The Quick Version

To write a thesis (honors project) in Economics at Amherst, you must:

  • Finish the core theory courses by the end of junior year
  • Have an average grade of 11.00 or higher in Economics 300/301, 330/331, and 360/361 (For reference, conversion equivalents are A = 13, A- = 12, B+ = 11, B = 10, etc.)
  • Take at least one upper-level economics elective (numbered 400-490) before senior year and at least two upper-level electives during your time at Amherst.
  • Present the department with the Intention to do a Senior Thesis form by May 1st of junior year
  • Present the department with a Preliminary Thesis Proposal by September 1st in the Fall of senior year
  • Enroll in Economics 498 in the Fall of your senior year
  • Select a research question in a field of economics of your choosing
  • Under the supervision of a faculty member, research your topic, and write a paper 50 pages in length

To write a thesis (honors project) in Economics at Amherst, you should:

  • Discuss the possibility of doing a thesis with your academic advisor or other professors in your sophomore or junior year
  • Take additional upper-level economics electives before senior year
  • Try to get some experience doing economic research
  • Read some past theses
  • Read articles and books in the particular areas of economics that interest you

The Details

In the spring and summer preceding senior fall, rising seniors will be contacted regarding their thesis plans.  Seniors will be asked to turn in forms in April and in August detailing their thesis intentions.  They may also be given summer reading and other related work.

All honors students enroll in ECON 498, the Senior Departmental Honors Seminar, in the fall semester of their senior year.  Within ECON 498, however, there are two alternative paths. Most students will enroll in Section 1, a seminar preparing students to undertake independent research for their honors projects. This will be supplemented by work with a preliminary faculty advisor.  Students who have already formulated a strong research plan in consultation with a faculty member, usually by developing their ideas in a 400-level economics course, can enroll in Section 2, 3... (the section number depends on the faculty advisor). These students will work closely with a faculty advisor from the beginning of the fall semester to further develop their thesis. In addition, they may choose to participate in aspects of Section 1 such as group presentations. All students, regardless of section, will be expected to submit and present to the department a final thesis proposal at the end of the fall semester. Grades for the fall semester will be determined by the instructor/advisor for the student’s section.  Whatever path they take in the fall semester, in the spring semester, all students will complete their honors essay under the guidance of an individual faculty advisor by enrolling in ECON 499: Senior Departmental Honors Project.

The Honors Project will consist of a research paper in a field of economics chosen by the student and will be undertaken under the supervision of a department faculty member. The Honors Project differs from a traditional thesis in focus as well as in length. While understanding a broad field will be necessary, the project will focus on a narrow research question, and unlike a traditional thesis will not need to include an extensive review of the literature.  As such, the project will conclude with a paper 50 pages in length rather than the 100+ page thesis of years past.  The project may be either empirical or theoretical in nature, and will generally be like an economics journal article in form.

For an overview of this process, you may find it helpful to review a timeline for the thesis process

What to Do Now

Junior majors considering completing an honors thesis in their senior year should do the following:

  • Discuss the possibility of doing a thesis with your academic advisor
  • Consult the thesis timeline, consult a past syllabus for Econ 498, and browse past theses
  • Take upper-level economics electives in areas of interest to you
  • Try to get some experience doing economic research
  • Attend the thesis presentations in the Fall of junior year (usually first week of December)
  • Attend the thesis presentations in the Spring of junior year (usually last week of April)
  • Attend the information session about the thesis process (usually the last week of April)
  • Meet with one or more members of the Faculty to discuss areas of interest and design a plan of summer reading (April and May)
  • Complete the Intention to do a Thesis form by May 1st of junior spring
  • Complete summer reading and other preparation during the summer (following correspondence sent out by the department in the summer)
  • Complete the Preliminary Thesis Proposal form by September 1st of senior fall
  • Arrive fully prepared for the start of the semester in Econ 498

Some Useful Documents