Honors Programs

Columbia College and General Studies

The department offers an honors program for a limited number of seniors who are interested in doing substantial research projects and in writing honors theses. The honors thesis is expected to be approximately 60–75 pages in length and of exceptional quality. Honors students perform research as part of a full-year honors seminar (POLS UN3998 - UN3999, 8 points total) during their senior year, in place of the seminar requirement for majors. Honors students may, however, take regular seminars as electives toward the major. Theses are due in late March. To be awarded departmental honors, the student must satisfy all the requirements for the major, maintain a 3.6 GPA in the major (the calculation of which includes non-POLS courses required for economics-political science or political science-statistics majors); and complete a thesis of sufficiently high quality to merit honors.

The honors seminar is under the overall direction of the honors seminar director, who is assisted by a graduate teaching assistant. The honors seminar director supervises all students; each student also works with a faculty member in his or her major subfield (American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory) and with a preceptor with an appropriate specialization. The honors seminar meets weekly for part of the year. These meetings cover general issues involved in research and thesis writing, such as how to develop research questions and projects; methodology; sources of evidence; and outlining and drafting long papers. The sessions are also used for group discussions of students’ research and student presentations of their theses. In addition, each student is expected to meet periodically with the professor and with the preceptor supervising the thesis.

To apply for the seminar, please complete this application by 11:59 PM on March 31, 2017.

Please note that this application requires the submission of a writing sample.

Students are encouraged (though not required) to pre-identify an honors thesis adviser. Honors thesis advisers should normally be full-time faculty in the Columbia Political Science Department. For students in the honors seminar, the instructor of the seminar approves or, when necessary, assigns advisers. At the discretion of the instructor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), Barnard Political Science faculty, faculty in other departments, or adjunct professors might be approved as advisers or co-advisers. Normally faculty will advise only one honors thesis because of the substantial work this requires.

Students may write theses in a subject outside of students' major subfield. However, students must choose a thesis advisor who specializes in the subfield that corresponds to the indended thesis topic.

Students will be notified by email of the decision taken on their applications before fall registration (usually mid- to late-summer). Questions about the honors program should be directed to the Undergraduate Program Coordinator or the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Students who are not accepted into the Honors Seminar, or students who decide after the application deadline that they would like to write an honors thesis, may take one or two semesters of Independent Reading and Research with a faculty member in order to write a thesis to submit for honors consideration. For students who are preparing theses outside the honors seminar, the DUS and the instructor of the honors seminar should be informed of this intention, and the DUS must approve the proposed adviser. In order to be eligible for honors consideration, theses written outside the honors seminar must be submitted by 11:59 PM on April 1, 2017.

PLEASE NOTE: The department can recommend only 10% of its graduating seniors for honors, with priority given to students enrolled in the Honors Seminar. Students not enrolled in the Honors Seminar who apply for honors will have a reduced chance of receiving honors.

For more details about this process and for registration information, please contact the Undergraduate Program Coordinator. Students may also submit a paper written for a class. All theses must be submitted along with a confidential assessment of the paper by the supervising instructor in order to be considered for departmental honors. Students who choose this path must also complete all the requirements for the major and maintain a minimum major GPA of 3.6. The thesis would be due in late March, and decisions about departmental honors are announced in May.