The “comprehensive requirement” for history majors involves successful completion of History 490 in the fall semester.

Sample Proposal 1

Sample Proposal 2

Senior Comps

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 Class of 2023 comps process?

Michael Gasper ( will teach the 490 course in Fall 2023. Each student will also have a primary thesis 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 Michael Gasper. The 490 instructor and the primary thesis advisor will read drafts and collectively evaluate the final paper in December. Other history faculty may also participate in these deliberations. Please note: there is a limit of two advisees for each primary thesis advisor.

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 a mark of distinction, pass, or fail. Independent of that, each student will also receive a final grade for the History 490 course. 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 History 490 for failure to complete other requirements (meeting preliminary deadlines, class participation, oral presentation, etc.).

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.

Who is eligible for Honors in the History Department?

Students who meet all three of the following requirements may be invited to expand their project for Departmental Honors:

  1. Earn an A or A- on their fall semester thesis;
  2. Have demonstrated excellence in their departmental courses; and
  3. Meet the GPA requirements of at least 3.25 overall and at least 3.65 in the major.

Students working towards Departmental Honors will continue in spring semester to work independently with their comps advisor, enrolling in a required 2-unit Independent Study, to complete their Honors thesis in advance of the Registrar’s spring deadline for the submission of senior comps marks. The Honors Thesis will be evaluated by the comps advisor and a second History faculty reader.  For further information, contact the department chair.

Are there research funds?

There are funds available through the Undergraduate Research Center (URC) Academic Student Projects grants. Contact Karla Hernández in the URC to investigate the possibility of funding research expenses or a research trip during summer break.

What should I do now?

The first thing to do is to think of your area of interest geographically, temporally, and thematically; begin to narrow it to a question or topic; and then to make an appointment to meet with an appropriate faculty advisor. Next, submit your Contract and then your Proposal. See the Timeline and Proposal links for more details.


Contact History
Swan Hall 112