Independent courses of study may be extensions of topics covered in the problems courses, or involving material a student finds interesting and wishes to pursue further study. Independent studies provides the student with a better understanding of the historical sources and of historical research. This may ultimately lead to the student's pursuit of an honors project.
The honors program in history may be the culmination of a student's study of history at Bowdoin College. Students majoring in History wishing to complete an honors project must receive departmental authorization of a topic of study in the semester prior to beginning an honors project. Honors candidates pursue an honors project for two semesters. Normally, students begin their projects in the Fall of the senior year, after a summer of preparatory research. Funding may be available to assist with Honors research.
An Honors Paper in History provides students with an opportunity to engage in historical analysis by carrying out extensive research. The process of completing a major research project that culminates in an analytical essay involves many steps, although the order in which a student accomplishes these tasks will depend on the subject, sources and methodology. Students will design a focused research project, articulating a problem or question(s) about a particular subject. They will locate their study in the historiographical literature of the field, broadly defined, in order to show that their problem is worth exploring in relation to the secondary literature and that it will advance the understanding of the subject. In order to work toward a thesis, they will propose a preliminary hypothesis (a potential answer to their problem). They will design a research methodology that enables them to explore the subject in depth through the extensive analysis of available sources, both primary and secondary. Students will present their thesis and analysis in a gracefully written, persuasive essay. As a rough guideline, projects tend to run from fifty to seventy pages in length.