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:
- Directed Research Project (DRP), the minimum requirement for all students; and
- 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).
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.
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.
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.