Honors in History

The Department of History offers the opportunity to pursue independent research at the level of Honors to those students who best exemplify the qualities of the historical profession. Students must understand that participation in the Honors program constitutes a serious commitment of time and intellectual resources on the part of both the student and faculty advisors. Therefore, it should not be undertaken without careful consideration and planning. Students should consult with potential faculty advisors before deciding whether they wish to pursue work in the Honors program.

Guidelines for the Honors Proposal


  • A student must have at least a 3.5 overall GPA and a 3.5 GPA in the history major in order to pursue an Honors project. The student must maintain these averages for the duration of the project. 

  • The student should begin the project in the second semester of the junior year in a pre-Honors tutorial—either a one-credit Directed Inquiry or a 400-level seminar—in which the student does preliminary research and begins to define a topic.  By the end of the tutorial, the student should have produced a historiographical essay.  Students are strongly discouraged from attempting an Honors project in a field with which they have little or no familiarity.  

  • Each student contemplating Honors work in history should send a letter of intent to the department chair by March 15 of his or her junior year. The letter should consist of a general statement of the student’s proposed topic, the relevant coursework the student has undertaken or is pursuing at that time (either in a 400-level seminar or in a Directed Inquiry), and a statement indicating which faculty member has agreed to serve as the student’s Honors advisor. 

  • The Honors proposal, due on the first day of classes in the fall semester of the student’s senior year, should consist of an essay of approximately 3,000 words (8-10 pages) describing the topic, the scope of the investigation, and salient issues raised by the existing scholarship. The essay should make clear what is original or creative about the topic or the approach taken. The essay also should include a one- or two-paragraph discussion of primary sources which attests to the viability of the project. This discussion should be as detailed as possible in order to demonstrate the student’s understanding of the nature of the work he/she is undertaking and to prove to the members of the department that such work is actually possible. 

  • The proposal should conform to the most recent edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (also known as “Turabian”), and should include an annotated bibliography listing both primary and secondary sources. 

  • The Department of History will appoint a committee to supervise each Honors project. A committee is normally comprised of three members, one who will serve as chief mentor and first reader. One member must be from outside the department.  The committee will be responsible for reading the proposal and recommending approval to the department. 

  • Keeping the committee’s recommendation in mind, the entire faculty of the Department of History will vote on whether to approve the proposal and allow the student to continue with the Honors project.  The Department may provide the student with suggestions, advice, and further instructions to be communicated to the student by his or her Honors advisor.  If there is sufficient time before the deadline, the Department may ask the student to revise and resubmit the proposal before it is approved.  The student must address any concerns raised by the Department in conversations with his or her Honors advisor.

  • If the Department does not vote to approve the proposal, the student may pursue the research as an independent project for the fall semester under a faculty member’s supervision as History 490.  However, this work will no longer be eligible for Honors.

  • After the proposal has been approved by the department, the student must submit an Honors Registration Form to the registrar’s office to be officially registered for Honors. A student registered for Honors will earn a minimum of eight credits, four in the Fall and four in the Spring semester of the student’s senior year. 

Examples of successful proposals are available under “Departmental Information” in the Department of History’s folder on the Academic Fileserver or via the following links:

Students are also encouraged to consult the College Catalogue and Honors Research Guidelines.  

Guidelines for the Honors Thesis


  1. The thesis should be centered on primary source research and approached in a creative way. While working on the project, students should register for four credits in Honors Research (History 495-496) for each semester of the senior year. 
  2. The expected length of an Honors thesis is 18,000 to 20,000 words or approximately 60 pages. 
  3. The Department of History considers Honors work to be the very best work that Rhodes students can accomplish. As a minimum, the department expects Honors essays to go beyond an essay that would receive a solid A in a 400-level seminar in terms of quality, length, originality, and conceptual sophistication. 
  4. The Honors thesis should be written and documented using the latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style (also known as “Turabian.”) 
  5. Students will summarize their findings in a public presentation before the members of the Department of History and will make the final written version available to all members of the history faculty.  Students are also encouraged to present their findings at the annual Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Symposium (URCAS). Students are also encouraged to submit their work to historical journals for publication. 
  6. If an Honors history student fails to produce an acceptable thesis, or if his or her overall GPA and/or history GPA falls below 3.5, the student is not eligible to complete the Honors program. Instead, the student receives academic credit for work completed in the form of a “Directed Inquiry.” In this event, the thesis advisor, in consultation with the department chair, would determine how many credit hours the student earns for the Directed Inquiry. 
  7. If a student conceives a project which involves a semester of overseas study, contingencies and logistics will be dealt with at the discretion of the department chair, in consultation with the Honors advisor and the student. 

revised September 2016



Junior Year - Class of 2021


Beginning of spring semester
(January 15, 2020)

Register for pre-Honors tutorial.



March 15, 2020

Declaration of Intent to do Honors must be 
submitted to the department chair.



Senior Year - Class of 2020
Fall Semester 


First day of classes
(August 22, 2019)

Submit Honors Proposal to department.



End of the 15th class day

Last date for Honors Proposal to be approved 
by department.



End of the 15th class day

Last date for Honors Registration Form to be 
submitted to the registrar′s office. Honors 
registration may be submitted prior to final 
approval of project.



Senior Year - Class of 2020
Spring Semester


Last day before Spring Break

Submit thesis to committee members.



End of the 3rd week of April

Submit revised thesis to committee members.



Last day of classes

Honors Project abstract must be submitted 
electronically to the Special Assistant to the 
Dean of Faculty - receipt will be acknowledged.



Due date of final grades

Final approval to graduate with Honors and final 
grade from department due in the registrar′s 
office by 9:00 a.m.



Friday following Commencement

Final print copy and a PDF copy on a CD of 
Honors Project is submitted to the Special 
Assistant to the Dean of Faculty. The thesis 
should conform to the Guidelines for the 
Preparation of the Archival Copy of the 
Honors Paper