Humanities Research Intensive (HRI)

Students examining the special collections in Stanford’s East Asia Library.

Everyone knows that scientists do research, but how do you conduct research in the humanities? Find out in the Humanities Research Intensive.

What is the humanities research intensive?

This course, taught over spring break, introduces frosh and sophomores to the excitement and wonder of humanities research. It will prepare you to develop an independent summer research project, to work as a research assistant for a Stanford professor, or to apply for undergraduate research grants.

Over five days, you and your classmates will take a deep dive into some of the most important methods and questions driving scholarly research in the humanities today. Your laboratory will be the Special Collections Library at Stanford, where you’ll work closely with Professors Elaine Treharne (English) and Caroline Winterer (History) doing hands-on research on ancient and modern books and manuscripts.

You will learn the following about humanities research:

  • How to formulate a solid research question
  • How to gather the evidence that will help you to answer that question
  • How to write up research results
  • How to evaluate the research of your fellow students and offer useful feedback
  • How to deliver your results in a public setting
  • How to write an effective grant proposal

Why particpate in HRI?

Students who complete this course become Humanities Research Intensive Fellows. HRI Fellows will receive post-program mentorship during spring quarter, ongoing opportunities to engage with humanities faculty and advanced undergraduates, and eligibility to apply for additional funding to support follow-up research over the summer or next academic year. They will become part of the broader intellectual community of humanities researchers at Stanford.

Who are the 2019 HRI Faculty?

Photograph of Elaine Treharne

Elaine Treharne is Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities and Professor of English. She is also the Director of Stanford's Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA). Her main research interests are in Early British manuscripts--their intentionality, materiality, functionality and value – and in digital and computational humanities. She has published widely in these areas over the last twenty years, focusing most specifically on religious poetry and prose, and manuscripts dating from c. 1020 to c. 1220. Her publications include A Very Short Introduction to Medieval Literature (2015), Living Through Conquest: The Politics of Early English, 1020 to 1220 (2012), and Old and Middle English, c. 890-1490: An Anthology (4th edition soon forthcoming). She blogs and tweets regularly – her most read publication was 'Beowulf in 100 Tweets' (#Beow100)! At Stanford, she is the Resident Fellow of Ng Humanities House. Professor Treharne is keenly interested in the use of digital technologies in the classroom and in research, and a passionate advocate for the Humanities in all areas of life.

Photograph of Caroline Winterer

Caroline Winterer is Anthony P. Meier Family Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Stanford Humanities Center. She specializes in American history of the pre-1900 period, especially the history of ideas, political theory, and the history of science. Her most recent book is American Enlightenments: Pursuing Happiness in the Age of Reason (2016). In it, Professor Winterer shows how early Americans grappled with the promises of the Enlightenment – how they used new questions about the plants, animals, rocks, and people of the New World to imagine the relationship of the present to the past, and to spur far-flung conversations about a better future with counterparts around the world. She has used new digital technologies to map early modern social networks, including the letters of Benjamin Franklin (a project that won her an American Ingenuity Award from the Smithsonian Institution in 2013), and has curated exhibits of rare books and artifacts.  As a teacher, researcher, and administrator, Professor Winterer sees humanities scholarship as the key tool for exploring the human world: “Everything that makes us human – that falls under the umbrella of the humanities.”

Fellowship Details

  • One-unit course. Pass / No Credit. Unit counts towards spring quarter.
  • First years and sophomores only.
  • Open to all majors, as well as undeclared students.
  • Enroll either in English 9R or History 9R.

Application Deadline: Monday, November 12, 11:59pm.

Program Dates: Spring Break 2019: Sunday, March 24 (Orientation dinner) through Saturday, March 30 (off-campus activity, details forthcoming).

Contact Email:

The deadline for this application has now passed.

Frequently asked questions

What should I expect on the application?

