Why is Senior Seminar important for majors in the department?
Simply put, all students who wish to graduate with a major in political science must complete POLS
491: Senior Seminar in Political Science during their senior year, and completing this course requires
the successful completion of a major research project within the realm of the discipline.
What exactly does Senior Seminar entail?
- The project will involve the delineation of a topic, the formulation of hypotheses (questions) and
approaches, a review of the relevant literature, intensive research in the topic area, and the writing
of a formal paper to be presented to the Department.
- Each student works individually with a professor in completing the project and also meets with a
group of other Senior Seminar students. The course is to be taken in the Fall Semester of the student's;
senior year. Only under rare curcumstances, and only after consultation with departmental faculty,
should any student plan to take their senior seminar during a different semester than outlined above.
The student project is expected to be pursued with greater rigor than is applied to regular courses,
and the formal paper will be evaluated by higher standards than those applied to other research
projects and written assignments.
- All completed Senior Seminar projects must be submitted with an "executive summary". For more
information, see below.
When should I start thinking about my Senior Seminar project?
By the spring term of your junior year, feel free to begin a dialogue with the departmental faculty
about topics, research methods, and so on. Work done in POLS 341 (Theory and Methods) will
also be very helpful to Senior Seminar planning, and is usually taken in the sophomore or junior
What if I'm a double major? Do I still have to do a departmental Senior Seminar project?
- Departmental policy is that in order to graduate with a major in political science, POLS 491 must be
completed within the department, or a waiver of this requirement must be obtained from the department
chairperson. The department is hesitant to grant such a waiver, and any requests must be accompanied
by strong academic justification. Even if all or part of this requirement is waived, students are still
responsible for the full number of credit hours required of all majors, and any out-of-department
seminars must have substantial overlap with the political science discipline.
- Alternatively, students taking seminar hours in both political science and another department should keep
in mind that faculty in political science are open to collaborating with seminar advisors in other disciplines
so that (when realistically possible) research for both projects will compliment and strengthen each other.
This second option is the standard departmental course of action when dealing with student having more
than one seminar requirement (i.e., have more than one major).
- If a student who is double-majoring is granted a waiver by the political science department chair to
complete a senior seminar in a different department, that student must still complete an executive summary
of the seminar for submission to the political science department.
What is an "executive summary"?
All completed seminar projects must include a brief "executive summary". Guidelines for completing the
summary are available here.