PLSC/HIST 499: Senior Seminar

Senior Seminar is the culminating activity for students majoring in History, Political Science, International Studies or Social Science.  The purpose of the course is to allow students an opportunity to engage in an in-depth research project and to share their findings and analyses in written and oral presentations.

Students in Senior Seminar have one major assignment (a research paper) and one smaller assignment (an ePortfolio). The paper requires students to engage in an in-depth research project and to share their findings and analyses in written and oral presentations. The ePortfolio is a general education capstone that displays achievement/mastery of La Verne’s Baccalaureate goals. Students will create their e-Portfolio comprised of artifacts and reflection essays that contemplate, examine, and internalize their coursework at La Verne.

Papers should be 8000-10,000 words (30-40 pages) in length and should be analytical rather than descriptive.  In other words, they must make an argument rather than simply survey a historical period.  Students are free to select a topic of their choice, however, all topics must be approved by the instructor.

All students are expected to attend class regularly and to participate in discussions generated by student presentations.


Students are expected to demonstrate proficient analysis, synthesis and organized insight articulated through:

  • Creation of an artifact (research paper) that demonstrates knowledge of the theory and applications of their discipline and the ability to reflect critically.
  • Successful completion of three sections of the ePortfolio with artifacts and reflections that align with the following baccalaureate learning outcomes: Intercultural Competence, Written Communications and Critical Thinking/Information Literacy.
  • Reflection on their own intercultural competency and how these conclusions relate to their personal and professional development.
  • Demonstration of intercultural competency in relation to their field of study in the form of a separate artifact for their ePortfolio.


Grades will be based on the following:

  • Research paper:  55%
    • 1-2 page outline (5%)
    • 2500-3000-word installments (20%)
    • Final Draft (30%)
  • ePortfolio: 20%
  • In-class presentation:  10%
  • Attendance and participation:  15%

Outline:  By Sept. 10, students must have a topic.  On that day students will submit the title of their project as well as a brief (1-2 page) outline of their topic and argument. Outlines must be submitted to SafeAssign on Blackboard by 10:00 am on Sept. 10. This outline must include a bibliography of at least five preliminary academic sources for their research.  At that meeting, I will work with you on your topics.  Outlines will be returned at the end of that class meeting, and most of you will be asked to resubmit a revised outline, incorporating my recommendations.  At this course meeting, we will also select dates for the oral presentation of your research.

Here is a guide to composing an outline:

  • What is your research question?
  • What is your answer to that question?
    • (This answer is your thesis statement.)
  • What evidence do you have to support your thesis statement?
    • (This is your argument.)
  • How will you divide and then present that argument and evidence?
  • Write your outline based on that information.

Library Tutorial: We will schedule a library tutorial on the date given below.  A librarian will be available to give you guidance on your research.  The more you know about your topic, the better you will be able to take advantage of this opportunity.  If you are unable to attend the tutorial, you will need to make a separate appointment with a librarian and have him/her send me confirmation of your meeting.

Research Paper:  Students are required to write a 8000-10,000-word research paper.  On the dates given below, students must upload 2500-3000-word installments of their research by 11:59 pm.  Original work must be submitted on each occasion.  I will return this work with comments and suggestions.  The completed final draft will be due on Dec. 17 at 11:59 pm.  Late papers will be penalized at the rate of one grade per day. All papers must be submitted in Microsoft Word. No PDFs.

Suggested Reference WorkKate Turabian, et. al., A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press (available at the Wilson Library Reference Desk)

Students must append two items to their research project, both of which will also be essential components of their ePortfolio:

  1. A 500-word “Acknowledgements” section at the beginning of their paper, which includes reflection on the relationship between this project and the student’s previous work within the major. Any previous work referenced in this section of the paper should be uploaded to the student’s ePortfolio. At least one previous piece of writing must be discussed and uploaded in this assignment.  Students should use the critical thinking VALUE rubric from AAC&U as a guide for this assignment.
  2. A 500-word “Epilogue” discussing the implications of the the student’s research. This section of the project must reference two cultures or contexts not discussed in the project. It should include reflection on how future research might apply the results of the student’s project beyond the scope of the culture context examined in the project. 

In-Class Presentation:  In your oral presentation, you should speak for 20-25 minutes and field questions afterward.  Students who present earlier in the semester will not be expected to have finalized their research.  Students who present later, should have more definitive conclusions. Students must prepare an electronic presentation (PowerPoint, Prezi, Google Slides, etc.) for use during presentations and for inclusion in the ePortfolio.

ePortfolioThere are five components to the ePortfolio.

