Honors Program

The department offers students majoring in political science a senior honors program; the successful completion of which leads to Graduation with Distinction in political science. The central requirement of the program is an honors thesis that the student prepares under faculty supervision. The program is designed to give the very best undergraduates in Political Science an intensive and advanced experience conducting an original research project. For students seeking honors in Political Science, the goal is to complete an original research paper of journal length.


  • Completion of two courses in the subfield of the paper.
  • Completion of STA 101 Data Analysis and Statistical Inference, or higher statistics course.*
  • Have a minimum overall GPA of 3.3 and a major GPA of 3.5.

* The statistics requirement may be waived for students pursuing honors in the area of Political Theory.

Methods of Pursuing Distinction

Students will be expected to complete an original research paper of journal length (30-40 pages) through one of the following methods:

  • A 400-699 level political science course.
  • A political science independent study course.


The paper will be submitted to the department's Honors Thesis Committee on December 3, 2021 or March 25, 2022.

  • Students who submit their paper by the December 3, 2021 deadline will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit if the committee recommends further editing of the paper.
  • Those who submit on March 25, 2022 will not have the opportunity to revise their paper.

All submissions need to be emailed to Tosha Marshall, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, at am350@duke.edu, by 5:00 PM on March 25, 2022.

Research Assistance for Honors Program

For students writing an honors thesis, additional support and guidance will be provided through a series of workshops led by a thesis assistant. The purpose of these workshops is to structure the calendar for thesis writers, foster collaboration among the students, and provide instruction for the methodological and research skills necessary to write a thesis. 

Funding Opportunities

The Ole R. Holsti Prize is for excellence in undergraduate research that uses primary sources for political science or public policy. Any undergraduate student who uses primary sources available through Duke University Libraries to complete a paper for a Political Science or Public Policy course, thesis or independent study can apply for the Holsti prize. There are two categories: undergraduate semester-long paper, and thesis written for Graduation With Distinction. Each prize carries a $1,000 cash award. Ole R. Holsti, George V Allen Professor Emeritus of Political Science, provided funding for this award. Deadline for submission is May 15. For more details go to the Duke Libraries Holsti Prize page.

2018-2019 Topics

  • "Reactive Latency: An Analysis of the Diffusion of Nuclear Latency Between Neighboring States" - Katherine McKinney
  • "A Comparative Analysis of two South Korean Political Parties" - So Yoon Lee
  • "Regulating Migrant Integration: Examination of Multiculturalism and Assimilation" - Van Nguyen
  • "Bird is the Word: An Assessment of Donald Trump’s Language Use on Twitter in Relation to His Public Opinion Ratings in the 2016 Presidential Election" - Sloane Anne Ruffa
  • "Macro-Comparative Political Analysis: Do Different Health Care Systems Result in Differential National Health Outcomes" - Rachel E. Sereix
  • "The Art of (Trade) War: Examining Relationships Between the U.S. and China Through Previous Machiavellian Moments" - Hunter D. Snowden
  • "China's Internet Governance: A New Conceptualization of the Cybersoverignty Model" - Qiang Zhang