Watson Institute at Brown University
International and Public Affairs


All International and Public Affairs concentrators complete a capstone project during their senior year.

Are junior and senior seminars interchangeable?

No. Junior and senior seminars can’t just be switched; they have different purposes. So any course explicitly listed as a senior seminar is just that. The professor may admit persons who are not seniors, at their discretion. But only the seniors taking a course listed as a senior seminar may use that course to write one version of the required senior capstone, i.e. a rigorously researched and structured final paper. 

Senior seminars are meant to be taken in the Watson. That includes classes offered by the various centers, such as Southeast Asia or Latin American and Caribbean Studies, at a level of 1800 or higher.

Options for fulfilling the requirement:

  • enrolling in a pre-approved WRIT-designated seminar and writing a 20-25 page research paper, or
  • enrolling in the full-year IAPA Thesis Writing Seminars and writing a senior thesis, or
  • enrolling in an independent study or group independent study (GISP) and writing a 20-25 page research paper

Taking the capstone S/NC

Designated senior seminars are, among other things, one of the venues for writing a capstone paper.  We think of the capstone as a work which pulls together, integrates, and showcases all the learning, exploration of important questions, and capacity to analyze and interpret that three years of pursuing a concentration make possible. Hence a senior seminar capstone deserves to be graded, given its purposes and the effort students must put into it.

Senior Seminar 

This option is for students who did not receive approval for a thesis or who have chosen not to complete such a project. The senior capstone seminar will require that the student in their senior year write a research paper utilizing one’s thematic or regional expertise and foreign language skills, if applicable, and be about 20-25 pages in length. A capstone course may be a pre-approved WRIT-designated senior seminar, an independent study, or a group independent study (GISP) with the approval of the director of Development Studies.

Senior Thesis

Students interested in writing a senior thesis will apply to the IAPA Honors Program in the spring semester of junior year. The senior thesis can take the form of a written thesis (academic paper), media project, or other project with approval from the IAPA Director. Students must receive approval for their topic, but generally any topic that fits within the general framework of International and Public Affairs research will be appropriate.

Independent Study

Students may fulfill the capstone requirement by writing a research paper or policy memo of 15-25 pages in conjunction with independent study conducted under the supervision of a Brown faculty member. Capstone projects associated with independent study must receive approval from the International and Public Affairs concentration advisor. Students must submit an Independent Study Approval Form within one week of the start of the semester in which the student will enroll in IAPA 1818A. Students are required to register for a section of IAPA 1818A with their faculty sponsor. 

Independent Study with Internship Experience

Students may fulfill the capstone requirement by writing a paper of 15-25 pages reflecting on an internship completed by the student in the summer prior to senior year or during senior year. For the internship to be used to fulfill the capstone requirement, prior approval must be received by the concentration advisor. The research/reflection paper should explain the nature of the work conducted and its relationship to specific issues of international and public affairs. The paper may take the form of either a scholarly essay or a policy memo. Students must submit an Independent Study Approval Form within one week of the start of the semester in which the student will enroll in IAPA 1818A. Students are required to register for a section of IAPA 1818A with their faculty sponsor.