Departmental Honors

Senior Honors Seminar and Senior Thesis

To receive departmental honors, students are required to complete Political Science 191A-B Senior Honors Seminar: Frontiers in Political Science. The two-quarter graded seminar satisfies two upper division Political Science courses toward the twelve required for a degree. Through the two-quarter seminar, students will complete a senior thesis. Please note that POLI 191A is offered only in fall quarter and POLI 191B is offered only in winter quarter and these courses must be taken in consecutive quarters.

Admission Criteria

To be admitted to the seminar, a student must have senior standing in the first quarter of the seminar, have a minimum GPA of 3.6 in political science (this includes lower division, courses taken through Education Abroad Program, and Summer Session), have completed all lower-division requirements including POLI 30 (Political Inquiry) and five upper-division courses. Also, students must have an advisor prior to being allowed to enroll.

Eligibility for Political Science Honors

Invitation sent to eligible students

Writing Project/Faculty Advisor

To be considered for the honors seminar, students must submit a substantial piece of writing to a member of the faculty. The department defines "substantial" as a paper in which the student has carefully developed an argument and systematically mustered evidence in support of it. This written work is intended to give students practice so that the 40-100-page thesis does not loom as an intimidating prospect. These papers may develop out of any of our upper-division courses that require papers, any departmental seminar, or in conjunction with coursework completed on EAP or OAP. If the faculty member feels that the student is adequately prepared for the seminar, they will sign the faculty recommendation form (Word file) stating they are willing to advise the student during the course of the seminar. When submitting the recommendation form and piece of writing to the faculty member, students must provide a copy of their academic history from TritonLink. For ease of reading, select the "sort by subject" link when printing the academic history to print in subject order rather than quarter by quarter. The recommendation/advisor form must be submitted to an undergraduate advisor prior to the "quarter begins" date published for fall quarter in the Enrollment and Registration Calendar.

Thesis Grade

Normally each thesis will be read by two members of the department faculty, each of whom will assign the thesis a point score. The standard of evaluation will be that normally used by each faculty member to grade seminar papers of graduating seniors. Grades, point scores, and their honors equivalent are as follows:

Letter Grade

Point Score







Highest Honors

Highest Honors

High Honors

High Honors









No Honors

No Honors

B 3.0 No Honors
B- 2.7 No Honors
C+ 2.3 No Honors
C 2.0 No Honors

If the point scores assigned by two readers differ by more than two tenths of a point (e.g., 3.5 versus 3.8), the thesis will be read by a third reader. Beginning 2013/14, in the honors calculation involving a third reader, the median score will be used.

To graduate with honors in political science, a student must have received an average point score of 3.5 or higher on the honors thesis and maintained a GPA of 3.5 or above in the major through the end of the second quarter of the honors seminar.

Award of Honor

The award of honors is by vote of the political science faculty. The award of honors will be based on the average of (1) the student's departmental grade point average at the end of the second quarter of the honors seminar (50%), and (2) the point score assigned the honors thesis by the readers (50%) .

Students may read theses that have earned honors since 2012 here: 

Theses from 2012

Theses from 2013

Accomodating Nations in Europe: Does Devolving Power Reduce Conflict?

Crossing the Chasm: The Political Value of Facebook and Implications for Modern Congressional Campaigns

Energy Policy and the Balance between Public and Private Sectors in China and France, 1973-2011

Finding a Job in "a Beard and a Dress": Evaluating the Effectiveness of Transgender Anti-Discrimination Laws

Greece and the Case of the 2012 Open and Closed List Elections

The Impact of Drug Policy Shift on Homicide: A Transnational Study

Institutionally Integrated Voter Access and the Youth Electorate

Perceptions of Media Bias: Viewing the News Through Ideological Clues

Poliltical Attitudes toward the Environment: The Politics of Residential Solar Panel Installations in California

Understanding the Determinants of Terrorist Attack Publicity

Theses from 2014

Theses from 2015

Disease Outbreak as a Determinant of International Trade

The Effects of Democratic Presidential and Parliamentary Systems on Hostage-Taking Terrorism

An Examination of the Effect of Permanent Absentee Voting on Voter Mobilization and Retention

The Political Economy of Keynesian Demand Management

Political Maneuverings:Analyzing Politicians' Responses to the Immigration Debate in the 2014 Midterm Elections

A Puzzling Picture: The Tea Party, Minority Voting, and the 2010 Midterm Elections

Profits Before People: The Effect of Prison Privatization on U.S. Incarceration Rates and Recidivism

Theses from 2016

Theses from 2017

Theses from 2018

The Effects of US Participation on the Success of International Environmental Agreements

Filipino and Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Representation at UC Santa Barbara in a Post-Proposition 209 World

The Long-Term Effect of Natural Disasters on Conflict Onset in Sub-Saharan African Nations: How One Variable Can Create Two Conflicting Consequences

When the Rivers Wept: Government Persecution of Iraq’s Minorities

Irreligious Representation: An Examination of Atheist/Agnostic Democrats’ Substantive Representation in State Policy Outcomes (2007 – 2014)

Independence Referendums: An Analysis of Central Government Decision-Making

Social Identity and Perceptions of Terrorism in the United States