The Urban Studies honors program offers qualified students an opportunity to conduct independent research and to write a thesis summarizing the results.

Why Write an Honors Thesis?

       Students who do honors work are able to investigate and write on a subject of interest to them while working closely with a faculty member. Such a project requires a high degree of initiative and dedication.  It also requires significant amounts of time and energy, as well as demonstrated skills in research and writing. It can be one of the most challenging, and rewarding, experiences of an undergraduate’s career.  The skills that students gain and demonstrate in writing an honors thesis--including conceptualizing, researching, organizing, and writing -- are valued by many employers and graduate programs.

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Previous Theses in Urban Studies

The following theses provide a sample of the types of honors work students do in Urban Studies.  Hard copies of theses may be consulted in the Urban Studies office.

Arrival of the City: Impacts of Urban Expansion on Periurban Agricultural Communities of Sangareddy, India (Kimberly Gibson, 2013) (pdf)

Beyond ‘Máquinas de Dinero’: A Case Study of a Low-Income Worker Cooperative (Alexandra Goldman, 2007) (pdf)

California Dreamin’: Examining the Legacy of the Great Tax Revolt in Chula Vista, California (Gerad Hanono, 2012) (pdf)

Effects of Land Use Change and Urban Development on Biodiversity and Traditional Ecological Knowledge in a Maya Community in Yucatan (Erica Fernandez, 2012) (pdf)

Engaged Corporate Philanthropy: New Models in Silicon Valley (Alexis Kate Kaminsky, 2001)

Exploring Perceptions of Asian Identity through Conversations with Asian American Mothers and their Mixed Asian-White Daughters (Jamie Yuen-Shore, 2013) (pdf)

Exploring the Broken Windows Theory: A Spatial Analysis of Graffiti and Crime in San Francisco (Natalie Dillon, 2013) (pdf)

From Dust to Dust: Mapping Race & Risk to PCB Exposure in West Oakland’s Soil, Food, and Water from 1940-2000 (Matthew Miller, 2012)(pdf)

Gentrification and Neighborhood Life in Chicago (Maiko Emi Adachi, 2006)

Getting Involved: How Summer Enrichment Programs Improve Social Development and Behavior (Annie Read, 2011) (pdf)

Global Trends and Local Choices: A Comparison of Young Italian and American Food Choices (Taylor McAdam, 2013) (pdf)

Grantmaking Foundations' Use of Social Media (Rachel Heredia, 2013) (pdf)

High-Tech Urbanism: The Political and Economic Implications of the Smart City (Anna Ponting, 2013) (pdf)

How Migrant Workers Find Housing in Beijing: The Role of Individual Agency in Differential Housing Access and Outcomes (Deland Chan, 2007) (pdf)

How Victim-Offender Mediation Impacts Juvenile Offenders: What it Offers and Who it Benefits (Stephanie Fagliano, 2008) (pdf)

The Impact of Rail on Economic Growth: A Case Study of the Los Angeles Red Line (Tamara Knox, 2012) (pdf)

Learning From Hong Kong: Journey, Object, Fact and Fiction in a City of Spectacle (Stephanie Sun, 2002)

The Memorialization of Urban Concentration Camps: Reading the Scale and Infrastructural Complexity of Sachsenhausen for an Understanding of the Holocaust (Lola Feiger, 2007)

Participation, Politics and Planning:
The Impact of Citizen Participation in
Palo Alto, California (Katie Martinez, 2010)

Place-Based Corporate Social Entrepreneurship: A Case Study of Whole Foods (Paul Princen, 2013) (pdf)

Re-Constructing Hayes Valley: Place Branding and Community in a Revitalizing Neighborhood  (Gary Chan, 2011)   (pdf)

The Show Must Go On: Relighting the Marquee at Palo Alto’s Varsity Theatre (Laura Surma, 2006)

 A Taste for the City: A Demand-Side Perspective on Gentrification in San Francisco’s South of Market and Mission Districts (Brian Klinksiek, 2004)

Theme Park in the City: Disneyland and the Aesthetic of the ‘Anaheim Resort’ (Andrew Reovan, 2008) (pdf)

There Goes the Neighborhood: The Failure and Promise of Second Units as a Housing Source for the Midpeninsula (Selena Kyle, 2000) (pdf)

Towards an Integrated Approach to
Microfinance A Case for the Integration of Financial and Non-Financial Services in Microfinance Institutions ( Eva Orbuch, 2011)

 Trouble in Paradise: Postwar History of San Francisco’s Hunters Point Neighborhood (Kelsey Finch, 2008) (pdf)

The Waizhou Special: Exploring the Effects of Immigrant Diffusion on Chinese Restaurant Workers in McMinnville, Tennessee (Stephanie Chan, 2012) (pdf)

Working Towards Sustainable Commutes:
An Analysis of Cyclists on Caltrain and BART  (George Carollo, 2011)


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Applying to the Honors Program

Before being accepted to the honors program in Urban Studies, a student must:

  1. Declare a major in Urban Studies and complete at least 30 of the 70 required units including all prerequisites and core classes;
  2. Complete URBANST 202 (offered Winter Quarter);
  3. Have an overall GPA of 3.3 and a GPA of at least 3.5 in Urban Studies;
  4. Submit an application (pdf), along with an unofficial transcript, a one-page abstract, and the signatures of an adviser and. if applicable, a second reader. If the adviser is not a member of Stanford's Academic Council, the student must have a second reader who is an Academic Council member. The application must be submitted to the program office no later than the end of May in the junior year, and it must then be approved by the Director of the Urban Studies honors program.

