Watson Institute at Brown University
International Relations

Program FAQ

I am a freshman.  What should I take now if I want to be an IR concentrator?

Any of the required core courses, particularly POLS 400 (Intro to International Politics).  Core courses (except for ECON 0110) are offered only once/year.  Students should plan accordingly and complete the core prior to junior year.

AP/IB credit: Can Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate credit count toward IR requirements?
No. The IR Program does not give concentration credit for AP/IB work. Your background from these courses, however, allows you to take higher level courses to fulfill IR requirements. For example, if you have AP credit for statists, then you should take either a more advanced statistics course or a qualitative research methods course from our methods list

Capstone seminar: How do I know which seminars count?
See the approved list on the IR website.

Capstone: Does my capstone have to be on a theme in my track or on the region I am using for IR?
No. For many students, this will happen naturally—students with particular regional interests will likely write a paper on that region in a theme-based seminar. Students taking a seminar on a particular country or region will likely want to work on an IR theme in their track. Alternatively, you may want to use your acquired knowledge in IR to explore a new theme or geographic region.

Capstone: Do I have to do extra work in the seminar for it to count as a capstone?
No, just complete the seminar assignments. The only difference is that we require documentation of research in two languages.

Capstone: Research in two languages – what does that mean exactly?
We suggest reading at least five pieces in the second language across several types of sources – perhaps a chapter in a book, a journal article, a newspaper article. Interviews and documents from a government website, for example, are excellent primary sources in the original language. You'll document this in your footnotes and Works Cited. Be sure to indicate in the footnote that the translation is yours.

Capstone: What if my project doesn't match my language – for example, I'd like to work on Latin America, but my language for IR is Chinese?
No problem. You can always find scholarly work and news articles in any language on any topic. For example, there is a lot of great research on Latin America in Chinese. 

Core: Can I use ECON 1110 Intermediate Microeconomics instead of ECON0110 Principles of Economics to fulfill the core requirement?
No. The point of the economics requirement is to get you to take a macroeconomics course. ECON0110, one of the five core courses, covers micro and macro economics. ECON1110 focuses only on microeconomics. Therefore, in order to meet our economics core requirement, you must take either ECON0110 or, in the case that you have AP/IB credit for Econ 110, ECON1210 (macroeconomics). Double concentrators with IR and Economics should follow these specific requirements.

Double Concentrators: I am a double concentrator with IR. How many courses can I double-count—i.e., use for both concentrations?
You may double-count a total of two courses with IR. Study abroad courses are included in that count. Language courses are excluded from that count.

Double Concentrators (IR-Economics):  Can I waive IR courses that are also required for my Economics concentration (i.e., ECON 110, 1110, and 1210)? 
No, to graduate in IR, you must take 14 courses (overlapping only 2 with another concentration) plus language. If you are doing the Political Economy and Society track of IR, then you must substitute international economics or political economy courses from our track list to fulfill the track requirements. See options for IR-Econ concentrators.

If I complete two or more concentrations in my 4 years at Brown will I be awarded multiple degrees and receive multiple diplomas?
No.  You will be awarded one degree, and receive one diploma noting your baccalaureate degree.  Students who complete more than one concentration (“double concentrators”) will see all completed concentrations listed on their official Brown transcript.

Grade Options: Can I take IR concentration courses S/NC?
Students are discouraged, although not prevented, from taking courses in their concentration for S/NC. You should be aware that graduate schools do not look with favor on S/NC grades in your primary field of study; that includes core courses, methods, and language. There is a reason you chose IR; you like it and should do well in it. However, if you do take one of these S/NC, you can still be an IR concentrator! If you do well, be sure to obtain a Course Performance Report from the instructor. The IR capstone must be taken for a letter grade.

Grade Options: Is it OK to take language courses S/NC?
Language learning at an advanced level of competency is integral to the International Relations concentration. Therefore, language courses should be taken for a grade. An “S” says nothing about your ability to read, write, or speak the language.

Graduation: How can I be certain that I've completed the IR concentration requirements for graduation?
All students are required to revise (update) their IR concentration form and meet with the concentration advisor in the fall semester of senior year (or seventh semester). If you do not revise your concentration form, the concentration advisor cannot sign you off for graduation, and the Registrar cannot issue you a diploma.

Honors: Can I use the senior thesis I am writing for my second concentration for IR?
No. The IR Honors Program does not accept a thesis submitted for another concentration. Likewise, an IR thesis may not be used as a senior thesis in another department.

Honors: I am a December graduate. Can I still be in the Honors Program?
Yes. Mid-year students follow the same application and thesis submission deadlines as May graduates. This means that you apply to the program your 5th semester, take the mandatory INTL1910 thesis preparation seminar in the fall (as a second semester junior) and complete the thesis in the spring (as a first semester senior). Mid-year graduates do not have an extra semester to finish the thesis. You then return in the Fall and finish your degree.

Honors: Can I apply to the Honors Program if I am studying abroad in the spring junior year?
Yes. Students studying abroad during the spring semester may submit an application by email or fax. You are responsible for having your primary thesis advisor send an email to the IR Program, confirming your preparation for the proposed topic and your advisor’s willingness to supervise the project. Primary thesis advisors must have a PhD and be on campus for both semesters of your senior year. All students, whether on the Brown campus or abroad, must meet the application deadline. Late applications are not acceptedRead more details about the Honors Program and download the application form.