  1. The research paper. (Baccalaureate Learning Outcomes: Written Communication)
  2. The visual presentation. (Baccalaureate Learning Outcome: Critical Thinking/Information Literacy)
  3. A reflection on the relationship between the senior project and previous work in the major. This is the “Acknowledgements” section referenced above. (Baccalaureate Learning Outcome: Critical Thinking/Information Literacy)
  4. At least one paper written for another class in the major. This paper should be discussed in the students “Acknowledgements.” In reflecting on this paper, students should use the Writing Rubric posted on the La Verne Experience webpage. 
  5. A reflection on the implications of the student’s research (“Epilogue”). This assignment must discuss two cultures or contexts not discussed in the project. (Baccalaureate Outcome: Intercultural Competence)

Disability Accommodations: If you need disability accommodations for an exam or other assignment, please see the instructor as soon as possible. Information regarding disabilities, including learning disabilities, will remain confidential. If you are not sure whether you need special accommodations, please contact the Accessibility Services Department. Information about location and contact numbers can be found here:

Attendance and Participation:  Attendance and punctuality are basic requirements for an effective discussion. Beyond that, each student’s frequency and quality of contribution to the class discussion will be assessed and reflected in the class participation score.  Students should listen attentively to presentations and pose thoughtful questions in response.

In addition to in-class participation, I expect that all of you, either alone or in groups, will contact me frequently during the semester. I am available to discuss your projects, either during office hours, at other times, over the phone, or through email.  If you would prefer to schedule a time during non-office hours, simply contact me by phone or email and we will schedule an appropriate time.

Students who miss more than one class will automatically suffer a deduction of one-third of a grade (e.g. a B+ becomes a B).  Students who miss more than two classes will suffer a full grade deduction (e.g. a B+ becomes a C+). Multiple instances of tardiness will also result in a deduction of one-third of a grade.

Course ConductIn order to build and maintain a supportive and productive learning community, students and instructors must treat one another with respect.

For students, this includes but is not limited to:

  • Being prepared to discuss the assigned readings each day;
  • Regular attendance;
  • Notifying the instructor of any scheduling conflicts;
  • On-time arrival to class;
  • Minimizing trips in and out of the room during class;
  • Minimizing side-conversations;
  • Refraining from use of cell phones, tablets, and laptops. Neither laptops nor tablets may be used in class.  Cell phones must be turned off AND put away during class meetings.  Students who use laptops, tablets, or cell phones will be considered absent.

Failure to adhere to these expectations – especially if students are disrupting others’ learning or creating an unwelcoming environment – will result in disciplinary measures. For more on University policies on appropriate classroom conduct, see the University of La Verne Catalog (2017-2018), p. 64.

For instructors, responsibility for building and maintaining a supportive and productive learning community includes but is not limited to:

  • Being accessible to students;
  • Communicating clear expectations for student success;
  • Addressing students respectfully, including use of preferred names and pronouns;
  • Returning graded work in a timely fashion;
  • Creating a open exchange of ideas to which all students are encouraged to contribute;
  • Facilitating the interrogation and critical analysis of ideas, including interrogation of the instructor’s views, biases, and values.

Students are encouraged to report violations of University policy, including sexual misconduct and social justice incidents here:


Sept. 3: Introduction

Sept. 10: Outlines due & presentations scheduled.

Library Tutorial: Wilson Library 172, 4:00.

Sept. 17-Nov. 5  One-on-one consultations

Oct. 15:  First 2500-3000-word installment due

Nov. 12:  Second 2500-3000-word installment due

Nov. 19: Presentation of research





Dec. 3:  Third 2500-3000-word installment due

Presentation of research





Dec. 10: Presentation of research





FINAL DRAFTS DUE:  Dec. 17, 11:59 pm


The Department of History and Political Science encourages all students who believe they may qualify for Departmental Honors to apply to the department as soon as possible.  Candidates for Departmental Honors must have a 3.0 GPA over-all and at least a 3.6 GPA in their major field.  In addition, Departmental Honors are based in large measure on the quality of the research project submitted in senior seminar.


The Department of History and Political Science mandates that all submitted work adhere to the Turabian/Chicago style delineated in Kate Turabian, et. al., A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, University of Chicago Press (available at the Wilson Library Reference Desk). Here you can find a quick and useful guide to the Turabian/Chicago style for citations.

Here is a website that will automatically format citations in Chicago style for you:


Your work will be evaluated according to the following criteria:

A— designates work of extraordinarily high quality; reflects unusually thorough and comprehensive understanding of issues at hand; presents a clearly identifiable thesis and argument that demonstrates cogent and creative development and support of ideas.

B— designates work of high quality; reflects clearly organized and comprehensive understanding of issues and hand; presents substantive thesis and argument with evident development and support of ideas.

