Senior Honors Program
Economics majors with a GPA of at least 3.5 in the major and have completed a course in Econometrics are eligible to participate in the department's honors program, which involves research and writing a thesis under the supervision of a member of the Economics Department faculty. An honors thesis usually requires a full year's work, and candidates must defend their completed theses before a three-person faculty committee. The level of honors awarded, which is decided by the department faculty, depends on the quality of the thesis as judged by the committee and the candidate's overall academic performance in the major. Honors candidates must continue to maintain a grade point average of at least 3.5 in the major.
Normally candidates for honors in Economics enroll in ECON 99a in the fall semester of senior year and in ECON 99b in the spring semester. To be admitted to ECON 99a, a student must submit a one-page thesis proposal to the Honors Coordinator at least a week in advance of the Registrar’s deadline for fall enrollment. The proposal should specify the question(s) the student's research will address and the methods and data to be used. The Honors Coordinator will consult with potential advisors to judge whether the project seems feasible and appropriate and also assign an advisor with expertise in the relevant area of interest. (Our department attempts to distribute advising responsibilities fairly among faculty members. While we try to honor a student's request to work with a particular faculty member, in some cases it may not be possible to assign a student's first choice of advisor.)
If the thesis proposal is approved, the Coordinator will sign a copy of the Registrar’s drop/add form to allow the student to register and will designate a member of the Economics Department as his/her official thesis advisor.
Candidates will be admitted to ECON 99b only if their progress reports on work completed in ECON 99a are judged satisfactory by the assigned thesis advisor and the Honors Coordinator. ECON 99a and ECON 99b each count toward the 32 courses required for graduation, but they cannot be used as electives for the major. Students must register for both Econ 99a and Econ 99b to be considered for Honors in Economics.
Students who wish to continue a research projected completed as pert of Econ 194a (Econometrics Research Practicum) as a senior honors thesis may petition the Economics department for permission to pursue this. The request must be submitted no later than the last day of classes of the fall semester.
Students scheduled to graduate in December should consult the Honors Coordinator as early as possible, but in any case before the start of the spring term prior to their expected graduation. To be admitted to Econ 99a, December graduates must submit a one-page thesis proposal to the Honors Coordinator at least a week in advance of the Registrar's deadline for spring enrollment.
All students considering an honors thesis should begin early to think about a topic and to plan their senior year to accommodate a substantial research program.
Writing a thesis can be very rewarding, but it takes a surprising amount of hard work. Most candidates feel pressed for time in the senior year as thesis research competes with job hunting or graduate school applications for their attention. Choosing a suitable topic is often the toughest part. Some thesis writers start with a research paper written in a course and extend and deepen the work to the scale of a thesis. Others select an interesting published article and extend its scope to another time and/or place. A list of promising thesis topics recently suggested by members of the Economics Department is available on this website. It is also helpful to discuss potential topics with one or more faculty members.
Looking at some past honors theses is a good way to learn what kinds of work have gained approval in the past. Past years’ theses are catalogued and kept in the Brandeis Library, and some recent examples are available in the Economic Department office for students' perusal.