The Senior Essay

The EPE Senior Essay

Planning and Writing the Senior Essay

A senior essay is required for the major and should constitute an intellectual culmination of the student’s work in Ethics, Politics, and Economics. The essay should fall within the student’s area of concentration and may be written within a relevant seminar, with the consent of the instructor and approval of the director of undergraduate studies, provided that the EPE essay constitutes most of the grade for the seminar. The senior essay must be written by the EPE deadline, which may in some cases be earlier than the course deadline, and the overall grade for the course will constitute the grade for the EPE essay. If no appropriate seminar is offered in which the essay might be written, the student may instead enroll in EP&E 491 with approval of the director of undergraduate studies and a faculty member who will supervise the essay. Students who wish to undertake a more substantial yearlong essay may enroll in EP&E 492, 493. In either case the grade will be calculated on the basis of evaluations by the primary and secondary readers, in the proportion of two thirds to one third.

The senior essay reflects more extensive research than an ordinary Yale College seminar paper and employs a method of research appropriate to its topic, which should address a topic in each of the three dimensions – normative, institutional, and economic. Some papers might be written entirely from library sources; others may employ field interviews and direct observation; still others may require statistical or econometric analysis. The student should consult frequently with the seminar instructor or adviser, offering partial and preliminary drafts for criticism. One semester essays should be about 40-50 pages in length, while year-long essays should be about 80-100 pages long. 

Whether students are writing in a thesis or in a seminar or 491-493, regular attendance at the EPE senior essay workshop and contact with the advisor is mandatory.

Click here for a list of past EPE senior essay titles.

The Advisor and Second Reader

The senior essay grade will be calculated on the basis of evaluations by the primary and secondary readers, in the proportion of two thirds to one third.  All students and their faculty advisors devise a schedule for regular meetings to discuss progress on the essay and consider drafts throughout the writing process. All students will also choose a Second Reader, regardless if the essay is written independently or in a seminar.

Students should consult frequently with the seminar instructor or adviser, offering preliminary but carefully written and organized drafts for criticism.  The body of a one-semester essay should be about 40-50 pages in length.  The body of a year-long essay should be about 80-100 pages in length.

Joint Senior Essay

If an EPE student decides to write a joint senior essay, he or she must satisfy each major’s distinct senior essay requirements in one senior essay.  Also, please know that no additional overlap in course credits is permitted.  Additionally, you must meet with the EPE DUS for approval if you want to write a joint senior essay.

The Senior Essay Consultant

An advanced graduate student from one of EP&E’s affiliate departments will serve as a senior essay consultant, available to essay writers for consultation on the formulation of research questions, integrating normative and positive analysis, working with data and evidence, and drafting and revising essays.

The Senior Essay Writing Workshop

The Department of EP&E offers senior essay writers the opportunity to participate in a workshop organized by the Senior Essay Consultant and the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Participants will share proposals, literature reviews, and drafts of their essays amongst themselves, receiving feedback on ideas and methods from their peers. Students writing the essay in a seminar are require to attend at least one of these workshops; students writing the essay as an independent study are required to attend all three. All meetings will be held in the first-floor conference room in the EP&E building at 31 Hillhouse Avenue.


All seniors must submit a Senior Essay Form and Requirements Progress Report (both available on the EP&E forms page) signed by their senior essay advisor, indicating their writing plans (dates TBD).  If you are writing your essay in in the fall semester the due date is December 4, 2023; if writing a spring semester or yearlong essay the due date is April 15, 2024.  Students and their advisors are encouraged to develop their own deadlines and mechanisms for marking progress, but the Department maintains deadlines, which correspond to meetings of the Senior Essay Writing Workshop, for both participants and non-participants.

Submission and Grading

On the day the senior essay is due, students should submit an electronic copy of their essay to the EPE registrar and cc the Senior Essay Consultant and their two readers by noon of the due date. Any recognized standard writing format is acceptable. You must list the names of both readers on the title page.  Grades are determined by averaging the grades of the advisor (2/3) and the second reader (1/3).

The EP&E Program awards two departmental senior essay prizes -

  • The George Hume Prize is awarded to the senior essay that best investigates both the normative and empirical components of public issues.
  • The William H. Orrick Jr. Prize is awarded to the essay that best integrates EP&E’s constituent disciplines while illuminating a concrete problem.