Honors Program

The application for the 2013-14 Political Science Senior Honors Thesis Program is now closed.

 

The application for the 2014-15 Political Science Honors Thesis Program will be available in Spring 2014. Please look for an e-mail from PS Advisers.

Reminder: PS H190A and H190B "Honors Seminar" do NOT count as upper-division requirements for the major.

Eligibility

To apply, students must meet the minimum eligibility standards at the time of application. These are:

  1. being declared in Political Science;
  2. having completed 90 units;
  3. having completed PS 3 and at least two upper-division political science courses at UC Berkeley;
  4. having a GPA of 3.3 overall and 3.5 in the major at the time of application. (Only courses taken at UC Berkeley count towards the major GPA.)

 

What's involved?

Doing honors requires taking a year-long seminar, PS H190A and B, and, at the same time, working independently with a faculty sponsor. The seminar provides structure, feedback, and guidance for students in a classroom setting. The additional faculty sponsor advises and guides the research on the student's specific thesis topic.

PS H190 A and B are offered as a Fall-Spring sequence and must be completed in residence at UC Berkeley. PS H190A is a fall only, 4-unit, P/NP course; PS H190B is a spring only, 4-unit, letter-graded course.

The honors seminar is a limited enrollment course. There are two sections, each capped at approximately 20 students. Section assignments are determined by the two instructors and are based on the subject of the student's research. Students could be assigned to either section, and it is highly recommended that applicants keep both section times open in their schedules if they are held at different times.

Section 1

For thesis topics in the area of international relations, comparative politics, and political theory, students could be assigned to Prof. Amy Gurowitz's course (section 001).

Section 2

For thesis topics in the area of American politics, public law, and formal theory or quantitative methods, students could be assigned to Prof. Terri Bimes' course (section 002).

Selection and notification will occur in late August. Course control numbers will be given to successful candidates (via e-mail) once they have been admitted to the class. PS H190A will begin the second week of classes.

Faculty sponsor

In addition to the seminar, students must enlist a secondary faculty advisor with whom they meet to discuss the content of their thesis topic throughout the year. An advisor is not required at the time of application, but often knowing that a student has a committed advisor who is supportive of the project can increase the chances of an application being accepted. Potential applicants are strongly encouraged to start early to find a sponsor, preferably during the spring semester of their junior year. Most faculty will only advise on a thesis topic that is within their subject area and many prefer to work with students they know or have taught.

How to apply

Applications can be made on-line only. Students should review the application in advance and gather the information needed. This will include, for example: the total number of units completed, overall gpa, a list of all courses completed for the major, including grades, major gpa, any non-Political Science courses relevant to your thesis topic that you have already taken, and a two-page statement describing your honors thesis proposal. Guidelines for writing the statement are available online and in hardcopy at the Undergraduate Office, 296 Barrows Hall.

For informational purposes i.e., organization, check out these research proposal samples from previous years. These are NOT meant as templates. Your proposal should not exceed two pages (double spaced, typed). Edit as needed. Sample #1 - Sample #2 - Sample #3 - Sample #4 - Sample #5

The quality of your proposal represents a critical component, and the strength of an application will be based on how well thought out the honors proposal is. Please read the proposal guidelines carefully.

Application deadline

For the 2014-15 academic year, the deadline for submission is 5pm, Thursday, July 31, 2014. Last-minute entries are always risky! Plan ahead, so that you can meet the application deadline! Late applications will NOT be accepted.

Who can do honors?

Important to keep in mind! Admission to the honors program is highly competitive. Decisions are final and will be based on both eligibility and the strength of the thesis proposal. There are enrollment limitations on the honors program. Students who are otherwise eligible may not be admitted because of limited seating. Applicants are advised to have an alternative course to take should their application to honors be unsuccessful.

What is it?

An honors thesis is a major research paper in which a student explores and analyzes a topic of his/her choosing. Theses vary in length but are generally 50 to 60 pages or longer, depending on the scope of the topic. Approximately 10-15% of Political Science majors complete an honors thesis. For a listing of previous Political Science senior honors theses titles, click here.

Why write an honors thesis?

The best reason for tackling a major research project is out of sincere interest. Think carefully about the trade-offs between doing honors and your other interests and opportunities. Speak to students who are currently enrolled in honors. They will have the best "take" on how much work is entailed.

Is funding available?

Yes. Various campus units offer or administer grants, scholarships, and awards for purposes ranging from: introductory and senior thesis research, study abroad and research related travel, and merit based awards acknowledging outstanding scholarship. For more information about these funding opportunities, please view the listings below.

Can you recommend any helpful research and writing resources?

Check out this list of resources for prospective and current thesis writers compiled by Dr. Terri Bimes. Many of these books can be found at one of the campus libraries (external link).

  • Haas Scholars Undergraduate Research Guide
    http://research.berkeley.edu/haas_scholars/documents.html (external link)
  • Kate L. Turabian, Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Univ. of Chicago Press). 7th.
  • W. Phillips Shively, The Craft of Political Research (Prentice Hall)
  • Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams, The Craft of Research (Univ. of Chicago Press)
  • Gregory C. Scott and Stephen M. Garrison, The Political Science Student Writer's Manual (Prentice Hall)
  • Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science (Cornell University Press)
  • Janet Johnson, Richard Joslyn, and H.T. Reynolds, Political Science Research Methods (CQ Press)
  • Michael Corbett, Research Methods in Political Science (Thompson)
  • Stella Theodoulo and Rory O'Brien, eds., Methods for Political Inquiry (Prentice Hall)
  • John Creswall, Research Design (Sage)
  • James Carlson and Mark Hyde, Doing Empirical Political Research (Houghton Mofflin)

 

What if I don't finish my honors thesis by the end of spring semester?

If you are graduating that semester, you must finish your thesis on time in order to graduate with honors. If necessary, you may take an incomplete and postpone your graduation (i.e. take yourself off the degree list) until the thesis is finished. If you take an incomplete but do not postpone graduation, you will automatically graduate (since you would have satisfied all of your degree requirements) but you will not receive honors.

What are the levels of honors?

The level of honors you receive (Honors, High Honors, or Highest Honors) will be determined by three factors: 1) your grade in H190B, 2) your major GPA, and 3) your overall GPA. All three factors must meet the minimums given in the table below in order to earn the designated level.

  Thesis Grade Overall GPA Political Science GPA
Honors B+ 3.3 3.5
High Honors A- 3.3 3.7
Highest Honors A 3.3 3.85

Is it possible to get departmental honors without writing an honors thesis?

No. However, students with high GPAs automatically graduate with Distinction, High Distinction, or Highest Distinction in General Scholarship (comparable to cum laude, magna cum laude and summa cum laude). This is noted on your transcript and diploma. Distinction GPAs are set by the Registrar and vary slightly each year, but they are approximately 3.6, 3.75, and 3.9. For the specific criteria and grade point averages (for the current year), see the honors section (external link) on the College of Letters and Science web site. Berkeley does not rank its graduates.