The department offers majors two programs for pursuing departmental honors.
Under Program I, students complete two semesters of independent research (ECON 360 and 370) culminating in an honors thesis. Under Program II, students complete one semester of independent research (ECON 350) related to previous Grade III level coursework, and then submits to an examination in economics that includes the topic covered in her research project. All honors candidates are expected to participate in the Economics Research Seminar.
Eligibility for Departmental Honors
Program I: Senior Thesis (Economics 360/370)
Students pursuing departmental honors under Program I enroll in a full year sequence (Economics 360/370) in which they write a senior thesis. Thesis work is supervised by two faculty advisors. At the end of the fall semester, students submit a detailed thesis proposal to their advisors. These proposals describe work to date and plans for completing the thesis. Once approved, students enroll in Econ 370 for the next semester. Those students who complete their senior thesis and who stand for Honors take an oral honors exam after the thesis is submitted. (College Legislation, Book II, Article IV describes the rules governing thesis options and the awarding of Honors in more detail.)
Writing a thesis can be an enormously rewarding experience. Students work closely with two faculty members on some aspect of an important economic problem. Students considering writing a thesis should consult faculty advisors and students currently writing theses in the Economics Department. We also encourage you to examine previous Senior Theses which are available in the Department Library.
Program II: Independent Study (Economics 350) and Written Exam
Under this program, students qualify for honors on the basis of a one semester (Economics 350) project. The project should be a direct follow-up to a 300 level course in the department, and should generally be done under the supervision of the faculty member with whom the 300 level course was taken. (In some cases, the honors work could be a follow-up to a 200 level course, in those fields in which the department does not have a 300 level offering.) In the semester in which the Economics 350 is done, the student participates in the Economics Research Seminar and produces a final paper.
At the end of the semester, the student takes a written examination in the broad field of economics that includes the topic covered in her 350 project. All examinations also include questions from the general area of economics represented by the field. Receiving honors depends upon satisfactory performance in both the 350 project and the examination, but a student receives credit for Economics 350 even if honors is not awarded due to failure to pass the examination.
Economics 350 provides students an opportunity to pursue research or independent study under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Such projects generally last one semester. An Economics 350 may be designed as a reading course covering a body of material not contained in any existing course, or students may design their own research projects. Normally, an Economics 350 results in one (or several) papers. Students are expected to present these results at the Economic Research Seminar. Economics 350 may be taken for a letter grade or for credit/non-credit.
Economics 203, 201, and 202 are typically prerequisites for 350 work and students often have taken one or more courses in the general field for the proposed topic. Students must obtain an instructor's consent to be the 350 advisor and that instructor's approval of the topic and plan of work. Faculty in their first year at Wellesley should usually not be asked to be 350 advisors. Check the fields of specialization of the faculty for research interests similar to your own. An Economics 350 may not, ordinarily, be used to fulfill the requirement of two 300 level courses in the major.
Economic Research Seminar
The Economic Research Seminar provides a forum for students doing independent work to present their work to fellow students and faculty. The Seminar provides an opportunity for the exchange of ideas that is critical to the development of economic reasoning. Any student enrolling in Economics 350/360/370 automatically becomes a member of the Seminar.
Senior thesis students present their thesis proposals first semester and the results of the "core" chapter of the thesis during second semester. Economics 350 students normally report on the results of their study at the end of the semester. Students also serve as session chairs and discussants to each other's work, and are encouraged to comment on presentations. Faculty advisors attend presentations of their advisees. The director of the Economic Research Seminar, a faculty member who runs the department's Honors Program, also attends. The Seminar meets weekly for one hour throughout the year.
The department awards several prizes to students each spring. They recognize excellence in different aspects of economics scholarship.