Important Note: Grades received in junior independent work (POL 981) and the senior thesis (POL 984) are factored into the Departmental GPA and included in the Honors calculation.

For the Classes of 2025 (and beyond):

Students will receive one POL 981 grade at the end of spring term that is a weighted average of fall (30%) and spring (70%) JIW grades. The POL 981 grade will account for 15%.


Students may not submit independent work to your advisor for credit; it must be submitted following our instructions, which time-stamps and logs its arrival. Exceptions or extensions for independent work cannot be granted by an advisor; they must be approved by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in conjunction with your residential college dean. Extensions are seldom granted except for serious, documented emergencies -- and in no case can extensions or exceptions violate the policies of the Office of the Dean of the College.

Remember that independent work must be submitted with your name and date beneath the University Honor Code pledging compliance. 

Guidelines for the Submission of Independent Work

Policies Regarding Work Submitted Late

In fairness to the vast majority of students who submit their work on time, the deadlines for independent work are precise: if the paper was due at 4:00 pm and is logged at 4:01 pm, late penalties will accrue. Students are advised to allow adequate time for formatting and any other potential sources of delay. Students are strongly encouraged to back up their work!

Junior Papers

The Fall Research Prospectus and the Spring Junior Paper must be submitted online by 4:00 pm on the Politics due date. Instructions for submission, including the link, will be provided as the deadline nears. 

Requests for extensions on the Research Prospectus or Spring JP may only be granted by the student’s Residential College Dean, in conjunction with the Director of Undergraduate Studies, and must be made before the stated University independent work deadlines. An extension that is granted with penalty will incur a penalty of 1/3 of a letter grade for every 48 hours that it is late, beginning at 4:00 pm on the due date. Extensions may not be granted by individual faculty advisors.

Senior Thesis

Senior theses are due online no later than 4:00 pm on the Politics due date. Instructions for submission, including the link, will be provided as the deadline nears.

A senior thesis that is submitted after the Politics deadline will incur a late penalty of 1/3 of a letter grade for every 48 hours past the due date.

NOTE: If you write your senior thesis in a program that requires conversion to PDF, such as LaTeX or Rmarkdown, it is your responsibility to ensure that the final PDF can be created by the submission deadline. Conversion or formatting errors will not be considered as reasons for extending the thesis deadline.

Requests for senior thesis extensions can only be approved by the Politics Director of Undergraduate Studies in conjunction with the student's Residential College Dean. Individual faculty advisors may not grant extensions. 

Students may request that late penalties for senior theses be waived or reduced by the Department Undergraduate Committee. Such requests must be made in writing and submitted with any supporting materials to the Politics Director of Undergraduate Studies within two days of the submission of the thesis.

Politics senior theses will not be accepted after the deadline established by the University for all theses, without approval from the Office of the Dean of the College.

Evaluations and Review of Assessment

The Department solicits students' feedback about each independent work component (Fall JIW, Spring JP, Senior Thesis). After submitting their independent work into the department database, students complete a feedback survey. Questions use a mix of close-ended and open-ended formats to obtain evaluations of the independent work component as well suggestions for improvement. The survey responses are shared with the Department administration and faculty advisors are invited to view the evaluations from their advisees, but only after all grades have been reported to the Registrar's Office. [NOTE: The survey responses are anonymous and cannot be linked to a student's identity.]


Grading of Independent Work

Standards for the Research Prospectus

A Junior Research Prospectus is the culmination of the Fall independent work requirement for juniors in the Department of Politics. The Prospectus is normally 12-15 pages, and will include a description of the significance of the topic with references to the relevant literature, a detailed research design, and a mock Independent Research Funding Application for funding on a model to be determined by instructor, taking account of the ODOC format for funding applications. The Prospectus is supposed to define a significant political question or problem and to outline a design for answering it through a process of systematic research which may, depending on the nature of the topic selected, involve detailing the relevant primary and secondary literature or original documents, interviews, or compilation and analysis of existing or newly to be collected statistical data. The range of subjects suitable for a prospectus is very wide. Most projects involve the following elements: defining a significant question, formulating a hypothesis, detailing the relevant evidence and outlining how it would be assessed, reviewing critically the work of others on this subject, evaluating alternative methods of inquiry, showing critical awareness of the limits of one’s projected arguments, and prospectively relating one's inquiry to a larger political context of issues. The Prospectus is not a passive review of the existing literature, nor a summary of facts, nor a long editorial. It sets out the framework for conduct of a critical and creative analysis of a question, problem or issue. A framework that would allow for the development of a student's own well-reasoned views, should the Prospectus later be carried out, is an essential part of this exercise. Policy recommendations are welcome but not required.

