Honors Program FAQs

  • Why take part in the honors program?
    The honors program provides an opportunity for the most outstanding students in the major to go beyond the usual course offerings. Students in the program engage in original research under the close supervision of a faculty member. This provides a chance to do independent research as an undergraduate. It is also an opportunity to investigate topics not covered by courses in the catalogue.
    As a bonus, taking part in the honors program can also make you more competitive post-graduation (whether for further schooling or for a job). If you apply to graduate school after senior year, you will have a completed thesis to present as part of your application. If you apply for graduate school during the time you are writing your thesis, you can discuss the work in progress. In either case, your advisor will be able to write a far more detailed and enthusiastic letter of recommendation for you than is usually possible.
  • What are the basic rules for the program?
    The honors program is open to all junior and senior Political Science majors who meet the minimum academic qualifications (3.5 GPA in Political Science and 3.2 GPA overall). Courses taken elsewhere by transfer students count towards the GPA for purposes of entering the honors program even though these courses do not count towards the official overall UC GPA.
    The main component of the program consists of completion of a thesis (an extended piece of original research). In preparation for this, honors students should enroll no later than the year prior to completion of the thesis in a course with a faculty member who is a likely thesis advisor. The course should be either an upper division political science course or a Political Science 199 - Independent Reading. During the senior year honors students must enroll in H182A - Honors Workshop, offered Fall quarter only. All three quarters of senior year, students enroll in 190 - Senior Thesis with their advisor. (Students receive 4 units of credit each quarter for this class; the course requirement is to write the thesis). Upon completion of the thesis, students graduate with Honors in Political Science. In addition, completion of the thesis satisfies the campus upper-division writing requirement.
    Since the full program of writing a thesis takes a year, you should apply for the program no later than Spring quarter before you begin. For most students, this will be by the end of Spring quarter of junior year. This application must also be signed by a faculty advisor who has agreed to supervise your thesis. Please note that the advisor must be a permanent member of the department (i.e. not a visiting lecturer).
    A HONORS APPLICATION should be completed and turned in by the end of Spring quarter, applications are available outside of SSPB 5229. In addition, you will need to prepare a written thesis proposal and file one copy with the Political Science Department (in SSPB 5229).
    Honors Online Petition.
  • Are there any other deadlines?
    The department is asked in late March or early April to report to the School the names of students who will be graduating with honors. Your thesis does not need to be completed by then, but you need to have made enough progress on it that your advisor can and will certify that you are highly likely to complete the thesis by June in order for your name to be included on this list. Your name needs to be on this list in order to attend Honors Convocation. Ordinarily, your thesis must be completed by the end of Spring Quarter. If it is not, you can be assigned an “incomplete” and still receive the degree with Honors if the thesis is completed by the end of June. However, this late alternative is not recommended.
  • What if I want to go abroad with EAP or go to Washington with UC/DC during senior year?
    Although it is possible to be in the honors program while being on EAP or UC/DC during senior year, our observation is that students usually have difficulty completing the requirements for the program during senior year if they take advantage of these opportunities. Although students think that the experience away from campus will enrich the thesis, and although these experiences are undoubtedly academically very enriching, taking full advantage of the opportunities they present often competes with the work needed to write a thesis.
    If you plan ahead, however, you may be able to combine these programs. For example, if you begin your thesis work early – identifying an advisor during junior year and developing a prospectus and completing a substantial portion of work before senior year begins – you may be able to complete the program while still going abroad or doing an internship. Another alternative is to take part in EAP or UC/DC before your senior year. If at all possible, it is a good idea to be in residence at UCI during Fall Quarter so that you can complete H182A. See below, however, with regard to requesting exemptions from requirements. It is a good idea to discuss these planning issues with the Undergraduate Director, Honors Program Director, and/or your advisor as soon as possible.
  • What if I don’t quite meet the requirements for the program?
    If you do not quite meet the requirements for the program, you can request an exception from the Department’s Undergraduate Director. Exceptions have been requested, and in some cases granted, in cases where the GPA did not quite meet the program requirements, for example, where early classes in another major depressed the overall GPA. Exceptions can also be granted to the pre-thesis year course requirement given the vagaries of student interests and faculty schedules. It is also possible to admit students to the program after the spring of junior year as long as the students have an advisor and can take H182 during the fall. The one requirement that will not be weakened is that a faculty member is willing to work with you as an advisor, as completing a thesis under the supervision of an advisor is the most essential component of the program.
  • What if I cannot find an advisor?
    If you cannot find an advisor, yet otherwise meet the requirements for the program, the Undergraduate Director can provide some assistance in directing you to likely faculty.
  • I’m looking ahead; how can I best prepare to find an advisor?
    The best way to find an advisor is to get to know a faculty member who has interests in an area related to one in which you would like to write a thesis. The best way to get to know a faculty member is to take a class from him or her – preferably a class small enough and advanced enough that they can get to know your work. The 199’s provide another useful route.
  • How else can I prepare to write a successful thesis?
    You maximize your chances for a successful thesis project by having a topic and advisor in hand by the end of spring quarter and spending some time over the summer working on defining and refining your topic. This way, you can start working in earnest in fall.
    It is useful to develop your general writing and research skills. The specific research skills you need will depend upon your thesis topic.
    If any classes are offered which provide background in the area on which you think you want to write a thesis, you will improve your topic by taking those classes as soon as possible. For example, if you want to write a thesis on some aspect of ethnic politics, you should take one of the ethnic politics classes instead of expecting your advisor to provide you with the background. Or for other topics, an economics, or a history, or some other class might provide important background. Obviously, this advice works best for students who develop a thesis from interests they have had early in their academic career. Many students do not, and they still write a successful thesis, especially if they follow the advice in the first paragraph.
  • What does an advisor do?
    Advisors help you focus your efforts so that you can complete your research project. They usually serve as a sounding board and as a source of guidance. Frequently, especially towards the beginning of a project, they will help you define what you are doing and then give you suggestions of literature you should examine. As the project goes on, they will spend more time reacting to work you prepare.
  • What if I begin the program but drop out?
    If you complete H182, you still receive four units of political science credit towards graduation for that course. 190W is graded as “in progress,” but your advisor can assign a post-quarter grade change so that you still receive four units of credit for each quarter you completed of 190W. If you have completed a substantial amount of writing, you can petition to have it count to fulfill the upper-division writing requirement.
  • Do students like the program?
    Many students who have gone through the program have reported that it was a wonderful experience.
  • Is there funding available to help with research expenses?
    Several campus programs let you compete for funds to support student research. If you have an expensive project in mind, it’s a good idea to define it even earlier than recommended here so that you can make timely applications! Students can also apply for research support from the Jack and Suzie Peltason Scholarship Fund managed by the Department of Political Science. These funds have been used in the past to cover such expenses as transcription of interviews, copying, printing, and postage for surveys, purchase of data, travel expenses, and other out-of-pocket expenses for research.
  • What is the connection between this departmental honors program and the Campuswide Honors Program?
    The two programs are completely compatible. Students in the CHP program are required to complete a thesis during their senior year. This thesis can be (and often has been) the thesis written in the political science departmental honors program. Thus, fulfilling the requirements for Political Science Departmental honors also fulfills the CHP requirements. A student who does both receives both notations on their transcript and can participate in Honors Convocation for both. In a few cases, a CHP student who was a political science major wanted to write a thesis advised by a faculty member who was in a different department; in those cases the student completed CHP but did not complete the departmental honors program.

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