Public Policy thesis writers must register for the Public Policy BA Thesis seminar (joint majors may opt to substitute the equivalent seminar in their other major).

The 2-quarter seminar (Autumn and Winter) is required and is designed to guide BA theses to successful completion. Students register for BA Seminar: Public Policy (PBPL 29800) during the Autumn quarter. However, grades for the course will be calculated on the basis of performance through Autumn, Winter, and Spring, and will be assigned in the Spring, following the submission of the thesis.

Students with unique circumstances should consult with the Public Policy Administrator about alternative registration options and must submit a petition to the Public Policy department for review.

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BA Thesis Process, 2021-2022

Autumn 2021

Enroll in PBPL 29800 (for credit), the required BA Seminar class, with preceptor. Sections have about 10 students, and meet 1h 20m per week to formulate their research plan, and to gather and analyze data.


  • Double majors and students on extended status can opt out of their Autumn BA seminar registration with a waiver approved by the PBPL department (will be paired with a Public Policy preceptor)
  • Consider recruiting a Second Reader from UChicago faculty for the Public Policy BA thesis 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 Deadlines 

October 29, 2021: Last opportunity to submit IRB protocols for human subjects research (please see IRB handout for details about the process and about human subjects research). In general, IRB protocols should be submitted far in advance of this date.

December 3, 2021: BA Thesis Long Write-Up, formerly Autumn Draft, due (about 15 pages). Includes initial data.

Dean's Fund: Provides students in the College with one-time funding for Student Life, Public Service or Undergraduate Research projects. Grant amounts range from $750–$1,500. Check the Dean’s Fund website for information about deadlines.

Winter 2022

Students do not register for the BA Seminar in the Winter quarter, but continue to meet with their BA Seminar for 1h 20 min each week. Students on extended status must inform the Public Policy Administrator about their change of status and must continue to meet regularly with their preceptors and submit assignments. 

Important Deadlines

February 11, 2022: Annual Senior BA Symposium

  • This is a required academic conference at which students will present their research to faculty and peers in 10 min presentations followed by Q&A

March 11, 2022: Polished Draft and Second Reader Forms due to preceptor

  • Polished Drafts (and final theses) tend to range between 35-60 pages

Around 1-2 weeks after submission: Preceptors will provide feedback on Polished Drafts 

Spring 2022

Important Deadlines

April 18, 2022: Final Draft of BA Thesis due, 11:59 PM

  • BA theses 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 & Milvia Rodriguez
  • Following thesis submission, determinations are made for special honors & the Taub Thesis Prizes
  • In order to receive honors, student must have an overall GPA of 3.4 or higher and have their thesis evaluated as honors-deserving
  • The preceptor and second reader can both make nominations for honors and the Taub prize; the Public Policy faculty committee then makes the final determinations
  • The thesis evaluation is based on extent and originality of research, argumentation, writing quality, etc.

May 20, 2022: Celebration! Senior Public Policy Dinner & Richard P. Taub Annual Lecture to recognize all our seniors, award Taub Thesis Prize & celebrate your upcoming graduation!

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

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Expectations for the BA Thesis

BA theses should be more comprehensive in both information gathering and analysis than a term paper. As distinct from a term paper, the BA thesis requires primary data collection and analysis. We emphasize developing a good policy question, settling on an appropriate methodology and utilizing analytical tools to answer the question.

Honors Papers & Honors Eligibility

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

  • Have an overall GPA of 3.4 or higher to be considered eligible for special honors initially
  • Receive an honors recommendation from the Public Policy faculty committee

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BA Thesis FAQ

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 thesis topic?

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


Are second readers required for Public Policy honors BA theses?

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.

Note: 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


Who can serve as a second 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)


Who evaluates my BA thesis?

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


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