American Studies 485





Spring 2022

Download file: AMST-485-202201



It is the intention of the faculty of the Department of History and American Studies that the senior thesis allow its students to employ all the skills they have acquired during the course of their studies at the University of Mary Washington, especially the ability to:

  • Demonstrate a broad, diverse knowledge of American culture and society.
  • Integrate knowledge from several disciplinary perspectives.
  • Read and assess primary and secondary sources from a variety of genres and mediums.
  • Synthesize independent research findings in a written format.
  • Communicate evidence and analysis orally.

In addition to fulfilling the senior thesis requirement for the American Studies major, AMST 485 also counts for the Experiential Learning General Education Requirement. As such, the following are also goals for this course:

  • Apply what was learned in coursework to new scenarios outside standard university courses.
  • Identify their personal values and learning goals and direct themselves by creating personalized learning experiences that may include alternative means of learning.
  • Clarify and refine their understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in content of relevant disciplines and in skills such as time management, organization, professionalism, and so forth.
  • Recognize their knowledge and lack of knowledge.
  • Connect their undergraduate experiences and their post-graduation lives.

For writing intensive, they are the following:

  • Demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of the varying strategies to convey arguments, main ideas and support/ evidence.
  • Demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of the varying patterns of composition organization and development.
  • Demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of the audience, the role of the writer, and rhetorical strategies.
  • Demonstrate satisfactory knowledge of writing conventions and correctness.



Individual mentors, chosen by the student, direct each student paper, but the requirements for this course are the same for all students. The faculty of the Department has adopted a common syllabus for the course, including deadlines. Therefore, only the chairperson can grant a change in deadline for any of the assignments, and then only for the most extenuating of reasons.

Each mentor, however, establishes individual requirements for several aspects of the senior thesis process. It is the responsibility of each student to consult with their mentors to determine their expectations for the following:

  • Frequency of meetings and their scheduling.
  • How the first submission of each assignment is graded.
  • Penalties for inadequate first versions of papers.
  • Whether electronic versions of completed assignments are allowed.



Students must attend an introductory meeting with the chair on Monday, January 10, at 5 pm.  Students must also attend a departmental workshop on their presentations at 5 pm on Monday April 18.

Over the course of the semester, the department requires each student to complete three papers.


The first assignment is a two-to-three-page Proposal (appended to which is a comprehensive bibliography for the topic) due on Friday, January 21 at noon. The edited proposal will be returned to the student by Monday, Jan 24 and the final Proposal is due on Friday, Jan 28 at noon.


The second paper is an eight-to-ten-page Literature Review due on Friday, February 11 at noon. The edited review will be returned to students by the following Friday, February 18; the final revised Review will be due on Friday, February 25 at noon.


The final assignment is the Senior Thesis itself. It must be thirty-to-forty pages long plus notes and bibliography.  The finished research paper is due on Monday, March 28 at noon (the title of the research paper and abstract are also to be sent electronically on this date to and will be returned in edited form to students on Monday, Apr 4. The revised Senior Thesis is due on Monday, April 18.  NOTE: An additional electronic copy of the final revised paper must be sent to by the day of the Symposium.


Rewrites.  To encourage and facilitate further development of your writing skills, the department requires a rewrite of each assignment.  The first version of each assignment must be complete and polished, i.e. the first submission is not a rough draft.  Faculty mentors will then provide guidance and suggestions toward improving that version. It is within an individual instructor’s prerogative to refuse to review an incomplete or late first submission. Again, each mentor will determine how they will use the first submission in determining the final grade for each assignment.



Bibliographic Format.  All written work must conform to the Chicago Manual of Style, the authoritative source for the form of bibliographic citation the department has adopted. This is the format required in AMST 201; no other format (e.g. MLA or APA) is acceptable. Students may consult Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers, or an equivalent abridgement of the Chicago Manual of Style. [Note the most recent versions of the Chicago Manual of Style (17th) and Turabian (8th) include updated information for electronic citations.  Be sure to use the newest editions.]


Deadlines.  The deadline for all assignments is 12:00 noon of the due date.     

Only the chair of the department can grant deadline extensions for any paper and only then under the most extenuating of circumstances.  If a paper is late, its grade will be reduced ten points for each twenty-four-hour period, or portion thereof, beyond the stated deadline. Unless an electronic version is previously agreed upon by faculty mentor and student, paper copies of the completed assignments are due at noon on the dates noted in the syllabus.


Computer Crashes.  Hard drive crashes and other computer woes will not be accepted as excuses for late submission.  Students should, given the complexity of the research task they will pursue, be sure that they maintain adequate backup copies of all aspects of their work.


