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Thesis and Thesis Seminar North America B, sem 2


Admission requirements

This course is only available for students in the BA International Studies who have successfully completed a Thematic Seminar course (10 ects) and who have passed courses of the first two years of the International Studies programme worth a total of 100 EC.

The student writes the thesis in the area of specialisation.


Debate over whether to describe the United States as an “empire” has long plagued both pundits and scholars alike. But from a historical perspective, the United States was (and, some would argue, remains) an empire by any conventional metric. It has expropriated land, labor, and raw materials from beyond its national borders and jurisdiction. It has extended its dominion over land and peoples without also extending them direct representation within its courts and legislature. It has engaged in projects of racial “uplift” or nation-building that aim to transform local or indigenous life-ways in conformity with the norms of the US mainland. It has established military bases abroad sometimes with, and oftentimes without, the explicit consent of a democratic majority. It has commanded vast wealth and has strategically used public resources and private corporations to achieve political, economic, and military objectives abroad.

In this thesis seminar, you are invited to consider topics and issues surrounding US empire and US political, economic, and cultural power abroad, generally, from 1898 to the present. Such topics might include:

  • The expansion of US colonial empire in the Pacific (Hawaii, the Philippines, Samoa, and Guam) and the Caribbean (Puerto Rico)

  • “Americanization” – the expansion of US material goods and consumer culture abroad

  • US “gunboat diplomacy,” especially in Latin America

  • The history and racial politics of immigration; the history and culture of diasporic communities in the United States (including East Asia, Southeast Asia, and/or Eastern and Southern Europe)

  • The expansion of US military bases abroad

  • The United States’ role in creating international organizations (such as the UN, the IMF/World Bank, Unesco, etc.); security organizations (like NATO); or regional/international economic agreements (like the Bretton Woods system or NAFTA)

  • US intervention in postcolonial wars in Asia and the Middle East

  • International movements that resist or critique US global power from within and without (i.e. the Pan-African movement and certain groups within the Civil Rights Movement & Black Freedom Struggle; transnational left-wing political movements, etc.)

Alternatively, you may write about other contemporary or historical topics that have some connection to North America, in consultation with the thesis supervisor.

Building on earlier exercises in essay-writing, in particular the essay for the second year’s Thematic Seminar course, a bachelor’s thesis is the finishing paper of the programme. It is a research paper of 10,000 words (± 10%), excluding bibliography and notes, which to a considerable extent is the result of research and writing that is independently done.

Collective supervision is provided in thesis seminars. The aim of the thesis seminar is to guide students through the process of designing a research question; collecting literature, sources, data, and other materials that are necessary for answering the question; bringing logic and persuasive order in the material and in the arguments supported by it; and designing appropriate research methods.

Assignments within the seminar include designing a research question and plan, as well as writing a literature review (ca. 2500 words).

Apart from collective supervision, students will receive individual supervision, specifically focused on the subject of their research. The thesis seminar leader is also the one who provides this individual supervision. Students will have four individual meetings with their supervisor during the semester.

Each seminar will be devoted to one of the geographical areas covered by International Studies, and will focus on a broad theme relevant to the programme.

The exact set-up of the seminars may vary somewhat, due to the nature of the area, and the teaching approach of the seminar leader. The theme of a seminar lends focus to the class discussions, and provide extra guidance for students to decide on their research topic.

Course objectives

Based on the knowledge and skills acquired, students will be able to:

  • work with research techniques that are current in the discipline(s) applied by them;

  • comprehend sophisticated academic debates;

  • report on their studies and research in good written English;

  • work and write under time-pressure, and deal with deadlines;

  • participate in debates in an active, prepared and informed way, respecting other people’s convictions and emotions;

  • understand fundamental cultural differences and divisions.

The general academic skills covered by these aims are:

  • collect and select specialized literature using traditional and electronic methods and techniques;

  • analyze and evaluate this in terms of quality and reliability;

  • formulate a well-defined research problem based on this;

  • set up, under supervision, a study of limited size, taking into consideration the traditional and electronic methods and techniques relevant for the discipline;

  • formulate a reasoned conclusion on the basis of this;

  • explain research findings in writing, in a clear and well-argued way.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Four to six seminar class meetings of two hours, spread over the semester; four individual meetings with supervisor (30 min. on average).


Attending a seminar is mandatory; no thesis can be submitted that has not been written in the context of a thesis seminar. If you are unable to attend a session, please inform your lecturer in advance. If you are absent at two or more class meetings or more than one individual meeting, the lecturer may have you disenrolled from the seminar.

Assessment method


Submission of the following assignments is prerequisite for submitting your thesis:

  • Research question and research plan (1200-1500 words);

  • Literature review (ca. 2500 words);

  • Draft version of the Thesis.

End Grade

The grade for the thesis seminar is determined by the thesis grade.
To successfully complete this course, the grade for the thesis needs to be a 6.0 or higher.


Students who score an insufficient grade for the thesis (below 6.0) are allowed to resubmit a reworked version of their thesis. The deadline for resubmission of the thesis is 10 working days after receiving the grade for the thesis and subsequent feedback.
In case of resubmission of the thesis the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.

Students who fail to hand in their thesis on or before the original deadline, but still within 5 working days of that deadline, will receive a grade and feedback on their thesis. This will be considered a first submission of the thesis; however, the grade will be lowered as a consequence of the longer process of completion.
Students who fail to hand in their thesis on or before the original deadline, and also fail to hand in their thesis within 5 working days of that deadline, get 10 working days, counting from the original deadline, to hand in a first version of their thesis. However, this first version will count as a resubmitted thesis with consequential lowering of the grade, and there will be no option of handing in a reworked version based on feedback from the supervisor.

Reading list

Not applicable.


Registration occurs via survey only. Registration opens 15 December 2023:

1) On 15 December 2023 you will receive a message with a link to the survey.
2) Indicate there which Thesis Seminar has your preference, and your reasons for this preference.
3) Based on preferences indicated by 8 January 2024 and spots available per seminar, the Thesis Seminar Coordinator will assign you to a specific Thesis Seminar by 22 January 2024.
4) Students will then be enrolled for the specific groups by the Administration Office.
5) All students will be enrolled for their group in Brightspace to access all course information.

Students cannot register in uSis for the Thesis Seminar, or be allowed into a Thesis Seminar in any other way.



  • No thesis can be submitted that has not been written in the context of a thesis seminar.

  • There are four important due dates during the seminar: in the second semester, students are to submit a research question in week 9; a literature review in week 12; a draft version of the thesis in week 18; and the definitive version in week 23 (deadline 7 June, 2024).

  • The due dates are not negotiable.

  • Since both the number of individual meetings with the supervisor, and their duration is limited, it is important that students go to them well-prepared.

  • Consult the Thesis Seminar Guidelines.