2019-2020 BA Thesis Process

  • Autumn 2019
    • Enroll in PBPL 29800 (or 29801, 0 credit), the required BA Seminar class, with preceptor
    • Sections have 12-15 students, meet 1h 20m per week to develop question, approach, and   gather data
    • Double majors can opt out of one of their BA seminars with waiver (will be paired with PBPL preceptor)
    • Consider recruiting a Second Reader from UChicago faculty for the PBPL BA paper as additional support
      • Other experts approved as Second Reader on case by case basis
      • A second reader is not required for special honors, but can improve your feedback
  • Important Date (11/20/19): IRB forms submitted (if going through IRB approval—see other handout

  • Important Date (12/11/19): BA Thesis Prospectus due including initial data (about 20-25 pages) 

    • Also, in last few weeks of each term: Application Deadline for Dean’s Fund for Undergraduate Research
    • https://deansfund.uchicago.edu 
  • Winter 2020
    • Enroll in PBPL 29801 (or 29800), the second half of required BA Seminar class with same preceptor
    • The seminars meet 1.5 hours per week in workshop and/or writing group format
  • Important Date (2/7/20): Polished Draft and Second Reader Forms due to preceptor
    • BA theses tend to range between 35-55 pages
    • 2/21/20: Feedback from Preceptors by this date
  • Important Date (3/6/20): Annual Senior BA Symposium
    • This is a required academic conference (10 min. presentations with 5 minutes Q/A)
  • Spring 2020
  • Important Date (4/24/20, 5 p.m.): Final Draft of BA Thesis due
    • BA papers need title page, including name of preceptor (& second reader if you have one), date of submission, and abstract, and are submitted electronically to preceptor, second reader & Lee Price 
    • In May, determinations made for special honors & nominations made for Taub Thesis Prize
    • Honors requires overall GPA of 3.4 or higher and having your BA thesis evaluated as honors-deserving
    • The preceptor and second reader can both make nominations; the PBPL faculty committee then vets nominations
    • The thesis evaluation is based on extent and originality of research, argumentation, writing quality, etc.
  • Important Date #9 TBD: Celebration! Senior PBPL Dinner & Richard P. Taub Annual Lecture to recognize all our seniors, award Taub Thesis Prize & celebrate your upcoming graduation!

    If you are planning to graduate prior to Spring quarter please contact the Public Policy Administrator for those BA draft due dates.  

BA Paper FAQs

When are the BA Paper drafts due? 

Wednesday, April 24, 2020.

Can I use a previous paper I've written?

Your thesis can BUILD UPON work you have done elsewhere. HOWEVER, the BA thesis should be an original paper. You cannot double count a paper you have written for another course (this also means that you cannot just extend a paper written for another course). Whatever is being used from previous work should be disclosed and cited as such in the thesis. Please note that failure to do so will be considered a violation of academic integrity (i.e., plagiarism). It should be clear that the BA thesis develops new insights that are distinct from those developed in previous work.

Keep in mind that the BA thesis should be structured around the analysis of primary research. Given that most of the papers you have written are based on secondary data, it is likely that papers you have written for other courses would be primarily useful for background, and for helping to develop your research question. If you are considering building on work done for another class, please consult your preceptor.

Am I required to link my area of specialization to my BA paper topic?

The area of specialization is best used as a foundation for your BA thesis research --but this relationship is not required. 

Who can serve as a 2nd reader/faculty reader for the Public Policy BA paper?

  1. all University of Chicago Faculty
  2. Harper-Schmidt Collegiate Assistant Professors
  3. University of Chicago Lecturers
  4. University of Chicago Graduate Students (approved on a case by case basis)
  5. Faculty from other colleges or universities (approved on a case by case basis)

What is the Public Policy BA Symposium? 

The Public Policy BA Symposium is an all-day event occurring early in Spring quarter. Students present their BA research project to their fellow students and faculty in Public Policy. This year's symposium is scheduled for March 6, 2020, 10:30 AM-6:15 PM.  

How does my preceptor and reader evaluate my BA paper?

Your BA paper is read by your preceptor, 2nd reader/faculty adviser who evaluates your paper as 1) acceptable; 2) not acceptable: or 3) acceptable with an honors recommendation.  

How do I graduate with special honors in Public Policy?

To graduate with special honors in public policy you need: 1) an overall GPA of 3.4 or higher; and 2) write an honors BA paper. 

Are second readers required for public policy honors BA papers?

No.  A second reader/faculty adviser is beneficial for providing additional support for your BA thesis work, but they are not required to receive honors for your BA paper. All public policy BA papers are eligible for honors whether or not students work with a second reader.  Students have successfully graduated with special honors in public policy without having a 2nd reader/faculty adviser. 

Students having second readers are required to complete the Second Reader Information and Confirmation form.  

General Expectations for the Public Policy BA Paper

BA papers should be more comprehensive in both information gathering and analysis than a term paper. You may use secondary sources, analyze existing data sets, or collect your own data or information. The emphasis is on developing a good policy question, settling on an appropriate methodology and utilizing analytical tools to answer the policy question. All public policy majors are required to take PBPL 29800, the BA writing seminar, in the fall quarter of their senior year.  

Double majors may petition to waive one of their majors' BA seminar/colloquium requirement. 

Besides PBPL 29800 and PBPL 29801, students can sign up for up to two quarters (typically the winter and spring quarters in the final year) of PBPL 29900, an independent study course taken under the direction of a faculty member that is designed to provide support for the BA writing process for students working on their BA theses. Generally the faculty member directing the 29900 class would be the student’s preceptor or 2nd reader/faculty adviser.  The precise requirements and grading standards of a PBPL 29900 course are agreed upon between the student and the participating faculty. See the section below, reading and research courses for registration information for these courses.

The BA drafts are due:

  • Polished BA draft: Wednesday, February 7, 2020 at 5 PM
  • BA Symposium: Saturday, March 6, 2020, 10:30 AM - 6:15 PM
  • Final draft: Wednesday, April 24, 2020 at 5 PM

Public Policy BA papers are required to contain all the sections spelled out in the BA Paper checklist and formatted accordingly. This includes a title page that lists the date of submission of your paper along with your preceptor  and second reader names. Please review the link below for details on the required sections and formatting for public policy BA papers. 

BA Paper Checklist and Formatting

In general, a senior paper should be more comprehensive in both information gathering and analysis than a term paper. You may use secondary sources, analyze existing data sets, or collect your own data or information. The emphasis is on developing a good policy question, settling on an appropriate methodology and utilizing analytical tools to answer the policy question. No B.A. paper is complete without a title page, the BA checklist items, proper formatting and a conclusion that addresses the initial policy question. 

Honors Papers & Honors Eligibility

To be eligible for honors, students must satisfy 2 requirements:

  • Have an overall GPA of 3.4 or higher to be considered eligible for special honors initially
  • Complete a BA thesis judged acceptable (grade of A or A-) with an honors recommendation

 Public Policy's Reading and Research Courses

Public Policy has 3 reading courses:

  • PBPL 29600 for a policy-related internship
  • PBPL 29700 for a general reading course
  • PBPL 29900 for the Public Policy  BA paper

These courses all require consent to register.  Consent is obtained by completing the College Reading and Research Course Form and obtaining signatures from a faculty person (or preceptor) and the Public Policy director.  Download the R&R form here.  These courses receive letter-quality grades only.