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International Affairs Final Project

All candidates for the master’s degree in International Affairs are required to complete a final written project. Normally completed during the final semester of the program (and in some cases the final year), the project entails substantial research and analysis on a topic determined by the student in consultation with the program coordinator.

The project is completed under the primary supervision of a faculty advisor, along with a faculty committee, and it is evaluated by this committee in the form of an oral examination at the conclusion of the student’s program. 

There are two options for the final written project:

  1. Directed Research Project (DRP), the minimum requirement for all students; and
  2. Master’s Thesis, available to exceptionally strong students authorized by the program coordinator.

Students may wish to review some examples of Directed Research Projects and Master's theses from previous students.

Directed Research Project

The standard final project option is the three-credit Directed Research Project (DRP). The one-semester DRP will eventuate in a paper of approximately 40 pages in length. Researched and written under the guidance of the faculty advisor, the paper will reflect a substantive and sophisticated engagement with the chosen topic and will incorporate relevant scholarly and critical sources. The DRP will be defended in a final oral examination convened by the student’s committee (advisor and one faculty reader).

Master's Thesis

International Affairs students with a cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher and a compelling and well-articulated research agenda may be authorized to pursue the two-semester Master’s Thesis rather than the Directed Research Project. The Master’s Thesis is subject to the formal regulations of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences. Typically, the first semester of the thesis project will entail research, analysis, and detailed outlining. The second semester will be taken up with writing and refining the thesis drafts. The final paper is to be approximately 75 pages in length. The Master’s Thesis should make an original contribution to scholarly research and writing on the subject, and it will be defended in a final oral examination convened by the committee. Students who are approved for this thesis must meet Graduate School of Arts & Sciences Master's Thesis guidelines.

Advisor and Committee

All candidates for the master’s degree in International Affairs complete the final project (DRP or Master’s Thesis) under the supervision of a faculty advisor and committee. The program coordinator will assist the student in selecting a faculty advisor and two other faculty readers for a thesis or one faculty reader for the DRP. The advisor or “director” works closely with the student at all stages of the project. The committee reads the final paper and participates in the student’s oral examination. DRP advisors and committee members should be teaching faculty with the relevant graduate program. Master’s Thesis advisors and committee members should be tenured or tenure-track faculty at Washington University. Students select the appropriate advisor and committee members in consultation with the program director and University College.

Oral Examination

At the conclusion of the final project (DRP or Master’s Thesis), students will sit for an oral examination together with their final project committee.

Final Essay

As the examination also serves as the capstone event of the program, the student is required to submit to University College, in advance of the examination, an essay of 3-4 pages that briefly reflects upon one’s course of study in the International Affairs program, notes strengths and weaknesses of the program, offers suggestions, and remarks upon one’s future plans.

Guidelines & Timelines

It is important to adhere closely to requirements and deadlines associated with the final project in order to ensure timely completion of the project and fulfillment of program requirements. All candidates for the master’s degree in International Affairs are required to complete the Final Project Proposal form for M.A. Programs. All students authorized to pursue the Master’s Thesis also must complete the Title, Scope, and Procedure form.


You should begin planning for your Directed Research Project the semester prior to your final semester of study. If you have authorization to pursue a Thesis, begin planning two semesters prior to your final semester of study. The Title, Scope and Procedure of Dissertation (Thesis) Form must be completed and returned to University College at least six months before the month in which the degree is expected to be conferred. University College will forward approved Title, Scope & Procedure forms to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.


The Final Project Proposal Form must be completed with all required signatures for registration. Registration follows the normal academic schedule. Refer to the current course schedule for registration deadlines. Submit your Final Project Proposal Form to the Administrative Assistant for Academic Programs at 11 N. Jackson Road, Suite 1000, St. Louis, MO 63105-2153; this will serve as your registration form.



Schedule Your Oral Defense

The Oral Defense should be scheduled as soon as possible after you have registered. The Oral Defense should take place no later than two weeks prior to the end of the semester you plan to graduate. Consult with your committee to find a time that is agreeable. Your Oral Defense will probably only last 1 hour, but schedule 1.5 hours for the defense to provide a small cushion of extra time if needed. To schedule and reserve space, contact us at (314) 935-6700 or

Please consult the University College online calendar for specific deadlines for the oral defense. Usually, the defense must be completed by the beginning of September for summer graduates, the beginning of January for fall graduates, and late April or early May for spring graduates. Please note that these dates conform to deadlines for all graduate programs and are not flexible.

Submission of the Final Project (Directed Research Project or Master’s Thesis)

Submit a copy of your final project to each member of your committee two weeks in advance of your oral defense to allow time for review. Upon successful defense of the project, the final version must be submitted to University College. In addition, thesis candidates must submit an electronic copy and one hard copy of the Master’s Thesis to the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences according to the deadlines listed in the online calendar.

Please refer to the Graduate School Arts & Sciences Master’s Thesis guidelines for formatting and presentation requirements.