The following grading standards will apply to the Junior Prospectus:

A: A prospectus in the A range will meet or exceed very high standards for such a work. It may be outstanding in the clarity of its research design and the arguments it is designed to support, the relevance and precision of the analytical techniques it identifies as relevant to that design, and the relevance and sensitivity of the evidence it outlines as relevant to deploy should the design be executed. It will generally manifest intellectual creativity, while demonstrating attention to important works on the subject, and indicating with care and precision the importance of its research design for the understanding of politics. It will display elements of originality in its conception of its subject, in the evidence and reasoning it envisages as relevant to bring to bear on that subject, in the analytical techniques it outlines for employment, or in all of these. It will demonstrate attention to important works on the subject, and will indicate with care and precision the importance of its questions and conclusions for the understanding of politics. When appropriate, it will also anticipate and respond to major objections to its position. To merit an A, a prospectus should be well written, developing its arguments in an orderly way and presenting its ideas clearly and crisply. Poor grammar and style and more than occasional misspellings have no place in an A prospectus.

The mark of A+ should be reserved for prospectuses that satisfy all of these criteria to an extraordinarily high degree and significantly exceed the highest expectations for undergraduate work; such a grade is extremely rare. The mark of A- should be given a prospectus which demonstrates intellectual creativity and meets very high standards for such a work in all but one or two of the above respects.

B: A prospectus in the B range is a less outstanding work on a significant subject, which however meets the standards for the assignment or course in a high to more than adequate way (varying across the B range). The design for a well done case study which is likely to yield few lessons of general import, or a plan for a good critical review of a significant body of thought which does not go beyond previous work on the subject, would merit a grade in this range. Like the A range prospectus, one in the B range should outline and detail a plan for substantial research appropriate to its objectives, but the latter will fall short in some way, as for instance by ignoring important sources or by failing to anticipate major objections. A prospectus in the B range should be clearly written and logically organized.

A grade of B+ is appropriate for a sensibly conceived, well-written project that shows little originality or creativity. A B- is appropriate for well-conceived prospectuses that have some significant flaw in execution or a number of less important shortcomings.

C: A prospectus in the C range meets at least some of the basic standards for the assignment or course. It may be flawed in the adequacy of its planned research to answer the chosen question, the logic of an important argument involved in the planning or expected from the yield of the research may be faulty, the potential findings may not be explored adequately, or the writing may be mediocre. An informative case study that offers little analysis or a review of some body of literature that generally gets things right but does little with them should be given a grade in the C range.

A grade of C+ should be given to the most informative of the prospectuses in the C range, those that meet basic standards for such works; a C- to those that fall short of meeting the basic requirements of the category in several ways.

D: To merit the grade of D, a prospectus must treat a non-trivial subject in politics and must show evidence that the writer has some knowledge about that subject. Beyond that little can be said in praise of a prospectus meriting a D, which is the lowest passing grade.

F: A prospectus that does not meet the minimal requirements for the grade of D should be given an F. This is a very poor performance that fails to satisfy the requirement of submitting an acceptable Junior Prospectus.

Standards for the Junior Paper

The Junior Paper provides Politics majors with their first opportunity to engage in independent scholarly research. Junior papers are supposed to define a significant political question or problem and to answer it through a process of systematic research which may, depending on the nature of the topic selected, involve reading primary and secondary literature or original documents, interviewing, or compiling and analyzing statistical data.

In general, the same standards apply in faculty evaluations of the Junior Paper, with the understanding that the time available to work on each junior paper is much less than the time available for the senior thesis. This time constraint entails some modification of the attached guidelines. The Department views the two semester of Junior Independent Work as "building blocks" toward the preparation of a strong senior thesis.

Standards for the Senior Thesis

The senior thesis is expected to make an original (or otherwise distinctive) contribution to knowledge in the student’s field, and it is important that the thesis be situated explicitly in relation to existing published literature.

