Cal Poly Pomona

HST 461 and 462

Senior Thesis


Instructor: Zuoyue Wang                                           Office: Building 94, Room 335

Winter and Spring 2014                                             Office Hours: M11:35am-12:35pm; W9:30-10:30am; & apptmt.

Classroom: 9-403                                                       Email: zywang at                            

Meeting places: HST 461 and HST 462: First and last sessions of the winter quarter will be held in 9-403 and the last two sessions of the spring quarter will be held in a classroom to be determined and the rest of the quarters in Instructor’s Office.

Course Description: The Senior Thesis course is the History Department’s cap-stone, hands-on research and learning project.  Here you get to choose, with the help of the professor, a topic of your interest, and learn to conduct research, write a 30-page paper, and give a presentation on it.  You are also required to fill out a Self-Assessment Questionnaire at the end of HST 462.


Learning Objectives:  It is hoped that through this class you will be able to build on everything you have learned at Cal Poly Pomona and apply it to reach a new level of synthesis and creativity in the form of a formal research thesis.  The thesis project should showcase your research, writing, and critical thinking skills as well as your mastery of communication skills as a beginning professional historian and history teacher.


The course is organized on a two-quarter (HST 461 and then HST 462), eight-unit basis.  The prerequisites are junior standing and satisfactory completion of HST 300 (History Methods).  For those who are enrolled in my HST 461 this quarter, you should enroll in my HST 462 in the next quarter.  In addition, by the end of HST 462, there will be a questionnaire on assessment that all students in the class are required to fill out, although your answers will not be graded.


HST 461: Student will meet with me in groups of three for about fifteen minutes once a week in my office during the quarter.  During these seminar sessions, you will share research and writing experiences (problems, hang-ups, helpful tips, etc.) and constructively criticize one another's work.  During the fall we will together settle on a viable research topic for each of you and I will guide your research in the essential secondary and primary sources.  In many cases, I will also direct you to seek assistance from other history faculty members. 


Topic: In choosing a topic, it is generally a good idea to explore something that you have taken upper division courses in.  For example, if you want to work on something related to the atomic bomb, ideally you should have taken HST 414 (Diplomatic History of the United States) or HST 408 (History of American Science and Technology) or HST 423 (Modern Science in World History). Everyone who wants to write on a topic on an aspect of post-World War II US should have taken or be taking HST 347 on US since 1945.


The required book for everyone to read is Richard Marius’ A Short Guide to Writing about History.  You should finish it before our first group meeting.  Please pay special attention to the discussion on how to select a suitable topic.  I assume that everyone has read Anthony Brundage’s Going to the Sources, which you should review, especially the chapter on research papers.  In addition, I recommend that you read or re-read Strunk and White’s Elements of Style and familiarize yourself with Turabian’s A Manual for Writers.  Many of the mechanical problems you will encounter later in the thesis project could be solved by consulting with the Turabian manual.  It should be the first resource you turn to if you are confronted with any question regarding footnotes, bibliography, and punctuations.


The main objective for this quarter will then be four-fold: to decide on a topic, to compile a bibliography on the topic including both primary and secondary sources, to take extensive research notes, and to formulate questions that will form the central theme of your thesis.  Please bring to each session the fruits of your research to that point:

1.     Annotated bibliography, with a couple of sentences explaining, based on your research notes, how that particular book or article is related to your project.  You could do this with bibliography cards or computer printouts.

2.     Research notes on either note cards or computer printouts.

3.     A paragraph that presents the central question of your thesis: It should identify your topic, the current scholarly views on it, and how your thesis is going to change or enrich our understanding of it.  You will revise this thesis paragraph, which might become your introductory section, throughout the quarter and eventually expand it into an outline of your paper.

By the end of the quarter, you should have compiled your basic bibliography (at least 25 items, including both primary and secondary sources), generated extensive research notes, produced a tentative outline of your senior thesis, and started writing the thesis. By the end of the last week of the quarter you will submit:

1.     A word-processed bibliography, with separate sections for primary and secondary sources

2.     A tentative outline of your thesis (word-processed) at least two pages in length

3.     A draft introduction of your thesis


HST 462: During the second quarter, you will conduct research, write and revise your senior thesis.  You will continue to meet with me in groups of three in my office and help with each other’s project.  Count on bringing at least six pages (word-processed) of your thesis to each seminar meeting.  In addition to your own thesis, you will be responsible for acquiring a detailed knowledge of the projects of your fellow seminar students, and will be expected to offer informed comments on them in class.  By the seventh week of the quarter, you will turn in to me your first rough draft (word-processed).  In Week Nine, we will meet in a classroom on both Monday and Wednesday during class for presentations of your draft theses and discussion.


The final, bound copy of your thesis must be presented to me by the end of the tenth week.  You are required also to email me an electronic version of your thesis.  Your thesis should be a minimum of 30 pages, plus footnotes and bibliography.  The thesis should include some historiographical discussions (what historians and other scholars have said about your topic), your own clear thesis statement at the beginning, and a conclusion at the end that nicely summarizes your paper.   I will usually nominate one to three of the best theses for the department’s Anthony Brundage Senior Thesis Award competition.  All students are also encouraged to present their papers at the Southern California Phil Alpha Theta (history honors society) annual meeting usually held in April each year.  See me for more detail.


Grading: Since HST 461-462 is a sequence course, here is how you will receive your grades for the two courses. You will receive an RP (report in progress) grade at the end of HST 461; you will receive a letter grade at the end of HST 462, and that letter grade will then replace your RP grade to become your HST 461 grade as well.  The final grade will be based on your performance in both HST 461 and 462, which covers the level of effort and quality of research, attendance, adherence to deadlines, participation in discussions, including presentations, and especially the quality of the completed thesis, including both research and writing.


