Senior Thesis Program

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.

Eligibility Requirements

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 end of the junior 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 end of the junior year. 

Latin Honors

Although all political science majors may write a thesis regardless of their GPA, majors who wish to graduate with Latin Honors (cum laudemagna 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.

Application Process

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 application packet should be submitted to the political science department 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 or pick it up in Seigle 207.

Application cover form

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.

Faculty Advisor

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

Registration/PS415

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.

Summer

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.

Due Dates

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.

Second Methods Course Options

Students in the honors program must complete a second methods course by the end of the junior year.

Students wishing to count courses not on the below list toward the second methods requirement of the senior thesis must discuss the matter and obtain pre-approval from the director of undergraduate studies. Further, students are encouraged to discuss with their faculty advisor 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.

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)

PS4646      Democracy: Theory and Practice

Empirical Track (American, comparative, environmental policy, and international relations)

PS3011

Computational Modeling in the Social Sciences

PS3012

Advanced Computational Modeling in the Social Sciences

PS3055

Comparative Study of Legislative Institutions (Crisp and Gabel)

PS3211

Public Opinion and American Democracy (Sinclair)

PS333B

Individual and Community (Darnell)

PS339

Topics: Political Violence

PS3403

The Politics of Congressional Elections (Rogowski)

PS3561

Topics: Game Theory & Political Science (Fox)

PS3561

Topics: Understanding Political Protest and Violence (Parikh)

PS359

Mathematics of Elections

PS362

Politics and the Theory of Games (Calvert, Fox)

PS398

Topics: Electoral Politics and Challenges to Democratic Accountability in the Developing World

PS399

Topics in Politics: Health Politics

PS4025

Experiments in Political Science (Montgomery)

PS4043

Public Policy Analysis, Assessment and Practical Wisdom

PS4505

American Political Parties (Montgomery)

PS4626

             Applied Statistical Programming (Montgomery)

PS491

Collection & Analysis of Qualitative Data (Parikh)

PS496

Game Theory and Collective Choice (Calvert)

PS5024

Causal Inference (Bechtel)

PS5052

Mathematical Modeling in Political Science

Past Theses

See past senior theses writers and titles by year below. Abstracts are available for all senior theses beginning in 2009. 

theses abstracts (PDFs)

2017

The Effect of Symbols and Media Framing on Emotion, Attitude Change, and Attribution of Responsibility
Antonia Drummond

The Politics of Capacity: No Child Left Behind
Sophia Keskey

Can Human Rights Treaty Ratifications Influence Neighboring Country Practices?
Matthew Malis

Political Rhetoric and Media Partisanship: Language Resemblance versus Media Bias
Erica Sloan

Greener Grass: Exploring Enviro-Chemical Injustices Posed to Migrant Farm Workers
Neil Stein

A Candidate by Any Other Name: Religious Identity and Electoral Outcomes
Max Yanowitz

2016

Defying Public Opinion: Understanding the Motivations of House Republicans During President Clinton's Impeachment
Deepa Devanathan

The Separation of Powers and Significant Policy Change Following United States Supreme Court Decisions
Nicole Jordan

Influencing the Influencers: Does Funding from Foreign Governments Affect American Think Tank Research?
Aryeh Mellman

Are Sex Scandals Masculinizing? An Examination of the Relationship Between Gender and Political Scandals
Nicole Williamson

2015

Verifying Laws: A Normative Conception of Constitutional Preview
Michael Hoosier
Why Religion Matters More Than Bank Accounts: The Conservative American Love Story
Cecilia Isabel Joy Perez
The Backlash Effect: Exploring the Relationship Between Policy Changes and Mobilizations
Elliot J. Louthen

There's No Accounting for Space: The Effect of Territorial Concessions on Post-Civil War Peace
Aine O'Connor

The Tea Party: Democratic Uprising or Manipulated Dissent?
Jolijt Tamanaha

2014

Unhealthy Competition: Can Partisanship Predict Obamacare Health Insurance Exchange Adoption?
Hanna Colin

The Uncovered Set and Two-Candidate Competition in a Large Electorate
Nicolas Dumas

Conflicts of Conscience: A Normative Approach to the Contraceptive Mandate and Religious Accommodation
Leigh Empson

Implications of Independence: An Analysis of the Relationship Between Energy Independence and Globalization in the OECD Nations
Ben Gottesdiener

Word Games: The Strategic Model of Judicial Decision Making and American ‘Hate Speech’ Liberalism
David Hoffman

Does Bureaucratic Capacity Explain Health Insurance Exchange Decisions? Understanding the State Implementation of the Affordable Care Act
Callie Lambert

The Marines in Velvet Gloves? Measuring the Strategic Decision-Making Behavior of the United States Peace Corps
Jessica Metzger

Immigration and Autonomy: On the Rights of Citizens and Refugees
Bradley Niederschulte

Send in the Clones? The Effect of Surrogate Appearances on Candidate Support
Joseph L. Sutherland

