Senior Projects

All students at Luther College must complete a project during their senior year. An independently-undertaken major project, completed over the course of several months with minimal supervision, is among the most significant and meaningful accomplishments of a college career.  It provides a clear demonstration of skills and mental acuity to both potential employers and graduate schools.

Paper Option:

This paper should be the capstone of your education, where you take the methods, skills and knowledge you gained from history classes and put them into practice independently. Choose a topic that excites you and is narrow enough to explore thoroughly. We want you to engage primary sources and existing historiography to develop an innovative argument. Please consult the senior paper option page for requirements.

Lesson Plan Option:

The senior paper lesson plan option is intended to be a cumulative experience for students which allows them to put into practice the basic objectives of the history program as a whole. Those electing to do the lesson plan option apply their research by producing original plans for introducing the subject matter in a middle school or secondary classroom. This assignment aims specifically to encourage independent research which synthesizes ideas based on secondary and primary sources, makes judgments about sources and historical interpretations, and produces original lesson plans. Please consult the senior project lesson plan page for requirements (active Spring 2016).

Note: You will not receive a diploma and officially graduate until you have successfully completed a senior project.

Advisors

  • You are responsible for identifying a faculty advisor who will help you choose and focus your research.
  • It is very important to choose an advisor the semester before you plan to do your senior project. At the very latest, you should talk to your advisor the first week of the semester you are doing your senior project.
  • Your selected project advisor must have agreed to advise you before you begin your senior project.
  • The project advisor will, in consultation with the student, establish all subsequent guidelines such as due dates for drafts, bibliography, discussion meetings or other criteria with the exception of the final due date which is the decision of the Registrar and is published in the college's academic calendar.

Important Dates

Semester before:

  • Communicate with an advisor during the semester before the semester in which you will do the senior project.

First week:

  • Choose a project advisor by the first week of the semester in which you will do the senior project.With your project advisor, establish a calendar for your research process. Establish dedicated time during your weekly schedule for working on the project.

Throughout the semester:

Final Steps:

  • First draft: Turn in your rough draft to your project advisor at least two weeks before registrar’s final due date. Depending on your level of commitment earlier in the semester, you may need to do SUBSTANTIAL revision at this point to make the paper passable. It is important to give your project advisor enough time to respond and give yourself enough time to work on their comments.
  • Final Paper: Submit the final paper to the Registrar's Office by the date on the Luther College calendar. On or before that date you must turn in one complete copy of your paper and two copies of your cover page to the Registrar’s Office.
  • Presentation: Present the paper to faculty and students on the last Tuesday of each semester or at the Student Research Symposium held after you submit the paper to the Registrar. The presentation is worth 10 percent of the senior paper grade. Please see this rubric for how each presentation will be evaluated.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I use a paper from a previous history class, like my 485 paper?
A: Students can choose to substantially revise a previous paper written for History 485 or another history class. This includes using new sources, introducing a new thesis, and increasing the length of the previous paper.

Q: Can I write my senior paper and my 485 paper in the same semester?
A: Taking 490 and 485 in the same semester is STRONGLY discouraged. Consult your academic advisor on how to arrange your classes before your senior year to avoid the need to take them both in the same semester. If you find yourself in this situation, then you should speak
immediately with your 485 professor and the history professor with whom you intend to write your senior project.

Q: How do I decide on a topic?
A: Choice of topic is up to the student’s interests regarding time period and area of the world, but you must consider the specialties of the advisor with whom you are working, the resources of the library, and what it is possible to get on
interlibrary loan given constraints of time.

Q: What if I am a double major? Do I have to do my senior project in history?
A: You may choose to do your senior project in either major. The History Department does not require that you complete the senior project in our discipline. You should check what the rules are in your other discipline, as some majors do require a senior project in their discipline.