Required Books:

Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996).

Richard Marius, A Short Guide to Writing about History (New York: Longman, 1999).


Recommended Books:

Anthony Brundage, Going to the Sources: A Guide to Historical Research and Writing (Wheeling, IL: Harlan Davidson, Inc., 1997).

William Strunk, Jr. and E. B. White, The Elements of Style (New York: Macmillan, 1979).


Senior Thesis Format:


•Minimum 30 pages plus title page, notes, and bibliography.

•Bibliography should be divided into “Primary Sources” and “Secondary Sources.”  There is no need to separate books and articles.

•Font: Nothing larger than 12 point. OK to use 10 or 11 point for block quotes and footnotes.

•Margins: 1.25" left and right, 1" top and bottom.

•Place thesis in a clear plastic cover with velo binding.

•Paginate consecutively from page 1, including footnote and bibliography pages. Place page numbers at center bottom of the page.

•Please use footnotes, not endnotes.  Footnotes are to be numbered consecutively throughout the paper.

•Block quotes should be used for quotations of more than four lines. These should be indented 0.5 inch from left margin, be single-spaced, and have no quotation marks at start and finish. OK to use 10 or 11 point font for block quotes.

•Use ellipsis points (3 spaced periods) to show omitted material from quotation. If at end of sentence, add a period.

•Use past tense to describe historic events. OK to use present tense in describing modern historians' views of these events.


Tips on Senior Thesis:


Portal on Senior Thesis: Click on this portal link to read sample theses that have won the department’s Anthony Brundage Award or other honors and also links to online primary sources that you can use to write your own theses.  Reading sample theses will familiarize yourselves with the format, length, and style of a senior thesis.  Also notice the variety of topics, and possible primary sources.


Structure: Stick with a chronological narrative whenever you can.  It makes it easier for you to organize and for the reader to follow the developments of events. 


Intellectual Stimulation: Remain engaged in current intellectual debate and go beyond sound bytes on TV or superficial analyses on the web.  Here are some suggestions on keeping your mind active on a daily basis: make New York Times your home page; read Los Angeles Times, esp. the op-eds, and Book Reviews on Sunday (unfortunately neither is free but you can get, as a college student, discounted rates for digital subscriptions); watch PBS, especially American Experience, Charlie Rose interviews on PBS; read some professional historical journals such as Journal of American History and American Historical Review from the library’s “Academic Search Premium” or Jstor databases.  When you successfully finish this course and graduate, you are certified a beginning historian.  Being a good historian means keeping intellectually active, maintaining a curious and open mind.


Writing:  Use simple past tense even if you are describing recent events.  In general, quote from your primary sources, but paraphrase the arguments from your secondary sources (with footnotes of course).  Try to write a topical sentence at the beginning of each paragraph and see whether the readers can follow your paper if they read only your topical sentences.


HST 461 Weekly Schedule and Assignments:


Week 1: Monday:  meet in the classroom.


Week 2: Meet on Monday in small groups in my office 94-335. Read and write a 1-2 page review of Marius, Short Guide, due in group meeting in my office the following week.  Please also become familiar with Self-Assessment Questionnaire.


Week 3: Meet in my office. Build a tentative bibliography on your topic by conducting searches in a list of primary and secondary sources (see attached assignments sheet).  Turn in your Marius book review.


Week 4-9: Meet in my office


Week 10: Last meeting for the quarter in classroom on Monday and Wednesday to report on project progress.  Bibliography, Outline, and Draft Introduction of thesis are due.  Read: Kevin Boone, “How to Give a Presentation.” The following are instructions on making your presentations:


1. Presentations: Everyone will make a presentation on his/her term paper in class on Monday and Wednesday in our classroom. Please prepare a PowerPoint presentation for about 5 minutes. You can bring the file on your USB drive or email it to yourself; please try to be in class 5 minutes before the start of class to transfer or download your PPT to the computer in the classroom.

2. Presentation Order will be the same as the groups meeting in my office.

3. Suggested presentation format: about 5 minutes in length; should include:

Title, Main Argument, Table of Contents (or outline), one or two important secondary sources, three slides with graphics reflecting the narrative of the paper, and a list of sources.

4. Discussion: Following each presentation there will be a brief discussion with questions and comments regarding the paper/presentation with a view toward improving both. Everyone, especially group mates of the presenter, are expected to ask questions and join in the discussion.

5. Post-presentation: you are expected to use the questions and discussion following the presentation of your paper to revise it to make it better. Therefore it's a good idea to have your pen and paper ready to write down the questions following your presentation. Please also keep your answers to questions brief so you can field as many questions as possible.

6. Tips on presentation: You can search the internet for "Tips on Presentation." One good site I found is: Kevin Boone, “How to Give a Presentation.”

7. Three Files Are Due by Friday in week 10 by 11pm to my email at 1) A one-page outline of your thesis, 2) a bibliography divided into primary and secondary sources following the Chicago Manual of Style (or Tarubian) as summaried in my handout here:; 3) the draft introduction to your thesis of about 3-5 pages, which should include a one-page historiography on your topic.


HST 462 Weekly Schedule and Assignments:


Week 1-7: Bring in progressing drafts to sessions in my office.


Week 8: No meeting in my office; work on both completing a draft paper and preparing for a presentation.


Week 9: Presentations in class.


Week 10: No meetings; polishing final draft.


Finals week: Final senior thesis due.  Also due: completed Self-Assessment Questionnaire.


Sample Cover:



Herblock and American Political Cartooning:


The Atomic Bomb, McCarthyism, and the Nixon Presidency





Shane Samuel





Senior Thesis in History


California State Polytechnic University, Pomona


March 2002



Advisor:          Zuoyue Wang