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The Public Policy Program offers students the opportunity to write an honors thesis during their senior year.  Under the supervision of a thesis advisor, students conduct original research on a policy-related topic. Honors work enables students to delve deep into a policy area, learn to apply research methods and communicate findings, manage a large-scale project, and interact closely with faculty.

Honors requirements

The honors thesis must address a policy issue and demonstrate mastery of relevant analytical tools. 

Eligibility and Preparation 

In order to be eligible to write an honors thesis, students must achieve a grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or above in their Public Policy major coursework taken by the time of application for the honors program. If accepted, the student must maintain a GPA of 3.5 in the course requirements for a B.A.H. in Public Policy (excluding PUBLPOL 199 Senior Honors Thesis Research).

Students who intend to write an honors thesis should aim to complete all the core courses by the end of Spring quarter of the junior year, and all the concentration courses by the end of Winter Quarter of the senior year. In particular, students must complete PUBLPOL 104 and the advanced empirical methods course (preferred course is PUBLPOL 105, other options for this requirement include ECON 102CSTATS 202PUBLPOL 303D) by the end of Spring Quarter of the junior year. 

It  strongly recommended that all students pursuing honors take PUBLPOL 200H Senior Honors Seminar during Autumn Quarter of the senior year. This scheduling gives students both the time and the necessary course background to complete their honors thesis during senior year. (If a student is unable to take PUBLPOL 200H and still plans to complete an honors thesis, they will also need to complete one quarter of practicum in order to fulfill their capstone requirement.)

In addition, prospective honors students are encouraged to enroll in the PUBLPOL 197 Junior Honors Seminar in Spring Quarter of their junior year and attend Bing Honors College. PUBLPOL 197 focuses on developing a research plan and learning the skills necessary to complete an honors thesis.

Students are encouraged to review the Honors Thesis Style Guide and Thesis Structure Exercise documents for additional guidance. 

Application Process

A student must submit a completed application to the Public Policy Program office with a brief description of the thesis no later than the Wednesday of the third week of Autumn Quarter. Honors applications are found online. Prior to submitting an application to the honors program, the student must meet with the director of the honors program, Marcelo Clerici-Arias, and obtain the sponsorship of a faculty member who approves the thesis description and agrees to serve as a thesis adviser. Students intending to write a thesis involving more than one discipline may wish to have two advisers, at least one of whom is affiliated with the Public Policy Program. Staff, Executive Committee members, lecturers, and affiliated faculty in Public Policy are available to provide assistance in selecting a thesis topic and adviser. At least one of the faculty advisers must be a member of Stanford's Academic Council. A student's proposal must be approved by the thesis adviser and the director of the honors program. 

Enrollment and Milestones

During senior year, the student must enroll in at least 8 but no more than 15 units of PUBLPOL 199 Senior Honors Thesis Research. One of those units should be taken during Winter quarter with Marcelo Clerici-Arias to account for a series of biweekly check-ins. The rest of the units should be taken with the thesis adviser. The student needs to contact the program office to have his or her thesis adviser listed as a PUBLPOL 199 instructor. An 'N' grade will be given by the adviser in quarters prior to Spring, when the thesis is completed and presented. All PUBLPOL 199 Senior Honors Thesis Research units must receive a final grade of at least a 'B+' in order to graduate with honors. In addition, the student must maintain a GPA of 3.5 in the course requirements for a B.A.H. in Public Policy (Public Policy core courses, concentration courses, PUBLPOL 200H Senior Honors Seminar, and PUBLPOL 199 Senior Honors Thesis Research). Please note that courses not taken at Stanford are not included in calculating the GPA in order to graduate with honors from the Public Policy Program.

A description of methodology is due by February 1, preliminary results by March 1, and a first draft of the thesis by the first day of classes in spring quarter, always with copies to the thesis adviser and the director of the honors program. The final version of the thesis must be submitted electronically to the thesis adviser, the director of the honors program, and the Public Policy Program office. In order to be considered for University and department awards, the final thesis must be submitted no later than the second Wednesday in May.  All other theses must be submitted by the last Friday in May.  Each student will give an oral presentation of their thesis.

Graduation with honors requires that the thesis be approved by both the adviser and the honors program director. The role of the honors program director is to assure that the thesis addresses an issue of public policy and satisfies the program's standards of excellence. However, the grade for the honors thesis (PUBLPOL 199 Senior Honors Thesis Research units) is determined solely by the adviser.

Honors theses are available through the university library.