Honors in Politics
Honors is awarded to a major who maintains an average of 3.50 or higher in departmental courses, completes the Honors Tutorial at “B+” or higher, and merits distinction on the comprehensive exam.
An invitation to complete an honors paper in Politics offers outstanding students an opportunity to work with faculty mentors to explore a political research question of the students' choosing. It would be misleading to suggest a specific minimum length for the paper, for the proper length is necessarily determined by the nature of the project itself. However, this project should be more substantial in both research effort and writing than a typical course paper. The purpose of the honors project is not to display prolixity but, rather, to develop and demonstrate a high level of competence in elucidating an important and interesting problem in the field of politics. The problem may be one that the student encountered in a previous course, perhaps the focus of a term paper, or it may be a problem unrelated to any course but one that the student has a particular interest in studying.
Students who anticipate their eligibility to pursue Honors should take the Topics in Social Science Research course in either the fall or spring semester of their junior year to acquaint themselves with methods useful for political science research. After mid-semester of the spring term, the Chair will notify eligible juniors (those who have a 3.5 GPA in at least six Politics courses) that they may write an honors thesis in their senior year. (This eligibility, of course, is contingent on maintaining the GPA through the end of the semester.) By May 1, the student will have submitted a proposal, developed in consultation with a faculty advisor appropriate to the research question, to the Department for approval. The proposal will present the student’s research question; a brief review of the appropriate literature; a research design (including data and methodology) to answering research question; and a preliminary bibliography. (Students wishing to undertake the thesis in the spring term of their senior year must petition the Department for an exemption to pursue an alternate schedule.) If the project is approved to continue, the Chair will ask another member of the Faculty with expertise related to the topic to serve as a second reader.
We expect the student to accomplish significant research over the summer, including development of the literature review and research design and collection of data as appropriate.
After consultation with and feedback from the advisors, the honors candidate will submit a précis no later than September 5. The précis should reflect work completed over the summer, including a substantial literature review, bibliography, and outline of the paper. This précis will be submitted to the entire Department for approval. If approved, the student will be able to register for the Honors Tutorial (POLS 450). If an acceptable proposal is not submitted or the project is deemed unsuitable, the candidate will not be approved to register for POLS 450 and should maintain a full course load or, pending an advisor’s willingness to support this, pursue the research via an independent study (POLS 444).
After departmental approval, the candidate and the advisor will together set up a schedule for project deadlines and meetings to be held throughout the semester. (See supplementary forms and guidelines.)
The honors paper will be presented in final form to the advisor and second reader no later than three weeks before the end of the term. In a week's time, the paper will be returned to the candidate, either with a final grade or, more likely, with suggestions for revision. If the paper is to be revised, the revised version must be submitted to the advisor and second reader by the last day of classes in the term. At the advisor's request, additional members of the Faculty may be asked to read and comment on the paper. A minimum grade of “B+” on the thesis will enable the student to remain a candidate for departmental honors.
Candidates for honors make an oral presentation of their honors paper to an audience of faculty and students. The presentation typically coincides with Scholarship Sewanee.
Useful documents for planning your honors paper:
- Outlining Your Thesis
- Preparing Your Précis
- Determining Your Research Strategy
- Research and Writing Schedule
Links to some recent honors papers by our students:
Hayley Robb, "The Executive Privilege Dilemma"