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
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
What if I want to go abroad with EAP or go to Washington with UC/DC during senior
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
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
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
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
Do students like the program?
Many students who have gone through the program have reported that it was a wonderful
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
What is the connection between this departmental honors program and the Campuswide
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