A: A thesis in the A range will meet or exceed very high standards for such a work. It may be outstanding in the clarity of its argument, the application of the analytical techniques it employs, and the relevance and sensitivity of the evidence it deploys. It will generally manifest intellectual creativity, while demonstrating attention to important works on the subject, and indicating with care and precision the importance of its questions and conclusions for the understanding of politics. It will display elements of originality in its conception of its subject, in the evidence and reasoning it brings to bear on that subject, in the analytical techniques it employs, or in all of these. It will demonstrate attention to important works on the subject, and will indicate with care and precision the importance of its questions and conclusions for the understanding of politics. When appropriate, it will also anticipate and respond to major objections to its position. To merit an A, a thesis should be well written, developing its arguments in an orderly way and presenting its ideas clearly and crisply. Poor grammar and style and more than occasional misspellings have no place in an A thesis.

The mark of A+ should be reserved for theses that satisfy all of these criteria to an extraordinarily high degree and significantly exceed the highest expectations for undergraduate work; such a grade is extremely rare. The mark of A- should be given a thesis which demonstrates intellectual creativity and meets very high standards for such a work in all but one or two of the above respects.

B: A thesis in the B range is a less outstanding work of a significant subject, which however meets the standards for the assignment or course in a high to more than adequate way (varying across the B range). A well done case study which yields few lessons of general import, or a good critical review of a significant body of thought which does not go beyond previous work on the subject would merit a grade in this range. Like the A range thesis, one in the B range should be grounded in substantial research appropriate to its objectives, but the latter will fall short in some way, as for instance by ignoring important sources or by failing to anticipate major objections. A thesis in the B range should be clearly written and logically organized.

A grade of B+ is appropriate for a sensibly conceived, well-written project that shows little originality or creativity. A B- is appropriate for well-conceived theses that have some significant flaw in execution or a number of less important shortcomings.

C: A thesis in the C range meets at least some of the basic standards for the assignment or course. It may be flawed in the adequacy of its research, the logic of an important argument may be faulty, the conclusions or findings may not be explored adequately, or the writing may be mediocre. An informative case study that offers little analysis or a review of some body of literature that generally gets things right but does little with them should be given a grade in the C range.

A grade of C+ should be given to the most informative of the theses in the C range, those that meet basic standards for such works; a C- to those that fall short of meeting the basic requirements of the category in several ways.

D: To merit the grade of D, a thesis must treat a non-trivial subject in politics and must show evidence that the writer has some knowledge about that subject. Beyond that little can be said in praise of a paper meriting a D, which is the lowest passing grade.

F: A thesis that does not meet the minimal requirements for the grade of D should be given an F. This is a very poor performance that fails to satisfy the requirement of submitting an acceptable senior thesis. 

Expectations Regarding Written Comments on the Senior Thesis

Faculty advisors are expected to submit a grade and extensive comments on the written work of the students whom they advise.

In addition, when grading senior theses:

  1. The first reader of a thesis will submit detailed written comments (which will be distributed to the student) and a tentative grade by the date required.
  2. The second reader will submit brief written comments (which will be distributed to the student), summarizing the strengths and weaknesses of the thesis and noting the main criteria used in deciding the tentative grade and submit this information by the date required.
  3. When the first and second reader of each thesis have reported their grade into the database as per faculty grading instructions, the following process takes place:

If the tentative grades of the first and second reader differ by one third of a group (+ or -), the grade of the faculty adviser becomes the final grade. This is referred to as Consensus.

If the first and second reader grades differ by more than a third of a group the readers will be informed. They should confer and agree upon a mutually acceptable grade. This is referred to as Conference. In the event that the grade is decided by conference, the faculty advisor will provide, at the student's request, an oral description of the considerations and judgments that affected the readers' final decision. The advisor will not be expected to describe the readers' deliberations, or the process by which they reached an agreement. Rather, the students will be informed about the basis of the agreement.

If the first and second readers cannot agree upon a mutually acceptable grade they should inform the Director of Undergraduate Studies. A third reader will be appointed. The Director of Undergraduate Studies will determine the final grade once the third reader has provided brief written comments and a tentative grade. This is referred to as The Senior Representative. The Director of Undergraduate Studies will provide, at the student's request, an oral description of the considerations and judgments that affected the final decision.

NOTE: A student may not initiate a third reading of a senior thesis or otherwise appeal the grade set for a senior thesis by the procedures set out above.