Final Project

General Information

The capstone assignment for the class is a comparative exercise. You may pick any aspect of MIT history that interests you. Your final project will be a "then and now" comparison. Examples include:

  • How was physics taught in 1916 compared to today?
  • What was crew like in 1916 compared with today?
  • If I were applying to MIT in 1916, how would that compare with today?
  • What was "The Tech" like 100 years ago?
  • What did students wear?
  • How many first generation students were there in 1916? Today?
  • Who was a favorite MIT professor in 1916? Who are the favorites today?
  • What was the cutting edge discovering 1916? Today?
  • How did MIT address sustainability in 1916 compared with today?

Once you have an idea, you have to decide how you want to present your investigation. There are several options:

  • Write a short paper (5 pages in length)
  • Develop a guided tour (Yonward is a free app that can help you do this)
  • Write a policy recommendation for the senior administration (1 page recommendation, 3–4 pages of report)
  • Document your project or performance from the May 7th Move Celebration and compare it with the 1916 event

If you come up with another idea, please get it approved beforehand.

Because it will be the easiest to complete, many of you will want to write a research paper. If you decide to do this, there will be an early / final due date arrangement (similar to previous assignments). If your project is something different, you will still be required to submit a project report with appropriate documentation (e.g.: Photographs) by the final due date.

The goal of this assignment is to get you to think about the things you have learned during the term. Your grade will reflect the quality of your work, but also your ability to draw important conclusions about historical change. MIT is the same, MIT is different. Your job is to make this clear. Your research will be based on materials from the syllabus, as well as your own independent research using the many sources available at the Institute, such as the Institute Archives, MIT Museum, and various digital resources such as The Tech, President's Reports, Catalogs, etc.


Research Paper

  • Paper should be 5 pages (1250–1500 words max) with footnotes. Illustrations or other images will affect the page count so use the "word count" tool or put the illustrations at the end. Your final version should be a Microsoft Word document, paginated, double-spaced, 12-point font with normal 1-inch margins.
  • Please check spelling, punctuation, and grammar carefully. This is a formal piece of work. It should represent your best effort. Use the spell and grammar checks on your computer, but consider having a friend read it over as well.
  • This is a research paper. You should seek out both primary and secondary sources available at repositories such as the MIT Libraries, Institute Archives, and the MIT Museum, as well as important online collections. The exact number of sources will vary by topic. Use the skills you were asked to practice for your document / artifact report.
  • Footnotes: The purpose of the footnote is to help the reader understand the sources you used, as well as assess the strength of your analysis. Just as cooks look at the ingredients of a recipe first, we will likewise read your notes and bibliography first. Great sources make a great first impression. There are several styles, but typically history papers use the Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Illustrations: It is entirely appropriate (but not required) to incorporate illustrations, technical diagrams, tables or other visual material. These need to be labeled and must indicate the source they were derived from.


  • If you decide you would like to try creating an online tour, you will need to use an app like Yonward, Whitepoint, or another free app.
  • Whichever tour app you choose, you will need to work out a coherent "tour" idea. What would you like the person using your tour to learn from the experience of taking it? It is not good enough to just pick a bunch of random spots and provide equally random data. An example of a good tour might be a "then and now" comparison that has you compare historical photos with current ones, and contains information on how the buildings have evolved.
  • Prepare a short report (2–3 pages) that includes the name of your tour, your goal, the text, photos, narration that you developed, plus a bibliography (or footnotes) of sources. You will need to include at least one page of reflection on how this project has helped you better understand the history of MIT.

Policy Recommendation

  • MIT produces many reports and recommendations. You have had the opportunity to read several for this class, so you can consider those as models, but below are other examples:
  • Your project should be what is sometimes referred to as an "Executive Summary" (2–4 pages) which highlights your key points and provides some evidence and information.
  • All reports come with a cover memorandum. Yours should be addressed to the relevant person at MIT. Your cover memo should include a very short synopsis of your hypothetical report, but also an explanation of what you have learned about MIT in preparing it.
  • This report is distinctive because your evidence should draw on history. If you want to say something about housing today, draw on information about student housing a century ago. For example, you might want to talk about security, but you should investigate what kinds of security (if any) was provided to students 100 years ago. If you want to discuss food, consider how students fed themselves during the first decade in Cambridge.
  • Your report must include footnotes, especially for the historical information.

Move Day Celebration Project Report

For those of you that want to capture your performance or project and compare it with events of June 1916, you will want to become intimately familiar with the July 1916 issue of Technology Review. There are 454 pages of details about every aspect of the event. There are also accounts in the Boston papers (all available online through the Libraries) and plenty of materials at the Archives and Museum (especially photographs).

  • You should divide your report into 3 parts. About 2 pages (plus photos, links, to videos, etc.) should describe your contribution to the event on May 7 2016. Pages 3–4 should compare this to some aspect of the 1916 celebration. The final page should contain a reflection of what you have learned from this "reenactment." What did your experience teach you about the original dedication? What can we learn about history by "doing" history?
  • Please remember to include footnotes, especially for the historical information, but document your own sources as well.

Other Projects

We will determine the right format, but there will be some sort of writing, a means of capturing your sources, etc.