Applicants will be expected to write a note to introduce themselves to the professors leading the Humanities Research Intensive. We are interested in hearing about your previous experiences in the humanities, but please note that prior research experience is not necessary; enthusiasm and potential matter as much as prior accomplishments. We are especially interested in applications addressing the following prompts: 

  • What excites you about the chance to spend a week learning about research in the humanities?
  • Describe what you hope to learn from this experience, including what questions you have about humanities research methods.
  • Describe previous experiences (coursework, class projects, personal projects, etc.) that have made you excited about studying humanities, and/or tell us about a question you wish you had an answer to— a topic (large or small) you would love to explore one day.

*This section of the application has a 3500 character limit.

What are the humanities? Which fields are eligible for participation in HRI?

The humanities study the nature and achievements of human culture and civilization. They include the interpretation of literature and the arts, historical inquiry, the study of meaning and values (in fields like philosophy, political theory, or religion), and any other disciplines or interdisciplinary fields focused on the interpretation of culture. In particular, they include the following Stanford departments: Anthropology, Art and Art History, Classics, the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages (DLCL), East Asian Languages and Cultures (EALC), English, History, Linguistics, Music, Philosophy, Political Science (especially political theory), Religious Studies, and Theater and Performance Studies (TAPS). They also include much of the research conducted in interdisciplinary programs like African and African American Studies, Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. If you have a question about whether a particular subject falls within the humanities, feel free to contact us at

What if I don’t have any research experience?

We are excited to welcome students with no prior research experience. Selection for the fellowship is based on promise and evidence of intellectual engagement, not previous experience.  During the week you will learn methods that are applicable to humanities research in many topics and disciplines. You will finish this fellowship feeling excited and ready to delve into more research with increasing independence over time.

Do I need to have an idea for a potential research project in order to apply?

No. This program is designed to teach you how to begin developing a research idea from scratch.

What will each day look like?

While the exact plans will be determined by the faculty, a typical day will look like this: Mornings you will gather as a group with the faculty directors, either in Special Collections at Green Library or at the Stanford Humanities Center. The faculty will introduce materials and lead discussions about humanities research methods. This may include working with manuscripts in the Stanford library collections, conducting additional research in the libraries and online, and discussing readings together. Afternoons will develop the themes raised in the morning sessions through detailed discussion sessions with the graduate TA and opportunities to further explore individual research questions if relevant.

What if I don’t know whether I want to major in the humanities?

Not a problem! This course is specifically designed for undeclared first years and sophomores who have some sort of interest in the humanities or arts, but who may not know what they intend to study. Participating in research is actually an excellent way to explore potential interests and discover whether they might be a good fit.

Is this program only for students interested in English or history? What if I’m interested in another humanities subject, like philosophy, art history, or Spanish?

The Humanities Research Intensive will be taught in 2019 by Professors Elaine Treharne (English) and Caroline Winterer (History), and they will design some of the core activities around research collections and methods in their areas of expertise. The aim of the program, however, is to prepare students for research in all humanities disciplines, and the skills you learn will be generally applicable to many fields. You will also have opportunities, both during spring break and afterwards, to connect with faculty and advanced undergraduates from other departments and to learn about research collections relevant to your interests.

When can I apply?

The online application will open in mid-October and will be due on Monday, November 12, at 11:59 pm.

When will I find out if I have been selected?

You will be notified during during Week 10 (early December) if you have been selected for the program or placed on the waitlist. Selected students who want to participate must commit to the program in Week 2 of winter quarter, at which point any remaining slots will be offered to students on the waitlist.

What are the research opportunities available to me after HRI?

Stanford has many exciting opportunities for independent student research available to all students, including UAR Student Grants (Major Grants, Small Grants, Conference Grants and Chappell Lougee Scholarships), Hume Humanities Honors Fellowships, Bing Honors College, and Research Assistantships at CESTA and The Stanford Humanities Center. HRI will prepare you to submit competitive applications for these opportunities. 

Will the unit from this course count towards my major?

You may register to receive credit for this course either in English or History. It will not count towards major requirements in either department, however.