Senior Comps

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.

Honors Thesis:

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. 

Who oversees the comps process?

Professors Gasper (gasper@oxy.edu ) and Fett (sfett@oxy.edu) teach the 490 course in Fall 2019. 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. Gasper and Fett. 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 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.

Are there research funds?

There are 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 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.