I. General eligibility guidelines:

  • Advanced placement in the major (having taken or are taking the sixth course).
  • Cumulative GPA : 3.5
  • Department GPA: 3.6
  • A supervisor-approved research proposal. The deadline for final proposals: First Friday in September.
  • A successful twenty-minute oral defense of the proposal in front of department faculty members.

II. The research proposal should include the following when it is submitted to the Honors Coordinator on the first Friday in September.

  • Preliminary title.
  • Department supervisor.
  • Possible readers/examiner (both within and outside the Department).
  • Not more than 5 double-spaced pages describing the proposed research project. This should include an explicit statement of the research question(s) that guides the research and a description of the method(s) that will be employed in the project. Be as specific as possible. Within the five pages, include a preliminary theoretical framework and a brief literature review of the most important and relevant scholarly sources. Be sure to connect the discussion of the literature with the research questions that drive the project. Consider whether or not the project will involve human subjects, and if so, complete the forms for the Social Science Institutional Research Board (see below).
  • Short bibliography demonstrating familiarity with the most significant and relevant scholarly literature about the project.

Illustrations of successful Honors research proposals: Emily Hedin

The Honors Coordinator will circulate student research proposals to the entire Department. Students will have 20 minutes to defend orally the proposals before members of the Department. After all prospective Honors students have presented and defended their proposal, the Department will meet and evaluate proposals based on: (1) the intellectual clarity and promise of the project; (2) the amount of prior preparation for the project; and (3) an assessment of the student’s capacity to successfully carry out the project. Students will then be notified via email of the results of their oral defense. Students that pass will continue in the Honors Colloquium. Students that do not pass will typically continue with the same substantive project, but within the context of a Capstone research seminar (PS 400).

The Honors Coordinator will report the Honors Program candidates’ list to the Ann Minnick, Director of Academic Programs, on October 1.

III. The Thesis Process:

Students in the Honors Program participate in the Political Science Department Honors Colloquium, organized by the Honors Coordinator, which meets each semester. Students are required to register for the two-credit Honors Colloquium each term. The Colloquium will involve workshops in which students discuss the design of their projects, including their methodological strategies, and begin testing their ideas in a public forum. At the same time, students will work in consultation with their honors supervisor on project conception, design, etc. (See below.)

Students pursuing Honors are also required to enroll for between four and eight credits (at least two each term) of Independent Study (POLI 644). Senior Honors Thesis credits can count toward completion of the major and fulfill the “capstone” requirement. Students in the Honors Program may also enroll for two thesis credits during the January term. As part of POLI 644, students seeking Honors are expected to work closely with one or more faculty members in project conception, research design, data collection and analysis strategies, etc.

Students with projects that involve human subjects (interviewing; surveys; participant observation; action research, etc.) should follow the guidelines outlined on the College Institutional Review Board website. A separate link exists for the Social Science IRB , where you can find the necessary IRB forms.

The student and the thesis supervisor will file project status reports with the Honors Coordinator by mid December.

The Honors Coordinator will consult with the thesis supervisor to assess the prospects of each thesis project by late January. The Coordinator and faculty supervisor will make a mutual decision to terminate the project or allow the student to continue.

The Honors Coordinator will report the continuing Honors candidates list to the Director of Academic Programs by March 31.

IV. Evaluation:

The faculty thesis supervisor and the student are responsible for assembling the panel of reader/ examiners, and scheduling the oral examination. Ordinarily, the panel consists of at least three persons—two from the Political Science faculty and one from outside the department (possibly off campus).

The Honors thesis defense will include a formal, public (20-minute) oral presentation of the project followed by an oral examination by the Honors panel. Normally, the entire honors defense lasts between 60 and 90 minutes.

The Honors panel will conduct the oral examination of the student and the students’ project. Approval of the project for official submittal and listing as a Senior Honors Thesis will be made by the panel on criteria appropriate to the context of each project but meeting the standards of exceptional research effort, distinctive analysis and interpretation, and effective writing. The panel will also provide the student with comments and recommendations for final revision of the project. Oral examinations must be completed no later than the date specified from the Academic Programs Office (typically the third week of April).

The final editing and preparation of the Honors thesis to be submitted to the Academic Programs Office should reflect the recommendations of the Honors panel and meet the format and copy standards of professional social scientists. Students must submit their Honors thesis to Academic Programs no later than the specified date (typically the last week of April).