Lafayette College Department of Economics

Honors Program


Description of Honors in Economics

Departmental honors are awarded for outstanding performance in writing a senior thesis. Discussions about pursuing honors should be held with a faculty member in the Economics Department well in advance of the senior year (i.e. typically in the spring or summer prior to fall of senior year). Students who hope to become candidates for departmental honors must register for the two courses in Thesis (Econ 495 and Econ 496) during the senior year. Work in these courses will be supervised by a faculty member and will be graded in the usual way.

Candidates for honors in Economics must have and maintain minimum cumulative averages of 3.20 overall and 3.50 in Economics.

The transcripts of students who receive honors bear the legend “Honors in Economics with Thesis”.


The Courses

Students undertaking Honors work in this department register for Econ 495 in the first semester of senior year and Econ 496 in the second semester of senior year.  Both courses count toward the minimum number required for the degree, but only Econ 495 also counts towards the minimum six departmental electives required of an Economics major.  Econ 496 counts as one of the writing (W) courses required by the Common Course of Study.

Students writing a joint thesis will register for 495 in one department in the fall and register for 496 in the other department in the spring.  Often the order in which you register for the two departments does not matter.  Remember, however, that Econ 496 counts as a writing (W) course, and Economics 495 does not.  Therefore, if you need to have the thesis count as an in-major W (for the common course of study), register for the other department’s 495 in the fall and then register for Econ 496 in the spring.  Of course, if you need the W in the other department then sign up for the appropriate course accordingly.

Students registered in the honors course will attend scheduled group meetings with the department honors coordinators.  Participation in these meetings is mandatory, and a student missing two sessions may be asked to withdraw from the honors program.

In Econ 495 and 496 the student works one-on-one with his/her thesis supervisor.  In the first course the student defines a problem, researches the relevant literature and develops a methodology for conducting the research.  The first semester culminates with a formal written proposal.  This is a report of the first semester’s progress and a description of the analysis to be completed in the second semester.  The student makes an oral presentation of the proposal to the department in December.  If the proposal is accepted, the student receives a grade of “A” for Econ 495 and approval to register for Econ 496.  If the proposal is not accepted, Econ 495 is converted to an independent study, with a grade assigned by the supervising faculty member.

In the second semester, the student completes the analysis described in the proposal and completes the writing of the thesis.  At the end of the semester the student defends his/her thesis before a committee, and the defense is open to all members of the College.  The thesis committee consists of the thesis supervisor, another member of the Economics Department, and a faculty member from outside this department.  The latter two members of the committee are selected by the student in consultation with the thesis supervisor.  There may be additional committee members if the thesis supervisor considers it appropriate.  A successful defense of the thesis earns a grade of “A” in Econ 496 and the graduation designation of Honors in Economics.

The Economics Department requires students writing honors theses in Economics to apply to The National Conference on Undergraduate Research (NCUR) and the Omicron Delta Epsilon (ODE) Conference at Ursinus College and, if accepted, to attend and present their work.  Both of these conferences are in the spring semester.


Getting Started:

As the College catalog states, “Discussions about pursuing honors should be held with faculty well in advance of the senior year.”  In order to register for Econ 495 you must have the agreement of one of the faculty members in this department to be your thesis supervisor.  That agreement should be reflected in a written statement of your proposed research.  This preliminary proposal should clearly identify the topic, the question you are attempting to answer, and the methodology you will employ.  We do not expect that you will have written this before your first meeting with a potential thesis supervisor; we do expect that you will not obtain agreement to register for Econ 495 until you have written this preliminary proposal in a form that the supervisor finds acceptable.

If you are interested in writing an honors thesis next year, this is the time when you should be speaking with potential thesis supervisors and developing a preliminary proposal.  You do not need a detailed topic in order to begin this conversation.


*Revised February 27, 2014