Honors and Independent Study

The Department of Economics encourages majors to consider independent research projects as part of their major program.


Each year, the most promising independent studies are considered for departmental honors.

The attached materials are intended to provide prospective majors with an understanding of the requirements and procedures for honors and also with ideas for research projects. You will see that the range of honors topics over the past ten years has been enormous.

Members of the department also have a wide range of research interests and, in recent years, several students have developed honors projects based upon collaboration with faculty in their areas of research.

At any time prior to the senior year, feel free to discuss your prospective research interests and the honors program with your advisor.

Past Honors Projects
  • First draft: three weeks before reading period. 
  • Second draft: one week before reading period.

Independent Study

An independent study either builds on previous course work or explores a topic not in the curriculum. It is, therefore, expected that students taking independent study will have already taken any existing courses in their area of interest if such a course exists.

An independent study may substitute for a 3000-level course as a major requirement, but not substitute for a 3000-level seminar. The substitution for a 3000-level non-seminar is not automatic. (For example, there may be cases in which an independent study is pursued at the level of 2000-level elective.) Once you and your advisor work out the structure, you may petition the department for 3000-level credit.



An honors project provides students the opportunity to engage in research with close supervision of a faculty member, and moves the student beyond classroom learning.


Under present College procedures, the economics department can recommend to the faculty that a degree with honors, high honors, or highest honors in economics be awarded to a student who has a distinguished record. Based upon a student's grades in economics courses and the quality of the honors project, the department may award "honors," "high honors," or "highest honors." The criteria for awarding honors are as follows:

  • Honors — A GPA of 3.3 or higher in economics courses beyond Principles and the honors committee awards the project honors.
  • High honors — A GPA of 3.6 or higher in economics courses beyond Principles and the honors committee awards the project honors.
  • Highest honors — Awarded to students who meet the criteria for high honors and also have a truly exceptional honors project.

Please note that the norm is that students will receive honors in economics for a well executed project.  The designation of high honors and especially highest honors is quite rare.

The Honors Project

The honors project consists of a written report based on research in some area of economics. The report should discuss the relevance of the topic, relate it to recent scholarly work in the field, use methods of analysis appropriate for an advanced student in economics, and contain some own contribution to the question addressed. The own contribution may consist of testing of a new hypothesis, using new data, offering a new model, or the an evaluation of existing analyses in a new context. The honors project should provide new insights into questions of interest to economists, other social scientists, or policy makers.