- Department of Economics
Department of Economics
403 Kern Building
The Pennsylvania State University
University Park, PA 16802
Honors Thesis Guide
Guidelines for the Department of Economics Honors Thesis
Every student who writes a thesis in economics is mandated to take ECON 489M (Honors
Thesis) for two semesters. Normally this entails taking 2 credits in the fall semester and 4 credits
in the spring semester. ECON 489M is a year-long course during which students meet as a
group with the professor (i.e., it's not an independent study course). During the first semester the
emphasis of the course is on helping students narrow their focus to a feasible topic, begin
planning out the thesis, and doing some writing. They receive two credits for this first semester.
The second semester continues with the bulk of the writing of the thesis, and students present
their theses to their classmates during the latter part of the second semester. Students receive
four credits for the second semester. Each semester of ECON 489M entails multiple
assignments, and deadlines for those assignments as well as expectations of the students will be
clearly defined in the class.
The Honors College describes the thesis as “a scholarly piece of writing in which the writer is
expected to show a command of the relevant scholarship in his (or her) field and contribute to
the scholarship. It should confront a question that is unresolved and push towards a resolution.”
The thesis is likely to be one of the most challenging and rewarding assignments of a student’s
undergraduate career. In the process of pursuing a topic, conducting independent research,
formulating, articulating and crafting a sustained argument, students will build on what they have
learned in coursework, gain insights into economic scholarship and methodology, and develop
their talents as writers and thinkers. Presenting the thesis to their classmates is also a very
enriching experience, and final thesis drafts often incorporate comments that students receive
from their colleagues. Once the thesis is completed students will have the satisfaction of
knowing they have produced a work of scholarship that will be permanently archived in the Penn
State Library system. The Economics Department expects honors theses to be based on thorough
research and to offer an original interpretation. Students are expected to undertake some degree
of primary research using original sources. The nature and extent of the primary research may
vary according to the question pursued and the field of study. Students are also expected to
situate their research and analysis within the scholarship of the field of economics and to clearly
articulate and support the significance of their project and its contribution. Students whose work
involves extensive primary research should be careful not simply to present a narrative or an
inventory of their sources, but to center the thesis on the analysis and interpretation of their
research in such a way that their thesis makes an argument.
Specifics about Honors Thesis
1. Form for first and final drafts: The thesis must be typed, double-spaced, with pages
numbered consecutively. Page 1 should be the first page of text of the thesis (i.e., your
Introduction begins on page 1). Direct quotations from sources, if placed in a separate
paragraph and indented, may be single-spaced. Please allow at least approximately one
inch margins (note that the Honors College may require a larger left margin, so you
should make sure that the version you submit to them meets their specifications).
2. Title and signature pages: Please consult the Honors College website for information on
the format of the title page and signature page for your thesis. The signature page should
allow for two signatures: that of your thesis supervisor, and Dr. Chuderewicz’s signature
as Honors Adviser. If Dr. Chuderewicz is your thesis supervisor, then have Professor
Tybout sign as your honors advisor.
3. Length of the first draft should not exceed 40 pages of text, unless you’ve received
advance permission from your ECON 489M instructor. Tables, graphs, and diagrams in
the text, and the list of references, endnotes, and appendices (if used) are not included in
this page limitation. There is no limit on the length of the final draft. Most completed
theses are on the order of 50-60 pages total. There is no minimum, but theses virtually
always exceed 30 pages.
4. A table of contents, to appear at the beginning, is required. Division into chapters,
headings, and subheadings is recommended, in order to assist the reader in understanding
the organization of the thesis.
5. A bibliography or "list of references" is required. References should be in alphabetical
order, by author or publishing agency (e.g., U.S. Bureau of the Census or World Bank, if
no individual author is listed). All authors should be listed, along with the year of
publication (many students seem to have trouble retaining the need for this type of
referencing) and other information that would allow a reader to actually locate the
reference if so desired. Multiple citations for the same author should be listed in order of
year of publication; if there are multiple publications for the same author in the same
year, use letters (e.g., 2004a, 2004b, ...) and order these alphabetically. There is no need
to separate your bibliography into types of publications, e.g., books, articles, and
documents. Most important is that you be consistent in your use of a referencing style.
6. Footnotes (if used) should be numbered consecutively and may be placed either at the
bottom of the page where they appear in the text or at the end (as endnotes) of the body
of the thesis (before the bibliography and any appendices). They should not be used for
7. All tables and graphs should provide an indication of the original source at the
bottom. In addition, tables and graphs should always be stand-alone – i.e., the reader
should be able to understand the table or graph simply by looking at it, without reference
to the text. This requires an adequately descriptive title and may also require explanatory
8. Referencing: Direct quotations must be put in quotation marks unless they are single
spaced and placed in a separate paragraph (see #1 above). Such quotations, as well as
the paraphrasing or use of an author's ideas, must be referenced. The acceptable
method is to cite the author's name or names, the year of publication, and the page
number (for a quotation) in the text; the full reference should then appear in your
bibliography. (If there are more than two authors, the in-text reference should give the
last name of the first author followed by et al.) This method eliminates the need for using
footnotes for referencing; footnotes should be reserved for ideas related to but
subsidiary to those being developed in your text (see #6 above).
9. Proofreading: Please take the time to carefully proofread both your first and final drafts.
A "typo" is no excuse for faulty punctuation and spelling, especially in an age of spellchecking
software. But remember that for all intense and porpoises, spell checking won’t
defect all your errors, if you know what I mien.
10. Submission: The Schreyer Honors College requires electronic thesis submission; please
see their website for the relevant submission dates.