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.

Recommended Course

  • Honors Thesis Tutorial Course: POLSCI 495S Honors Seminar

Starting Spring 2016, we are offering an honors thesis tutorial course. We strongly encourage students interested in honors to take this course during the spring semester of their junior year. Over the course of the semester, students will produce a proposal that outlines the thesis topic, reviews relevant literature, and sketches the theoretical and, where appropriate, empirical approach of the proposed thesis. This proposal will be used to match students with potential faculty thesis advisors towards the end of the semester. This course is recommended (but not required) for all thesis students.


The paper will be submitted to the department's Honors Thesis Committee on December 8, 2017 or March 30, 2018.

  • Students who submit their paper by the December 8th deadline will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit if the committee recommends further editing of the paper.
  • Those who submit on March 30, 2018 will not have the opportunity to revise their paper.

All submissions need to be emailed to Suzanne Pierce, Undergraduate Program Coordinator (suzanne.pierce@duke.edu) by 5:00 PM on March 30, 2018.

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.

2016-2017 Topics

Kept Under the Rainbow: An Analysis on Political Science's Academic "Othering" of the LGBT Community from 1994-2016
Michael Bleggi
Faculty advisor: Abdeslam Maghraoui

Tough on Terror: Analyzing the Impact of Counterterrorism Efforts on Salafi-Jihadist Radicalization Networks in Belgium, France, and the United Kingdom
James Ferencsik
Faculty Advisor: Abdeslam Maghraoui

Collective Action Problem: Payment of Membership Dues in Greek Organization
Zi Huang
Faculty advisor: Mike Munger

Impact of Racial Resentment on Public Opinion of Voter ID Laws
Isabelle Jensen
Faculty advisor: Ashley Jardina

An Analysis of the Recruitment Strategy of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS)
Nicolas Johnston
Faculty advisor: David Siegel

The Social Contract of Marriage: An Evaluation of Gendered Bargaining Power
Lauren Katz
Faculty advisors: Mike Munger

Keeping Climate Change Out of Congress
Delaney King
Faculty advisor: Georg Vanberg

NATO as a Collective Security Institution: Post-Cold War European Stability and Implications for the Future
Kevin Lewallyn
Faculty advisor: Peter Feaver

Preferring Refugees: How German Attitudes Changed During the European Refugee Crisis and Along Historical State Divides
John McMichael
Faculty advisor: Daniel Stegmueller

Marine Protection in the Baltic Sea: An Analysis of the Implementation Duration for Marine Protected Areas
Kayla Morton
Faculty advisor: Georg Vanberg

The Elephant in the Chamber: Assessing the Causes of Asymmetric Polarization in the House of Representatives, 2011-2017
Connor Phillips
Faculty advisor: David Rohde

Democracy Rejected: Why the 2014 Hong Kong Umbrella Movement Failed to Win Public Support
Kabir Sadarangani
Faculty advisor: Melanie Manion

Political and Economic Development of the UAE - The Case of Dubai and Abu Dhabi
Walid Salah
Faculty advisor: Mike Munger

Political Causes of the Financial Crisis
Apara Sivaraman
Faculty advisor: Richard Salsman

Does Gender Influence Humanitarianism? An Assessment of American Public Support for Humanitarian Interventions
Thamina Stoll
Faculty advisor: Joe Grieco

Breaking the Stalemate: Avoiding Last Period Defection within Israeli-Palestinian Final Status Negotiations through Statistical Modeling
John Villa
Faculty advisor: Mike Munger

Against Law's Empire: Challenging the Legalist Paradigm of Transitional Justice
Jiemeng Zhang
Faculty advisor: Ruth Grant