During their junior year, all students, regardless of their area of concentration, must complete two pieces of independent work. In each of their two junior semesters, students write a 25-35-page research paper, referred to as the JP (for ‘Junior Paper’).
As History concentrators begin their independent work in the Department, they receive special instruction in the practices, norms, and conduct of historical research. This begins with the fall-term Junior Seminar, History 400. In addition to being the first course undergraduates take after joining the Department, it is also the forum in which they write their first JP. More fundamentally, the course serves as students’ introduction to doing history in the Department.
Though administered as a single course, History 400 in fact consists of a number of different seminars, anywhere from six to twelve depending on the size of the junior class, each led by a different faculty member and constructed around a distinct topic. While these topics are important, each seminar is fundamentally designed to train students in the methods and practice of historical research and writing. As they work through the specific materials germane to the topic at hand, students are taught how to conceive of historical problems, to derive questions with which to address them, to employ strategies for doing research, to analyze and interpret, and to organize and present their findings. In addition to producing their JP, students also perform tasks specific to the seminar’s topic. Students receive separate grades for each of these bodies of work.
Unlike the topic of their fall JP, which is tied to the subject of their History 400 seminar, the focus of History concentrators’ spring independent work is largely up to them. While the spring JP must be situated in a different era and place from the fall JP, considerable latitude is given to students to explore their interests and to request particular faculty as advisers.