C— designates work which minimally meets requirements set forward in assignment; reflects some organization and development of ideas, but develops argument in superficial or simplistic manner; may only address part of the assignment or be otherwise incomplete.

D— designates work of poor quality which does not meet minimum requirements set forward in assignment; demonstrates poor organization of ideas and/or inattention to          development of ideas, grammar, and spelling; treatment of material is superficial and/or simplistic; may indicate that student has not done reading assignments thoroughly.

F— designates work that does not meet ANY of the standards set above or which is not handed in.


Plagiarism is a prevalent but highly unethical practice. Plagiarism will result in the immediate failure of this course and disciplinary action which could lead to expulsion from the University. If you are having problems in the course, please come and talk to me about it rather than doing something that could put your entire college career in jeopardy. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to the following:

  • The direct copying of any source, such as written and verbal material, computer files, audio disks, video programs or musical scores, whether published or unpublished, in whole or part, without proper acknowledgment that it is someone else’s.
  • Copying of any source in whole or part with only minor changes in wording or syntax, even with acknowledgment.
  • Submitting as one’s own work a report, examination paper, computer file, lab report or other assignment that has been prepared by someone else. This includes research papers purchased from any other person or agency.
  • The paraphrasing of another’s work or ideas without proper acknowledgment.


The Academic Success Center provides free one-on-one peer tutoring to graduate and undergraduate students in a wide variety of courses and subjects. Please make liberal use of the ASC if you need assistance with any of the assignments for this course. To make an appointment, use the quick start guide, stop by ASC on the second floor of the Campus Center, or call (909) 448-4342. Answers to frequently asked questions are available here.


(h/t Barnard College)

Appendix A:  Questions to Consider when Writing a Senior Project

1. Topic: A good topic should pose an interesting question that can be answered by available evidence. How well does the thesis do this?

2. Title: A good title is difficult to create. It should excite the reader’s interest, while reducing the thesis’s core idea to a few words.

3. Statement of Argument / Introduction: The introduction should draw the reader into the topic and make clear where the writer is going. The writer should pose an answerable question and articulate the argument she will construct to answer that question. Does the author accomplish these goals?

4. Discussion of the relevant scholarly literature / Historiography: A good essay is part of a larger conversation among scholars. How well does the author define the scholarly discussion to which she wishes to contribute? Does the writer make clear what others have said on the subject? Does she make clear what her position is and what she is adding to the debate?

5. Organization: The longer a piece of writing, the more critical the organization. How well organized is this thesis? Do the chapter divisions make sense in terms of the overall argument?

6. Details: Is the note form (either footnotes or endnotes may be used) proper and consistent? Does the author effectively use notes to convey useful information tangential to the main argument? Are quotations over 35 words indented?

Appendix B: Shaping a Senior Thesis

Most of the time, topics (questions) are made, not born. You begin with a fuzzy notion of something that interests you, something that seems worth investigating, and you proceed from there.

Follow your curiosity. Conceiving your topic in the form of a question often helps. Work continually to focus your question. You can never provide the whole answer to any large historical question—nor should you try to. Think of yourself as making a finite, limited, yet trustworthy contribution to the larger history of your subject.

The thesis must take a clear and specific stand that is supported by argument and evidence.  Good theses not only corroborate their point of view, but also address alternative viewpoints and potential criticisms.

At some point (and it is better if this happens sooner rather than later), you will come to the realization that you cannot afford to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have all the time in the world, and you need to find an efficient and economical way of getting at your subject. Don’t spend your time and energy simply recapitulating the information you have gotten through reading secondary sources. Rather, look for openings, questions, points that have not been considered to your satisfaction, problems that have been raised by the information you have found in the primary and secondary sources. Often your reader will need some broad, preliminary information in order to understand where you are coming from and where you are heading. Providing contextual information may be necessary at various points in your paper. But get to the meat of yourtopic and your interpretation as soon as and whenever possible.

We understand your desire to tell the “whole story” of whatever aspect of history you choose to discuss. But resist this temptation. It is necessary for you to learn the general history of your subject in order to do your work, but it is not your task to recapitulate this information. You’ve got to choose one limited aspect of the story on which to focus–one focused area in which to make a real contribution to the subject through your particular reading of available primary sources. The most successful papers work from the particular to the general. Think of yourself as a contributor to a much larger project.

If you have done things correctly, you will find that not all your research can be used. Do not regard this as a mistake; it is a normal part of the process. Trying to stuff everything you’ve found into a paper can lead to real problems.

The questions you ask may not be resolved in any ultimate sense; your conclusions may be fairly tentative, but you should, nevertheless be working toward a conclusion.

