art and Prayer: Exploring Illuminated Manuscript Production" (2013)
- Hilary Sherratt, "Post-War: Jacques Maritain, Christianity, and the Rebuilding of Europe after 1945" (2012)
- Karin Pellinen, "The Baltic States: Achieving Peaceful Independence During the Collapse of the Soviet Union" (2012)
- Thomas Hunter, "Travellers in Flesh and Spirit: Monastic Mobility in Early Medieval Ireland" (2011)
- Joshua Paul Johnson, "The Mostellaria of Plautus: A Study in Hellenisation and Social Tension in Roman Italy Following the Second Punic War" (2011)
- Kirk Vanacore, "Progressive Pedagogy and the Development of the Modern Public Schools: The Influence Progressive Political Theory and Pragmatic Philosophy on Public Education in Early Twentieth Century America" (2010)
- Allison Kuhns, "A Picky People: The Relationship between Ancient Celts and their Leaders" (2009)
- Kirsten Swanson, “Kings and Clergy: The Effect of Christianity on Anglo-Saxon Kingship” (2009)
- Daniel Bell, “Philip Schaff and the Mercersburg Movement: Influences on his Theological Development and Historical Vision of the Church” (2008)
- Luke Suttmeier, "The Innovative Theocrat: Constantine and the Shaping of a Christian Empire" (2008)
- Michael Tishel, "The Forgotten Dialogue: On the Sixteenth Century Lutheran-Orthodox Correspondence and Reasons for its Abrupt Ending" (2008)
- Kirstin Hasler, “The United States, the United Nations, and the Partitioning of Palestine: A Study of U.S. Foreign Policy on Palestine, 1946-1947” (2007)
- Michael Limberg, “Red Sun, Yellow Peril, and White Battleships: The United States Navy in American Foreign Relations with Japan, 1901-1909” (2006)
- Kirsten Heacock, “Neither In Nor Out: Religion and Society in Fatimid Egypt” (2004)
- Jennifer Fry, “Theodore of Tarsus: Byzantine Cultural Influence on Anglo-Saxon England in the Seventh-Century” (2004)
- Emily Johnston, "Joseph Renzulli: An Example of Historical Change and Continuity in Education" (2003)
- Jennifer Monk, "Joseph Story: An Old Perspective on Church-State Relations in a New Context" (2002)
- Anne Sanders, “Power or Piety? Power struggle between clergy and monarchy in sixth-century Gaul” (2002)
- Elizabeth Watts, "'Beacon of the Bay': Abbess Hild of Whitby; Women and Double Monasteries Christianizing Anglo-Saxon England" (2001)
Public Presentation of Thesis
This 15-minute oral presentation will be part of an advertised event, conducted before History Department faculty and fellow students. The presenter sums up his/her thesis by describing its topic, research methods, and main conclusions, and then “defends” the work in response to questions from the audience. The presentation usually takes place at the end of the semester in which the student completes the thesis.
Thesis Format Specifications:
Although certain details can be worked out between the student and the Thesis Director, the following are standards of thesis format are common to all:
- Word count: the length of theses can vary, but most should fall in a range between 20-30,000 words. In terms of number of pages, this amounts to a range between 60-120 pages (double-spaced, 12-point font), with 75–90 pages as the average.
- Title Page and Table of Contents. These are separate pages to be included at the beginning of the thesis paper. It is helpful for the Table of Contents (and thesis text itself) to include subchapter headings, thus representing the general outline of each chapter. See copies of past theses for samples.
- Note: Students should specify on their Title Page that their written thesis is under copyright (specifying year of completion).
- The thesis will normally be divided into chapters, the number depending on the specific project and the organization of the material as the thesis develops.
- Citation method: notes should be formatted as footnotes, not endnotes. Notes should be used mainly for source citation: discursive (content) notes are sometimes necessary or useful, but they should be kept to a minimum.
- Bibliography format: arrange your bibliography in two subsections, separately headed as Primary Sources (this coming first) and Secondary Sources. List your sources in alphabetical order, by author’s last name, within each section.
- Specific format for notes and bibliography, as well as other matters of style, are covered in Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History (most recent edition). This booklet gives specifications that are standard for the Gordon College History Department and for historians generally. Rampolla follows the Chicago Manual of Style (MLA and APA style will not be accepted). For more information, see the Chicago Manual online.
- Note: Rampolla’s Pocket Guide also has a wealth of helpful information on researching and writing historical papers. Be sure to read it carefully in the process of writing your thesis.