Guidelines - INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROGRAM Guidelines for...

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROGRAM Guidelines for the Senior Thesis (INTR 390/391) Walter A. McDougall Director Not For Reprint Without Permission. Copyright: University of Pennsylvania, January 2000, revised September 2008 N.B.: Your assignment for the first meeting of your INTR 390 seminar is to read, mark, and inwardly digest this document!! 1. Introduction The INTR 390/391 senior seminar is meant to be the "capstone experience" for I.R. majors at Penn. This is your chance (a) to use the theoretical tools you have acquired in the core courses and electives; (b) to exploit and expand the specialized knowledge you have acquired about a particular subject or geographical region; and (c) to satisfy your own desire to study intensively some issue of particular interest to yourself. Ideally, therefore, the senior seminar should satisfy the intellectual appetites that drew you to major in I.R. in the first place. The focus of INTR 390/391 is in every case the senior thesis. Seminar leaders may spend several weeks reviewing with you the major theoretical approaches to I.R., but the principal requirement of the seminar is the conception, researching, and writing of a thesis. Now, the word "thesis" conjures up images of Masters or Doctoral dissertations. Certainly we do not expect undergraduates to approach that level of length and sophistication. On the other hand, the senior thesis should be more than a glorified term paper. It should (a) be longer than the usual 15 to 20 page term paper; (b) make an argument of your own conception rather than just summarize facts and conclusions found in books on the topic; (c) use primary source material and data to the extent possible; and (d) conform to the format and style of good academic writing and documentation. You may not think that you are capable of all this. I assure you that you are. The senior seminar is not a simple exercise by which you demonstrate to us what you already know--but neither is it meant to induce terminal anxiety. Rather, it is designed to push you beyond what you already know you can do so that--with hard work and the help of faculty and staff--you can realize your own highest potential at this level of your education and maturity. 2. Selecting the Topic You should begin to think about topics for your senior thesis as soon as possible. Some students waste a month or more at the start just finding a topic that is appropriate and feasible. We suggest, therefore, that you begin to think about topics at the end of your junior year, or at least a month or two before the start of your 390 semester. The criteria for selecting a topic are as follows. First, it should be a problem you will enjoy solving. It could be an issue about which you have always been curious, or which you encountered in a lecture course and want to know more about, or are interested in for reasons of professional or personal commitment. But whatever the case,
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you should be motivated to do the thesis for its own sake, and not just because you have to do it to graduate!
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  • Spring '12
  • ........., Academia, Thesis or dissertation

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