William & Mary


What does the Government Honors program entail?

It requires taking Government 301, Research Methods, during junior year or fall semester of your senior year at the latest. It involves developing and examining a thesis relevant to political science; it requires substantial background reading and original research; and the final product is a major paper due to the three faculty readers on April 15. The student is supervised by a member of the Department and at the end of the year faces an oral examination from the supervisor, another Government faculty member, and a third faculty member from another Department.

What should be the topic of a Government Honors thesis?

Since political science is a broad discipline, there is a wide variety of possible topic areas. When deciding whether to take on an Honors project, students should take a number of factors into account (click on Considering an Honors Thesis below), and should have a great personal interest in the topic. For examples of recent theses, click on the second item below and/or visit the shelves of Morton 37.

Should you do an Honors project?

There are many good reasons to do Honors and any eligible student who is interested would benefit from the experience of undertaking a major individual research project. It is especially recommended for students considering graduate school in political science. At the same time, while receiving "Honors" plainly adds to a resume, that credential alone is not essential to success in life--and working towards it can take away time needed for other course work or projects. Honors is more than simply a long paper: it is a yearlong commitment requiring that students make time and work well on their own, as they have no classmates, no study groups, no midterms, etc. So the best reason to do a thesis and the key prerequisite to a successful one is deep interest in the topic chosen.

Are you eligible for Honors in Government?

Students with a 3.0 overall GPA (or a 3.3. Junior year) AND a 3.3 in Government by the end of their junior year are eligible to consider Honors. It is also essential to have completed Government 301, either by the end of junior year or at the very latest, fall semester of the senior year. Note: Under certain circumstances, students planning to graduate in December of their final year may do a thesis by starting the previous January.

What courses should you take before doing Honors?

Government 301, Research Methods, is required of all Government Honors students (and recommended for any Public Policy or International Studies majors who are doing a thesis with a Government advisor). In addition, it is very important to have already taken other substantive courses related to your topic--e.g, a student working on something to do with nuclear weapons should have had Government 329, International Security; anyone conducting a public opinion survey or interpreting survey results should have taken Government 307; anyone working on an aspect of health care should have taken Government 360; anyone doing something on the European Union should have completed Government 330, Politics of European Cooperation, etc.

Who should be your project's Government advisor?

A fulltime Assistant, Associate or Full Professor in the Department may advise an Honors student; under certain limited circumstances a Visiting or Adjunct faculty member may agree to do so as well. It is very strongly recommended that students seek as advisors a faculty member with whom they have already had course work in the general subject area of the thesis project. Please bear in mind that some faculty may not feel able to take on a supervision because the project is too far from their specialization, because they are going on leave, or because of other commitments (including other supervisions).

Which materials/forms do you need in order to register?

Once you have decided to do Honors, chosen a topic, ascertained your eligibility, and found a faculty member who will serve as advisor, it is time to submit the paperwork. These two forms should be turned into the Government Department office for review and certification by the end of the spring semester of junior year, although they are not absolutely due until the first day of Add/Drop period of the fall semester of senior year. Once the Department approves the project it will pass the Charles Center form on and the student's eligibility will be certified there. Only at that stage will a permission override be entered into the system such that the student can enrolled himself or herself into Govt. 495-96.

  1. Charles Center form: Application for Admission to Department Honors (PDF)

  2. Government Department form: Government 495-496, Honors

Is there a course connected with Government Honors?

Required Seminar: All students enrolled in GOVT 495 and 496 are automatically enrolled in a required seminar for Government honors students.  The seminar will meet approximately every other week during the fall and spring semesters, at a time to be determined by the faculty instructor and class members.  Students will complete assignments for the seminar that will be geared toward helping them craft and develop their thesis projects.

What else is required in the first semester of Government Honors?

Government 495: The project entails a full year of substantial reading and original research.  By the end of exam period in the fall semester, each student in Govt. 495 must hold a conference with his/her thesis supervisor and second reader, and submit a progress form signed by all three: it should confirm that major progress has been made toward completion of the thesis, including a research design and literature review (which must be attached to the form).

  1. Fall progress report form (.doc)

What else is required in the second semester of Government Honors?

Government 496: All students enrolled in Govt. 496 during the spring of senior year must also present their research at the Charles Center spring Honors colloquium; the advisor and second Government reader will attend.  The final product is a major paper due to all of the faculty readers (the oral exam panel) by April 15.  [Note: Govt. 495-96 count toward the 33 hours for a Government major, but not the 400-level seminar requirement].

Does Government Honors satisfy other requirements?

Government 495 and 496 cannot be used to satisfy the 400 level seminar requirement for majors.