SIR Honors Program

The Honors Program is designed to provide an opportunity for a structured, year long, in depth study of a topic chosen by the student.  Under the supervision of multiple professors, Honors candidates will develop a research design, conduct a literature review, apply theories and research methods relevant to their study and author a thesis that makes an original contribution of some kind.  Graduates of the IR Honors Program have found the experience invaluable in enhancing their writing, research and reasoning skills and preparing them for graduate work.

The USC Catalogue is the document of authority for all students. The program requirements listed in the USC Catalogue supersede any information which may be contained in any bulletin of any school or department. The university reserves the right to change its policies, rules, regulations, requirements for graduation, course offerings and any other contents of this catalogue at any time.

The honors program centers around the IR 494 Honors Thesis Seminar that culminates in a thesis based on original research. In the spring of the junior year, students who have earned a GPA of 3.5 in the major and an overall GPA of 3.3 submit an application, two letters of recommendation and a research proposal that identifies the thesis topic to the student affairs office. Upon admission to the program, the student identifies an appropriate faculty member to co-supervise the thesis and, in the fall of the senior year, enrolls in IR 311 to develop the formal research design and complete the literature review. Students may enroll in IR 311 in the fall of their junior year if their research interests are well specified. In the spring of the senior year, the student enrolls in IR 494. If the program is completed successfully (a B+ or better in IR 494, a major GPA of 3.5 and an overall GPA of 3.3 [A = 4.0]), the transcript will read "with Honors."

**Students must receive a B+ or better in both IR 311 and 494

Admissions Requirements:

Each Spring the School of International Relations invites IR Juniors to apply for International Relations Honors Program. Candidates must meet the admissions requirements and submit an application, two letters of reference and a thesis proposal by April 20th. Candidates must provide the thesis proposal to the faculty references, who will base their support on the strength and feasibility of the proposal. A faculty committee will review applicants’ files and make their recommendations by the end of the semester. 

  • Must be a declared IR, IRGE, IRGB Major
  • Overall GPA of 3.3
  • Major GPA of 3.5
  • IR 211 and/or Statistics for IRGB and IRGE majors

Submit the following to Student Affairs (VKC 301) by April 20:

  • Application
  • Two Letters of Recommendation
  • Thesis Proposal (include research question, beginning literature review, and preliminary research design)

Honors Program Requirements:

  • Identify Thesis Supervisor
  • Enroll in IR 311 in Fall of Senior year (or Fall Junior year) and IR 494 in Spring of Senior year or earn a B+ or better in both
  • Maintain Major GPA of 3.5 and Overall GPA of 3.3

IR 311: Research Designs and Methods

In the Fall of the Senior year (or, if ready, Junior year), Honors candidates will enroll in IR 311: Research Design and Methods. 

Students will learn how to develop a research proposal and how situate their research interests within a larger theoretical framework in a literature review.  They will learn how to structure tests of competing arguments, including defining and operationalizing their independent and dependent variables, creating hypotheses, justifying case selection and planning and defending data collection.  Students will examine field research techniques, including interviews, archival research and surveys techniques. Students will present their research designs in class, which will form the basis for their first chapter of their honors thesis.

IR 494: Honors Thesis Seminar

In the Spring of the Senior year, Honors candidates will enroll in IR 494: Honors Thesis Seminar. 

Honors candidates will meet regularly with their thesis supervisor to discuss research progress and to review drafts of the thesis.  The thesis supervisor will also serve as thesis editor as the Honors candidate revises the draft of the thesis as if to prepare the manuscript for publication.  Throughout the semester, Honors candidates and thesis faculty will participate in a series of seminars in which each candidate will offer a presentation of the outcome of their research.

Achieving Departmental Honors

To complete the IR Honors Program and earn Departmental Honors in International Relations, Honors candidates must earn a B+ of better in IR 311 and IR 494, earn a major GPA 3.5 and maintain an overall GPA of 3.3. 

If the Honors Program is completed successfully, the Honors student’s transcript will read “With Honors.”

Click here for more detailed tips on how to prepare for this program beginning freshman year, what a thesis research proposal looks like, and examples of successful past proposals and honors theses.


Contact an undergraduate advisor in VKC 301:

(213) 740-6278
  • School of International Relations
  • 3518 Trousdale Parkway
  • Von KleinSmid Center 330
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0043
  • Phone: (213) 740 - 2136