Honors Program

For a story about an unusually successful senior honors project, read this account of Morgan Gillespie ’23 and her research on how gender bias affects the ways voters perceive politicians.

The honors program provides a capstone experience during a student's senior year. Students have an opportunity to conduct original social science research in a small collaborative setting. "Original research" means that students will propose an original hypothesis and evaluate it, as opposed to standard political science courses in which students' written assignments summarize existing arguments. Most theses contain a statistical analysis component, although this is not required. (For example, a thesis could be primarily qualitative or theoretical.)

During the fall, honors students will enroll in PSCI/INTR 389W (four credits), taught by the honors coordinator, in which they will develop a topic and learn research design techniques. Students will receive feedback from the honors coordinator, from peers in the class, and from an additional faculty member who will serve as the main advisor. Contingent on satisfactory performance in the fall, students will write the bulk of the thesis in the spring, enrolling in PSCI/INTR 393W (four credits). They will meet periodically with the honors coordinator and classmates, and regularly with their thesis advisor, who will assign their spring grade. The end result is a written thesis that will be due on April 15 and will be graded by the advisor and by a second member of the department faculty at the end of the senior year. Students who complete a satisfactory thesis and have a major GPA of at least 3.5 (calculated by averaging the grades of all courses that are listed or cross-listed as PSC or IR as well as any other courses used to satisfy the requirements of the major) will graduate with honors, and exceptional theses may merit high or highest honors.

Admission to the honors program will be based on invitations issued by the Department of Political Science by March 1 of a student's junior year, or by petition from students with excellent academic records who were overlooked in the invitation process. Invitations will be restricted to juniors majoring in political science, international relations, or politics, philosophy, and economics who have demonstrated outstanding levels of achievement in their academic work, as demonstrated by the rigor of their course schedules and their GPAs. Students who are not invited may petition for admission to the honors program. The deadline for a student petition is March 15. The department will respond to the petition within two weeks, before the fall registration period begins.

A petition takes the form of an email to the honors coordinator, with two attachments. The first attachment should include a brief statement of a possible project the student might pursue, coursework and relevant activities that have informed their potential thesis topic and otherwise shaped their interest in original research, and the names of two political science faculty members whom they know and in whose courses they have performed well. The second attachment should be a record of grades in all courses taken at Rochester, either an up-to-date transcript or a screenshot of an unofficial transcript.

In addition to receiving an invitation or having a petition approved, students must have completed the following minimum requirements before the beginning of the fall semester of the senior year, with a grade of B or better:

  1. At least two courses in tools of political analysis (PSCI 107, PSCI 200, PSCI 202W, PSCI 205, PSCI 281, or PSCI 288). Prospective honors students are strongly encouraged to have completed at least one statistics course no later than spring of their junior year. In lieu of PSCI 200, students may substitute one of the following introductory statistics courses: ECON 230, STAT 211, STAT 212, STAT 213, STAT 214, any other course in statistics, or a score of 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement exam in statistics.
  2. An upper-level writing course, designated with a W.