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Senior Essay & Thesis Requirements

All History Majors are required to write an extended-length research project that reflects historical scholarship, and present their research at a one-day conference on campus during block 8.

All Senior Essays and Theses are due by 3:00 pm on the first Monday of Block 8.
There are no extensions beyond this deadline.

The Senior Essay vs. the Senior Thesis

The fundamental differences between a Senior Essay and Senior Thesis are length and the level of commitment one intends to devote to their research project in their senior year. Typically, the Senior Essay is an article-length work of historical scholarship, about 25-35 pages, while a Senior Thesis is considerably longer, approximately 80-100 pages in length. In order to write a Senior Thesis, students must submit a Thesis Proposal for evaluation by the History Department faculty by 3:00 pm on the first Monday of Block 8 in their junior year. Students will be notified by the Chair of the History Department whether or not they have been selected to write a Senior Thesis before the end of the Academic Year.

A senior essay or thesis must:

  • adhere to Colorado College’s Honor Code
  • explore a significant historical problem, issue or question in 25-35 pages of text (essay) or 70-100 pages of text (thesis).
  • articulate a clear and well-developed argument in response to the motivating question
  • research, analyze and contextualize a body of primary sources
  • engage in historiographical and/or theoretical debate (developed from broad reading in monographs and journal literature), using this debate to frame the essay’s analysis
  • demonstrate the results of revision and reframing in light of readers' comments
  • be structurally organized around the development of the essay’s argument and significance, including:
    • an introductory section that identifies the problem, issue or question and its significance, clearly states the essay’s argument, and announces a road map of the essay’s structure
    • the essay’s body, which sustains and develops an argument through the analysis of primary sources in dialogue with theoretical and/or historiographical sources
    • concluding section that articulates the fullest development of the argument and re-evaluates the significance and possible implications of the argument
  • demonstrate effective and accurate use of language
  • be footnoted or endnoted in Chicago Manual of Style (unless another style is more appropriate to subject matter) and include a bibliography of works consulted

All students will give presentations of their conclusions at History Day in Block 8.

Research and Writing

HY410 and HY420/HY430

All students will take HY410, a one-unit course in which they will master methodology relevant to their project, complete a brief literature review, and develop a comprehensive research and writing plan. The following block, students will enroll in either HY420 (Senior Essay) or HY430 (Senior Thesis), during which time they will produce a complete draft of the Senior Essay or a complete draft of one chapter of the Senior Thesis. Following the completion of HY410 and HY420 (or HY430), seniors will work with their advisor to develop a plan for revision and completion. Students who write a Senior Thesis take an additional block (HY431) for research and writing while students who write a Senior Essay will have the option, following consultation and approval by their advisor, to take one block (HY409) for research and writing. In such cases, students may take these blocks at an appropriate time during the academic year.

Departmental Honors

Students who write Senior Essays and Theses are equally considered for The Robert J. Cosgrove Award for Excellence in Student Research, and equally evaluated in a student's application to graduate with Distinction in History.

History Day

During Block 8, all seniors will participate in History Day in which they will present their research to the History community in a conference format. Student papers will be organized in thematic panels and concurrent sessions, with History faculty commenting on the papers presented. This is an all-day conference and graduating seniors are required to participate as part of their Senior Exiting Experience. Hyphenate majors (History-Political Science, Classics, History, and Politics, and History-Philosophy) are welcome to present their senior projects at History Day.