Honors Program


The University, through its departments, recognizes outstanding undergraduate work with the honors designation. This designation is described in the University Bulletin; in short, if you successfully complete the honors designation process within the Political Science Department, your transcript will state that you are an honors graduate of the Department.

To receive Political Science Honors Designation, you must complete and defend a substantial research paper.  The process is two semesters long and is typically undertaken during the senior year. The first semester is largely dedicated to research, and the second to the writing and presentation of your work.  A timetable for completion of the research project is included below.

The Honors Designation Program requires quality work, but offers many benefits in return:  it is an impressive addition to your transcript, particularly because few students are eligible to or choose to pursue departmental honors; you will have the opportunity to select faculty members and work closely with them on the project of your choice; the research is largely self-paced; and you will be allowed 3 credits of POL 499 (Independent Study) for your work on the project. The Independent Study credits are granted for the semester that you present and defend your research paper—typically the spring semester for May graduation and the fall semester for December graduation.


To be eligible to pursue the honors designation, you must have: (1) achieved at least junior status, (2) been accepted to a major in the department, (3) earned a G.P.A. of 3.5 or higher in the major, and (4) earned a G.P.A. of 3.25 or higher in the university. As the honors designation program is two semesters long, you must apply for it at least two semesters before you graduate. If you wish to apply for the program, you should meet with the department chair. He or she will determine your eligibility and admit you into the program.

To be awarded the honors designation, you must satisfactorily complete and defend a substantial research paper. In addition, you must continue to maintain your G.P.A. eligibilities.

The Committee

The honors designation committee consists of three full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty members, one of whom you will select to serve as its chair. The chair and one other member must be from the Political Science Department; your third committee member need not be. The committee chair will be primarily responsible for directing both your research project and your preparation for the comprehensive examination. You will work closely with this person and will establish with him or her additional rules regarding the pacing of your work and the completion of the honors designation requirements. 

However, you must also keep your other committee members informed of your progress. The checklist below requires the submission of at least one substantially completed draft of your research paper to all committee members; you may choose to submit it more often for their review and comments. Do not let a committee member "fall out of the loop." Remember, all committee members must review your research paper, attend your defense, and grade your examination. Do not expect your chair to "run interference" with other committee members on your behalf; you need to ensure as you go along that your work is acceptable to them.

The Research Paper

The research paper gives you the opportunity to investigate and analyze a significant issue in your chosen field of political science.

While there is no expressly required length, the research paper is equivalent to an honors thesis and is therefore a substantial undertaking. A good guideline for papers is approximately 25-40 pages long, typed and double-spaced. The project must be approved by your committee chair, who assumes primary responsibility for directing it. 

You may use a variety of primary and secondary sources, at your discretion, although it is anticipated that you will include a discussion of the relevant literature somewhere in your paper or in an annotated bibliography. Your paper's notes, references, appendices, and bibliography should conform to an accepted method of citation. You should consult with your chair about which citation method to use. You may use footnotes or endnotes, as you prefer.

Only high quality work will be accepted. Your research paper and POL 499 course will be graded on a S/U basis. You can request that your committee members also assign letter grades when they review it, although these will be for your information only. If your paper is satisfactory, you will be required to defend it.  The work you do on the project, and particularly the oral defense of the paper, constitutes this department’s “comprehensive examination,” which is required of all departmental honors programs on campus. 

The defense takes place before all three committee members at a mutually agreeable time arranged according to the timetable below. The defense is a public event, meaning that outsiders can attend to hear you present your research conclusions. At the end of the defense, the committee will ask you to step out of the room for a few minutes while the members privately discuss your presentation. After that, you will be called back into the room and notified whether you passed (S/U). A two-thirds vote of the committee is required to obtain a satisfactory grade for the paper and for the defense.


The decision(s) of your committee is final at all stages of the honors designation process. If you wish to challenge the committee's decision not to award you the honors designation, you are required to follow the grade appeals procedures outlined in the SCSU Student Handbook.

Transcript Designation

Upon successful completion of the requirements, your committee chair will inform the department chair in writing. The department chair will then inform the Office of Records and Registration. They will post the honors designation to your transcript with a "pass" designation.

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