Writing a senior thesis provides a wonderful opportunity for political science majors to do independent social science research. It also provides a "capstone" experience for the major. The program involves independent work by the student, guided by a faculty advisor, and enrollment in a senior thesis seminar during the fall and spring semesters of a student's senior year.
Although all political science majors may write a thesis regardless of their GPA, majors who wish to graduate with Latin Honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude) must write a senior thesis and maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.65 or above to qualify. Latin Honors is awarded based on a student’s cumulative GPA and the grade awarded to the thesis by the department.
Undergraduates who wish to write a senior thesis must be sure to complete the following requirements to be eligible. These requirements ensure that the student has sufficient training to do high quality independent research.
- Completion of the political science major methodology requirement (PS363 or its equivalent) by the end of the junior year;
- Completion of a second methods course by the start of senior year (see below for list of eligible courses). Students writing theses in political theory must choose a course from the theory track while students writing theses in American, comparative, environmental policy, and international relations must choose a course from the empirical track;
- Completion of 2/3 of a subfield concentration in the area in which they will write their thesis by the end of junior year, and full completion by the end of the Fall semester of senior year. Students who have not completed their subfield concentration by the end of Fall semester of their senior year will not be permitted to continue in the program.
- Completion of Research Design and Methods (PS495) by the Spring semester of junior year.
Application to the Thesis Program
Students meeting eligibility requirements may apply to write a senior thesis. The application submission demonstrates a student's commitment to the research and also provides an early foundation for success. The submission must include:
- Application Cover Form
Students can download the form here, or pick it up in Seigle 207.
- Thesis Proposal
The proposal is a 1,500-word (five pages) or less document that should state the student's thesis question, the contribution to the literature and the research method. Students should consult their advisor as they write their proposals.
The application packet should be submitted to the Political Science Department by April 1st (or the following Monday if April 1st falls on a weekend). The Director of Undergraduate Research will make a decision and notify students concerning their acceptance to the program before the end of the term.
The application must be supported by a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the political science department. Students studying abroad in the spring should secure the support of a faculty advisor in the Fall term before going abroad. Faculty members have the discretion to decline requests to serve as thesis advisors, and are more likely to accept advisees who are well-prepared and motivated to work.
After You've Been Accepted
Register for Senior Thesis Research (PS415) for the Fall term of your senior year. Please note that these units do not count toward the major requirements. You will also take this course in the Spring semester of your senior year.
Students are expected to begin work on their senior thesis in the summer before their senior year, reading widely the literature relevant to their thesis and collecting data as appropriate. Students who do not make sufficient progress on their research in the summer will not be allowed to continue in the program.
The deadline for your completed senior thesis is March 1st (or the first Monday after if March 1st falls on a weekend). Senior thesis abstracts are to be submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Research at the end of March for publication.
Political Theory Track:
PS391 History of Political Thought I (Hayward, Lovett, MacMullen)
PS392 History of Political Thought II (Hayward, Lovett, MacMullen)
PS393 History of Political Thought III (Hayward, Lovett, MacMullen)
Empirical Track (American, comparative, environmental policy, and international relations):
Computational Modeling in the Social Sciences
Advanced Computational Modeling in the Social Sciences
Comparative Study of Legislative Institutions (Crisp and Gabel)
Public Opinion and American Democracy (Sinclair)
Democracy Lab (Butler)
The Politics of Congressional Elections (Rogowski)
Topics: Game Theory & Political Science (Fox)
Topics: Understanding Political Protest and Violence (Parikh)
Mathematics of Elections
Politics and the Theory of Games (Calvert, Fox)
Experiments in Political Science (Montgomery)
American Political Parties (Montgomery)
|Applied Statistical Programming (Montgomery)|
Collection & Analysis of Qualitative Data (Parikh)
Game Theory and Collective Choice (Calvert)
|Causal Inference (Bechtel)|
Mathematical Modeling in Political Science
Note: Students wishing to count courses not on the above list toward the second methods requirement of the senior thesis must discuss the matter and obtain pre-approval from the Director of the Senior Thesis Program. Further, students are encouraged to discuss with their faculty advisor and/or the Director of the Senior Thesis Program what skills/methods would be most useful for them to master prior to embarking on their senior thesis, as well as their choice of a second methods course.