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Thesis Seminar International Politics - Spring 2019



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 Blackboard.

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 December 4, 2018 from 15.00-17.00 there will be a general introduction meeting in room SA49 at PDLC, in which the instructors will explain and discuss the general thesis seminar procedures and expectations and students can ask questions about the thesis seminars.

Theme 01: International Institutions - Verdun (act. code:7399)

The objective of this seminar is to support Master's students in writing their thesis. The seminar brings together students working on international institutions broadly construed. This means that it covers both formal organizations and informal institutions, such as international norms. Specific topics may include states' behavior within international organizations, the dynamics of international norms, compliance with and contestation of international law, and the agency of international bureaucracies. The thesis seminar, however, does not deal with these topics substantively. It focuses instead on the more practical matter of writing a coherent, theoretically compelling and empirically sound thesis. As such, the seminar will provide answers to the following questions:

  • How do I formulate a good (and manageable!) research question?

  • What methodologies are best suited to answering my research question?

  • How do I design my research project, in particularly when it comes to case selection and data analysis?

  • What is the best way to organize my thesis?

  • What should my writing style be?

The seminar is open to students working with a range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, with different geographical emphases and within different theoretical paradigms. Peer review, in the sense that students will work together and provide feedback on each other's writing, is an important part of the course.

A syllabus with readings will be published on Blackboard at the start of the semester.

Theme 02: Political Economy of Development and Democracy in East Asia and Latin America - Nem Singh (act. code:13165)

The thesis seminar aims to provide substantive support towards writing a masters thesis within the fields of political economy and international politics with a specific focus on Latin America and East Asia. Special topics include global governance of development, politics of neoliberal reforms in the global south, institutional change, comparative democratization, resource politics and governance, resource nationalism, energy politics, social movements and contentious politics, and theories of the state. The thesis seminar will focus on how to design research projects, research strategies in conducting literature reviews, and various data collection and analysis techniques. While there is emphasis on qualitative research in the seminar, mixed methods and quantitative studies are also welcome. The seminars are focussed on the research process and inputs on the substantive topics will only be given during one-to-open supervision sessions.

This Thesis Seminar is also open for students of the N.E.C.D. specialisation

Theme 03: Armed Conflict - v.d. Haer (act. code:13166)

The purpose of the thesis seminar is to help you write your master thesis. It will provide substantive and methodological instructions so that you can produce a structured and coherent thesis proposal and master thesis.
The seminar focuses on issues broadly related to armed conflict and political violence. Specific issues might include: the role of the UN in protecting civilians during conflict, the effectiveness of the ICC in reducing violence, how fragmented rebel groups influence battle intensity, the recruitment of foreign fighters, the role of private military security cooperations in civil wars, the establishment of DDR programs in order to stabilize peace, the influence of the sanctions in reducing violence, and the role of child soldiers in African wars. The focus of this thesis seminar is very broadly defined to allow students who are interested in conflict and political violence (broadly defined) to benefit from working together on their proposals and theses.

Literature for the project will be announced on Blackboard at the beginning of the semester

Theme 04: Conflict and Cooperation in the E.U. - v.d. Veer (act. code:19542)

Cooperation between member states in the EU: less cooperation, more conflict?
The primary goal of the EU and its predecessors was to regulate conflict between countries in Europe through the promotion of (economic) cooperation. In recent days, however, conflict seems rampant. Although conflict has always been part of the ever-closer Union, nowadays the conflict appears more fundamental, questioning the process of European integration and a reappraisal of the nation state over the delegation of responsibilities to the EU and its institutions. This thesis seminar investigates conflict in the EU from three related themes.

The first theme is that of the Brexit. How successful are European Union institutions at mitigating conflicts between its member states? Students are invited to investigate to what extend a Brexit could have been predicted by looking at the behaviour of states in, e.g. the Council or the European Parliament. For example, do we see an increase in conflict between the UK and other EU delegations of representatives to the Council or Parliament in the years leading up to Brexit? The second theme relates to the rise of illiberal democracies and the conflict that brings to the liberal-oriented EU institutions. In at least three member states (Poland, Hungary and Romania) are the national governments adopting illiberal positions. Students are invited to investigate the causes and consequences of these events. One example question would be: Do we see the emergence of a strong, coherent block of member states that attempts to influence EU policy? The third theme relates to the financial crisis which has its origins in 2008 but still instils significant conflict between, especially, individual member states and the European Commission. Scholars have discussed how the financial crisis has sparked conflict between member states. Students are invited to analyse whether a new “north-south” divide has formed and whether this divide holds even after the crisis.

In terms of methods, both qualitative (such as structured interviews or small-scale surveys) as well as quantitative methods are allowed. Given the background of the instructor, students willing and able to make use of quantitative methods are explicitly invited to join. The thesis must have an empirical component in it (i.e. normative theses are not possible in this seminar). Moreover, students who have a clear research question which is related to the EU and its institutions, yet that does not completely fit the three themes discussed above, are welcome (subject upon prior discussion with and approval of the instructor).

This thesis seminar builds upon the elective courses “European Union: Integration and Disintegration” and “International Organisations in Times of Rising Nationalism”. Students who have not participated in one or both of these courses are, nonetheless, welcome to participate in this thesis seminar but should expect additional reading.

Additional Information

Please note that for some seminars there will be no additional substantive readings than the ones discussed in the courses they build on.


Registration in uSis for one thesis seminar is possible from Monday 17 December 2018 10.00 a.m. until 26 December 10.00 a.m. 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 2018. 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.


The thesis seminar is composed of a research proposal (first 8 weeks) and a thesis (remaining of the course). The research proposal ensures that the student is on the right track to carry out the research and write the thesis. It must be approved by both readers (see below), but is not awarded a grade. The grade of the thesis corresponds to 100% of the grade of the thesis seminar.

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. The research proposal is not graded, it receives only a pass/revise/fail evaluation.

Master Thesis

The MSc thesis needs to comply with high standards of academic research. The formal requirements of the Master thesis are stated on the page ‘Thesis seminar information and deadlines’. The thesis evaluation form with the evaluation criteria will be published on Blackboard.

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.