(Revised September 2022)

A. General Procedures

Prerequisites: Students must have a cumulative 3.33 grade point average in their regular political science courses taken at Middlebury through the end of the junior year in order to undertake an honors thesis project. (“Regular political science courses” include fall and spring political science courses, plus a maximum of one winter term political science course.) A proposal for an Honors Thesis must be submitted to-and approved by-a student’s prospective thesis advisor. No exceptions will be made to these requirements.

A thesis project normally is inspired by a research or seminar paper written during the junior or senior year, often in a 400-level seminar or 500-level independent project. The department strongly recommends that (1) students begin thinking about their thesis project and speaking with potential advisors in their junior year, (2) students enroll in PSCI in a political science methods course before their senior year, and (3) students planning to write a philosophy thesis take a 300-level political philosophy course before their senior year.

A political science honors thesis is a three-term project. Normally, students register for PSCI 0500 in the first term of the thesis process, PSCI 0700 in the second term, and PSCI 0700 (again) in the final term. For the purposes of calculating the 10 course major requirement, a PSCI 500 section taken as part of the thesis sequence counts as a “course,” but PSCI 700 does not. May graduates will normally work on theses in the fall, winter, and spring terms of their senior year, while February graduates will work on theses during the spring, fall, and winter terms.

B. Schedule

Thesis writers should pay close attention to the following schedule (note specific dates below) and should work with their advisors to establish realistic interim goals and deadlines that will help them to meet the official departmental deadlines.

1. Last term of junior year: Begin discussions with potential advisors about possible topics. Secure a professor’s commitment to advise your thesis. It is the student’s responsibility to select a thesis topic and to find a main thesis advisor from the political science department. A thesis advisor serves as the student’s first reader and guides the student through the thesis process. Thesis writers meet frequently with their advisors over the course of the senior year, both to obtain guidance and to keep their advisors abreast of their progress.

2. Early in the first term of senior year: Enroll in PSCI 0500 - Independent Project. Discuss, develop, and finalize your topic with your advisor. Consult your advisor about a possible second reader. This second reader must also be a member of the political science department; a third reader is optional and can be chosen from outside the department. Second readers should be selected as soon as possible and in no case later than the submission of the final draft of the thesis prospectus (see below). The deadline for declaring thesis advisors is by of the end of the add period, two weeks into the term. Students declare a thesis advisor by notifying the departmental thesis coordinator (in 2022-2023, the departmental thesis coordinator is Professor Matthew Dickinson).

3. Prospectus and Bibliography in the first term: Students must submit to their advisor a draft of a thesis prospectus and bibliography by the end of the 5th week of classes. After subsequent revisions, students must provide their advisor a final version of the thesis prospectus by the end of the 10th week of classes. The prospectus should also be given to the second reader(s) for consultation with the advisor and student. A late prospectus will not be accepted, and may disqualify a student from the thesis project. The prospectus must be approved by the student’s advisor, and only students whose prospectus has been approved will be permitted to continue writing the thesis.

A thesis prospectus should: (a) define the research question(s) to be answered in the thesis; (b) explain the intellectual importance of the thesis; and (c) outline how the project will be completed, i.e., sources and methodology which make it clear how evidence will be gathered and assessed. The prospectus should be 2000-2500 words long.

4. Deadline for First Chapter Draft: Students must hand in their first chapter draft to their advisor by the last day of classes in the first term of the three term project. Failure to submit a chapter draft will, without exception, result in the termination of the thesis project. Students who are unable to complete a first chapter draft in accordance with departmental deadlines cannot be expected to complete a well-developed thesis reliably. Please note that individual advisors may expect more than a first chapter draft as a requirement to continue the thesis project.

5. Second term of senior year: Thesis students register for PSCI 0700 - Thesis Project. Students are expected to meet regularly with their advisors, and may also meet with other reader(s) if appropriate. The absence of competing coursework during Winter Term affords a precious opportunity for research, writing, and consultation with the advisor and reader(s).

