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The economics department honors program offers majors the opportunity to do independent research with the guidance of a faculty advisor. Honors students use the skills they develop through coursework to design, research, and write a paper on an economics topic of their own choosing.


Students are encouraged to consider an Honors concentration in Economics if they have achieved a cumulative grade point average of at least 3.4. Application to the Honors Program is usually made in early November during the first semester of a student’s junior year. At the same time, students can apply separately to a Winter Semester ECON 495. ECON 495 is also offered in the fall term and is an advanced seminar where students write a research paper.

On track for the Honors Program usually means that a student will have completed ECON 401, 402, and 451 or 453 or STATS 426 by the end of the fall semester of their junior year.  Students who have not completed these courses until the fall semester of their senior year can apply for admission at that time.  The decision to admit an applicant to the honors program is sometimes deferred until the admissions committee can review the student’s final grades in fall classes.

An informational meeting is held in October to introduce students to the Honors Program faculty and the topics for the Winter Semester ECON 495 seminars. The meeting will be announced on the undergraduate Economics e-mail list. Attendance is strongly recommended for students intending to apply, and students are encouraged to ask
questions about the Honors Program. Application materials will normally be due on the first Monday in November.

Admission to honors is not a requirement, nor a prerequisite, for admission to an ECON 495 seminar. All 495 applicants must apply to the faculty running the given 495 seminar. Honors concentrators are given priority admission to ECON 495 seminars, but non-honors students are welcome if there is space.

Honors Requirements

Honors students are required to complete the requirements for a regular concentration in Economics including a two-course Econ Statistics and Econometrics sequence consisting of one of: ECON 451, ECON 453, or STATS 426, and one of: ECON 452 or ECON 454. In addition, Honors concentrators must also complete a senior Honors thesis.

The senior Honors thesis may be based on an independent research project or a project done with a faculty member.  The thesis is typically an extension of an ECON 495 seminar paper or a paper in concentration coursework. Students are strongly encouraged to work with a faculty member who can guide them through the thesis-writing process.

To graduate with honors at the end of the Winter Semester, the student must submit a preliminary version of their completed Honors thesis by the first Friday after the Mid-Winter Recess. This gives sufficient time for the thesis to be read carefully and for the student to receive comments from the Honors Director and thesis advisor. Students then revise and resubmit the thesis shortly before the end of the Winter Semester. Accompanying this resubmission should be a cover letter detailing where suggested changes were implemented, which suggestions (if any) were not adopted, and why.

Occasionally, students in Honors will graduate in the Fall or Summer terms. The deadline for submission of their thesis will be determined in consultation with their thesis supervisor and the Honors Program Director, but will generally be around a month before the end of the term of graduation. 

Writing an Honors Thesis in Economics

An Honors thesis in Economics typically includes theoretical and/or empirical analysis as well as a discussion of how the analysis relates to the relevant literature. There are two general paths to completing the honors thesis.

Option I: Students enroll in an ECON 495 seminar in winter term of their junior year or the fall term of their senior year. ECON 495 provides students with supervision to conduct their research project and culminates in a seminar paper. The honors student then revises, extends and polishes the paper under the direction of a faculty member, often the ECON 495 professor.

Option II: Students may write the Honors thesis outside the guidance of an ECON 495 seminar. In such cases, students are encouraged to work under the supervision of a UM faculty economist acting as a thesis adviser and they may enroll in ECON 498 to receive credit towards the completion of their Economics concentration plan. In
pursuing Option II, the student must receive advance approval from the Honors Director.

Note that papers in ECON 495 seminars and other upper-level classes are often coauthored by two or
more students. Co‐authorship on the thesis is not permitted but students may extend their co-authored papers into a solo-authored honors submission. To do so, the student must identify and extend the part of the co-authored paper for which he/she was principally responsible. When submitting a solo-authored Honors thesis which originated as a co-authored paper, the student should submit both pieces of work and should explain in a cover letter what part of the coauthored paper reflects his/her own work and how that work has been extended in the solo-authored submission.

Students who cannot finish their thesis by the March submission deadline but nonetheless seek to graduate with honors may delay graduation and complete the thesis during the summer in order to graduate in August.

Research Support

Students enrolled in Economics 495 and carrying out related Honors research activity can apply for a grant from MITRE to support their research. These awards require a letter of recommendation from a supervising faculty member indicating the role of such support in completing a research project. MITRE Undergraduate Research Grants can be used to cover research-related expenses such as travel and purchases of data, software, and supplies.

Examples of a Good Thesis