Contact Information

Robert Christman
Professor of History
Department Head

Koren 207
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa  52101

Phone: 563-387-1451

Student Resources

Here you'll find in-depth information about upper-level courses and projects for history students.

Junior and Senior Seminars

History 485

History majors are required to complete History 485: Junior-Senior Seminar.

Normally one section of this course is offered each semester, with the specific topic varying, depending on the instructor. The seminars give students the opportunity to examine a subject in more depth than is usually possible in a course covering a broader topic. Course work involves reading and discussion of works related to the general focus of the course, including historiography, and culminates in the preparation of a 20-25 page research paper. It is strongly encouraged that students take HIST 485 one or more semesters prior to completing HIST 490, the senior paper.

History 485 is offered every fall semester.

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.

If you are a history double major, please identify the department for your senior project by completing this form. If you plan to complete your senior project in history, please read carefully through the rest of this page.

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.

  • Must be a minimum of 25 pages in length and must involve significant analysis of primary sources.
  • Each senior paper must include a title page, body, citations done in either footnote or endnote format, and a bibliography.
  • Citation style for the bibliography and notes must conform to the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition) which is available in Preus Library and in brief form in the Holt Handbook (3rd edition), Turabian, or Little Seagull Handbook.
  • Must present the paper to professors and students at the end of the semester.
  • Your advisor will have additional guidelines.

Sample Title Page for Senior Paper

This form must be completed by majors doing a History senior paper.

Senior Paper Topic Form

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 (in effect from Spring 2016).

Note: The rules and procedures for dropping HIST 490 are the same as for other courses. However, you will not receive a diploma and officially graduate until you have successfully completed a senior project.

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 deadlines detailed below.

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:

Consult the appropriate rubric as you develop your project:

  • Paper Option
  • Lesson Plan Option
  • Submit the Senior Project Topic Form to the History department head by 5:00pm on the deadline for adding a full-semester course (usually the second Friday of the semester).

As you prepare the manuscript, see the Hints for Research and Writing.

Final Steps:

  • First draft: Turn in your rough draft to your project advisor by the deadline you arrange with your advisor. We recommend that be at least two weeks before the due date for the final paper. 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 revise based on their comments.
  • Final Paper: Submit the final paper to the History Department Head by the date set by the History Department. For Fall 2021, the due date is November 30. By 5:00pm on this date, you must turn in one complete copy of your paper and one additional copy of your cover page.
  • Presentation: Present the paper to faculty and students on Tuesday, December 7 at 7:00pm. The presentation is worth 10 percent of the senior paper grade. Please see this rubric for how each presentation will be evaluated. You will need to bring to your presentation a form from the Speech & Debate Center, indicating you have workshopped a draft of your presentation.

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.

Contact Information

Robert Christman
Professor of History
Department Head

Koren 207
700 College Drive
Decorah, Iowa  52101

Phone: 563-387-1451