Students who wish to be considered for graduation with Departmental Honors in Political Science are required to write a thesis, typically during their senior year. Prospective thesis students must successfully complete at least one Political Science research seminar (300 level course) before the conclusion of the second semester of their junior year.
Also, prospective thesis students must have an 3.67 cumulative average or higher after six semesters. Prospective applicants should consult with members of the Department during their junior year to define a suitable Honors project and to determine whether a member of the department is competent to act as an advisor and will be available to do so.
Information about topics that faculty members would like to advise on is posted on our website. We will give preference to working with students whose research interests coincide with our own. In assigning advisors for honors work, in addition to the expertise/interests of the faculty, we will also consider equitable distribution of the workload and student preferences. Permission to pursue projects for which suitable advisors are not available may be denied by the Department.
Five College Professors who regularly teach in our department may serve as primary advisors or as second and third readers. In assigning second and third readers, the principal advisor shall play a primary role. Colleagues from other departments at Amherst or in the Five Colleges may serve as second and third readers. Only one member of a thesis committee may be from another department at Amherst or from the Five Colleges.
The Department Chair will organize three meetings for juniors who hope to do honors work, in December, February and April. Students should attend as many of these meetings as possible. Those who are studying abroad should communicate with prospective thesis advisors before leaving and while abroad.
The application consists of a description of the thesis topic—what it is, why it is important, how it is to be illuminated—and information about relevant experience and interests. Deadlines for a honors application are posted on the department website. The department chair will inform students whether they have been admitted into the thesis program by the end of the spring semester. Prior department approval is necessary to register for thesis courses in the senior year.
Students for Honors should enroll in a senior honors course in the fall (POSC 498) and spring (POSC 499) semesters. Students may request a third thesis course in either the fall (POSC 498D) or the spring (POSC 499D), with approval from their advisor. Deadlines for a first draft of the thesis are posted on the department website. At that time, the candidate's advisor, in consultation with a second reader, will evaluate the draft and determine whether it merits the candidate's continuing in the Honor's program in the second semester. Students continuing in the Honors program will receive a single grade for honor courses upon the completion of the latter.
In assigning letter grades for thesis courses the department follows the following practice. For cum laude: B, B+, A-; for magna: B+, A-, A; for summa: A-, A, A+. The principal advisor is free to assign the final grade within these ranges.