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Thesis Seminar International Politics - Spring 2022



Students choose (one of) the thesis seminar(s) offered within their specialisation. It is strongly recommended that students start thinking about the topic of their thesis before the start of the classes. Attendance is compulsory for all classes. Detailed information about the study material and the writing process can be found on Brightspace.

Course Objectives

Objective 1. To deepen the understanding of theories and methods related to research on the theme of the Master Specialisation.
Objective 2. Applying them to a specific topic as part of the student’s Master thesis project.

General Introduction Meeting

On Wednesday 1 December 2021, 15.15h there will be a general introduction meeting online, in which the instructors will explain and discuss the general thesis seminar procedures and expectations and students can ask questions about the thesis seminars.

Thesis Seminar Themes:

Theme 01: Armed Conflict (J. Masullo-Jimenez) - activity nr 12380
The MA Thesis Seminar is designed to aid students in the timely and successful design and completion of their MA thesis. While the course will be mainly on the core components of research design in political science, the substantive focus will be on armed conflict and peace. This focus is meant to be broad to accommodate a wide variety of research topics and questions. Topics that fall within this theme include: inter-and intra-state conflict, political and criminal violence; peace-building and peacekeeping; post-conflict reconstruction; policy approaches to combat crime; the protection of civilians; and the role of international actors and unarmed civilians in conflict processes and dynamics.

The seminar aims to be open to different epistemological and methodological approaches. Participants are welcome to work on research projects using qualitative and/or quantitative methods, observational and/or experimental data, as well as employing a wide range of research designs, from intensive case studies to quasi-experimental and experimental designs. The only essential condition is that projects involve empirical research - i.e., purely conceptual or theoretical projects are discouraged.

Theme 02: International Organisations (J. Heaphy-Lang) activity nr 12381
This thesis seminar aims at helping students to develop theoretically informed empirical research projects on International Organizations. It explores the creation, design, performance, legitimacy and authority of international organizations at the regional (e.g. European Union, African Union) and global levels (e.g. United Nations). Students can choose among a wide array of topics ranging from human rights, peace and security, health, and climate change, to detailed perspective on international trade. The seminar will deal with theoretical and empirical approaches to the creation and functioning of IOs, but also addresses methodological questions about how to study them in a rigorous manner. The seminar entails a focus on qualitative research methods. A syllabus with a reading list and details about the practical organization of the seminar will be provided at the beginning of the semester.

Theme 03: International Politics (dr. A. Rrustemi) activity nr 12382
In the current global order, many states are confronted with difficulties in fulfilling their central functions vis-à-vis its citizens, leading in the worst cases to violence, hybrid warfare, organized crime, poverty, massive flows of refugees, internally displaced people, child soldiers, grave abuses of women and the destruction of world culture and heritage. In an interconnected world, state and peace weakness and failure have thus been identified as one of the central threats to global peace and stability and their prevention has become a main priority of the international community.The approach adopted by the international community, international organizations, to prevent state and peace failure and decrease security threats include measures as diverse as military (humanitarian) intervention, and state, nation and peace building missions.
Therefore, the course provides an analysis of interventions on security and peace building processes, and ultimately aims to understand how to construct sustainable and inclusive security and peace. The following questions are raised: What are the theoretical lenses that we can study peace and security building processes? How are security and peace building interventions developed and implemented? What is their impact (read effectiveness) in the targeted countries/communities? How can we anticipate spoilers of peace and security building and how can we counter them in a timely and appropriate manner to create a more secure world and sustainable peace?
The course outlines the main theoretical underpinnings, various methodologies and relevant societal challenges. More specifically, it addresses the main theoretical frameworks on post-conflict reconstruction, such as military interventions, early warning mechanisms, peacekeeping, liberal and post liberal peace, peace infrastructures, nation building, state building, religion and reconciliation. It also focuses on the role of different actors in shaping the post-war states and current theoretical and societal debates, including states (the role of the US, China, Russia), local communities (grassroots), international community (international organizations), networks (organized crime, illegal migration/trafficking of human beings, violent extremism, and countering and preventing violent extremism), individuals (dictators, oligarchs) and companies (technological, artificial intelligence). The methods employed in the course are mixed, mainly qualitative. Special attention is paid to state-society-industry and local-international relations in the post-conflict reconstruction by assessing different case studies from Africa, Middle East, Asia and Europe.

Theme 04: Power and World Politics (I. Bakalov) - activity nr 12383
This thesis seminar is designed to provide a productive environment for pursuing research questions related to the study of power in world politics. The concept can be variously understood in terms of what actors are (e.g., great powers, rising powers, declining powers), have (e.g., military capabilities, economic resources), and/or do (e.g., coerce, persuade, attract). Beyond the rationalist framework, power can also be understood to underlie the structural transformations shaping social hierarchies and guiding the intersubjective construction of interests and identities. Notably, the concept has been used extensively in both problem-solving studies (aimed at explaining how the contemporary world order ticks) and critical investigations (aimed at understanding how the world order came about and what can replace it). Dealing with this profusion of meanings is no easy task, but it can be facilitated by the available analytical tools for studying the various modalities of power, as well as through the intellectual exchanges among the seminar participants. The reading list, which will be provided in advance, will offer insights into key categories, variables and mechanisms that will help you get a grip on your research topic. You will receive further guidance in sharpening your research design and preparing for your own qualitative analysis.


Registration in uSis for one thesis seminar is possible from Thursday 16 December 2021, 13.00h until Wednesday 22 December 2021, 23.59h. Placement is on a first come first served basis and subject to availability.

Registration is open for students that started their Master in one of the Political Science specialisations, in September 2021. All other students should contact the exam committee to request permission to take this thesis seminar. Students can take the thesis seminar only once in their academic year.


Research Proposal

The research proposal includes a problem statement, theoretical foundation, conceptualization as well as a sound explanation of the methods and techniques for data collection and analysis.The proposal must be approved by the supervisor and a second reader. The second reader will be designated by the Director of Studies. Please note that teachers are not obliged to provide thesis supervision if the proposal is not approved.

Master Thesis

The MSc thesis needs to comply with high standards of academic research. The thesis must be between 8.000 and 10.000 words, including tables, footnotes and bibliography. The thesis evaluation form with the evaluation criteria will be published on Brightspace.
Students that drop or fail the course have to retake the complete thesis seminar (in the 2nd semester of the next academic year). Students should contact the Exam Committee if they are unable to complete the master thesis by the deadline due to circumstances beyond their control.