Academic Honors Program

High-achieving students in majors within the Department of Political Science may be eligible for academic honors recognition.

The academic honors program offers a means through which students can demonstrate their intellectual capabilities applicable to teaching political science or advancement to graduate school.

POL and PPS Majors

 Undergraduate students majoring in Political Science, Political Science - Public Service and International Relations may qualify for academic honors in their senior year.

Undergraduate students majoring in Political Science or Political Science - Public Service may qualify for academic honors in their senior year by maintaining a grade-point average of 3.5 or higher in courses that are counted toward the major. Such students are eligible to take the requisite honors seminar.

  • Any student who attains the cumulative grade point average required for honors in the College of Letters and Science will receive honors at graduation.
  • The honors seminar is a two-quarter sequence (consisting of POL 194HA and POL 194HB) that takes place in the fall and winter quarters.
  • The specific GPA required for honors at graduation is calculated at the end of each winter quarter and varies according to the number of units taken at UC Davis. Please consult the UC Davis General Catalog and the College of Letters and Science for details.
  • To qualify for high honors or highest honors, students who are seniors must meet grade point average requirements, must have enrolled in and completed a two-quarter sequences in POL 194HA/HB, and must produce a thesis.
  • High honors designation is equivalent to magna cum laude.
  • Highest honors is equivalent to summa cum laude.

International Relations Major

Any student who attains the cumulative grade point average required for honors in the College of Letters and Science will receive Honors at graduation. However, to be eligible for High Honors and Highest Honors in International Relations, senior IR majors must also complete the two-quarter honors seminar (IRE 194HA and 194HB) and produce an honors thesis.

  • All senior IR majors with a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher in courses counted toward the major are eligible to enroll in the honors seminar.
  • The IR honors seminar is designed to help students develop and complete their honors theses.
  • During the first quarter, students learn a variety of research methods and complete short weekly assignments applying these methods to their research topic. At the end of this quarter, students turn in a 10-page research proposal.
  • The second quarter is more focused on individual projects. Students have frequent one-on-one meetings with the instructor, and then present and defend their research in front of the class.
  • At the end of the seminar, students submit a completed honors thesis — typically, about 30 double-spaced pages. The goal is to produce a rigorous and focused piece of research.

Consult with a departmental staff advisor to determine your eligibility.

Honors Thesis

Am I eligible?

All junior/senior POL/PPS majors with a GPA of 3.5 or higher in courses counted toward the major are eligible to enroll in the Honors Seminar.  Any student who attains the cumulative grade point average required for Honors in the College of Letters and Science will receive Honors at graduation[i].  However, only students who are eligible by grade point average, who enroll in POL 194HA/HB, complete the two-quarter sequence, and produce a thesis are eligible for High Honors or Highest Honors in Political Science/Political Science Public Service.

 When does the seminar take place and how do I enroll?

The POL Honors Seminar is a two-quarter sequence, taking place in the fall and winter quarters.  Check the fall Class Schedule and Registration Guide to see when POL 194HA is offered, register for the seminar, and attend the first class.  You will do the same for winter quarter signing up for POL 194HB.

 How will I be graded?

Students must complete both quarters (4 units per quarter) in order to get credit for the Honors Seminar.  Grading is “in-progress,” meaning that your spring grade will be an IP, and when you complete the winter quarter, both your fall and winter quarter grades will convert to the letter grade you earned.

 Students receive a letter grade for the class, and if they have completed a thesis and received a grade of A+ or A for both quarters they will receive Highest Honors.  If they receive an A- for the two quarters they will receive High Honors.

 What is the format of the class?

The class is run in a seminar format.  Students develop a highly detailed research design which will guide them as conduct research and write up the thesis in the winter quarter.  The instructor will provided a detailed set of tasks to aid in the development of a research design and with clear deadlines for completing each of these tasks.  The goal is to produce a thesis that emulates research at the graduate level.  The thesis is not simply a narrative, nor is it merely descriptive.  It must be analytical, testing different theories with rigorous application of social scientific methods.  It is likely this paper will be nothing like any paper you have written at the undergraduate level.

During fall quarter, the students will have completed a well-developed research design. This will be a guide in the conduct of research and the writing of the thesis in the winter quarter.  Students are encouraged to turn in their drafts in-progress, in whatever stage they are, at least every three weeks so that the instructor can provide feedback.  Students are also strongly encouraged to seek advice and guidance from other faculty on campus with substantive expertise in their area.  Getting regular feedback from several different  people, including your peers in the seminar, is indispensable for writing a good thesis.

 How much time does it take?

They tend to average between 65 to 85 pages.  Occasionally, a student will produce a thesis of 150 pages!  But more is not always better.  Usually it indicates a lack of rigorous focus.  Strive for quality, not quantity.

 What can I do NOW to prepare if I am interested in enrolling in the fall?

Right now, you can begin to think of your topic.  Once you have the topic, begin generating questions that are do-able, meaning not too huge.  After all, this is an undergraduate thesis.  You want to complete it by the end of Winter quarter, and you want to make sure you can get access to the information you need to conduct your research.  Also, think in terms of “why” questions, meaning not what happened, but why it happened, that is, “What was (were) the cause(s)?,” not “What was the problem?” Try to generate a half-dozen questions, and in the seminar we’ll talk about how to select a “good” question.

Once you have a topic area, begin doing background reading.  Students are particularly encouraged to read relevant articles from social science journals to see how other scholars have tackled the topic and what theories they have used.  This is a good way to get a handle on the theories that speak to your topic.  If you do these tasks, you will be well set for Spring quarter.



1           The specific GPA required for Honors at graduation is calculated at the end of each winter quarter and varies according to the number of units taken at UC Davis.  Please consult the General Catalog and the College of Letters and Science for details.