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Thesis and Methods in International Relations Research


Admission requirements

Compulsory course for all MA International Relations students.


How do I write a literature review and design a research project? How do I develop a research question that may contribute to the literature of my academic discipline? These are the kinds of questions MA students often pose regarding their MA thesis. This course is designed to provide answers to these questions.

This course guides students through the process of envisioning, designing, and carrying out an academic research project. Throughout the course, students will develop their own MA thesis research projects by learning: how to formulate research questions based on an effective review of the current literature; how to develop a causal and/or constitutive research design to answer this question; how to adopt some of the data collection and analytical tools commonly used in the humanities; and how to deliver both professional ‘conference-style’ presentations and constructive feedback as discussant.

The first half of the course will consist of lectures. Here, we’ll enter into strategies for writing your thesis, go through the key components of the thesis, and venture into qualitative methodology. You’ll learn to identify a research question and evaluate the evidence to answer your question. The second part of the course consists of seminars. The first two seminars seek to provide practical guidance for designing and executing your research. The final seminars are reserved for conference style presentations in small groups.

Course objectives

The purpose of the course is to prepare the student academically for being able to engage in self-directed research towards their MA thesis in International Relations (International Studies and European Union Studies). After successful completion of this course students should be able to:

  • Synthesize the academic state of the art into an effective literature review

  • Formulate a research question with the potential to contribute to scientific knowledge

  • Design research to answer a research question

  • Gather and analyze sources of evidence to answer a research question

  • Present research findings in a manner appropriate to the intended audience

  • Conduct research in an ethical manner

  • Situate their research within an ontological and epistemological framework



Mode of instruction

Lecture and seminar

Course Load

  • 6 x 2-hour lectures (12 hours)

  • 2 x 2-hour seminar and one 2-hour research presentation session (6 hours)

  • Complete readings and prepare for seminars (48 hours)

  • Presentation on the research proposal (10 hours)

  • Research proposal (64 hours)

Assessment method

  • Discussant feedback, participation, and attendance – 20%

  • Research Presentation – 30%

  • Research proposal – 3,800 words – 50%

The resit for the final examined element is only available to students whose mark of the final examined element is insufficient.


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


A resit opportunity is available for papers that receive an insufficient grade at the first attempt. The resit for the final examined element is only available to students whose mark of the final examined element is insufficient.

Exam review

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.


A handbook denoting weekly readings will be posted on Blackboard the week before the start of the semester. Additional information (powerpoints, useful websites, etc.) will also be found on Blackboard over the course of the semester.

Reading list


  • Hart, Christopher 1998, Doing a literature review – Releasing the Social Science Imagination, London: Sage.

  • Trachtenberg, Marc 2006, The Craft of International History – a guide to method, Princeton and Oxford: PUP.


via uSis.

General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Contact information

The co-ordinator of studies or your seminar professor.