Appendix C: Proper Format for Note References

The first time you use any source, cite it in full. You need to use a full citation only the first time you cite any work. Every time thereafter, you should use the abbreviated short title form (see the section under this heading below).

Full Book Citation

Author’s full name (first name, initial, last name)
Complete title of the book (either underlined or in italics—whichever you choose, be consistent)
Editor, compiler, or translator, if any
Name of series in which book appears, if any, and volume or number in the series
Edition, if other than the first
Number of volumes
Facts of publication — city where published, publisher (if you wish), date of publication
Page number(s) of the particular citation

Examples of Full Citations for Books

Author: The first time an author’s name appears it should be written in full. For footnotes, place the first name first and the last name last. (Only in the Bibliography should you place the last name first.)

1. Judith A. Baer, Equality Under the Constitutions: Reclaiming the Fourteenth Amendment (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 105-130.

All book titles must either italicized or underlined (choose one or the other and then be consistent throughout).

2. Marc Bloch, Feudal Society, trans. L. A. Manyon (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1961), 69.

3. Thomas W. Copeland, ed., The Papers of James Madison, 1 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1962), 49.

4. Deborah L. Rhode, ed., Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 257-260.

Multivolume Works: Works of more than one volume should be identified in notes by the number of volumes in the work and the number of the volume from which a quote has been taken. Some multivolume works have a general title and individual titles for each volume; in that case list the general title and then the particular title to which the note refers. Notes for books that are part of a series should list the title of the book in italics, followed by the title of the series in roman letters:

1. Edward T. James et al. eds., Notable American Women: A Biographical Dictionary, 3 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), 1:119.

2. Fernand Braudel, The Identity of France, vol. 2, People and Production, trans. Sian Reynolds (New York: Harper Collins, 1990), 237-238.

3. James Losh, The Diaries and Correspondence of James Losh, ed. Edward Hughes, 2 vols., Publications of the Surtees Society, vols. 171, 172 (Durham, England: Andrews & Co. for the Society, 1962-63), 2:200-212.

Full Citation Form for all Articles:

(To be used only the first time a work is cited. Every time thereafter, use the Short Title citation form as outlined below.

Author’s Full Name  (first name, initial, last name)
Title of the Article (in quotation marks)
Name of the periodical  (either underlined or in italics)
Number of the volume or issue
Date of the volume or of the issue  (year in parenthesis)
Page number(s) of the particular citation

Examples of Full Citations for Articles

Article in a Scholarly Journal:

Mary Louise Roberts, “Samson and Delilah Revisited: The Politics of Women’s Fashion in 1920’s France,” American Historical Review, 98 (1993): 657.

Chapter in a Book:

Patricia O’Brien, “Michel Foucault’s History of Culture,” in Lynn Hunt, ed., The New Cultural History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 25.

Article in a Magazine:

Lucy Eisenberg, “Scientists vs. Animal Lovers: The Conflict That Never Ends,” Harper’s, November 1966, 101-10.

Citing a Newspaper:

New York Times, 11 August 1965, p. B3.

Citing a Government Publication:

U.S. Congress, Senate, Congressional Record, 9 October 1987, pp. 14011-12.

Citing a Book Review:

Ronald M. Radano, review of The Creation of Jazz by Burton W. Puretti, Reviews in American History, 21 (December 1993): 671.

Citing a Well Known Reference Book:

Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., s.v. “Prayers for the Dead.”

Short Title Citations

After the first reference to a particular source of whatever kind, all subsequent references should be shortened.

The shortened reference to a book should include only:
Last name of the author
Shortened title of the book (underlined or in italics)
Page number of the reference.


For the first citation of any book use the
Book, Full Title:
Judith A. Baer, Equality Under the Constitution: Reclaiming the Fourteenth Amendment (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983), 105-130.

For all succeeding citations use the
Book, Short Title:
Baer, Equality Under the Constitution, 105-130.

Example 2:
Book, Full Title:
Deborah L. Rhode, ed., Theoretical Perspectives on Sexual Difference (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990), 257-260.

Book, Short Title:
Rhode, ed., Theoretical Perspectives, 257-60.

Short Title Citations for All Articles

The shortened reference to an article should include only:
Last name of the author,
Short title of the article,
Page numbers of the reference.

Article, Full Title Citation:
Mary Louise Roberts, “Samson and Delilah Revisited: The Politics of Women’s Fashion in 1920’s France,” American Historical Review, 98 (June 1993): 657.

Article, Short Title Citation:
Roberts, “Samson and Delilah,” 657.

A shortened reference to a manuscript source should include only the title and name of the collection.




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