History Honors Program

History Honors Program

The Department of History offers you an opportunity to highlight your undergraduate work by conducting original research and writing a thesis under the one-on-one guidance of a faculty adviser.

The Department of History invites all history majors who are juniors and have a grade-point average (GPA) of at least 3.5 in history courses taken at UC Davis to apply to the History Honors Program. This program has proved especially effective for students who plan to teach history, or study history at the graduate level. It is also an excellent opportunity to develop research and writing skills for work in a wide variety of fields and careers, from business and politics, to law and journalism.

The main purpose of the History Honors Program is to give you an opportunity to carry out original research and writing on a topic of your own choosing, with close faculty supervision, over the course of one academic year. Professor Manfred P. Fleischer Undergraduate Honors Research Award is presented to selected honors students to help fund travel associated with conducting their research.

THE HONORS CURRICULUM

The Department of History's Honors Program is designed as a three-quarter sequence, beginning in the fall and ending in the spring. In the fall, students enroll in an honors seminar (History 104A) taught by a faculty member (the honors supervisor) who oversees the work of the entire honors cohort. Here, students have a chance to refine their proposed topics, map out their primary and secondary sources, and learn valuable research skills.

In History 104B during the winter quarter, students will continue to meet as an entire honors cohort with their honors supervisor, and also work with their individual honors advisers doing intensive research, outlining both arguments and organization, and writing a substantial portion of their first draft.

Finally, in History 104C in the spring quarter, students work with their advisers to complete the final, polished version of the honors thesis, producing a document that is typically about 50 pages long. The final version of the thesis is due the 5th week of the Spring quarter. It is evaluated by the individual thesis adviser, the honors supervisor, and by an annually rotating group of faculty members who make up the department's Honors Committee.

History 104B and 104C may be substituted for any two upper-division courses in any of your fields in the major, with the exception of History 102.

  • History 104A: The grade for the fall portion of the program is assigned by the honors supervisor, who conducts the seminar.
  • History 104B and History 104C: You will receive a grade of "in progress" (IP) for your work in 104B during the winter quarter. When the thesis is completed in spring quarter, the honors advisor assigns a letter grade for both History 104B and 104C.
  • Withdrawal from the program: If you decide to drop out of the Honors Program, you must give written notice to the honors supervisor. If you complete History 104A, and then decide to withdraw, you will receive credit and a grade for the seminar. However, 104A cannot be substituted for another upper-division or lower-division course in the major. If you withdraw during winter quarter you will not receive a grade or credit for History 104B, and must take care to avoid violating UC Davis' requirements for minimum progress.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: IS THERE ANY WAY FOR ME TO GET A SENSE OF WHAT IS EXPECTED IN AN HONORS THESIS?

  • A: All honors theses from past years are available for you to read in the History Department Library. (Please see an undergraduate adviser for assistance.) We also encourage you to talk with students who are presently enrolled in the honors program about their experiences.
  • Q: DO HONORS COURSES COUNT TOWARD MY MAJOR?

  • A: History 104A cannot be substituted into your program as a major requirement. History 104B and 104C, however — provided both are completed satisfactorily — may be substituted for any two upper-division history courses, with the exception of History 102.
  • Q: CAN I TAKE A HISTORY 102 SEMINAR DURING OR AFTER 104A, B, OR C?

  • A: Ideally, a student should have completed a History 102 seminar during his or her junior year. We recommend taking HIS 102 before the 104 sequence, but it may be taken in the same quarter as 104A.
  • Q: WHAT IF I REALLY WANT TO WORK WITH A PROFESSOR WHO TURNS ME DOWN AS AN HONORS ADVISEE?

  • A: Let us know. Consult an undergraduate adviser and the chair of the honors committee for advice. We may be able to help you find alternate arrangements.

  • Q: WHAT IF THE PROFESSOR WITH WHOM I WANT TO WORK IS GOING TO BE ON LEAVE FOR PART OF THE YEAR?

  • A: That can easily happen, which is why it inquiring about faculty availability early makes sense. While this is not an ideal situation, in some cases, alternative arrangements can be made to include your chosen professor as an informal member of your team. Meanwhile, you will need to find a second faculty member in your field who can sign on to be your official adviser.


PREPARATION

Find a topic that interests you. To get some ideas, review your lecture notes, papers, exams and readings from classes you liked. What story, issue, question or problem excited you, and why? What would you like to know more about? Even if a particular topic doesn't jump right out at you, think about an era and a place that captured your imagination. What is it about this time and place that you find most interesting? Is it a particular group of people (women, soldiers, children, workers, artists, intellectuals)? Or is it something that seems to change the world (an epidemic, battle, election, publication, riot, law)? Allow yourself to be curious. Think about what holds your interest and why.

Once you've isolated an area of interest, find an advisor among the Department of History faculty who is willing to endorse your project and serve as your mentor. The professor you choose must be available to serve as a mentor. Choose a professor whose own research and teaching interests overlap with your own, and visit during office hours to discuss your project. You would be more likely to win the professor over to your cause if you come in with some concrete ideas that show you've been thinking about a topic. Even if you have not yet settled on a topic to explore, or the sources you will use, at least try to suggest a particular time period, place, and a particular problem or issue or set of questions.

Once a faculty member has agreed to work with you, write a proposal describing your project. It should be approximately two to three double-spaced pages. It should lay out the issue or problem, and the approach you plan to take. The definition of your topic may change considerably over the next few months, as you get into the material. Nonetheless, it is important to start out with a clear plan that both you and your faculty adviser agree is feasible. This statement will form a key part of your application, and will set you on the path of research.

HONORS

The committee awards honors at three levels: Honors, High Honors, and Highest Honors.  The criteria for determining whether a thesis merits honors, and if so, which rank, are:

HONORS are awarded to students who have demonstrated an ability to bring together multiple primary and secondary sources into a coherent, fluid essay, with a strong and concise argument, supported by evidence. Students must show that they have worked with primary sources directly, rather than merely reworking or restating arguments already published in secondary sources.

HIGH HONORS are awarded to students who — in addition to meeting the above basic criteria — write a thesis that is distinctively impressive in one (though not necessarily all) of the following areas: lucidity, thoroughness, originality or ambitiousness. These theses stand out as being carefully and competently argued and executed.

HIGHEST HONORS represents truly outstanding work in terms of creativity, argument, writing and organization, as well as the use and analysis of diverse primary and secondary sources. A thesis of this kind resembles graduate-level work in its sophistication and clarity.

While the History department will award honors, high honors or highest honors to every thesis deemed worthy, the award will appear on a student's transcripts only if the student satisfies UC Davis campus-wide requirements for honors. Those requirements are:

  • For students completing at least 135 units at UC Davis, a GPA in the top 16 percent of the graduating class in the College of Letters and Science.
  • For students completing at least 90 and fewer than 135 units at UC Davis, a GPA in the top 12 percent of the graduating class in the College of Letters and Science.
  • For students completing at least 45 and fewer than 90 units at UC Davis, a GPA in the top 8 percent of the graduating class in the College of Letters and Science.

Please note: all students who satisfy these requirements will receive an honors designation on their transcript whether or not they have written an honors thesis.