Honors Thesis

The Political Science honors thesis program

Political Science offers an honors program for outstanding undergraduate students who wish to undertake original research and writing under expert direction from a faculty sponsor. This program is designed to guide students in advanced scholarly work, culminating in a thesis project that must be orally defended before two faculty members.

Honors colloquium

All participants are required to enroll in a two-semester Y499 Honors Thesis sequence that offers comprehensive training to design and complete a thesis project.  During the fall section (Research design and prospectus), students learn the nuts and bolts of social science research to formulate an adequate research plan (a "thesis prospectus") in consultation with their main advisor and honors program director.  Following an approved prospectus, students register for the spring section (Research and Thesis Defense), to complete research tasks and write a thesis.  The spring semester includes a few class meetings to jumpstart and clarify research activities, but students are otherwise expected to conduct independent research under close supervision of their faculty sponsor. 

Y499 sections are graded separately in accordance with their own semester-specific requirements.  Successful participation in the honors program requires not just a complete undergraduate thesis, but also a minimum grade of B+ for each semester.

Oral defense and final thesis approval

Honors program participants defend an initial draft of their thesis at least a couple of weeks before the end of the spring semester.  A typical thesis defense consists of a 10- to 15-minute oral presentation, 30 minutes of Q & A, and a final segment with private committee deliberations.  Students are welcome to bring guests for oral presentation and Q & A segments.

The main purpose of oral defenses is for thesis committee members to offer feedback and concrete instructions for final revisions within a time frame that complies with campus grade submission deadlines.  Upon approval of the final version by both thesis committee members, the Department then certifies completion of all honors program requirements to the College of Arts of Sciences.  This final step is required to certify eligibility to receive an Indiana University honors diploma.

Admission requirements

To be considered for next year's honors thesis program, students must complete an application form by the announced deadline, which further explains these admission requirements:

  • At least 9 units of POLS coursework that includes an introduction to research methods (Y205) and substantive political science courses.
    • Required: Y205 Political Analysis with a grade of B or higher.
    • At least 3 credit hours from 300-level courses.
    • An additional 3 credit hours from 100-, 200-, and 300- level courses, excluding Y205
  • A minimum POLS GPA of 3.5
  • A minimum College GPA of 3.3
  • A working title and short description of proposed thesis project (see "Previous theses" table below for a list of previous undergraduate thesis titles).
  • Signatures from academic advisor and main faculty sponsor
  • A signed acknowledgement of honors program participation requirements