Department of International Development & Social Change

Undergraduate Honors Program

The Honors Program in International Development and Social Change provides advanced students with an opportunity to carry out independent research on an issue of interest. In order to graduate with Honors in International Development and Social Change (IDSC), and to be considered for admission into the accelerated BA/M.A. program in IDSC, students need to complete a two-semester independent Honor’s Thesis or project on a topic of relevance in the field of international development.

Download the IDSC Honor’s Thesis Calendar and Checklist.


Majors who have maintained at least a 3.5 grade point average in IDSC major courses and a 3.25 overall grade point average are eligible to apply for an Honor’s Thesis. Admission to the Honor’s Thesis program does not automatically guarantee the awarding of Honors. Students must first satisfy a number of requirements. These include:

• Application to the IDSC Honor’s Committee by April 15th of the junior year
• Presentation of a chapter and detailed outline of the entire thesis to the thesis advisor at the end of fall semester of senior year
• Completion of the thesis during the spring semester of the senior year, with the approval of the thesis advisor
• Review of the thesis by the thesis advisor and a second reader, and an oral defense
• Presentation of the Honor’s thesis at Academic Spree Day

Students who are given permission to conduct an Honor’s Thesis but whose work does not ultimately meet the criteria for an Honors designation will still be eligible for credit either for an independent study credit or for a Senior thesis credit without honors, depending on the level of progress. There are also certain junctures at which the student may elect to withdraw from the program and still receive some credit for the work completed.

The IDSC Undergraduate Coordinator and the IDSC Accelerated BA/M.A. Coordinator oversee the Honor’s program in consultation with the IDSC program faculty. Their roles are to provide:

• A rigorous evaluation of applications for admission to the program,
• Coordination and standardization of procedures, and
• A source of information for students and faculty participating in the program.

Procedures for Pursuing an Honor’s Thesis in IDSC

1. Attend the Honor’s Program Information Session
If you are an IDSC major who is interested and eligible, you must review the Honors Thesis guidelines and attend the Honor’s Program information session scheduled during the fall of your junior year. (If you are interested in the Honors Program and plan to study abroad during junior year, you should speak to your faculty advisor, the Undergraduate Program Coordinator, and a potential First Reader before going away).

2. Identify an Honor’s Thesis advisor
Your Honors Thesis is supervised by an Honors Committee. This committee is composed of two faculty members, at least one of whom — preferably the main advisor — must be a core IDSC faculty. With the approval of your faculty advisor and/or the IDSC Undergraduate Program Coordinator, an IDCE affiliate faculty member may supervise your thesis. Students are responsible for identifying a faculty member to supervise their thesis.

3. Submit an Honors Thesis Application
After discussing preliminary topics with your thesis advisor, you should begin to craft your Honor’s Thesis proposal. A draft of the Honor’s thesis proposal is due to the thesis advisor by the first Friday after spring break. A second draft is due March 25th. Your final Honor’s Thesis application is due to the IDSC Undergraduate Coordinator by April 15th.

This application must include:
• A transcript,
• A 3-5 page Honor’s thesis proposal, and
• A written recommendation from the prospective thesis advisor.

The Honor’s thesis proposal should include:

• An introduction that clearly indicates the central research question of your thesis/project and the particular aspects of the topic you plan to address.
• A brief review of the literature in international development on the broader issues and debates surrounding your topic.
• A discussion of your research methodology that indicates what evidence you will use, who or what are your sources, and how you plan to use this evidence to address your central question.
• A preliminary outline of subtopics or subthemes of your research.
• A bibliography of 10-20 sources (at least half of these should be secondary sources) annotated to explain how each source contributes to or is relevant to your thesis/project. Citations should be formatted in a correct and consistent manner.
By May 1st the IDSC Undergraduate Coordinator will let students know whether their applications have been approved or denied. In some cases the committee may suggest that an applicant revise the proposal and re-submit it. You are encouraged to meet with your thesis advisor before the end of spring semester to set up a research plan you can pursue independently over the summer.

4. Submit Honor’s Thesis Progress Report
Students must submit a two-page progress report to their thesis advisor and the IDSC Undergraduate Coordinator by October 1st of the fall semester of their senior year. Most students will have made considerable progress on their projects during the summer between their junior and senior years. The progress report should provide an overview of work done on the thesis to date, including any changes in topic, scope, or methodology. After turning in the report, students should meet with their advisors to discuss their progress and to plan for completing the thesis.

5. Submit Thesis Outline and First Chapter
All IDSC seniors should register for ID 290 Senior Capstone Seminar in the fall of their senior year. During the fall semester, most of the Honor’s thesis research should be completed, with periodic reviews of data sources and bibliographic materials by the thesis advisor. Students will receive some additional support for their thesis in the Senior Capstone. By December 1st a draft chapter and a detailed outline of the entire thesis must be submitted to the advisor. On this basis, the thesis advisor determines whether or not the student has a reasonable prospect of completing the thesis during the spring semester. If the advisor recommends continuation, the student will receive permission to register for an IDSC Honor’s thesis credit (ID 297) for spring semester. Under very special circumstances a student who has been advised to withdraw can petition the IDSC program faculty for reconsideration.

6. Completion and Evaluation of Thesis
During the spring semester of senior year, prospective Honor’s students register for ID 297 under the supervision of their thesis advisor. Chapters or sections of the thesis must be presented to the advisor according to a defined schedule worked out between student and advisor. By February a first draft of the entire thesis must be completed and submitted to the thesis advisor. The student will be expected to act upon the recommendations of the advisor in terms of revisions to the thesis or additional research. A final draft of the thesis must be completed by March 1st. Failure to meet this deadline or to make the required revisions means the students forfeits the opportunity to receive Honors. The student, at this point, may also elect to withdraw from further consideration for Honors. In either event, the student must still complete an extensive written project in order to receive course credit and a grade.

Once the thesis is reviewed and approved by the advisor, it is submitted to the second reader. It is the student’s responsibility to find a second reader, and the student should seek out this additional Honor’s Committee member by March 1st. The thesis advisor and second reader will hear an oral “defense” of the thesis before March 30th. The Honor’s Committee will make a recommendation to the IDSC program faculty, which will make the final determination of the awarding of Honors. The faculty may grant honors, high honors, highest honors, or may decide not to award honors. The thesis advisor will notify the student of the final decision of the program faculty. All students are required to make an oral presentation or poster presentation on their thesis research at Academic Spree Day.

After the oral defense and the completion of any additional revisions, the final copy of the Honor’s thesis is due to the IDSC Undergraduate Coordinator by April 25th. Please use a cover sheet, signed by thesis advisor, as the cover page of your thesis.

Download the IDSC Honor’s Thesis Calendar and Checklist.