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 9, 2016 or March 31, 2017.

  • Students who submit their paper by the December 9th deadline will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit if the committee recommends further editing of the paper.
  • Those who submit on March 31, 2017 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 31, 2017.

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.

2015-2016 Topics

Assessing the efficacy of student-athlete leadership and development programs in addressing sexual assault
Lauren Blazing
Faculty advisor: Tim​ Buthe

The World’s New Peacekeeper? An Analysis of China’s Personnel Contributions to UN Peacekeeping Missions
Emma Campbell-Mohn
Faculty advisor: Kyle Beardsley

Sources and Sums: Assessing the Moral Desirability of Three Options for Financing US Congressional Campaigns
Rachel Glanz
Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Anomaly

An Interpretation to End All Wars? U.S. Public Perceptions of International Organizations and the American Use of Force
Beatriz Hayes-Meizoso
Faculty advisor: Joseph Grieco

Information, Patriotism, and Resiliency: A 9/11 Case Study
Jenna Hymowitz
Faculty advisor: Anthony Rivera

The Political Selfie: An Analysis of the Impact of Social Media Activity on Political Information Efficacy
Brendan McCartney
Faculty advisor: John Aldrich

Racial Framing and Public Support for Ex-Felon Rights
Michael Pelle
Faculty advisors: Ashley Jardina

Moderates Among Partisan Extremists: Centrist or Idiosyncratic?
Nicolas Pollack
Faculty advisor: Mark Dudley

Expanding Role Theory: Analyzing US Responses to Hizb’allah and Iran
Alexandra Shewmake
Faculty advisor: Anthony Rivera

Bias on the Bench: How Judges’ Legal Backgrounds Influence Their Decisions
Kristen Shortley
Faculty advisor: Georg Vanberg

Working to Live and Living to Work: An Investigation of Labor in the Twenty-First Century
Angela Wang
Faculty advisor: Jedidiah Purdy

Is US Foreign Aid Actually Helping? The Impact of US Aid on Recipient Countries
Benjamin Weksberg
Faculty advisor: Kyle Beardsley