About the Program
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.
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 fall of the junior year.
- 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 end of the junior 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.
Students meeting eligibility requirements may apply to write a senior thesis; students apply during their junior year for admission into the program. The application submission demonstrates a student's commitment to the research and also provides an early foundation for success.
The application packet should be submitted to the Department of Political Science by April 1 (or the following Monday if April 1 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 submission must include:
Application Cover Form
Students can download the form here:
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 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 the last Friday in February. Senior thesis abstracts are to be submitted to the Office of Undergraduate Research at the end of March for publication.