Honors Thesis & Department Prizes

Writing a Senior Thesis can be a rewarding culmination to the Wellesley academic experience for Political Science and International Relations-Political Science majors.

Honors Thesis Applications due: Friday, May 15, 2020 by 4:30 pm
Info Sessions: Tue, Mar 17 at 5:00-6:00 pm and Wed, Mar 18 at 6:00-7:00 pm via Zoom 

For both majors, the Honors Program involves the writing of a thesis. Each honors student works closely throughout a full academic year with the faculty member(s) best able to advise her on the topic of her thesis. Honor theses average around 70 pages in length, though this varies considerably depending on the subject matter and the methods. The deadline for juniors submitting an honors’ thesis proposal is the second Monday in April, if this date falls on a Monday holiday the due date will be the following day on Tuesday. All students will normally be expected to submit their proposals by this date. All seniors must submit their final honors’ thesis to the Registrar's Office. The thesis process and deadlines are listed on the Office of the Registrar Web page.

GPA

College legislation sets an eligibility requirement of a minimum 3.5 grade point average in work in the major above the 100-level. The Department will consider proposals from students who demonstrate preparation and excellence in Political Science courses related to their proposed thesis. These courses should normally be distributed across both the 200 and 300 levels. Students who fall slightly below the minimum GPA requirement may petition the Department for an exemption from the GPA minimum. Exemptions are granted only for strong proposals supported by a potential thesis advisor.

Proposal

Proposals include an application form; a two- to three-page prospectus with a preliminary bibliography developed in consultation with your proposed adviser(s); a statement of your academic background on your topic; a transcript (official or unofficial); and a writing sample, preferably a research paper for a political science class. The research prospectus is the key component to the proposal. For hints on writing the prospectus, see the resources below.

Resources

First and foremost, you will need a topic that seriously interests you -- enough to carry you through a year of research and writing.  You should develop an answerable research question that you can address in the time and space of a senior thesis. 

There are different ways in which to prepare for the thesis:

  1. Course background matters. You should make sure you have the course background to write on the topic. Substantively, you need to take, if not exhaust, courses in your specific research area. You may also want to consider taking the political science research methods course, 199, to learn how to construct a research design. You should note that the department will evaluate your course background when we evaluate your course proposal.
  2. For a list of honors theses written in political science from 1940 to the present, click here. For a list of International Relations-Political Science honors theses written in 2018-2019, click here. Bound copies of these theses are available to look at in the Stettner Political Science Library (PNE 251). Please do not remove the copies from the room.
  3. Researching "how to write a thesis." As a guide to writing the proposal, we have prepared a brief overview. You might also want to consult the following texts on research design and thesis writing:
  • Charles Lipson, How to Write a BA Thesis: A Practical Guide from Your First Ideas to Your Finished Paper . Arco, 2003
  • Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science . Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

Barnette Miller Grants to Support Honors Thesis Research

Through its Barnette Miller Foundation, the Political Science Department makes available funds to support thesis research by Political Science and International Relations-Political Science majors. The maximum amount for an individual award is normally $1500. Funds are limited and not every honors student is guaranteed a grant. The application form can be found here. Applications must be submitted by November 1st of each academic year. Honors students are also encouraged to apply for a Jerome A. Schiff Fellowship, which is administered by Committee on Curriculum and Academic Policy. Students who receive a Schiff Fellowship are not eligible for a Barnette Miller Grant.

Paper Prizes

The Political Science department annually awards a Woodrow Wilson Prize for the best papers written in American Politics and Political Theory and a Barnette Miller Prize for the best papers written in Comparative Politics and International Relations. Only Political Science and IR-Political Science majors are eligible for these prizes. Directions for the submission of papers to be considered for the prizes will be announced in the late spring. Senior winners are listed in the commencement program; winners from other classes are listed in the convocation program.

Pi Sigma Alpha Honor Society

NOTE: The Political Science Department has decided to deactivate the Psi Alpha chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha as of the end of the 2019-20 academic year.