Union University

Union University Department of Political Science

Department of Political Science


Programs > Discipline Specific Honors

Discipline Specific Honors in Political Science

Twelve hours of honors credit should be earned in political science for the student to graduate with “honors” in political science.

By the end of the 12 hours of honors political science courses, we expect students to be able to produce work at the level of a first or second year graduate student. Consequently, the department expects students who pursue discipline specific honors in American Politics, Comparative Politics, or International Relations to write an honors thesis that synthesizes the literature in a field to identify a research question, develop hypotheses to test their expectations, collect, analyze, and interpret data using advanced research methods, and writing the thesis in a manner consistent with professional expectations.

For students who pursue discipline specific honors in Political Philosophy, we expect students to perform a comprehensive review of their topic that identifies various approaches and situates each vis-a-vis the other approaches, identify arguments with attention to how it improves upon rival schools/arguments, and craft an interpretation and/or argument, demonstrating its superiority vis-a-vis other approaches/arguments and suggesting further avenues of study and argument.

To prepare students to meet these expectations, the department suggests that students pursing discipline specific honors in the American, Comparative, or International Relations concentrations follow a certain plan. In the first honors course, the honors contract will require the student to write a paper that focuses on approaches in political science so students are familiar with theories in political science. For students focusing on American or Comparative politics, they will focus on empirical theories such as rational choice, institutionalism, structural/cultural approaches, organization theory, psychological approaches, etc. Students pursuing a concentration in International Relations would investigate realism, liberalism, radicalism, and constructivism. This promotes an interdisciplinary component as students learn how political science is connected to other social sciences.

In the second honors course, the honors contract will require the student to develop a research design for a specific research topic. This will help the student better understand how to conduct political science research. This research design cannot be used for the honors thesis. Third, the student will take an independent study (PSC 495) to prepare to write the honors thesis. In this course, the student will conduct a literature review, develop hypothesis, create a research design (including any instruments that student may use (questionnaire, interview protocol, survey, etc.), and receive university approval if necessary (e.g., IRB) so they can begin data collection. The department anticipates that students will take this independent study the semester before senior seminar. Fourth, the honors contract for Political Science Seminar (PSC 498) will require the student to write a professional political science paper. Of course, the department is willing to be flexible with this guideline but this is the department’s general expectation.

For students pursuing the Political Philosophy emphasis, the first honors contract course would examine various approaches to studying political theory like the Straussian (big questions), Cambridge (historical), Christian (natural law, etc.), contemporary democratic (Rawls, Habermas), radical (feminist, race, gay) approaches, etc. This is interdisciplinary is that it connects political philosophy to the humanities. The second and third honors contract courses in political philosophy will have students write political philosophy papers so they become more adept at this. The fourth honors contract will require the student to write a professional political theory paper in the Political Science Seminar (PSC 498) class.

In addition to the university guidelines regarding admission, colloquia attendance, and discipline specific requirements, the department requires the following. First, the department will require a one semester residency requirement for first time college students before applying to honors. The department believes that many entering freshmen who come in with college credit via AP or some other method needs to adjust to department expectations before deciding to participate in discipline specific honors. Second, the department is requiring that honors students present their honors thesis at the Union University Scholarship Symposium or another non-Union outlet (e.g., PSC conference) unless they graduate in December because senior seminar is offered every fall.

Moreover, the department strongly suggests that students who pursue honors in political science do two things. First, students should take Research Methods (PSC 245) in the spring of their sophomore year. Second, students should take at least one honors contract outside of their concentration.

The department anticipates that students who graduate with honors in political science will not only have a greater understanding of the science of politics but also, due to its interdisciplinary nature, to more fully understand how political science relates to other disciplines. In this respect, those who pursue the American or International Relations track will understand political science’s ties to the social sciences more while those who pursue the political theory track will understand the discipline’s ties to the humanities.

In all discipline specific honors endeavors, the department anticipates that the student will continue to integrate their faith with their learning. The department believes that since we are made in the image of God that we reflect his characteristics and are social, rational, moral, and creative. With the fall of man, these characteristics were tarnished and therefore humans make poor decisions that disrupt the community. However, we are made to live in community with each other as evidenced by the perfect harmony that our triune God exists and by the fact that God made humans to live together as husband and wife and in the family. We believe that God ordained government to provide security, provide collective goods, and promote justice so we could live in community better with one another and we can use our reason and creativity to create governmental structures to advance community.

When government rules effectively, we think that all humans can thrive and meet their God given potential. Moreover, we believe a well-run community suggests the appropriate way to live by developing virtues that express Christian truths and bringing people closer to God. Therefore, political science’s attempt to answer the question of “what is the good life” has deep theological implications and that when we attempt to improve the community we live in by examining church-state relations, how government runs, the best policies to solve important problems, how we can promote justice in the U.S. and abroad that we are doing His will here on earth.