Political Science Honors Degree

The Department of Political Science offers graduate level courses for students in the Honors College who wish to enrich their experience within the Political Science major. Taking advanced coursework in Political Science may be especially useful:

  • for honors students majoring in political science who are focused on graduate school by helping them to engage in serious research and take classes in an accelerated curriculum;
  • as an alternative to University Honors for students who come to the University with a significant number of AP credits and have completed most of their general education requirements and are ready to work on their major;
  • for transfer students who have an Associate's Degree or have already satisfied most of their general education requirements and who are ready to enter the major.

Students can either complete an Honors College degree and submit an honors thesis through the Political Science Department or complete the departmental honors courses to complete the honors degree and submit an honors thesis through the Political Science Department. The departmental honors courses count toward the student's major as well as toward the honors degree, or the honors certificate.

Students considering getting an honors degree in Political Science should talk to an advisor in the Honors College to make sure they understand all requirements for the honors degree. A year prior to graduation, students need to schedule a pre-thesis interview in the honors program. The honors advisor will explain the thesis process and provide information on deadlines, formatting, signature requirements, and the like.

Students should also schedule an appointment to meet with the department honors advisor, Dr. Matthew Burbank. The department honors advisor can provide honors students with additional information on the graduate level courses, help students to plan for completing the course requirements of the degree, and prepare to complete an honors thesis in Political Science.

Admissions and Requirements

  • Students must apply and be admitted to the Honors College Program.
  • Students must satisfactorily complete the Honors Certificate before taking Political Science graduate level courses:
    • two semesters of the honors core in intellectual traditions
    • one semester of honors writing, either Honors 2211 (WR2) or Honors 3200 (CW)
    • two additional honors courses (American Institutions, Honors Calculus, Honors Core in Social and Behavioral Science, Honors Core in Physical and Life Science, Honors Core in Fine Arts, Construction of Knowledge, or any of the Honors seminars).

After completing the Honors Certificate requirements, students may complete an honors degree by completing two additional honors courses, or graduate level political science courses and submit an honors thesis through the Political Science Department. The specifically approved graduate level courses are offered each semester. These courses meet with regularly scheduled graduate classes. Prior to each fall and spring semester, honors students in political science will be notified of approved honors courses offered during that semester and a current list of approved courses will be available within the Political Science Department. Students must complete the departmental honors courses with a minimum grade of a B and must have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better in all course work to complete the degree.

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Department Honors Advisor

The department honors advisor is Professor Matthew Burbank. To learn more about the honors degree in Political Science, contact Professor Burbank at mburbank@poli-sci.utah.edu or 801-581-6313.

The honors advisor reads the student's thesis after the honors supervisor has approved it. Remember that there may be more than one honors thesis being completed during any term so take that into account when planning for deadlines.

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Research Seminar and honors thesis

It is possible, and often desirable, for students to take the topic and the paper from a research seminar, POLS 5810, and develop it substantially for the honors thesis. Indeed, this process fits with the common scholarly practice in which research is conducted and presented at conferences and then later revised and refined.

Even if students choose not to pursue the topic from their research seminar, the research seminar requires the completion of a major research project and thus ensures that students have a substantial research and writing experience that prepares them for the honors thesis process.

Honors students should consult with the department's honors advisor concerning when is most appropriate to take a research seminar in the student's academic career. Generally, it is advised that students consider a research seminar after completing approximately 75 hours of course work.

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Honors Supervisory Faculty Member

In order to complete an honors thesis, each student needs to have an eligible political science faculty member to supervise the research and writing of the thesis. Honors students are responsible for identifying and asking a political science faculty member to serve as the honors supervisor but the departmental honors advisor can help identify faculty whose scholarly interests may fit with the student's honors topic. Please be aware that teaching assistants, graduate instructors, and most adjunct professors are not eligible to supervise an honors thesis. The faculty supervisor must approve the final version of the honors thesis and will grade the required honors thesis hours (POLS 4999) when the thesis is completed.

Though it is ideal for an honors student to have taken a class from the faculty member who will supervise the thesis, it is not necessary to do so. Having completed a research seminar (POLS 5810) or an honors track seminar course to demonstrate one's research and writing experience can be very useful in identifying a professor to serve as the honors thesis supervisor. In some cases, however, it may be best to identify a faculty member as a possible thesis supervisor based on the professor's area of interest and expertise in the general area of the thesis topic. In either case, it is critical to consult with the supervisor early in the process so that there is mutual agreement on the topic, specific research question, and general approach. Students should expect to submit multiple drafts of their thesis to their faculty advisor and to prepare to make substantial substantive and stylistic changes in order to produce a completed honors thesis of acceptable quality. Completing an honors thesis takes time, willingness to assess and revise one's work, and persistence. Students should be aware that a first draft, particularly if handed in close to the deadline, may not pass muster.

From the perspective of faculty, the ideal honors student has the ability to work independently and responds enthusiastically to constructive criticism of drafts. It is also ideal if the student has, or can develop, a passionate interest in his or her substantive topic.

Prior to beginning work on theses, students should consult with their faculty supervisor on the preferred citation style. The Department of Political Science recognizes four styles that are acceptable for citations and references in an honors thesis:

  • the citation style used by the American Political Science Review (APSR);
  • the citation style used by the American Psychological Association (APA);
  • the in-text citation style based on the Chicago Manual of Style; or
  • the footnote style of citation based on the Chicago Manual of Style.

Select one of these styles of citation, reference, and presentation and use it exclusively (except when it conflicts with the style mandates for an honors thesis required by the Honors College, in which case follow style specified by the Honors College).

More information on proper usage of citations and references can be found by consulting the following sources:

  • for the APSR style the current edition of the Style Manual for Political Science (Washington, DC: American Political Science Association);
  • for the APA style the most current edition of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (Washington, DC: American Psychological Association); and,
  • for in-text references or footnotes in the Chicago style, see the current edition of Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press).

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Honors Thesis Deadlines:

  • Fall semester: November 15
  • Spring semester: March 31
  • Summer session: July 15

The deadlines above are the deadlines of the honors program. Honors supervisors and honors advisors need a minimum of two weeks to respond to a draft. A common problem is that students do not allow sufficient time for working through drafts with their honors supervisor, for the department honors advisor's final reading, or to gather of signatures for the final title page.

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