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 7, 2018 or March 29, 2019.

  • Students who submit their paper by the December 7th deadline will have the opportunity to revise and resubmit if the committee recommends further editing of the paper.
  • Those who submit on March 29, 2018 will not have the opportunity to revise their paper.

All submissions need to be emailed to Tosha Marshall, Undergraduate Program Coordinator, at dusaps@duke.edu, by 5:00 PM on March 29, 2019.

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.

2017-2018 Topics

Reforming Turkey's Judiciary to Meet European Union Standards: A Cost-Benefit Analysis
Alican Arcasoy
Faculty advisor: Michael Munger

What Makes an Individual Liberal in Authoritarian Regime?
Pimchanok Chuaylua
Faculty Advisor: Erik Wibbels

Navigating National Identity: Understanding and Responding to the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar
Sanjeev Dasgupta
Faculty advisor: Bruce Jentleson

Fool's Gold: An Examination of Liberalization and Extractive Mining and in Ghana
Connor Gundersen
Faculty advisor: Erik Wibbels

The Mafia and Terrorism: Identifying and Analyzing a Negative Relationship between the Mafia and Terrorist Attacks in the Italian State
Danielle French
Faculty advisor: David Siegel

The Impact of Affinity for One's City of Residence on their Level of Political Engagement
Michael Ivory
Faculty advisors: Ashley Jardina

The Divergent Paths of Post-Quake Nepal and Haiti - The Hierarchical System for Emergency Mitigation as a Determinant for Emergency Humanitarian Aid Coordination
Caroline Keefe
Faculty advisor: Michael Munger

Paradox of Tolerance? Investigating the Relationship Between Religious Freedom and Religious Tensions
Matthew King
Faculty advisor: Kyle Beardsley

Gender and Leadership in ROTC Programs: A Look at the Impact of the Professor of Military Science (PMS) in Army ROTC Programs Nationally
Amy Kramer
Faculty advisor: Kyle Beardsley, Kenneth Rogerson, and Adam Hollowell

Descriptive Representation and Minority-Interest Legislation: Examining the Relationship Between Race and Policy in Local Government
Helen Lo
Faculty advisor: Ashley Jardina

Probe with a Bayonet: The Relative Efficacy of Russia's Strategy to Undermine Trans-Atlantic Unity by Leveraging Energy, Nationalism, and Corruption
Dejana Saric
Faculty advisor: Michael Munger

The Pre-Colonial Origins of Colonial Inequality: Ethnic Institutions and Path-Dependency in British Sub-Saharan African Colonies
Hannah Wang
Faculty advisor: Timur Kuran