Research and analytical writing are at the heart of what historians do.

The undergraduate history major culminates in three semesters of research-based seminars, aimed at training students in long-form, primary-source-based research.  History majors learn to identify and evaluate primary sources, survey the secondary literature on a given topic, frame formal research proposals, and construct complex analytical prose exposition.

Junior Seminar (HIST 400-420)
Every history major takes two semesters of junior seminar, ordinarily in the junior year.  In any given semester, the department offers two or more sections of junior seminar, each based upon a broad topical area.  Recent examples include “Diversity and Toleration in the Medieval Mediterrean”, “U.S. and Latin American Revolutions”, “English Crime 1200-1800”, and “Civility, Savagery, and Rebellion in the British Atlantic, 1600-1800”.

Within each section’s topical area, students may begin with a few weeks’ reading common to all in the section, and they then work with the section’s professor to formulate a specific topic of research, and to develop it through peer reviews of proposals, outline, and drafts in weekly meetings of the section’s class.  Source research increasingly relies upon online and other digital platforms, and the seminars include practice in information retrieval.  The outcome is a formal research paper, typically 20 pages in length.

Students ordinarily take one junior seminar class in each semester of the junior year. However, the department strongly encourages international education, and places a high priority on making that possible.  Students planning to study abroad should plan as far ahead as possible, and may take a semester of junior seminar in spring of sophomore year, so if contemplating study abroad they should consult at their earliest convenience with the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUGS), Dr. Árpád von Klimó.

Senior Thesis (HIST 496)
The senior thesis is the capstone of the undergraduate history major.  It is also the Department of History’s equivalent of the comprehensive examination that is required for the B.A. by Catholic University’s School of Arts and Sciences, and thus a requirement for the major, not an option. Students ordinarily must plan to do the senior thesis seminar in the fall semester of their senior year, and must ordinarily have done two semesters of junior seminar (HIST 400-420) as preparation.

The department always offers several sections of HIST 496 each fall semester, in a variety of historical fields.  Like the research papers produced in junior seminar, but in greater depth (typically 35-40 pages for the final written submission), senior theses are products of substantial research.  Each must be based upon primary sources (published or unpublished, in English or translation or where feasible in another language).  Each must present original arguments, expressed in the context of current historiography.  A good senior thesis requires preparation starting in the preceding semester, when the department arranges meetings between rising seniors and senior thesis instructors for topic and section selection.

Senior thesis seminars meet weekly as regular classes, may entail common readings for the class as a whole before emphasis shifts to the direction of individual thesis topics. Students must also meet a series of intermediate deadlines (for example, preliminary bibliography, detailed outline, oral presentation and group critique of early stages of the project, first draft) throughout the semester. The grade for 496 is not given exclusively for the finished paper, but also takes into account students' progress through the intermediate stages of research.

While in ordinary circumstances students must take History 496 in the fall term there are certain extraordinary circumstances when this might not be the case. Students who get out of sequence, for instance as the result of a semester abroad in the junior year, might need to take 496 in the spring semester.  Planning and consultation well ahead of time with the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUGS), Dr. Árpád von Klimó, are critically important under such circumstances.