6. Third term of senior year: During the third term, thesis students again register for PSCI 0700,. The penultimate draft of the thesis should be completed and submitted to the advisor and reader(s) for comments by the Monday of the 8th week of classes in spring term of the Senior year (May graduates) or the last day of classes in fall term (February graduates). The final draft must be completed, with copies submitted to the thesis advisor and reader(s), by the Friday of the 11th week of classes in the third term (May graduates) or the end of the second week of winter term (February graduates). The final draft of the thesis may not be returned to the student for revisions prior to the oral defense.

7. The thesis advisor schedules the oral thesis defense during the first week of the final exam period, and for February graduates, during the last week of Winter Term.

C. Honors Regulations

1. As indicated above, students must have a 3.33 average or higher in all regular political science courses taken at Middlebury through the end of the junior year in order to apply to write an Honors Thesis; a thesis is required for departmental honors. A student whose departmental GPA falls below 3.33 during the senior year may continue with the thesis project, but is not eligible to receive departmental honors. No exceptions will be made to these requirements.

2. Students must meet all of the deadlines in the above procedures and schedule in all three semesters involved in the honors project. Failure to meet the deadlines for the thesis prospectus or the final draft of the thesis, will result in the denial of honors. Failure to meet the deadline for the penultimate draft of the thesis will mean that the thesis writer will receive no comments from the second reader. Students should note that departmental deadlines can only be extended by the department chair, and will be so extended only in medical or other serious emergencies.

3. The thesis grade is based on the quality of the written thesis as well as the oral defense, with the preponderant weight given to the written work. Grammar, spelling, and typographical errors, or lack thereof, will be included in the evaluation.

4. The determination of awards of Honors, High Honors, and Highest Honors is based on (1) the level of the grade achieved on the thesis and (2) the level of the average grade received in other regular political science courses taken at Middlebury (courses taken abroad do not count toward the grade point determination). Honors candidates will have a political science course average of at least 3.33 and a thesis grade of B+ or higher to attain Honors; a political science course average of at least 3.50 and a thesis grade of A- or higher to attain High Honors; and a political science course average of at least 3.67 and a thesis grade of A to attain Highest Honors.

5. Any appeal of a thesis grade, or the award of Honors, or the termination of a thesis project shall be made to the department chair, who will either make the final decision or request an evaluation by another colleague.

D. Research Resources and Thesis Format

1. The department recommends Wayne C. Booth et al., The Craft of Research (University of Chicago Press), Charles Lipson, How to Write a B.A. Thesis, and Stephen Van Evera, Guide to Methods for Students of Political Science (Cornell University Press) and King, Keohane and Verba, Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research (Princeton University Press). In addition, the reference desk at the College Library has some useful bibliographic guides for various fields and geographic areas which the student should consult. For more specific and technical matters, students should consult Kate Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, latest edition) or The Chicago Manual of Style (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, latest edition).

2. The thesis should be double-spaced, with adequate margins. Just as books and journal articles vary in length depending on the subject of the research, the method used, and the author’s individual style, theses can have a range of acceptable lengths. Discuss this issue with your advisor for more detailed guidance. Notes may be at the bottom of each page, at the end of each chapter, or at the end of the thesis. The title page should be prepared according to the example available in the department office. One copy of the thesis may be submitted to the College Library.

3. The department also strongly recommends that students consult Honors Theses from prior years for guidance on thesis format, structure, and argument. These Honors Theses can be found in the Special Collections department of the College Library.

2022-24 Deadline Schedule

Deadline for:

Fall-Winter-Spring Thesis Writers

Declaration of Thesis Advisors

Friday, September 23, 2022

First draft of Prospectus & bibliography

Friday, October 14, 2022 

Final draft of Prospectus & bibliography

Friday, November 18, 2022

First chapter draft

Monday, December 12, 2022

Penultimate draft

Monday, April 10, 2023

Final draft of thesis

Friday, May 5, 2023, 5pm

Oral defense

No later than Friday, May 19, 2023

Deadline for:

Spring-Fall-Winter Thesis Writers

Declaration of Thesis Advisors

Friday, February 24, 2023

First draft of Prospectus & bibliography

Friday, March 17, 2023

Final draft of Prospectus & bibliography

Friday, April 21, 2023

First chapter draft

Monday, May 15, 2023

Penultimate draft

Last day of classes, fall 2023

Final draft of thesis

End of second week of winter term, 2024

Oral defense

Last week of winter term, 2024