Writing an Economics Thesis

Economics majors are not required to write a senior thesis. However, for those with the interest and motivation, writing a thesis can be a uniquely valuable learning experience, offering students the opportunity to develop skills and interests while learning how to see a high-level research project through to completion.

Students writing a thesis must sign up for one of the two-term (fall-winter or winter-spring) ECON 700 research workshops. These classes, capped at eight students, require the instructor's approval to enroll. On average, three workshops are offered per academic year.

Students work independently over the course of the two terms, meeting regularly with the instructor on an individual basis to discuss the project's progress. Students also meet with their instructors as a class both for lectures on research methodology and for work-in-progress presentations by fellow students. Both presenting and offering feedback to peers are central to the workshop format.

Interested students should begin thinking about possible topics in the second semester of their junior year. While any professor can be approached for assistance in developing ideas, students should contact professors who will serve as instructors for the workshops at least several months before the start of the term. (Generally, workshop instructors are announced in the middle of the spring semester of the preceding academic year.) Depending upon the topic, one of the workshop instructors may be a more appropriate match. The "right" instructor may thus be an important factor in determining the terms (fall-winter or winter-spring) in which to enroll in ECON 700.

Writing a senior thesis is the path to departmental honors. To graduate with Honors, a student must receive at least an A- in ECON 700 and have a GPA of at least 3.5 in all his or her economics courses. High Honors requires an A in Econ 0700 and a GPA of 3.75 or more, and Highest Honors an A in ECON 700 and a GPA of 3.90 or more.

As noted, ECON 700 spans two terms. At the end of the first, students will receive a "placeholder" grade of Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory. At the end of the second term, students receive a letter grade that will be applied to both terms. That is, the "placeholder" grade from the previous term will be converted to the same letter grade that received for the second terms. Although, overall GPA will be calculated using the two (identical) letter grades, for the purposes of the GPA within the Economics major, this letter grade will be used only once.

Additional notes:

  • ECON 700 counts as one of the two senior-level seminars required of all majors.
  • There is no minimum GPA requirement for enrolling in ECON 700.