2023 History Honors Thesis Program

**Join the Honors Thesis Program Director for 2023, Professor Ben Nathans, for an informational session on Tuesday, September 20, 3:30-4:30pm, in COLL 209. 

About the Honors Thesis Program

The honors program offers an opportunity to experience first-hand the rewards and challenges of researching and writing history. You will have the freedom to come at your own questions in your own way, in an honors thesis of your own devising. You will get to see how far your own curiosity, ingenuity, and imagination can carry you. And you will test your capacity for intellectual independence - and for overcoming obstacles and seeing something through - as you have probably never tested it before.

In the spring of your junior year, the Honors Thesis seminar will meet weekly. It may emphasize research methods, or historiography and the clash of competing interpretations, or broader philosophical considerations, depending on the shared interests of the students and instructor. It will, in any case, be designed to prepare you to undertake your own investigations as you prepare the ground for your thesis. In the course of the first semester, you will develop a detailed thesis proposal, including the questions that drive your research and the primary sources you plan to consult and analyze. 

During the summer between your junior and senior years you will do the bulk of your thesis research. There are many opportunities to find summer research funding at Penn and we encourage you to apply to as many as you and your advisor judge necessary. 

During the fall semester of your senior year you will complete the writing of your thesis. In this final stage you will work with your seminar instructor and your thesis advisor, and you will meet periodically with the seminar to report on your progress and to exchange responses to your various formulations, hypotheses, and discoveries. Theses should be between 50 and 75 double-spaced pages, not including notes. If you would like to consult examples of theses from years past, they are available for consultation here

The honors program is challenging. It offers an excellent opportunity to develop your skills as a researcher and writer and to explore in depth a historical problem of your own design. It requires the ability to do independent work and to complete a substantial writing project by the end of the Fall semester of your senior year, relying on your own ability to set personal schedules and to stick to them. It demands that you show initiative and responsibility, that you take a long view, see things in context, and put them in perspective, that you formulate and test a guiding idea, and that you communicate with clarity and force.


Application Information

2023 Application Deadline: October 27, 2022

Professor Nathans will review applications and make acceptance decisions. All applicants must have the written approval of a History Department faculty member who will serve as the thesis advisor.  Applicants will be notified about acceptance decisions before the close of Advance Registration. 

In order to apply for the Honors Thesis program, students need a Penn Box account. First-time users of Penn Box must create an account by logging in with your Pennkey: https://upenn.app.box.com/login 

Once the account is created, contact Dr. Fabella and she will grant you access to the Penn Box folder for application submission.

Completed applications should be submitted as a single PDF file, with the student’s last name as the file name.  Upload applications to this Penn Box folder: History Honors Thesis Applications, Fall 2022


A complete Honors Application will consist of the following: 

  1. Your name, e-mail address and telephone number. 
  2. The name of your proposed honors thesis advisor.
  3. A statement of no more than 300 words discussing your specific project and your qualifications to engage in original research. 
  4. Your cumulative G.P.A., and your History Major G.P.A.
  5. A summary of your foreign language skills, if they are relevant to your area of interest. 
  6. A writing sample of no more than 10 pages that best displays your writing and critical thinking abilities. 
  7. An unofficial transcript printed from Path@Penn.

Ask the faculty member who has agreed to serve as your thesis advisor to email their approval to Professor Nathans and Dr. Fabella. 

If you have questions about the program or the application, please contact Professor Nathans.