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The economics department honors program offers majors with a strong academic record the opportunity for an excellent capstone experience doing independent research with the guidance of a faculty advisor. Honors students use the skills they develop through coursework to design, research, and write a paper on an economics topic of their own choosing.


Students are encouraged to consider an honors concentration in economics if they are interested in writing a thesis and have achieved a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.4. Students are eligible for admission into the Honors Program after they complete ECON 401, 402, and 451 (or STATS 426). Applications to the honors program are considered each academic year in early November; juniors and seniors can apply if they have taken or are concurrently taking 401, 402 and 451 (or Stats 426) as well as at least one Econ 400-level elective. Prospective honors students should apply separately to ECON 495, the advanced seminar in which students write a research paper.

An informational meeting will take place early in the fall semester to introduce students to the Honors Program and to the faculty teaching the winter semester ECON 495 seminars. The meeting is announced on the undergraduate economics e-mail list and attendance is strongly recommended for students intending to apply to the Honors Program. Honors application materials (link to form is below) are due on the first Monday in November.

Admission to honors is not a requirement, nor a prerequisite, for admission to an ECON 495 seminar. All 495 applicants must apply for admission (link to form is below) to the faculty teaching the seminar. Honors concentrators are given priority admission to ECON 495 seminars, but non-honors students are welcome if there is space.

Honors Requirements

Honors students are required to complete the requirements for a regular concentration in economics including a two-course statistics and econometrics sequence consisting of ECON 451 or STATS 426, and ECON 452. In addition, honors concentrators must complete a senior thesis and enroll in at least one semester of ECON 497, a 1-credit seminar open only to honors students, which is designed to help students meet thesis draft deadlines, and improve their ability to present and write about economic research.

The honors thesis is more than a good end-of-term paper, it will require a substantial effort in research and exposition over two semesters.  The thesis is typically an extension of an ECON 495 seminar paper or a paper in concentration coursework.

To graduate with honors at the end of the winter semester, students must submit a preliminary version of their completed thesis by the first Friday after the mid-winter recess. This gives sufficient time for the student to receive feedback and suggestions from their thesis adviser and from the Honors Director before the final draft is due. Students then revise and resubmit the thesis shortly before the end of the winter semester. Thesis deadlines for students who plan to graduate in the fall or summer terms are determined in consultation with the Honors Director, but will generally be a few weeks before the end of the term of graduation. 

Writing an Honors Thesis in Economics

An honors thesis in economics typically includes theoretical and/or empirical analysis as well as a discussion of how the analysis relates to the relevant literature. The steps to completing an honors thesis involve two semesters:

  1. In the first semester (typically the winter term of junior year or the fall term of senior year), students apply for and enroll in an ECON 495 seminar. ECON 495 provides structure and guidance to conduct a successful research project and culminates in a seminar paper. Students may take up to two 495 seminars.
  2. In the second semester, students revise, extend and polish their 495 paper under the direction of a faculty adviser. Students may enroll in ECON 498 during this revision phase to receive credit towards the completion of their economics concentration plan.
  3. In the second semester, students are required to enroll in ECON 497. Students may also enroll in 497 in the prior semester (for a maximum of two semesters).

Examples of Economics Theses Awarded Highest Honors: