Honors Thesis & Department Prizes

Writing a Senior Honors Thesis can be a rewarding culmination to the Wellesley academic experience for Political Science and International Relations-Political Science majors.

The deadline for juniors submitting an honors thesis proposal is Wednesday, April 17, 2024

All students will normally be expected to submit their applications by this date.

Info Sessions

For both majors, the Honors Program involves the writing of a thesis. Honors candidates works closely through a full academic year with the faculty members best able to advise them on the topic of their thesis. Honors theses average around 70 pages in length, though this varies considerably depending on the subject matter and the methods.  All honors candidates must submit their final honors’ thesis to the Registrar's Office. The thesis process and deadlines are listed on the Office of the Registrar Web page.


College legislation sets an eligibility requirement of a minimum 3.5 grade point average in work in the major above the 100-level. The Department will consider proposals from students who demonstrate preparation and excellence in Political Science courses related to their proposed thesis. These courses should normally be distributed across both the 200 and 300 levels. Students who fall slightly below the minimum GPA requirement may petition the Department for an exemption from the GPA minimum. Exemptions are granted only for strong proposals supported by a potential thesis advisor.


Proposals include an application form; a two- to three-page prospectus with a preliminary bibliography developed in consultation with your proposed adviser(s); a statement of your academic background on your topic; a transcript (official or unofficial); and a writing sample, preferably a research paper for a political science class. The research prospectus is the key component to the proposal. For hints on writing the prospectus, see the resources below.


First and foremost, you will need a topic that seriously interests you -- enough to carry you through a year of research and writing.  You should develop an answerable research question that you can address in the time and space of a senior thesis. 

There are different ways in which to prepare for the thesis:

  1. Course background matters. You should make sure you have the course background to write on the topic. Substantively, you need to take, if not exhaust, courses in your specific research area. You may also want to consider taking the political science research methods course, 199, to learn how to construct a research design. You should note that the department will evaluate your course background when we evaluate your course proposal.

  2. For a list of honors theses written in political science from 1940 to the present, click here. Bound copies of these theses are available to look at in the Stettner Political Science Library (PNE 251). Please do not remove the copies from the room.

  3. Researching "how to write a thesis." As a guide to writing the proposal, we have prepared a brief overview. You might also want to consult the following texts on research design and thesis writing:

  • Charles Lipson, How to Write a BA Thesis: A Practical Guide from Your First Ideas to Your Finished Paper. Arco, 2003

  • Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997.

  • Gordon Rugg and Marian Petre, A Gentle Guide to Research Methods, Open University Press, 2007.   

  • Charles Ragin, The Comparative Method: Moving Beyond Qualitative and Quantitative Strategies, University of California Press 2014.

Barnette Miller Funding for Student Research

The Barnette Miller Honors Grant is available to help fund honors thesis research.  Students typically apply for grants that are directly related to their research projects, such as support to purchase books, for travel to archives or for fieldwork, or to buy software. In exceptionally compelling cases, grants may be given to support students staying in residence over winter break to conduct research. Grants cannot be used to defray the cost of lost wages due to research. Thesis students can apply for Barnette Miller Honors Grants here.


Writing Prizes

The Political Science Department annually awards four prizes for the best papers written in American Politics or Law; Political Theory; Comparative Politics and International Relations. Only junior and senior Political Science and IR-Political Science majors are eligible for these prizes. Faculty nominate papers to be considered for the prizes (with permission of the student).  Senior winners are listed in the commencement program; winners from other classes are listed in the convocation program.


2023 Writing Prize recipients

The Barnette Miller Comparative Politics Prize - Serena Chan, "Remitting Democracy in Mexico: A Subnational Study," written for Professor Danilo Contreras's seminar, "Democratic Consolidation and Erosion."

The Barnette Miller International Relations Prize - Paige Marie Villarreal Dean, "The Domestic Drivers of U.S. Nuclear Modernization," written for Professor Stacie Goddard's "Nuclear Politics" course.

The Woodrow Wilson American Politics Prize - Corrin Day, "Social Distance and School Integration," written for Professor Jennifer Chudy's seminar, "Race in American Politics." 

The Woodrow Wilson Political Theory Prize - Camilla Bianchi, "Criminalizing Black Agency: The Making and Unmaking of Personhood in the Attica Prison Uprising," written for Professor Laura Grattan's seminar, "Black Liberation from Haiti to Black Lives Matter."