Honors and Independent Study

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


Projects can be an extension of work begun in an economics 3000-level course. 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. However, this substitution is not automatic. (For example, there may be cases in which an independent study replicates standard course material so closely that it does not constitute a distinct course of study.) 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." Except in rare circumstances when the faculty advisor makes a case for special consideration, the criteria for awarding honors are as follows:

  • Honors requires the number of A grades in economics courses minus the number of Cs (or Ds) is at least one and the honors committee awards the project honors or better.
  • High honors requires the number of A grades minus the number of Cs is at least four and the project is awarded high honors.
  • Highest honors is awarded to students who meet the criteria for high honors and also have truly exceptional grades and honors papers. (Grade calculations include the grade assessed to the independent study and grades in other second semester senior year courses. A includes A-, C includes C+ and C-).

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 or new data, of a new model, or of 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.