Trading on Security: Policy Preferences in Response to Threat in the United States
Jaime Zucker

2013

How Democratic are the Czars? Evaluating the Appointment of Executive Branch Officials through a Nondelegation Index
Kathryn Betts

Selfish Genes, Not Selfish Individuals: Explaining the Salience of Race in Determining Support for Welfare
Neel Desai

Understanding Legal Claims Against the Federal Government: Causes and Consequences of Sovereign Immunity
Daniel Guenther

Campaign Spending Matters: New Approaches to Capture the True Effect of Incumbent Spending
Alex Kaufman

Rhetorical Localism: Patterns of Constituent Focus in U.S. Senate Speech
Simon Kwong

Is Jerusalem the Barriers to Peace in the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Lindsey Reinholdt

Blogging Bourgeoisie: Using the State to Improve the Online Public Sphere
Alex Tolkin

2012

Health Care Reform That Almost Wasn’t: How Rhetoric Shaped the 2009 Health Care Debate
Kelsey Berkowitz

Becoming Singapore and Rich: Singapore and Malaysia’s Natural Experiment with Property Rights and Economic Growth
Stuart Davis

The Life of the (Tea) Party: The Tea Party and the Efficacy of Social Movements
Ariel Dobkin

A Tough Balancing Act: Institutional and Political Factors in the Budget Process
Corey Donahue

Is Your Workforce Legal? E-Verify Laws in the U.S. States
Sarah Elizabeth McDonald

Look Like Me, Act Like Me: The Effect of Reserved Seats on Substantive Representation of the Maori in New Zealand
Courtney L. Millian

Blowing Away the Competition: Who’s Leading the Pack in Wind Power Use and Why
Amy Plovnick

Talking Torture: A Democracy’s Guide to Interrogation Ethics
Dan Rebnord

Refugee Hospitality: A Comparative Analysis Across Countries
Michelle Shapiro

Swing Vote: The Impact of the Health Care Vote in the 2010 Midterm House Elections
Jun Yoon

2011

Education and Trade
Wen Ting Cai

Mandatory Retirement on the Indian Supreme Court
Sheehan Hamid Band

American Polarization and the Impact of Southern Republican Voters
Alex Bensick

Motivations for Proliferation: Iran’s Nuclear Ambitions
Alice Goldenberg

A Collegiate Understanding: Economic Knowledge and Trade Opinions
Jennifer Halket

The Government’s Role in the Start Up Nation: A Case Study of Israel’s Hi-Tech Sector
Renée Kramer

The Politics of Sport: Assessing the Political Impact of Mega-Events on Authoritarian Host Countries
Corinne Mitchell

Hezbollah’s Struggle at the Ballot Box: The Consequences of Electoral Laws in Multi-Confessional Lebanon
Yuree Noh

Sovereignty and Territory
Daniel Weltman

2010

Persuaded by the Echoes of Their own Voices: How Cognitive Biases Crucially Influenced the Bush Administration’s Decision to Go to War with Iraq
Greg Allen

“One Man Acting Alone:” The Consolidation of the Empowered Executive in War and Foreign Affairs, 1945-1963
Benjamin H. Fifield

Exploring Causality: What is the Relationship Between Intellectual Property Rights and Foreign Direct Investment in Developed Economics
Vidhyarth Hariharan

YouTube and Campaign Advertisements: Studying the Affect of Web Based Video on The Content of Campaign
Jake Lapperruque

Portrayal of the Home in the Race for the House: How Congressional Candidates Present their Personal Lives to Voters
Ruth Mandelbaum

Determinants of Energy Policymaking: Renewable Portfolio Standards and the Politics of Climate Change in the American States
Jeremy Rogoff

A Failed Fairy Tale: Collective Action, Nationalism, and Democracy
Viktoryia Schnose

Beyond Roll Call Voting: Descriptive Representation’s Substantive Impact
Adam Susser

The Welfare State and Multicultural Policies: A Relationship of Recognition and Redress
Amy Xu

2009

Vote, Don’t Vote: Electoral Mobilization and Demobilization in American Politics
Dan Alexander

Institutions and Property Rights in America
Charis Fischer

The Causes of Ideological Drift on the U.S. Supreme Court
Brandon D. Harper

The Sovereign Wealth of Nations
Zack Kaplan

The Need to be Let Alone: The Right to Privacy as a Necessary Condition for Autonomy
Shauna Kramer

Is it enough?: The Two Political Channels to Solving Domestic Violence in India
Tess Mattingly

The Impact of the International Criminal Court in Sudan
Victoria Morphy

Return to Sender: The Ballot-Transit Problem of Overseas Military Voting and Partisan Motivations behind Internet-based Reforms
Cole Randle

Poke the Vote: How to Use Facebook Registration Advertisements to Increase the Youth Vote
Kerry Rheinstein

Muslim Integration in Western Europe
Julie Rosenfeld

Collaborative Institutions and the Mississippi River: A Model for a Sustainable Future?
Ankoor Shah