Application and Deadlines

Criteria for Participation

To apply to the ICS distinction/honors program, you must:

  • have an updated and approved curricular plan on file with the ICS Program:
  • have completed ICS 195, Comparative Approaches to Global Issues, before application;
  • be on track to complete, by the end of your junior year, a substantial portion of the ICS major (roughly 11 courses, including language);
  • be in good academic standing

Application Elements and Requirements

A Distinction Program application includes 3 Elements:

1. Project Proposal

3-5 pages

The project proposal should demonstrate that you have already begun to research your project and have a preliminary knowledge of its dimensions and feasibility. It is particularly important to have taken at least one non-introductory university course that provides foundational knowledge on the topic and to have taken at least one university course that required an independent research paper (on any topic). The proposal should include the research problem or question and discuss the original or primary source(s) you will analyze and how you plan to acquire them. (The research problem and sources often change and evolve as the project develops, but it's helpful to begin thinking in these terms.) In addition, you should address both how you came to be interested in your topic and how your past experiences in coursework, research, study abroad, paid or volunteer work, etc. have prepared you to tackle this specific project.

2. Basic Bibliography

1-2 pages

The bibliography should include two kinds of materials: primary sources you will analyze or interpret as part of your thesis; and relevant secondary scholarly sources you have consulted as you have begun thinking about your project. The initial bibliography should reflect a cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary engagement with your sources. It is helpful to discuss your proposal and initial bibliography with your prospective research supervisor with these expectations in mind before you submit it.  

If your planned research includes interviews or observation of human interactions (even if virtual), you must receive clearance from the Institutional Research Board before undertaking your research. You may also obtain information about this requirement at the Office of Research Support website. ICS will provide more information about these requirements to students accepted into the Distinction Program.

3. Recommendation From Your Prospective Research Supervisor

The recommendation should be obtained from a Duke faculty member who is willing to serve as your research supervisor. Your supervisor should ideally be someone who has worked with you in a classroom setting and who is interested in your proposed project and qualified to guide you through it. You should ask your recommender to send an email to the Distinction Program Coordinator, with an evaluation of your project and an explicit statement of willingness to supervise your work on it.


All three parts of the application (Proposal, Bibliography, and Recommendation) should be emailed directly to the 2021-22 Distinction Program Directors, Professor Namakkal ( and Professor Harris ( Research supervisors can email the directors directly to express their support of your thesis proposal (they do not need to write a formal letter).

We encourage you to get your application in by April 5th, 2021. If you cannot meet this deadline, but intend to submit a proposal, please contact Prof. Namakkal and Prof. Harris to discuss and extension.

The Scott Lee Stephenson Memorial Fund allows the ICS Program to offer research travel grants related to honors/distinction projects. If you are planning summer research and need funding, submit the research funding application (below) at the same time.