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Honors Program FAQs

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What is an honors thesis?

A thesis is a sustained, scholarly investigation of an important question or substantive problem. It deals with its topic in greater length, depth and detail than a term paper.

A thesis in Political Science can be written on a wide array of topics, ranging from a close rereading of a classical text in political theory to conducting survey research on a contemporary policy. It may be based on field work or research conducted at Northwestern.

You will write your thesis with the assistance of a faculty advisor. It is recommended that you meet with your advisor approximately once a week. With the advisor's guidance, you will be responsible for selecting a topic, compiling a bibliography, designing a research plan, and following through with research and writing. A Political Science thesis is generally between 60-100 pages long.

What are the pre-requisites for applying to the Honors program?

You must be a Political Science major, complete the Honors program application, and be accepted to the Honors program. Priority is given to students who have completed the department’s methods and 395 requirements. Entrance is competitive, and the quality of the proposal is important. View the complete eligibility and application requirements on the Honors page.

How should I prepare to apply to the Honors program?

These are the steps you should follow to apply to the honors program:

  • Discuss pursuing honors with a political science faculty member you know. The decision to pursue honors is a weighty one; it will affect the entire experience of your senior year of college. You should discuss this decision with an advisor, and you should discuss potential research topics.
  • You should begin conversations about a potential topic no later than the winter quarter of your junior year. It is a good idea to think about possible topics that might interest you before you meet with a faculty advisor. Better yet, take a stab at formulating a paragraph about a possible thesis topic. Students studying abroad are encouraged to start talking about potential topics before they depart for study abroad. 
  • Develop a proposal for a thesis topic in consultation with a faculty member. Admissions to the program will be based on the quality of the thesis proposal. In general, the proposal involves framing a question that can serve as the basis of a thesis project. Expertise in the topic is not required at the proposal stage.
  • Complete the application and ask a faculty member to complete the recommendation form. Give your recommendation writer a copy of your application and your proposal. Don’t wait until the last minute! Be sure to give the professor advanced warning and time to discuss your proposal with you and to complete the form.
  • Include you unofficial transcript, verifying that your GPA in the major (political science) and college is 3.5 or higher.
  • Submit all materials through the online application form by the deadline.

How do I find a thesis advisor?

If you are admitted to the honors program, the Director of Honors will assign you an advisor.  The department strongly recommends that you work on your proposal with a political science faculty member, and preferably with the faculty member you hope might become your advisor.

When can I apply for the Honors Program?

Applications for the Honors program are accepted once per year. Applications typically open in March with an application deadline in April. Most students apply during their junior year to participate in the program during their senior year.

Is it possible to write honors theses in two majors?

It is possible to write two separate thesis but, the department discourages this. Instead, we encourage double majors to pursue the option of an interdisciplinary honors project. Students doing interdisciplinary honors theses will normally be expected to register for and to complete successfully the honors sequences in both departments.  Information about interdisciplinary honors is available on the Weinberg College website.

Is there a class associated with the Honors program?

Students admitted to the Honors program must take the two-quarter Senior Thesis Seminar (Poli Sci 398) in the fall and winter quarters. The 398 courses do not count toward the political science major, but they do count towards graduation requirement.

Can I participate in the Honors Program if I will be abroad/off-campus during part of the year?

To participate in the Honors program, students are required to be enrolled in Poli Sci 398-1 and 398-2 in the  fall and winter quarters and able to attend those classes in person on campus. Students who will not be on campus during the fall and winter quarters when they would participate in the Honors program are not eligible for the program.

I missed the application deadline. What do I do?

Normally only students who submit an application on time will be admitted to the program. Late applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but the bar for entry is higher, and late applications will be accepted in exceptional cases only.

Study abroad is not considered an exceptional reason unless the student is spending the winter quarter of their junior year in an area of the world with no electricity or internet connections. We encourage students to anticipate a situation that may lead to a late application, and talk to the Director of Undergraduate Studies or Honors Director in advance.