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Honors Program Policies

Units and Registration:

  • You must register for a total of 5-10 units for honors work (URBANST 199, Senior Honors Thesis) during your senior year, in addition to 5 credits of URBANST 203, Senior Seminar.  If you are a Public Service Scholar, you should also register for URBANST 198 (“Senior Honors Research in Public Service”), which is 3 units in the autumn, 3 units in the winter, and 1 unit in the spring.
  • You may spread the 5-10 units of URBANST 199 out however you wish during senior year; most students take 5 units in the winter of senior year, and 5 units in spring (URBANST 203 covers their thesis work during the fall).  To register for thesis units, use the “Independent Study Search” in Axess.  If your advisor’s name is not listed, notify the Urban Studies Student Services Specialist.
  • Honors students are expected to make progress on their thesis in URBANST 203, Senior Seminar, offered fall quarter of senior year; the credits for this seminar count toward the 70 units required for graduation.  However, URBANST 198 (“Senior Honors Research in Public Service”) and URBANST 199 (“Senior Honors Thesis”) do not count towards the 70-unit requirement for graduating with a B.A. in Urban Studies.  This aspect of honors work is expected to be above and beyond regular standards for graduation.
  • Honors students should apply in Axess to graduate with honors.  Once an application is accepted by the program, the Student Services Administrator will approve the student on Axess.

Advisers and Second Readers:

You must have an adviser who approves your proposal before you are accepted to the honors program in Urban Studies.  If your adviser is not a member of Stanford’s Academic Council, you must also have your proposal approved by a second reader who is an Academic Council member.  You should consult regularly with your adviser (and second reader) throughout the period in which you are working on your honors thesis.

Required Courses:

All juniors who plan on writing honors theses must take, URBANST 202, “Preparation for Honors Thesis.”  Sophomores who plan to be away during winter quarter of their junior year should take URBANST 202 in the winter of their sophomore year.  Students who wish to write an honors thesis and cannot fulfill this requirement must petition the Director of the Urban Studies Honors Program in writing, explaining the circumstances and describing how they will acquire the necessary research skills.


There is no fixed minimum or maximum length for an honors thesis.  The typical honors thesis in Urban Studies is 50-100 pages, plus notes and bibliography.

Submitting Your Thesis:

Submit four bound copies of your thesis (one for the Urban Studies library, one for Green Library, one for your adviser, and one to submit to the Dean’s Office in the event your thesis is nominated for a prize) to the Urban Studies Program office by 12 noon on the Monday two weeks before Memorial Day.  (Funds may be available to defray the costs of printing and binding; please save your receipts.)  Please submit an electronic copy of the thesis (as a Word document or pdf) to the Director of the Urban Studies Honors Program at the same time.  Please note that this is a SINGLE DEADLINE FOR ALL HONORS THESES.  Urban Studies will forward the completed thesis to your adviser(s) for grading, along with a form indicating whether the thesis was submitted on time and recommending grading penalties for lateness (1/3 of a letter grade for every day late).  Your advisers may set earlier deadlines at their discretion.

Please complete the Urban Studies thesis submission form (pdf) and submit it with your thesis; extra copies will be available in the program office if you don’t have it with you.

Your final draft should include a table of contents (if the thesis is divided into chapters or major sections) and a bibliography or list of works cited.  The pages should be numbered.  Other matters of form, such as footnotes vs. endnotes, and the method of presenting figures and tables, should be decided in consultation with your adviser.

The first (front) page of your thesis should be the TITLE PAGE.  It should provide your name, your adviser's name, the title of the thesis, the date you are submitting it, and should indicate that it is an honors thesis in Urban Studies at Stanford.  It does NOT need spaces for signatures.

Senior Colloquium

Honors students present their work orally to advisers, faculty, students, friends, and family at the annual Urban Studies Senior Colloquium.  This event is held the Thursday of end-quarter period in Spring.  Based on the presentations, the Urban Studies program may nominate a student to receive the Award for Excellence in Honors Thesis Presentation from the Center for Teaching and Learning and the Undergraduate Research Programs.


  • To graduate with honors, you must receive at least an “A-” in your honors work and have a GPA in Urban Studies courses of at least 3.5 at the time of graduation.
  • You will receive an “N” (“Continuing”) grade for URBANST 199 (“Senior Honors Thesis”) until you have submitted the final version of your honors thesis and a letter grade is assigned.  Axess then automatically changes the earlier “N” grades to the final grade.
  • Your adviser and (if applicable) your second reader assign the final grade on your thesis.  The Director of the Urban Studies Honors Program will arbitrate any disagreement.

