Department Honors

The department offers an honors program for a small number of seniors who are interested in writing an honors thesis. The honors thesis is expected to be about 75 pages in length and of exceptional quality. Honors students conduct research as part of a full-year Honors Seminar (POLS UN3998-UN3999, 8 points total) during their senior year, in place of the subfield seminars for undergraduates. (Honors students may also take subfield 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.

A member of the faculty directs and teaches the Honors Seminar. A graduate teaching assistant supports the faculty instructor and advises students in developing the research design and carrying out research for the thesis. Each student is further supported by a faculty member who serves as sponsor of the thesis.

The Honors Seminar meets weekly for part of the year. These meetings address 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. Seminar meetings are also used for group discussions of students’ research and student presentations of their theses. In addition to participating in seminar meetings, each student is expected to meet periodically with the seminar instructor and with the teaching assistant supervising the thesis.

Application procedure

To apply for the seminar, students were asked to complete an application by 11:59 PM on March 31, 2022. Applications for the 2022-2023 academic year are no longer being accepted.

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

Students are encouraged (though not required) to identify an honors thesis adviser at the time of application to the program. Honors thesis advisers should normally be full-time professors in the Department of Political Science. At the discretion of the Honors Seminar instructor and the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Barnard Political Science faculty, faculty in other departments, or adjunct professors may be approved as advisers or co-advisers. Normally, faculty will advise only one honors thesis per year because of the substantial investment of time and instruction required. The instructor of the Honors Seminar approves all adviser assignments and will assign advisers for students unable to identify an adviser independently.

Students will be notified by email of the decision taken on their applications before the end of April. Questions about the honors program should be directed to the Academic Affairs Coordinator or the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Independent honors thesis option

Students who are not enrolled in the Honors Seminar may petition for permission to submit a senior thesis for consideration for departmental honors by the Committee on Honors and Prizes. Petitions must be submitted to the DUS no later than September 15 of the academic year in which a student plans to complete the thesis and will be considered only if the DUS grants permission in writing. Petitions will be considered only if a student has maintained a minimum GPA of at least 3.6 for courses taken in the major. Independent senior honors theses are the products of two semesters of work in two 4-point courses, either two semesters of independent study (POLS UN3901x and POLS UN3902y) or one semester in a senior seminar followed by at least one additional semester in an independent study (POLS UN3901x or POLS UN3902y) to develop the seminar paper into a senior thesis.

To be considered for departmental honors, all theses that have received DUS permission must be submitted along with a confidential assessment of the thesis by the supervising instructor by the deadline set by the DUS (normally April 1).

For more details about this process and for registration information, please contact the Academic Affairs Coordinator.