All students in History will complete three semesters of Independent Study: a one-semester Junior Independent Study, and the two-semester Senior Independent Study.
The goal of History 401: Junior Independent Study is to help students develop their skills as historians in order to prepare the way for Senior I.S. The course is taught as a tutorial, with weekly one-on-one meetings. Under the guidance of a faculty advisor, students develop, research, and write about a historical topic. Students have the opportunity to develop a valid historical question, conduct research in primary and secondary sources, frame a historical argument, and write a research paper of significant scope. They also learn the time-management skills that are necessary to complete Senior I.S. History 401 can be taken in the fall or the spring semester.
History 451-2: Senior Independent Study is the culmination of the History curriculum. With the guidance of a faculty advisor, students design a research project, gather evidence, and present their conclusions in a formal thesis. Working one-on-one with a faculty advisor and engaging in the debates of professional historians, History majors develop the practical and analytical skills necessary for tackling problems not only in history but also in matters of contemporary concern.
There are few limits to the kinds of subjects that can be pursued for a Senior I.S. In the last few years, students have studied Japanese animation, the “Lost Cause Mythology” of the Civil War, conflict diamonds in Africa, British seaman and their pranks in the Napoleonic era, the CIA in Cold War Berlin, cemetery preservation in Wayne county, the economy of Côte d’Ivoire, and many, many other topics.
There are alternative models for the presentation of historical research as well. Wooster students have successfully completed their Senior I.S. by producing a film documentary, mounting a public history exhibition, writing a historical novel, and developing a high school curriculum.