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Recommended Timeline

Junior Winter

  • Enroll in URBANST 202 (“Preparation for Honors Thesis”) (you should take this in your sophomore year if you plan to be off-campus in winter quarter of your junior year).  Either course may lead to a full-year honors thesis.
  • Define a viable thesis topic (you will work on this in URBANST 201 or 202) and consult with possible faculty members who might serve as your thesis adviser.

Junior Spring

  • Take a course covering the kinds of research methods that you expect to use in your honors research, such as Soc 180B or ANTHRO 93B.  Consult your adviser for guidance.
  • Apply for a major grant from Undergraduate Advising and Research.  Applications are typically due very early in spring quarter.
  • Consider applying to the Public Service Scholars Program at the Haas Center for Public Service.  Applications are typically due in mid-spring quarter. 
  • If your research involves human subjects, you must file a protocol with the Institutional Review Board and have it approved before you begin your research.  Applications are reviewed once a month, so learn when you need to submit in order to be considered in the cycle that you desire.
  • By the last day of April in spring quarter, submit your proposal, including a one-page abstract and the signatures of your primary adviser and (where applicable) second reader, to the Director of the Urban Studies Honors Program for approval.


  • Conduct your research.  The more research you do over the summer, the more you can concentrate on writing once you get back to campus.
  • Consider attending the Bing Summer Honors College, which provides honors students free room and board, and the opportunity to focus on their theses for three weeks in September before the start of senior year. 

Senior Autumn

  • Enroll in URBANST 203, Senior Seminar.  If you are writing an honors thesis, your final paper for this class should be a chapter of your thesis.
  • If you are participating in the Public Service Scholars program, enroll in URBANST 198 for 3 units.  However, these units do NOT count toward the 73 units required for the Urban Studies major.
  • Meet regularly with your thesis adviser and, if applicable, your second reader.  You and your adviser(s) should determine the requirements for satisfactory progress toward completion of the project or thesis, and together you should establish a timeline for completing a draft by the end of winter quarter.
  • Complete all core and electives for the Urban Studies major as early in your senior years as possible.  These courses will give you the background for completing your thesis. 
  • Consider presenting your work at the Symposium of Undergraduate Research and Public Service (SURPS), held alumni weekend.
  • Notify the registrar of your intention to graduate with honors via Axess.

Senior Winter

  • Enroll in URBANST 199 (“Senior Honors Thesis”) with your thesis adviser.  You may enroll for as few as 5 or as many as 10 units, spread out as you wish between winter and spring.  We generally recommend 5 units each quarter, as a thesis should be at least as much work as a course.  Please note, however, that these units do NOT count toward the 70 required for the Urban Studies major.
  • If you are participating in the Public Service Scholars program, enroll in URBANST 198 for 3 units.  See above regarding the units for this course.
  • Continue to meet regularly with your faculty adviser and, if applicable, your second reader.
  • Submit a first draft of your complete thesis to your adviser (and if applicable, your second reader) by the end of winter quarter so that you will have sufficient time to make revisions in spring quarter.

Senior Spring

  • Enroll in URBANST 199 (“Senior Honors Thesis”) with your thesis adviser.  See above regarding the units for this course.
  • If you are participating in the Public Service Scholars program, enroll in URBANST 198 for 1 unit.  See above regarding the units for this course.
  • Check that you are registered to graduate with honors on Axess.
  • Attend and present your research at the Senior Honors Colloquium, held the Thursday of end-quarter period.
  • Submit four bound copies of your thesis to the Urban Studies Program office by 12 noon on the Monday 2 weeks before Memorial Day.

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Resources for Thesis Writers

Data Collection and Statistical Analysis

The Social Science Data and Software, located in the Bing Wing of Green Library, provides assistance to Stanford students, staff and faculty in survey design and data entry, the selection and use of statistical software, and the acquisition of numerical data.  They can be helpful in determining the best method to collect and analyze data for your thesis. 

Human Subjects

If you want to conduct interviews or surveys in your research, you must first contact the Administrative Panel of Human Subjects in Non-Medical Research and follow their procedures for obtaining approval of your proposed study. 

Public Service Scholars Program

The Public Service Scholars Program (PSSP) is a program of the Haas Center for Public Service.  PSSP helps students to prepare an honors thesis that connects public service with students’ academic work and research interests.  Students admitted to the program participate in PSSP during their senior year concurrently with the honors program in their major academic department or program. Students from all majors are encouraged to consider this opportunity.

Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR)

The office of Undergraduate Advising and Research (UAR) gives two types of research grants for undergraduate honors students.  Major grants (awarded once a year) provide up to $5,000 for research-related expenses; small grants (awarded three times a year) provide up to $1500.

For more information on funding your research please click here.


For exact deadlines, visit the UAR office on the first floow of Sweet Hall, or call 723-2426, or e-mail Vpue-advising@stanford.edu.

Summer Honors College

Summer Honors College provides selected students the opportunity to get a head start on their honors theses under the supervision of faculty members from their major departments and programs. All participants receive free room and board on campus during Honors College.

Writing Assistance

The Hume Center for Writing and Speaking offers writing assistance.


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