Senior Projects

The senior project is a capstone experience required for all Cal Poly students receiving a baccalaureate degree. It integrates theory and application from across the student's undergraduate educational experiences. The senior project consists of either (1) a research paper of at least 35 pages in length, double-spaced, or (2) a hands-on project, which also must have a substantial written component (eg. include designing a webpage, a study abroad program, and an interdisciplinary class, working on an electoral campaign and keeping a journal, and organizing a voter registration drive).

The senior project is related to the student's field of study, future employment, and/or academic goals and is carried out under direct faculty supervision by the faculty listed below. The precise form of a senior project is to be determined by the student and faculty advisor. We recommend working with a faculty member with whom you have taken classes and/or whose area of expertise lends itself to your project.


Research Area

Craig Arceneaux

Global Politics

Nancy Arrington Law & Society/Public Policy

Martin Battle

Global Politics/Methods

Jennifer Denbow

Law & Society/Political Theory

Chris Den Hartog

American Government

Ron Den Otter

Law and Society

Shelley Hurt

Global Politics

Michael Latner

American Government

Anika Leithner

Global Politics

Matthew Moore

Political Theory

Jean Williams

American Government

Ning Zhang

Global Politics

To begin the Senior Project process, first talk with a member of the Political Science faculty who is likely to be knowledgeable about topic(s) in which you are interested during the quarter before you plan to enroll in POLS 461. Also, be aware that different faculty members have different philosophies about how to develop a senior project. As soon as possible, set up a tentative schedule for when you will complete each part of the project.

To satisfy the senior project requirement, you must enroll in POLS 461 and POLS 462 (each class is two units). POLS 461 and 462 are independent study sections in which you work independently with your senior project faculty advisor. With your advisor's permission, you may spread out your senior project by taking POLS 461 one quarter and POLS 462 the next quarter.

The topic has to fall under the umbrella of "politics," but this can include an explanation of political events, phenomena, institutions, or behavior, interpretation of political text(s), analysis of judicial decisions or legal issues, or any number of domestic and foreign policy issues. Above all, you must have a crystal clear research question that you will investigate. You also must develop an equally clear answer to that question that you will defend in your paper. Keep in mind that some faculty members may require you to complete the Senior Project Agreement/Contract (Appendix A of the Handbook) prior to beginning your senior project.

The senior project is an opportunity to be especially creative and scholarly. Take it seriously. Begin work on it as soon as possible and stay in touch with the faculty supervisor on how your work is progressing. You are not a Cal Poly graduate and you do not receive a diploma until a senior project is completed.

Please become familiar with the senior project learning outcomes, requirements, process and schedule before meeting with your senior project advisor. You can find details about the senior project in the POLS Senior Project Handbook


At the annual spring dinner, the best senior project is awarded the John H. Lynn Prize for Outstanding Senior Project. Faculty members nominate senior projects for consideration and the Faculty Awards Committee makes the final decision.


The awards are given in Spring quarter. Papers submitted in the preceding Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter quarters are eligible to be nominated for paper awards. Similarly, students who have been enrolled during any one of those quarters are eligible to be nominated for academic excellence/service awards.

Papers must be submitted to the committee in the same form as they were originally submitted for grading/evaluation. No subsequent changes or revisions may be made.


For answers to additional questions regarding Senior Projects, contact a faculty member who specializes in a topic of interest to you. Please See the Political Science Department's faculty pages for further information on faculty specializations.


Check out these informational videos on the senior projects.

If you have trouble viewing this video, please watch it on Youtube

If you have trouble viewing this video, please watch it on Youtube

If you have trouble viewing this video, please watch it on Youtube

If you have trouble viewing this video, please watch it on Youtube

If you have trouble viewing this video, please watch it on Youtube

If you have trouble viewing this video, please watch it on Youtube


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