Department of History

Department of History
Department of History

History 515: Independent Study Project

A 515 (Honour's Thesis) is not required of any student. They are purely optional; in any given year only 5 to 10 complete a 515. The key purpose is to provide a student with an opportunity to explore a theme not covered in a course. Normally (but not always) a student will have a rapport with an instructor, established in a previous course, and then will explore a topic in greater detail in the 515. Some students with a clear idea of what they wish to pursue in graduate history studies have also found the 515 useful. But it is by no means required for admittance to graduate school.

Requirements as specified in the Arts and Sciences Academic Calendar:

Available to fourth-year students taking a major or a medial concentration in History who have maintained a GPA of 3.30. The project may be either a research paper involving the use of primary and secondary sources, or a more broadly conceived independent reading program. Students must obtain the approval of the supervising instructor and of the Undergraduate Committee for any project submitted.

HIST 515 is worth 6.0 units and can be used as a substitute for some of your History option courses in 2A on Solus (generally 200 level lectures).

Typical Timeline / How to Enroll in the Hist 515:

In the spring before your final undergraduate year, find an instructor capable and willing to supervise your topic. You will craft a proposal for your topic, consisting of a bibliography and proposed course of research. Your enrollment in this course is conditional upon the approval of your 515 research proposal by the History Department Undergraduate Committee. 

An electronic copy (approved by your supervisor) must be submitted to the Undergraduate Chair at by May 31 or August 15 (see below).  Supervisors must email their approval to the Undergraduate Chair before the proposal will be considered by the Undergraduate Committee. You will receive an email notification before the end of open enrollment regarding the status of your proposal.

May 31 is the deadline if you would like to be considered for the Cathy Rivard Studentship Award, which is given once a year to the best 515 thesis proposal. The award is very competitive. 

August 15 is the regular deadline if you do not wish to be considered for the Cathy Rivard Studentship Award but would still like to enroll in HIST 515. 

If you have questions, please email for assistance. 

Guidelines for 515 Proposals

The purpose of 515 Proposals is to ensure the Undergraduate Committee that students undertaking 515 projects have set feasible goals for themselves. Proposals should demonstrate that students have both realistic research plans and realistic essay topics in mind. The committee typically defers to the wisdom of the Faculty Advisor on History 515 proposals. However, diffuse and rambling proposals, sweeping research agendas, and grandiose essay topics may prompt the Undergraduate Committee to recommend that the proposal be revised. Proposals for History 515 need not be lengthy or detailed. However, they should incorporate the following basic elements.

The proposal should describe

the historical issue or problem to be addressed and its basic importance
the basic ideas and hypotheses of the project,
the methods or approaches the student will use,
the body of materials that the student will draw on and the ease of access to the material,
how the project fits within the current literature in the field
(i.e. a brief summary of the relevant historiography that will inform or frame the study).

Project Proposals need not be any longer than 3 or 4 pages, including the bibliographical material. The final bibliography will surely be longer than the one submitted for approval in September.

Typically, Hist 515 theses are 50 to 60 pages long, plus endnotes/footnotes and bibliography.