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Honors in the Department of International Affairs is awarded on the basis of the senior thesis. Students whose theses are judged by department faculty to be of superior quality, originality, and insight will receive the award of honors on graduation. Eligibility is also contingent upon GPA at time of graduation. Please read the GPA carefully, as details have changed.*
At the beginning of the senior thesis semester, students who can reasonably expect to fulfill both GPA requirements, may choose whether or not they wish to have their thesis considered for honors. Students who would like to be considered for honors must notify their thesis advisor (the faculty member teaching their thesis section) when submitting the first draft of their thesis proposal.
Once the thesis advisor approves the proposal, the student will be assigned an IA faculty “second reader.” The student has two business days to revise the proposal and submit it (electronically and in hard copy) to the second reader.
The second reader will provide feedback to the student on the proposal and offer suggestions for improvement within one week. The second reader will share a copy of this feedback with the student’s thesis advisor. Honors candidates are encouraged to meet with their second reader once or twice (but no more) during the semester to discuss their incorporation of this feedback. The second reader is NOT a co-thesis advisor and will NOT read drafts or provide further written feedback. The thesis advisor remains the primary point of contact.
Honors candidates should make every possible effort to incorporate the feedback of the thesis instructor and second reader. Candidates should email their thesis advisor and second reader (in the same email) in early April (no later than April 15) to confirm that they would like their thesis to be considered for honors, or give notice of their withdrawal from the process.
The candidate must submit their thesis on time to BOTH their thesis advisor and (in hard copy and electronically) to the second reader by the thesis section’s designated deadline. If this deadline is later than 5pm on the last day of classes, the thesis must be submitted by 5pm on the last day of classes.
The thesis will be evaluated for honor only if it is submitted before the deadline, fully meets all of the thesis instructor’s requirements and instructions, and is polished in content and presentation. Theses that meet these requirements will be considered for honors. The thesis advisor, second reader, and (under some circumstances) other member(s) of the faculty must agree that the thesis excels in achieving ALL of the following objectives:
- First, the thesis will provide an explanation for a theoretically-derived research puzzle, or an explanation for an empirical issue in world politics that is relevant (has real-world consequences) or puzzling (its appearance or resolution was unexpected given other longstanding patterns).
- Second, the thesis will demonstrate a strong understanding of the international relations literature relevant to your particular research question, and that literature will inform and guide the explanation advanced.
- Third, the explanation provided will reflect a clear understanding of the phenomena under investigation and the explanation advanced will cogently delineate the logic of the causal argument advanced.
- Fourth, the data you select and the way in which you design your test will demonstrate a strong grasp of the appropriate methodology given your research question and the relevant literature.
- Fifth, the data presented will validate the argument advanced and persuade the reader that you have identified the most plausible answer to your research question and that other explanations are not applicable.
- Sixth, the thesis will recognize any significant conceptual, methodological, and empirical limitations.
- Seventh, the thesis will offer findings of value to those interested in the relevant theoretical literature or issue area. For example, the thesis will seek to draw some implications for understanding the larger class of behavior it investigates, including but not limited to a well developed discussion of the explanation’s external validity.
- Eighth, the thesis will demonstrate independent thinking and expand the reader’s understanding of the subject covered.
* GPA eligibility requirements:
2016-17 Catalog (Graduating May 2020) - 3.5 in the major and 3.5 overall
2017-18 Catalog (Graduating May 2021) – 3.5 in the major
2018-19 Catalog (Graduating May 2022) – 3.5 in the major
2019-20 Catalog (Graduating May 2023) – 3.7 in the major
For more information about opportunities for current students and recent graduates, please see the “opportunities” page.