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Political Science Thesis Guideline
For handing in thesis final drafts to the department please note they do not have to be bound. Only those going to the Registrar's office need to be in special black binders. You may find those black binders at Hastings in the center of Amherst. Used thesis binders in good condition are available for $5 a piece in Archives & Special Collections, located on Level A of Frost Library.
When handing in your thesis to the department office you MUST have DOUBLE-SPACED, DOUBLE-SIDED COPIES to hand in to the department, ONE FOR EACH READER. Please also submit an electronic copy to firstname.lastname@example.org. You must also have your name on the front cover with the title, date and names of your advisor, second and third readers.
Bold indicates fixed departmental deadlines
Target page length of thesis: 75 pages.
March 1st of your Junior Year: An application and proposal must be submitted electronically at https://www.amherst.edu/academiclife/departments/political_science/honors/honorsapplication. Your application and proposal must be submitted NO LATER THAN March 1st. Your application and proposal should lay out your problem and/or the questions you will address, explain the methods you will use and provide a short bibliography of background literature for your thesis. You should also indicate your preferred advisor. Acceptance into the program will depend on student academic qualifications and availability of faculty in the department. Register for a maximum of two senior thesis courses.
Mid September: First meeting with advisor: negotiate frequency of meetings (usually weekly) and work plan for the entire semester. Begin thesis work: Some advisors will suggest that you should be reading 600-700 pp. a week. Others will encourage you to begin writing early. Remember, you are taking two advanced seminars. Arrange meeting with reference librarian (x2319 or e-mail Dunstan McNutt, reference librarian who usually works with the Political Science Department.
Mid October: The thesis topic by this point should be more well-defined. For example, you may submit outline of thesis (with estimated page lengths of different sections) or perhaps a bibliography (already read and to read)
November: Before TG: Substantial progress in writing is expected. For example, submit one chapter draft, preferably the chapter outlining argument or literature review.
December: Before finals: More progress in writing and reading is expected (in order to get feedback from your advisor before the end of the semester). For example, submit second chapter draft and maybe a revised draft of November chapter.
Winter break: What break? You should be writing, writing, writing.
January 11: Second Monday in January submit the first draft of your entire thesis. This is a very strict deadline because your faculty readers need time to review drafts before the semester begins in late January. Please submit TWO DOUBLE-SIDED hard copies of your thesis to the Department office in Clark House, room 103 by 3 PM. One copy is for your advisor and one copy is for your second reader. Please list your advisor’s and second reader’s names on your title page. Please submit an electronic copy to the department at email@example.com. Before the submission deadline, you will also be assigned a second reader by the Department.
Add/drop period: Meet with your Second Reader and main advisor. Please contact your second reader the first day of the semester to schedule an appointment to receive comments on your draft. Your thesis advisor will inform you of the decision about whether you will be able to continue with the thesis project (in which case, you will register for one senior thesis course), otherwise you will need to submit your work for a “special topics course” to be graded by your thesis advisor.
February: Devise a plan for revisions in consultation with your advisor. During the spring semester, you may find yourself doing multiple tasks (e.g., reading new materials, re-reading old materials, revising chapters, and writing new sections).
April 4: First Monday in April submit final thesis. Thesis defense with First and Third Reader will be scheduled for late April (typically 20-30 minutes).
Thesis Advisors: All thesis students will be assigned a primary advisor (at the start of the program) and two additional readers (later in the fall semester). In assigning primary advisors, the governing considerations are: subject matter expertise/interest of the faculty, equitable distribution of the workload, student preference. 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.
Grades: In assigning letter grades for thesis courses the department follows the following practice. For cum laude: B-, B, B+; for magna: B+, A-; for summa: A-, A, A+. The principal advisor is free to assign the final grade within these ranges.