Honors Program



The Honors Program was created to provide economics majors with the opportunity to delve deeply into an intellectual interest they have developed while at Duke and engage in a meaningful, sustained research project. The capstone of this program is a research paper — the honors thesis — completed during the senior year of the economics major. It represents a degree of research and critical thinking sufficiently complex and sophisticated to require two to three semesters' worth of work. The thesis is planned, researched, drafted, and revised over the course of two to three semesters, using research tools and techniques commensurate with an undergraduate B.S. degree. Students also have the opportunity to present their honors research in a poster format at the Honors Thesis Poster Session, an event put on every spring by the Department of Economics.

Students who want to participate in the Honors Program are strongly encouraged to take the core economics courses (ECON 101, 201D, 205D, 208D, and 210D) as early as possible. Mathematics and statistics prerequisites should also be taken as early as possible. Early completion will allow for the greatest flexibility in pursuing serious research in the junior and senior years.

How to Graduate With Honors

The Department of Economics offers two possible honors distinctions:

  • Distinction (or High Distinction) in Economics
    • Student has a minimum 3.3 GPA both in economics and overall; has completed five electives, commensurate with an undergraduate A.B./B.A. or B.S. degree, with courses from Path 1 and 2 counted toward electives; and, has completed an honors paper with a minimum grade of B+ and has been approved by the Honors Committee for qualification of graduation with distinction.

    • Student will be awarded High Distinction upon graduation if s/he has satisfied all of the requirements for Distinction and her/his honors thesis is selected by the Honors Committee from among the nominated theses.

  • Distinction in Research
    • Student has completed an honors thesis and has been approved by the Honors Committee for qualification of graduation with distinction. There is no minimum GPA requirement.

Honors Research Workshops

A fundamental feature of research, as opposed to classroom learning, is that it is independent and self-motivated. At the same time, researchers continually share thoughts and ideas with colleagues. At Duke Economics, as at most research-oriented economics departments, field workshops are one of the more consistent and structured venues through which research ideas are developed, disseminated, dissected, and refined. 

Part of our efforts to create a "meaningful, sustained research experience" for our undergraduates includes participation in a research community of peers and mentors. We introduce this tradition to undergraduates with our Honors Research Workshops (ECON 495S, 496S). The Honors Research Workshops encourage the interchange of research ideas, problems, and strategies among undergraduates and faculty that is similar to the sort of interchange that occurs between graduate students and faculty. Resultant research projects may be written up as honors theses.

Key Field Courses

For the Honors Research Workshops to be productive, there has to be a certain amount of shared or common knowledge among participants. The Department of Economics offers key field courses intended to deepen students' understanding of specialized topics that may have been only briefly mentioned in economics core courses. Field courses build upon the basic economic principles learned in the core sequence but emphasize studying existing work within a particular field, as well as learning the skills appropriate to particular types of research. Field courses are useful for students to gain deeper knowledge within topics that may have been only briefly mentioned in core courses. Field courses are also necessary preparation for anyone who wishes to undertake future research as a junior or senior. These field courses teach students how to approach a particular topic and properly frame the questions they wish to answer. For example, someone who might be interested in doing research on job discrimination should take a course in Labor and Public Finance.

Each semester the department will move toward providing the full spectrum of key field courses and research workshops. For a full listing of economics courses offered each term, see DukeHub.

Davies Fellowships

Honors candidates may be eligible to receive a Davies Fellowship. These fellowships are intended to financially support promising undergraduates in the summer between their junior and senior years, so that they may be free to further their pursuit of independent research under the direction of a faculty mentor and through the Honors Program. A sponsoring faculty mentor must nominate candidates for the Davies Fellowship.