Below you will find ideas on what you need to include in the honors prospectus and in the attached bibliography.
The prospectus should be of sufficient length, roughly 7-10 pages, to outline your topic and pose the questions you will be trying to answer. It might also suggest a tentative thesis.
When you write this out, consider the following criteria for a good topic: significant questions, scope, value, originality and practicality.
For example, 1) explain what the scope or boundaries of the project will be -- to the best of your ability at this point. Think about both the chronological and the geographical limits. And indicate what focus you might have -- on a person or persons, organization, place, musical piece, etc.
2) Present analytical questions which may not have been asked before to show the possible value of the work. The proposal might alternately ask a well-worn question but approach it with new sources or methodologies.
You should also establish the originality of the work by indicating the ways in which your topic fits within the larger context of the historiography. You should talk about the major secondary sources. Ask yourself the questions: how does your paper relate to other work done on this subject (supports, extends, argues against), and what does this paper contribute to the field that is new?
3) Finally, you need to show the viability or practicality of the project by explaining how accessible primary sources you have will actually allow you to answer the interesting and important questions you have set out. Is there enough evidence to prove your points? What is the general methodology that you will employ?
You must also attach a bibliography which lists your primary and secondary works separately. This should be an extensive, but not exhaustive, list. You will be adding to it throughout the year in consultation with your advisor.
Annotate the most important primary and secondary works by providing a brief description of the source (one or two sentences). This will allow the faculty who are not specialists on your topic to evaluate the applicability of your sources.
Also, show clearly what you now have in your possession (or what is at Dickinson) and what needs to be ordered through PALCI or through Interlibrary Loan. It would also be useful if you showed what you have already ordered.
All entries in your bibliography should be a full citation in proper form. You should refer to The Chicago Manual of Style, which is available through the library web page.
What will the department be looking for when it assesses the merits of your honors thesis?
- A clear thesis
- Clear evidence of the ability to find appropriate sources and develop a bibliography
- A demonstrated engagement with primary and secondary sources
- A clear understanding of historiography
- A clear methodology for research and analysis
- A well-written and structured essay that is argued and supported with an appropriate quality and quantity of evidence
- Scholary standards of presentation (i.e. error-free writing, proper formatting and citation, etc.)
- An articulation of the significance and originality of the conclusion
The department faculty will assess these points both in the completed thesis and in an oral defense. At the oral defense the honors candidate summarizes the genesis and main points of the thesis before the department faculty, who will in turn ask questions probing, for example, the source base, evidence, methodology, and conclusions.