The senior year for the history department include:

  • A written capstone paper (either research or integrative)
  • An oral examination based on that paper

Whitman College History Senior Assessment

SAM Format Required Details
Honors, if eligible Yes Honors candidates write a thesis.
Senior Seminar Yes Comparative history seminar that helps prepare them for senior exams.
Thesis Required No
Oral Thesis Defense Yes Only for Honors candidates
Oral Exam Yes One hour exam with two faculty based on capstone paper.
Written Exam(s) ~ Not an exam per se. Seniors write a capstone integrative or research essay. (Honors candidates’ thesis substitutes for this essay)
Pre-Thesis Oral No

History Major Exams

The final aspect of the history major is the major exam. In addition to the capstone paper, there is an oral exam based on that paper and scheduled no sooner than a week after the capstone paper is turned in. Honors thesis writers will have an oral defense of their thesis instead. Instructions concerning the exams, including more detail on all materials for your exams, will be provided in History 401.

Major Examination Documents

Senior history majors must submit the following four documents related to oral and written exams. (This year's due dates and times are in the table at the bottom of the page.)

The Statement of Courses and Exams is different for History and History-ES majors: History Statement of Courses and Exams and History-ES Statement of Courses and Exams

Choices for the Senior Writing Project

  1. Integrative capstone essay: Bringing together coursework completed in your Track. History 402: History Lab (1 credit), which you will take in the Spring semester, acknowledges the work you will be completing for this project. Typically these will range from 20 to 25 pages. View sample integrative capstone essay.

  2. Research capstone essay: Conducting further research on a topic related to your Track. Primary sources are desirable but may not be necessary, depending on your topic. Again, History 402: History Lab (1 credit), which you will take in the Spring semester, acknowledges the work you will be completing for this project. Typically these will range from 20 to 25 pages. View a sample research capstone essay.

  3. Honors thesis: A history honors thesis involves substantial, individual research conducted with primary sources over a year (at least). Students approved by the department to pursue a thesis will conduct detailed research in the Fall semester, followed by writing and revision in the Spring semester.  In acknowledgement of the intensity of such a project, students take 3 credits for the research portion in the Fall (Hist 385) and another 3 credits for the writing & revision portion in the Spring (Hist 498). Note:  there are a number of college-wide requirements for honors, including minimum gpa (see catalog for details). The length of the final product should reflect the significance of this contribution, while being written for concision and readability (it will be kept in the College archives). The Department therefore recommends a minimum of 50 pages and no more than 100 pages, not including appendices and bibliography. 

Description of Honors Thesis Proposal:

An Honors Thesis proposal (2-3 pages, plus bibliography) should provide all faculty members of the History department with an introduction to your project and a summary of your research plans. Give a working title and state the central topic and question(s) you will be addressing. Explain the significance of your planned contribution and how you anticipate your project will engage with past and current scholarship on your topic. Outline a proposed/working structure of chapters, describing the sources you will use, what additional sources you plan to investigate further, and how sections of the project will interrelate. Your bibliography should have two sections, dedicated to primary (and/or “ancient”) and secondary (and/or “modern”) sources.

Proposals are assessed by the department faculty at the October department meeting.  The department chair and the thesis mentor will provide feedback about the department’s decision regarding each proposal.

View a sample honors thesis proposal 

View a sample honor thesis writing schedule.

Past history honors theses are available in the Penrose Library.  

Key Deadlines for Senior Projects

September 30, 2022: Thesis Students: Due to Department Chair, Prof. Semerdjian, by email at semerdve@whitman.edu at 4 p.m.

  1. The Statement of Courses form (note there is a separate form for Hist-ES majors; forms are linked on the History website). Must be signed by major advisor.

October 14, 2022: Capstone Students: Due to Department Chair, Prof. Semerdjian, by email semerdve@whitman.edu at 4 p.m.

  1. The Statement of Courses form (note there is a separate form for Hist-ES majors; forms are linked on the History website). Must be signed by major advisor.
  2. Capstone Proposal

December 14, 2022: Final paper for 401 due (this paper focuses on your senior project)

December 14, 2022: For Thesis students: draft of historiography & methodology section due to thesis advisor

January 31, 2023: Capstone students: Revised Capstone Proposal and Annotated Bibliography due

April 7, 2023: Capstones: final paper due to both readers

April 14, 2023: Thesis: full draft due to both readers

Spring Semester Weeks 12-13: Oral exams