How To Apply For The Honors Program In History

2020 Honors Program

Instructor: Warren Breckman

An informational session will be held on Wednesday, September 18 from 12:30PM-1:30PM in College Hall 209.  Lunch will be served.

The honors program offers an opportunity to experience first-hand the rewards and the 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.

During the first semester, the 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 work on your own thesis. In the course of the first semester, you will also develop a thesis proposal, which should include a list of the primary sources you plan to consult and analyze.

If you plan to study abroad, it should be during the fall semester of your junior year. Students studying abroad in the Spring semester of their junior year will not be admitted to the Honors Program.

During the summer between your junior and senior years you will have to 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 75 and 100 double-spaced pages. If you would like to consult examples of theses from years past, they are available in bound, hard copy form on the bookshelves in COLL 206.  Note: theses may not be removed from COLL 206.

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 issue 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

2019 Application Deadline is October 25, 2019.

Professor Breckman will  review applications, make acceptance decisions, and place accepted students in appropriate sections. ALL APPLICANTS NEED TO HAVE THE APPROVAL AND SIGNATURE OF A FACULTY MEMBER FROM THE HISTORY DEPARTMENT, WHO WILL SERVE AS THE THESIS ADVISOR. Students who are studying abroad at the time of application should ask the thesis advisor to email his or her approval to Dr. Fabella. You will be notified about acceptance decisions in early November, before the close of Advance Registration. You do not need to request HIST 398 during Advance Registration. Once you are accepted we will register you for HIST 398.

Before applying for the Honors Thesis program, you must have a Penn Box account. If this is your first time using Penn Box, then you will first need to create an account by logging in.  To do so, click below, and then select "continue."  You will be asked for your Pennkey and password. 

Once your account is created, e-mail Dr. Fabella and explain that you plan to apply to the program.  She will send you an invitation to upload your application file to the “History Honors Program Application” folder on PennBox.   Your application must be uploaded as a single PDF file. 

A complete Honors Application will consist of the following: 

  1. Your name, e-mail address and telephone number. 
  2. A statement of no more than 300 words discussing your specific project and your qualifications to engage in original research. 
  3. Your cumulative G.P.A., and your History Major G.P.A.
  4. A summary of your foreign language skills, if they are relevant to your area of interest. 
  5. A writing sample of no more than 10 pages that best displays your writing and critical thinking abilities. 
  6. An unofficial transcript printed from Penn in Touch 
  7. The signature of the faculty member who has agreed to serve as your thesis advisor. If necessary, the faculty member may e-mail to you their willingness to serve as advisor. You may then include that message as a page in your application.

If you have questions about the program or about the application, you can contact Warren Breckman