Frequently Asked Questions - Senior Essays

As you know, you can write your essay in a Political Science seminar, but you must of course get the instructor’s permission and he or she should agree to advise you during the research and writing phase. In order to make this official, please ask your instructor to sign your Senior Essay Prospectus form ( and submit it to the Undergraduate Registrar (Rosenkranz Hall, Room 130). He or she will ask the DUS to sign your form. You do not need to pick this form up. Also, please know that if you do not hear back from us, your request to write your essay in that particular seminar has been approved.

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The option to write your essay in PLSC 480 (One-Term Senior Essay) is an alternative for those of you who wish to devote a full semester of course work to the essay, cannot find a seminar pertinent to your topic, or are in seminars that do not require a large research paper. It is highly recommended to discuss the PLSC 480 option with your adviser before the start of the semester in which you wish to do it.

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Yes. PLSC 480 counts as one of your term course credits; however, it does not count as a seminar. In addition, please know that PLSC 480 does not have a field distribution assigned to it. If you need this class to fulfill your field distribution requirement, please make an appointment to meet with the DUS. (More information about how to do that can be found under Question 1.) Also, if you are an Interdisciplinary Concentration major, you should know that your senior essay will count as one of your IDC courses, because it needs to be written in the field of your concentration.

No, the seminar requirement is one of the Department’s hard-and-fast rules. If you would like to work with the professor teaching the lecture course, you might approach her or him about advising you in PLSC 480 while you audit the course. Or you could still enroll in the lecture course, but in that case, any written work you produced for it would have to be substantially different from your senior essay.

Please note that only residential college deans can authorize an extension. A late essay, for which there is no authorized extension, is penalized one half letter grade (e.g., A to A-) for each three days the essay is late.