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Honors Program in Political Science - BA

Program Overview

Political Science's honors program is a crucial part of the department's academic life, and a capstone experience allowing students to conclude their time at AUC by working one-on-one with a department member. Honors students will take small, closed-enrollment classes together in the Fall semester of their senior year. In the Spring semester of their senior year, honors students will complete research under the supervision of an adviser of their choice (subject to availability), preparing themselves for post-graduate employment or further study. 

students studying

Degrees and Admission Requirements

Students wishing to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in political science or the political science minor should meet the minimum academic and admission requirements set by AUC.

I am interested in knowing more about the Honor program. How do I learn more?

For Admission requirements click here.

I’ve completed POLS 4000 and POLS 4104. What is POLS 4099? ​​​​​​​POLS 4099, Senior Honors Thesis, is a Spring semester course. As currently constructed, it does not have formal contact hours. It provides an opportunity for thesis writers to meet periodically as a group to discuss the writing process and to raise concerns with the instructor, who is typically the Honors program director (Chris Barker). Questions about how to communicate with one’s primary adviser, how to manage writing timelines with one’s adviser, and how to manage the editing/revising process with one’s adviser should be raised in this setting

What is the role of the faculty adviser?

The faculty adviser is the primary adviser guiding the student through the process of writing their thesis. You will sign a contract with your adviser (see: advising contract, adapted with permission from Harvard University’s advising contract). You will use the advising checklist to make sure that each party (student advisee and faculty adviser) have a clear idea about the commitment they are making, and what each expects to occur during the thesis writing process. (See: advising checklist, adapted with permission from Harvard University’s checklist.) 

Can the faculty adviser be someone from outside of the department and/or the discipline? It is not recommended that students choose a primary adviser outside of the POLS department. A secondary adviser from outside of the department is acceptable. Yet for the sake of accountability and enforcement of the advising contract, the primary thesis adviser should be a member of the AUC POLS department.

I want to interview subjects (or distribute questionnaires, etc.) for my research. I have heard about AUC’s Institutional Review Board but I don’t know what it is or whether my research needs to be approved by them?

The IRB website (with contact information) is linked here. That site should be consulted for all questions pertaining to the IRB, and extended reference can be made to the lengthier document posted to the university’s policy page (here), but note (from the former website) that “research is done in the context of normal course assignments only, with no intention to publish the results or present them at a conference, does not need IRB approval.” Therefore, if you write a senior honors thesis with the intention of doing primary research that you hope to expand into a publishable article, or a longer thesis, part or all of which you may publish down the road, you should consult with your adviser about IRB approval prior to beginning your research. This requirement is written into the advising contract signed by you and your faculty adviser. If you have any questions about the need to approve your research, please consult your primary adviser, who can reach out to the IRB directly to address your questions.

When is the thesis due?

The due date of the thesis is identified in the Writing Timeline (here) distributed to students at the end of their junior year. The due date is the last day of Spring semester undergraduate classes, and the thesis must be uploaded to Turnitin.com before the close of the POLS department office on that date. The department typically closes at 4 pm but may close earlier during Islamic holidays.

How is the thesis to be formatted? Is a certain style guide and/or citation format required? 

This question will be addressed in POLS 4000 and 4099, where a style guide and citation style guide are posted on Blackboard for the use of the students. A brief discussion of citation style may be found here under point number 11.

How is the thesis evaluated? 

The thesis is evaluated by a pass/fail standard. Broadly speaking, the theses are evaluated in terms consistent with the type of evaluative standards one sees for other writing at AUC. The evaluation of writing in POLS 4000 provides examples. To simplify, a thesis that is grossly insufficient in any one of the following areas will be unlikely to receive a passing grade, and a thesis that achieves honors recognition will excel in these areas. The three areas are: 

-Substantive content: showing competence in the research area/subfield, including the supporting evidence that the student uses to advance their thesis statement.

-Research design and methodology: the rigor, sufficiency, and insightfulness of the research design and its successful application to address the student’s research question.

-Diction and style: does the student successfully communicate their research to a non-specialist audience? 

Who makes the final evaluation of the thesis? 

The instructor assigned to POLS 4099 makes this evaluation. In this evaluation, he or she draws heavily for advice about the quality of the thesis from the recommendation of the primary adviser. This is the process in a nutshell: After receiving the theses, the instructor contacts all of the primary advisers, asking them for feedback on their advisees’ work, and asking for their recommendation (pass/fail). Typically, the POLS 4099 instructor will ask advisers to evaluate students’ theses by posing the following questions: Is this a satisfactory (passing) thesis, given your familiarity with the project, your subfield-specific knowledge, your grasp of the literature, your understanding of research methodology, your knowledge of the department's standards, and your appraisal of the demands of the discipline. 

The instructor will make the final determination based on a grasp of historical patterns in the department, ensuring that a sufficient standard is maintained. It is overly simplistic to imagine a default switch toggled to one setting or another, whether pass or fail: there is no expectation that a certain number of theses will be rejected or passed. Each student is evaluated carefully and individually by both the adviser and the instructor of POLS 4099. The instructor will reject the adviser’s recommendation only when a thesis either clearly does or does not meet the minimum standards of AUC’s Honors program when seen in the perspective of the historical standards required by the department.

What happens if I don’t pass? 

The student whose Honors thesis is not deemed acceptable may graduate, but not with Honors. Students who do not submit an Honors thesis on time, or whose work is grossly short of the standards for passing an AUC pass/fail course, may also fail POLS 4099, which may delay or prohibit their graduating.

What happens to my thesis after I graduate? Can anyone see it? Is it still my intellectual property? 

The student retains intellectual property in the thesis and may submit it in whole or in part for publication in other venues. Before submitting the thesis, the student will be asked to sign a waiver outlining several options governing the accessibility of the thesis in soft copy and hard copy. 


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