Honors Program

The Political Science Honors Program is an opportunity for students to receive departmental honors for maintaining a high GPA and engaging in a significant independent research project related to political science. The honors program consists of students completing an honors thesis and presenting it as part of the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS). We strongly encourage students considering graduate school or a research-focused non-academic career to enroll in the program.


To be eligible for the program, students need to have met the following criteria:

  • an overall and departmental GPA of at least 3.67 (A-)
  • completed the political science methods requirements (SOSC 302* and POLI 395)
  • have taken at least one 400-level research seminar in political science

*For students graduating under the GA from 2017-2018 or earlier, SOSC 302 is not a requirement.


Students must submit an application for the Political Science Honors Program to the department’s Director of Undergraduate Studies by the end of the semester before they plan to start. The Director of Undergraduate Studies must approve the plan before a student can enter the program. The application consists of:

  1. a transcript
  2. a two-page thesis plan that presents the project’s research question, the main argument, and a statement of the project’s contribution
  3. the name of a faculty mentor (full-time political science department faculty member only). Please be sure to discuss your plan with and seek agreement from the faculty member before applying.

Details of the Program

The program consists of students successfully completing an honors thesis (POLI 405 and 406) and presenting their thesis research at RURS in April. Successful completion of the thesis means a passing grade in 405 and 406. The program has several requirements:

  1. The student needs to have a faculty mentor approved by the course’s instructor of record. (Note: The faculty mentor’s role will be to guide the substantive part of the research project. The student should plan to meet with his/her mentor regularly throughout both semesters. The instructor of record will work with the student and mentor to ensure all requirements/deadlines are met and report final grades.)
  2. In POLI 405, students will begin work on their thesis with a goal to have a thorough and feasible research proposal by the end of the semester (last day of classes). The proposal must include an original and testable research question, a literature review, theory and hypotheses, a plan for collecting qualitative or quantitative data, and a plan for how data will be analyzed. The proposal should be approximately 20 pages in length plus references. The student will work on the proposal with their faculty mentor, and the faculty mentor will recommend a A-F grade to the instructor of record. The faculty mentor must approve the student’s continuation of the thesis in POLI 406.
  3. In POLI 406, students will complete their honors thesis by conducting the research proposed in POLI 405 and writing a final research paper. The paper should include the research question, literature review, theory and hypotheses, discussion of data and methods, findings, and conclusions. The paper should be approximately 30 pages in length (plus references). The thesis will be archived with the Department of Political Science. A first draft will be due to the course instructor of record by the Friday of the ninth week of the semester. A final draft will be due on or before the last day of the semester.
  4. Honors program students also will be required to present their research at the Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS) in April of the academic year in which they complete POLI 406, and/or participate in the Political Science Department End-of-Year Research Poster Session.


  • Last day of classes the semester before entering honors program – Thesis Plan due
  • Last day of first honors program semester – Research Proposal due
  • Ninth week of second honors program semester – First draft of Thesis due
  • Last day of second honors program semester – Final Thesis due
  • April – Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS) presentations and the Political Science Department End-of-Year Research Poster Session

Additional rules

A faculty mentor or the instructor of record for POLI 405/406 may create additional deadlines and mini-requirements for students to help them efficiently move through the thesis process. This could include providing a class structure for both courses if the number of students in the honors program in any given year allows for it. It may also include deadlines for small parts of the thesis or thesis proposal, such as turning in a research question by the 3rd week of the semester or a literature review by the 6th week. These additional deadlines/requirements may vary from one mentor-student pairing to another, but the student, mentor, and instructor of record should agree upon any changes at the beginning of the program or the beginning of each semester in the program.

A student may not combine POLI 405 and 406 in one semester.

Work for the Honors Program must be original. It cannot be taken from other courses at Rice or other institutions. This includes using the same work for another honors program (i.e., you cannot use the same work for honors in political science and another discipline).

Any exceptions to these rules must be approved in writing by the instructor of record.