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Senior Capstone Experience

The Senior Capstone Experience

The History Department offers two routes to the senior capstone experience: a) Senior Seminar (History 490); b) Senior Thesis (History 495-496). Both experiences require students to employ and refine the research, writing and communication skills they have developed over the previous three years at DePauw by producing a piece of original historical research. These writing-intensive projects require sophisticated approaches to sources, analysis, and presentation, as well as imagination and discipline in the selection and refinement of research topics.

Senior Seminar (History 490) is a one-semester class devoted to the design and implementation of historical research in a subfield and historical methodology of each seminar member’s choosing. The seminar instructor assumes primary responsibility for guiding the seminar participants, though students are encouraged over the course of the semester to consult other department faculty whose regional, thematic, and chronological specializations correspond to the selected topic. The end result is an original piece of historical research typically totaling between 30 and 40 pages of writing. (For a list of some recent Senior Seminar papers, click here; for a sample History 490 syllabus, click here). In addition to producing a paper, students must contribute actively to the development of their peers’ projects through brain-storming, editing, and commentary; each student will make a research presentation to the seminar and invited guests toward the end of the semester.

Senior Thesis (History 495-496) requires two-semesters of intensive research and writing on a topic approved by a member of the department who serves as the student’s principal thesis supervisor. During the first semester, the student will undertake reading, research, and drafting. Thesis students may participate in either a section of HIST 490 or a seminar group limited to students enrolled in HIST 495; during the second semester the student will complete the written thesis; give a public presentation based on the research; and defend the thesis before a committee of history department faculty. Students seeking a rigorous challenge of developing a historical project of greater scope and requiring greater independence than Senior Seminar may wish to consider this option. To be eligible for the Senior Thesis a history major must have a GPA in the major of at least 3.3 and permission of the department.  Theses typically total between 60 and 80 pages, organized in chapters. (For a selection of Senior Thesis titles in recent years, click here). Students contemplating graduate study in history are encouraged to consider this option.