Earning Distinction in Political Science
In addition to honors conferred by the University (cum laude, magna cum laude, and summa cum laude), majors can earn honors conferred by the Department of Political Science, so that their transcript denotes a B.A. degree "with Distinction in Political Science.”
Students seeking to earn “Distinction” in the major must submit an application by the middle of April in their junior year in order to be considered for the honors program. For more information on the application process, please contact Dr. Eileen Doherty-Sil. Ideally, students intending to write an honors thesis will have already taken a 300- or 400-level seminar, preferably one with a research paper requirement.
Once admitted to the honors program, in order to earn distinction, students must meet four requirements:
- A minimum 3.6 GPA (no rounding) in all Political Science courses (not including major-related courses) and a cumulative GPA of 3.3 at the beginning of their senior year.
- A thesis, usually no shorter than 50 pages in length, based on substantial research completed during the senior year under the guidance of a faculty advisor. The thesis must receive an A or A- from the faculty advisor and meet standards of excellence and originality as determined by the Undergraduate Committee.
- Enrollment in PSCI 497,* the Political Science Honors Seminar, in the Fall semester of their senior year. This seminar is intended to aid students in identifying a feasible research question, developing a research prospectus, identifying appropriate sources and relevant literatures, and formulating a preliminary hypothesis or argument. The seminar is mandatory.
- Enrollment in an honors independent study (PSCI 499)* in the Spring semester under the faculty advisor supervising the research. The deadline for the final version of the thesis is around the end of March (the exact date varies from year to year). The faculty advisor is responsible for the grade assigned for the PSCI 499 independent study, although the Undergraduate Committee separately reviews all theses to ensure that they meet the minimum standards for “honors” and to identify theses that qualify for the prizes noted below.
*Note: PSCI 497 and PSCI 499 are not counted towards the twelve courses used to satisfy all the general Political Science major requirements.
The Department of Political science awards three prizes to outstanding graduating seniors majoring in Political Science. For each of these prizes, the Undergraduate Committee chooses the recipients of these prizes from among students nominated by faculty members. Although only three prizes are awarded, the Department recognizes that there are many other outstanding seniors whose academic achievements merit special recognition. The three prizes awarded are:
- The Robert Holtz Memorial Prize is awarded to the student named the most outstanding graduating senior in Political Science on the basis of academic and other achievements while at Penn.
- The Philo Bennett Prize is awarded to the student submitting the honors thesis adjudged to be the best in the subfields of American Politics or Political Theory.
- The Leo S. Rowe Memorial Prize is awarded to the student submitting the honors thesis adjudged to be the best in the subfields of Comparative Politics or International Relations.