Student research is an essential component of the Government Department’s academic program. All majors in Government are required to complete a major, original research project of 20 pages or more.  Many of our students satisfy this research and writing requirement through their course work; in fact, many students choose a course of study that requires them to complete more than one significant, original research project.

Students seeking additional opportunities to conduct research in political science have three options:  to seek employment as a faculty member’s research assistant; to pursue an independent study; or to enroll in the Honors Program and write a senior thesis.

Senior Thesis

For those students who intend to pursue the study of government in more depth, the Department offers an honors program that emphasizes substantial independent research under the close guidance of one or two members of the faculty. Students majoring in Government must apply during their junior year for admission to the honors program. To be eligible for honors, students require 3.50 GPA in the major or permission of the Department.

The honors thesis is worth a total of eight (graded) credits, to be allocated among the fall, Jan-Plan, and spring terms according to either of the following formulas: 4-0-4 or 3-2-3. Successful completion of the honors program and of the major will result in the degree being awarded “With Honors in Government.”


  • May (junior year).  Students must contact a primary advisor by the end of the spring semester of the junior year to discuss their intentions to write a thesis.   Advisors may require a written proposal before approving a thesis project.
  • December.  Thesis students must submit to their primary and secondary advisors a term-paper length chapter by the last day of class for the fall semester.
  • January.  Students must set up a meeting with their primary and secondary advisors by the end of Jan-Plan in order to assess the student’s progress to date.  Students who have not made sufficient progress towards completion of the thesis will not be approved to continue in the Honors Program. When a student is not continued, the Honors Workshops (GO 483, GO 484) already taken will be retroactively converted to Independent Study (GO 491, GO 492).  A grade for the independent study will be assigned based on the work submitted.
  • April. The final draft of the thesis is due on the Friday of the third week after the spring break.
  • April-May. Thesis students will formally present and defend their theses during the final two weeks of the spring semester.

Recent Senior Theses:


Download PDF versions of Government honors theses at Colby Libraries.
*Indicates winner of the Mavrinac Award Winner for Best Original Research Project by a Student
Class of 2018 
Tim Harris – Is It a Dragon? No, It’s a Salamander.  The Supreme Court’s Effort to Slay the Partisan Gerrymander
Meredith Foy Keenan – Where My Girls At? Gendered Approach to Waterville Community Power Structure
Nellie S. LaValle – Emerging Care Regimes: an Analysis of the Domestic Labor Market of Shanghai
William Levesque – Strategic Nationalism: Deciphering Chinese Strategy in the South China Sea
Class of 2017
Kay G. DeGraw – Failure or adjustment?: An Analysis of the Slowing Growth of the Chinese Economy
Madeleine Neider – Trump, Twitter and the Death of the American Political Party: A Discussion of the Fate of the American Party System before, during, and after the Presidential Election of 2016
Nadia Stovicek – Constructing (Hu)man Nature: A Feminist Critique of Western IR Theory, Liberal Economics and U.S. Foreign Policy
Class of 2016
Emily Boyce – Police Accountability in Mexico: Understanding the Unequal Application of Justice
Dylan Ciccarelli – A Bifurcated Chimurenga: The Gendered Effects of Land Reform in Ghana and Zimbabwe
Cameron Coval* – The Egalitarian Shift in Chilean Social Policy: Mobilizing Reform in Health and Education
Timothy Dutton – A Failure to Cooperate: Why Canada, the United States, and Mexico have not Developed a Regional Energy Strategy
Molly Feldstein – When the Bankers Met the Bureaucrats: An Analysis of the Implementation of the Volcker Rule
Jane Wiesenberg – L’dor Vador: Jewish Voting Behavior from Generation to Generation
Class of 2015
Shelby O’Neill* – Inequality and Involvement: Participatory Trends in the Politics of a Rural Maine Town
Samuel Parker* – Demographics as Destiny: Modeling Population Change and Party Strategies on the Electoral Map, 2016-2040
Molly Robertson* – International Legal Norm Mobilization in Israel: Meaningful Pressure or Cheap Talk?
Class of 2014
Joshua Rothenbuerg* – Solidifying Citizenship: Ethnonationalism, Cosmopolitanism, and Morality
Russell B. Wilson – A New Balance: National Security and Privacy in a Post 9-11 World

Independent Study

Any student in the Government Department who has a strong interest in a subject area not suitably covered in any of our formal course offerings is encouraged to design an independent study. Enrollment in an independent study “course” (GO 491f or GO 492s) requires permission of the faculty member who will be supervising the independent work.

An independent study may carry from 1 to 4 credits depending on the extensiveness of the project. The amount of work to be done for a particular number of credits must be approved in advance by the faculty sponsor.  Normally, however, ten pages of well-crafted written work is required per academic credit.

Note, finally, that students may count only one independent study (and only if it carries 3 or 4 credits) towards the ten courses required to complete the major.

Faculty Research Assistants

Working as a faculty member’s research assistant can afford a student the unique opportunity to contribute to professional work in political science.  Some student research assistants have become published in political science journals as co-authors with their supervising faculty.  Every member of the Department faculty is entitled to hire a research assistant for five hours per week, and most faculty members would welcome expressions of interest from motivated and talented students.