The “comprehensive requirement” for history majors involves successful completion of History 490 in the fall semester.
History 490 requires each student to complete a 25-page essay of original historical research. We often refer to this paper as a thesis, or a paper that uses primary research to make an argument about the past and which is in conversation with existing historical scholarship.
Who oversees the comps process?
Professors Fett (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Gelbart (email@example.com) teach the 490 course. Each student will also have a primary advisor—a faculty member who specializes in the student’s research area. During the spring of junior year, students should consult repeatedly with their primary advisor. During the fall, those consultations should continue, but students will also receive feedback from Profs. Fett and Gelbart. The 490 instructors and the primary advisor will read drafts and collectively evaluate the final paper in December. Other history faculty may also participate in these deliberations.
What will determine my comps grade?
In order to graduate, students must complete a passing thesis. By late April, the registrar needs us to award each thesis distinction, pass, or fail. Independent of that, each student will also receive a final grade for History 490. The thesis will determine the bulk of that grade, but not its entirety. For example, a student who receives distinction (an A or A-) for his or her thesis may still get a final B or C in the 490 for failure to complete other requirements (meeting preliminary deadlines, class participation, oral presentation, etc.).
Who gets honors?
Students with sufficiently high GPA (3.25) overall can write an honors thesis. Senior history majors pursuing honors will take the Senior Seminar in the fall and, if invited by the Senior Seminar instructors in consultation with thesis advisors, will extend their thesis work in the spring Honors Seminar. The honors thesis is a 40-page paper, which demonstrates excellence in historical research, writing, and analysis, written under the supervision of the Honors Seminar instructor, the thesis advisor, and a third faculty reader. Students planning to try for honors must make known their intentions in a written proposal early spring semester of their junior year.
Are there any other rewards for writing a really good thesis?
A thesis that earns an A or A- from the committee of faculty readers may receive a notation of Distinction. Additionally, we have a cash prize for the best thesis in each category of regular and honors comps.
Are there research funds?
Yes, the History Department will fund certain projects through its Railroad Fund. There are additional funds available through the Undergraduate Research Center. Consider contacting someone there to investigate the possibility of funding a research trip summer break.
What should I do now?
The first thing to do is to think of your area of interest, begin to narrow it to a question or topic, and then to make an appointment to meet with an appropriate faculty advisor.
- Phone: (323) 259-2751
- Fax: (323) 341-4687
- Location: Swan Hall
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org