The Degree with Honors

See a sampling of previous senior honors theses.

The Department offers a thesis route to the degree with distinction (honors or highest honors) in Political Science. This involves an eleven-course major that includes PSCI 493 (Senior Thesis Research Design) in the Fall, and thesis work in W31 over Winter Study as well as PSCI 494 (Senior Thesis Research and Writing) in the Spring. Majors who are interested in writing a thesis should attend the thesis meeting held early in the Spring semester of their junior year (a Zoom link will be provided for those students studying abroad to attend). This meeting will be advertised on the main page of the website and in daily messages early in the semester. Majors with a record of excellence in the department (typically a departmental GPA of 3.5 and above), a clear and thoughtful topic of interest, and demonstrated coursework preparation (including prior research experience) are encouraged to apply for PSCI 493, the Senior Thesis Research Design Seminar, by submitting a “statement of interest and qualifications” to the Chair of the Department by April 15th. Students accepted will spend the Fall semester learning about research design and developing a thesis proposal. Students who successfully complete these tasks by the end of the Fall semester will be invited to continue in the thesis honors program and will write their article length thesis over Winter Study and Spring semester. For those students not accepted, it is still possible to do substantial research work as an Individual Project (details below) or in an Independent Study course.

The Department as a whole meets in the late spring to decide on admissions to the fall thesis seminar. We will contact you in writing, letting you know of our decision. 

Thesis Program

Students admitted into the thesis program should register for PSCI 493 (Senior Thesis Research Design) in the Fall; students continuing on will further register for W31 over Winter Study and PSCI 494 (Senior Thesis Research and Writing) in the Spring. Remember that these seminars are in addition to the nine courses required for the major.

The Senior Thesis Research Design Seminar

Taught by a member of the department, the Fall Thesis Research Design course focuses on research design and proposal writing. Students receive instruction in identifying a researchable question (based on the interests expressed in their Spring application), performing a literature review, constructing an appropriate research design, understanding methodology, evaluating data sources, and ultimately drafting a rigorous research proposal for a 35 page (“article length”) thesis by the end of the Fall semester. This course will equip students with the tools to write a roughly 10-page research proposal on their topic of choice which will be due at the end of the semester.

The Senior Thesis Research and Writing Seminar

The thesis proposals, the final product of the fall semester, will be evaluated by department faculty, including the Fall semester instructor, at the end of the Fall term. Students who have written successful proposals – where the question, research design, and data availability are clear, as is the student’s capacity to execute the research and writing necessary to produce an article length thesis – will be approved to begin researching and writing their 35 page thesis in the winter study honors class, continuing on into the honors thesis spring course, under the guidance of an appointed advisor. Students in the winter study and spring courses will work primarily with their advisors but will also receive input on their thesis draft from department faculty readers. Theses should be substantial and original works of scholarship on the model of an academic journal article (roughly 35 pages). The final work will be submitted for evaluation by a committee of faculty chosen by the department.

Students who are not invited to continue with the thesis honors program after the Fall semester will be given the opportunity to continue to investigate their topic of interest through PSCI 99, and Independent Winter Study class. Importantly, these students will receive major credit for the completed PSCI 493 (Thesis Research Design) course in the Fall; in other words, that Fall course can count toward the nine total courses needed for the major.

Individual Project

Students interested in doing independent research outside of the honors thesis program can consider doing an individual project instead of a thesis. The individual project differs from the thesis in that it is only half a year long (PSCI 495(F) and W32 or W32 and PSCI 496(S)), does not require your participation in the thesis seminar, and is graded by just your faculty supervisor rather than a committee of three.  An individual project may, with approval of the Department, also substitute for the senior seminar in your subfield of specialization.  Accordingly, it has as prerequisites two elective courses in that subfield.