Junior or seniors who meet the general college honors requirements, who have a 3.5 GPA on at least four political science courses, have an overall GPA of at least 3.2, and who can furnish convincing evidence of a special interest in and capacity for research may be admitted to the department honors program.

Each successful applicant will develop an individualized plan of work in consultation with a professor in the department. This plan must include, in addition to the normal major requirements, the preparation of an honors thesis (POL 488) and an oral defense before a panel of three department faculty. Those who maintain a 3.5 GPA in all political science courses through the senior year and who produce a thesis that is judged of high quality by the department will be awarded Honors in Political Science.

When To Start Thinking About Honors

Ideally, you should begin talking with professors in the department about honors work early in your junior year, and begin thinking about courses that might be especially relevant for an honors thesis. An important part of this early stage is the identification of a professor in the department who would supervise the writing of the thesis. You should inquire about a professor's knowledge of and interest in a particular topic and availability for thesis advising. When you apply to enter the Honors Program, you will be expected to secure the consent of a faculty supervisor before making formal application to the department. 

How and When to Apply

Submit a letter to the department chair stating that you meet the eligibility requirements, have identified a faculty supervisor, and provide an overview of the general topic of the thesis, including relevant literature and identification of questions to be addressed.

The letter of application can be sent as early as the spring semester of your junior year, but no later than September 10 of the fall semester of your senior year. If you plan to graduate in December, you should consult an adviser and the chair no later than January of the preceding semester.

Review and Application Notification

As part of the review process, a letter of application will be circulated among all department members and a preliminary decision will be reached as part of the review. The department may request revisions to the application and resubmission, and on some occasions, may deny admission. 

Students are notified of the status of the application approximately two weeks after its submission. Students should arrange to take an independent study or tutorial the fall semester with their major adviser.

Difference Between Honors Thesis and Major Paper Requirement

All majors are expected to complete a major paper of at least 20 pages with a grade of C or better. Usually, this requirement will be fulfilled in the context of a seminar. However, an honors thesis may substitute for that requirement in terms of the major. That substitution in no way relieves you of writing another major paper should the seminar require it. 

Honors Thesis Timetable

Late August

Information session for seniors considering applying to the Honors Program

September 10

Deadline for application

October 1

Deadline for notification to all applicants about admission to Honors Program. Begin regular meetings with thesis supervisor.


Thesis committees assigned.


Begin regular consultation with all three committee members, including submission of drafts of chapters as they are written. Students should register for Honors (POL 498).

April 15

Honors thesis turned in to chair of the committee

By Reading Day

Oral defense of thesis before faculty committee

Awarding Honors Designation

Designation of honors will come only after a successful defense in which the committee is convinced that you have done A level work. Those who write a thesis that the committee feels does not meet these standards will be assigned the appropriate grade in a course for advanced independent study (POL 495). 

Thesis Examples

To get an idea of the scope and nature of an honors thesis, interested students should stop by the office of the College Archivist, located in room 207 of the college library, and ask to browse through the collection of past political science theses.