Grading.  Each paper will have the following value toward determination of the final grade for the course:

Proposal                                                          10%

Literature Review                                           25%

Senior Thesis                                                   65%


The grading scale for each assignment will be as follows:

A          Unusual Excellence                             (93 or higher = A; 90-92 = A-)

B          Work Distinctly Above Average          (87-89 = B+; 83-86 = B; 80-82 = B-)

C          Work of Average Quality                    (77-79 = C+; 73-76 = C; 70-72 = C-)

D          Work of Below Average Quality         (67-69 = D+; 60-66 = D)

F          Failure, No Credit                                (0-59 = F)


Departmental Symposium: All AMST 485 students are required to participate in the Department’s semi-annual Symposium.  This important opportunity for students to share results of their research is held on the last day of the spring term, Friday, April 22.  Student presentations at the Symposium are organized into two-to-three paper panels moderated by a member of the history faculty and are expected to be succinct, polished 8-10-minute summaries.  Participation in the Symposium is a requirement of AMST 485 and an important aspect of the program of Outcomes Assessment that the Department is required to conduct annually by the Commonwealth of Virginia.



The Department has developed a research website that contains information pertinent to each of the required assignments:



Students wishing to be considered for Honors in American Studies at graduation must satisfy two rigorous requirements.  They must, first, have a GPA in the major of not less than 3.5 and, second, must, on the recommendation of their AMST 485 faculty mentor, submit their Senior Thesis to a faculty honors committee to be comprised of the student’s mentor and at least two additional members of the American Studies affiliated faculty.  Students whose final paper is judged by this faculty panel to be truly exceptional in breadth and depth of research, analysis, and writing and who successfully “defend” their project before their faculty honors committee are awarded the distinction of graduating with honors in American Studies.




  1. TEXT LENGTH: minimum – 30 pages; maximum – 40 pages (i.e., the paper exclusive of footnotes or endnotes, title page, abstract, bibliography, etc.)
  2. MARGINS: 1” margins on all sides
  3. FONT: 12 pt. Times Roman
  4. DOCUMENTATION: footnotes or endnotes
  5. BIBLIOGRAPHY: may be subdivided, e.g., “primary” and “secondary”
  6. PAGE NUMBERING: consecutively through all materials, excluding title page and abstract
  7. TITLE PAGE: must include paper title and author’s name, centered, course number, instructor, and date
  8. ABSTRACT: 100-150-word summary of final paper’s argument/contents. Must be the second page, after the title page, of the final paper.


HONOR PLEDGE: The Pledge must appear on all assignments, first papers and rewrites. Hard copies, if required, must have a hand-written signature.



OFFICE OF DISABILITY RESOURCES has been designated by the University of Mary Washington as the primary office to guide, counsel, and assist students with disabilities. If you receive services through that office and require accommodations for this class, please make an appointment with your 485 instructor as soon as possible to discuss your approved accommodations.  They will hold any information you share in strictest confidence unless you give permission to do otherwise.

If you have not made contact with the Office of Disability Resources and have reasonable accommodation needs, your 485 instructor will be happy to help you contact them. The office will require appropriate documentation of a disability.

Office of Disability Resources                   005 Seacobeck            540-654-1266    

Talley Center for Counseling Services      106 Lee Hall                540-654-1053

TITLE IX STATEMENT: University of Mary Washington faculty are committed to supporting students and upholding the University’s Policy on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence. Under Title IX and this Policy, discrimination based upon sex or gender is prohibited. If you experience an incident of sex- or gender-based discrimination, UMW encourages you to report it. While you may talk to your 485 instructor, understand that as a “Responsible Employee” of the University, they MUST report to UMW’s Title IX Coordinator what you share. If you wish to speak to someone confidentially, please contact the below confidential resources. They can connect you with support services and help you explore your options. You may also seek assistance from UMW’s Title IX Coordinator. Please visit to view UMW’s Policy on Sexual and Gender Based Harassment and Other Forms of Interpersonal Violence and to find further information on support and resources.

Title IX Office                                            Fairfax House              540-654-1166

Talley Center for Counseling Services      106 Lee Hall                540-654-1053

Student Health Center                              Lee Hall 112                540-654-1040



All students are expected to adhere to the policies and expectations of the University to mitigate risk and support the health and safety of the UMW community, including refraining from attending class if experiencing symptoms. A comprehensive set of the current policies and expectations can be found at the COVID-19 information page. This includes the requirement that all unvaccinated employees, students and visitors are required to wear masks inside any university building and are strongly encouraged to do so when outside in group settings.  UMW policy ALSO stipulates that all employees, students, and visitors, regardless of vaccination or booster status, must wear masks indoors in public spaces (which includes all classrooms, laboratories, meeting spaces, foyers and hallways, and auditoriums) until further noticeThe use of KN-95 masks or equivalent is highly encouraged. Changes to this requirement will be communicated to the campus community by the COVID-19 Director and updated at the university’s COVID-19 information page.

No food is permitted in classrooms and other instructional areas; drinks permitted in closed containers only and not in areas where expressly prohibited. Failure to comply with UMW policies and expectations will result in disciplinary action consistent with the Student Code of Conduct.