The Honors Program is designed to provide an opportunity for a structured indepth study of a topic chosen by the student. Under the supervision of a faculty member who is expert in the student's thesis topic, Honors candidates will develop a formal research design, conduct a literature review, apply theories and research methodologies relevant to their study and author a thesis of publishable quality. Graduates of the IR Honors Program have found the experience invaluable in enhancing their writing, research and reasoning skills and preparing them for future graduate work.
This is an excerpt from the title page of the USC Catalogue. 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.
Either IR 211, Approaches to Research, or IR 212, Historical Approaches to IR, should be completed not later than the junior fall semester. These courses teach you how to design research, which you need in order to write a good proposal for original thesis research, and a proposal a key part of the honors application, due in junior spring. This is why IR 211 is a prerequisite for the honors seminar, IR 494. The faculty may waive this IR 211 prerequisite and admit a student to the honors program and IR 494 if IR 212 has been completed or if the research proposal shows sufficient command of research methods. But a student who has not taken either course would need to find another way to learn about research design before the proposal is due.
It is also recommended, but not required, that you enroll in IR 490, Directed Research, for 2 units during the junior spring. You would ask a professor specializing in your research topic to guide you, during the first half of that semester, to identify a research question that is promising, including one that is original and yet narrow enough to answer in the time available, and to guide you to possible sources of primary evidence.
If you are interested in overseas study as well as the honors program, it is recommended that you plan to be in Los Angeles during the junior spring and senior fall semesters. If you are abroad during the junior spring, you may apply for the honors program that semester, but it is more difficult to develop a proposal that will succeed. Some have done it. But refining a successful proposal requires several rounds of advice with your faculty mentor or mentors. Most of those who have succeeded began work on the proposal with a faculty mentor well before the junior spring and partially completed it before going abroad. For some students, study abroad has absorbed all the available time, leaving too little time to complete a good proposal as well. If you are abroad during the senior fall, you will not be able to take IR 494, which is a requirement to graduate with honors.
USC Dornsife offers Summer Undergraduate Research Funds which can finance part of the cost of travel to Washington or another country, if your project would benefit from field work. Research outside Los Angeles is not required for honors, but a number have done it and found it exciting. If you are interested, ask your faculty advisers whether they can teach you what you need to know to carry out profitable research in the field and whether they can recommend your project to SURF.