Political Science Project Guidelines

Political science honors theses should make an original contribution, however small, to any subfield of the discipline. The project should focus on analysis of a problem or development in politics/government. Description of the issue is necessary but is not the heart of the project. Scholars are expected to be objective in their analysis—this is not an opinion-guided project.
Students pursuing the thesis should be well-read and aware of their topic's importance both to political scientists and to the political world at large. Such preparation will not only inform the student of which research path to take but will also prevent her/him from conducting research that merely replicates what has been done before. The Honors thesis will take most of the senior year to complete, so during the junior year each student must ask herself/himself:

1. In the POL classes I have taken thus far, have I read enough analytical research in my favored subfield to pose a viable research question of my own?

2. Have the POL courses and classes in other fields taught me how to use the library and electronic resources to collect academic scholarship on a focused topic?

3. Have the POL courses and classes in other fields given me experience in writing research papers of ten or more pages?

4. Have I taken POL 350 Social Science Research Methods by the end of my junior year? Note: Taking POL 350 in the senior year is too late for it to do any good.

5. Have I thought about which three professors I would like to have on my thesis committee?

6. Am I ready to meet with my thesis adviser as often as once a week (and with the whole committee less often) during my senior year to discuss progress, review drafts, etc.?

7. Do I know that the thesis is my responsibility—that the committee or anyone else is not responsible for helping me gather library sources, collect and analyze data, or draft the report?

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, please consult with your political science adviser to determine what should be done to get you on track to begin the thesis process. Below is a discussion of requirements for each step of the thesis process.


The poster should present information from the proposal clearly and thoroughly, with an emphasis on visual presentation. Write out the research question and hypotheses in a way that non-political scientists would understand what you are studying. Provide tables/figures and even pictures to assist viewers in recognizing the details and context of your research. Follow the poster format guidelines established by the Honors College.


This document should include: a cover page (your name, title of project, committee member names, and any other information required by the Honors College); 4-5 pages of text; bibliography (10 or more academic sources at this stage),draft of survey or other data collection instrument attached as appendix. The 4-5 pages of text should be organized as follows:

1. Introduction: State your research question and discuss the specific issue/development being investigated. List one or more relevant hypotheses to be tested. Be sure to delineate limits of study: what exactly will be investigated, and how far do you see your findings being generalized across space and time?

2. Theory: Identify one or more relevant theories from the political science literature that will guide the evaluation of the hypotheses. At this stage you are not expected to know all the details of the theory, but you should be able to denote its importance to your project.

3. Method: Sketch the means by which you will collect and analyze data for the thesis. Present the necessary details of collection (survey/interviews, content analysis of documents, observation, experimentation) with an estimate of how "big" your data set will be (e.g., 40 city budgets analyzed, 100 MUW students interviewed). Specify qualitative or quantitative analysis of data, giving as much detail as you can. For example, a quantitative project may employ regression analysis through SPSS (the software used in POL 350 data analysis project).

4. Results: Suggest the likely outcomes of either a confirmed or rejected hypothesis. Will the outcome support or challenge what is already known in the field? Will the outcome be useful for those who are directly confronted with the issue in the "real world"?


In its later drafts and final version, the thesis must adhere to the standards below. Students must follow the APA or Chicago Writing Manual for writing style, citations, etc.

A. Cover page: Same as on the proposal, with revisions as necessary.

B. Text: 15-30 pages in length (typed double-spaced, with 1" margins and 12pt font). The text should not include tables/figures (those go in the appendices). Text should be organized the following way, adapted to fit your needs.

Text should be organized the following way, adapted to fit your needs.

1. Introduction: Present the issue and your specific angle. Some history may be helpful here, but you must not burden your project with historical narrative.

2. Literature Review: Discuss what has been concluded about this topic in the academic literature. Emphasize major theories and how your approach fits in or not. State whether you are expanding or challenging a theory.

3. Data and Methods: Explain specifically what you will test and how.

4. Test: Explain your findings.

5. Conclusions: Discuss relevance of your findings (confirmed or rejected hypotheses) to academic research and the "real world." Discuss expansion/revision of theory or the introduction of a new theory. State further research directions (maybe with new hypotheses to test) for others to pursue.

C. Bibliography: A list of 15-30 academic sources (scholarly books and articles), which may be supplemented by other sources (news magazine articles, government documents). Accessing legitimate sources electronically is fine, but you must get your adviser's permission to count a Web-only source in your bibliography.

D. Appendices: A separate appendix should be created for each table or figure as well as for your survey or other data collection instrument. Do not include an appendix unless you make reference to it in the text (e.g., SEE TABLE 4 IN APPENDIX D).

A summary of the thesis (with emphasis on hypothesis testing and conclusions) should be the basis of your presentation given to the Honors College at the end of the year. Make use of visuals (PowerPoint, etc.) as per Honors guidelines.