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Honors Program

Professor Dorsey in the midst of teaching.

Honors history majors and minors must complete the same credit and distribution requirements as course majors and minors. Seminars are the normal mode of preparation for students studying history in the Honors Program. For additional information on the Honors Program more generally, please refer to the Honors Information Packets.

Honors Majors

Honors majors will complete three double-credit seminars. Students may substitute HIST 180 Honors Thesis for one of their seminars. Students wishing to write a HIST 180 Honors Thesis should declare their intention to the Department and secure an advisor by May 1 of their junior year. They will develop their proposal in the summer with the help of their advisor and submit it prior to returning in September. Honors majors will also be required to complete HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar. Honors students may, if their Honors Program requires it, receive approval from the Department Chair to complete HIST 091 Senior Research Seminar in the fall of their junior year. The thesis and revised seminar papers for the Class of 2022 are due by April 29.

Honors Minors

Honors minors will complete one double-credit seminar in addition to three credits taken at Swarthmore (AP, transfer credit, and courses taken abroad do not count; one approved Ancient History course in the Classics Department may count) and include one revised paper from that seminar in their portfolio. This revised seminar paper is usually due by the end of classes or April 30 in the spring semester of the students’ senior year, whichever comes first.


Seminars are a collective, collaborative, and cooperative venture among students and faculty members designed to promote self-directed learning. Because the seminar depends on the active participation of all its members, the department expects students to live up to the standards of honors. These standards include attendance at every seminar session, submission of seminar papers according to the deadline set by the instructor, reading of seminar papers before coming to the seminar, completion of all reading assignments before the seminar, respect of the needs of other students who share the reserve readings, and eagerness to engage in a scholarly discussion of the issues raised by the readings and seminar papers. Students earn double-credit for seminars and should be prepared to work at least twice as hard as they do for single-credit courses. The Department reminds students that the responsibility for earning honors rests squarely on the students’ shoulders and will review on a regular basis their performance in the program. Failure to live up to the standards outlined previously may disqualify students from continuing in the Honors Program. 

Students discuss readings during class.


Students in seminars take a 3-hour written examination at the end of each seminar and receive a grade from the seminar instructor for their overall performance in the seminar, including the written examination. Seminar instructors will not normally assign grades during the course of the seminar, but they will meet periodically with students on an individual basis during the course of the semester to discuss their progress.

Revised Papers

Honors students will revise one paper per seminar for their portfolio submitted to external examiners. Revised papers will not be graded but will be included in the portfolio to provide examiners a context for the evaluation of the written examination taken in the spring of the senior year. The thesis and revised seminar papers are usually due by the end of classes or April 30 in the spring semester of the students’ senior year, whichever comes first.

Revised seminar papers are written in two stages. During the first stage, students confer with their seminar instructor about what paper to prepare for honors and what revisions to plan for these papers. Seminar instructors will offer advice on how to improve the papers with additional readings, structural changes and further development of arguments. The second stage occurs when the student revises the papers independently. Faculty members are not expected to read the revised papers at any stage of the revision process. Each revised paper must be from 2,500 to 4,000 words and include a brief bibliography. Students will submit them to the department office by the end of classes in the spring semester of the students’ senior year. Students who fail to submit their revised papers by the deadline might adversely affect their honorific. Examiners will be notified about late papers.

Study Groups

The department encourages students to form their own study groups to prepare for the external examinations. Although faculty members may, at their convenience, attend an occasional study session, students are generally expected to form and lead the study groups, in keeping with the department’s belief that honors is a collaborative, self-learning exercise that relies on the commitment of students.