Independent Study Projects (INTL 1970): Can I use an ISP for IR concentration credit?
Yes. We encourage you to challenge yourself with directed independent study in which you work one-on-one with a faculty member on a topic not otherwise taught at Brown. IR concentration credit is permitted for independent study projects on an individual basis and may be applied toward the regional requirement or track. A full week-to-week syllabus and the ISP Concentration Approval Form must be submitted to the concentration advisor for approval prior to the semester in which the course is to be undertaken. No exceptions. Concentration credit for independent study courses is not awarded retroactively.

Independent Study (overrides): How do I get an override for INTL 1970?  
Overrides for INTL 1970 are given by the IR Program Developer, Anita Nester, based on approval by the concentration advisor. ISPs that have not received such authorization will be cancelled. Get more information about Indepedent Study and the ISP Concentration Approval Form.

Independent Study (GISP): What is the difference between an ISP and a GISP, and how do I get IR credit for a GISP?
First, an ISP has one faculty member and one student; a GISP has one faculty member and two or more students. Second, students doing an ISP register for INTL 1970, which requires an override from the IR Program. The transcript entry is INTL 1970: Independent Study. The GISP, in contrast, is vetted by the Office of the Dean of the College and is listed on your Brown transcript with a GISP number and your course title. For both the ISP and the GISP, the IR concentration advisor determines applicability to IR. Third, the ISP deadline is any time prior to the first day of the semester in which the course is to be undertaken. The GISP, on the other hand, has a much earlier deadline—typically mid-semester of the previous semester (November for the spring, and April for the following fall). For more information on GISPs, click here [link to DOC Website]. Students seeking IR credit for a GISP must submit the ISP Concentration Approval Form prior to the beginning of the semester in which the GISP is undertaken.

Independent Study (GLISP): How can I use a Global Independent Study Project for IR credit?
IR policies and procedures for the GLISP are the same as those for an independent study. In addition, you must have pre-and post-approval from the IR concentration advisor just as you would any study abroad course. In other words, you must present your GLISP proposal to the IR concentration advisor prior to going abroad and submit the final project upon return for concentration credit. Concentration credit for GLISPs is not given retroactively. Students seeking IR credit for a GLISP must submit the ISP Concentration Approval Form before going abroad.

What’s the difference between an Independent Study Project (ISP) and Honors?
Independent study is a one-semester self-initiated research investigation.  
Students work closely with a faculty member for one semester, are responsible for designing the course syllabus, and are typically required to submit a major piece of scholarly writing (e.g., 25-35 page research paper).

An honors degree in International Relations requires successful completion of a thesis of original research on a pressing global problem. Written under the guidance of a two-member faculty committee and a dedicated thesis preparation seminar, the thesis is undertaken both semesters of senior year. The thesis must demonstrate research in a second language. 

Internships: Do internships in the US or abroad count for IR concentration credit?
No. While we consider internships to be educational and intellectually rewarding, we do not confer IR concentration credit for such work. We do, however, encourage you, as a follow-up, to consider an independent study that would allow you to place the internship within an academic context or to explore some aspects of your experience in more depth. Get more information about summer internships.

Language: I am a native speaker of a language other than English. Can I use that language for the IR language requirement?
Native speakers of a language other than English who have a full range of advanced reading, writing, and conversational skills appropriate for academic work are not required to pursue additional language study. Many international students, however, elect to study another language and use this third language (after the native language and English) to fulfill the IR requirement. Native speakers not enrolling in language study at Brown must present to the IR concentration advisor one of the following:

  1. a high school transcript of all courses indicating the language of instruction (as opposed to a language you learned)was a language other than English. Speaking the language at home with family is not sufficient to meet the IR language requirement.
  2. an email from a Brown language instructor to the concentration advisor stating that the student has the equivalent of 3 years of university language instruction (advanced competency) in all three areas (reading, writing, and speaking) and detailing the means by which the evaluation was made.  

Regional requirement: I do not see a list of regional courses on the website. How do I decide on the regional focus, and how do I know which courses count?
There is no pre-approved list for the regional requirement. The geographic focus of your IR concentration is up to you, based on your interests. Courses that may apply toward this requirement are found across the disciplines (e.g., History, Economics, Anthropology, Political Science, Sociology, Religious Studies, and relevant upper level courses from the Humanities such as courses in area studies departments). Both regional courses must be on the same region or country and have substantive content that speaks to the core concerns of your track (e.g., “Democracy in Spain” in Hispanic Studies or “Wars and France” in the French Department). In addition, your language requirement must be linked to your regional focus. Note: Language training (courses used to fulfill the language requirement through the 600-level advanced competency), performance, and lab courses do not meet the regional requirement. Learn more aobut the regional requirement.

Study abroad: How many study abroad courses can I apply toward my IR concentration?
You may apply 2 courses per semester, for a maximum of 4 courses, toward the IR concentration. If you are away for one year, then the courses must break down 2/semester. Concentration credit is contingent upon relevant course content and level, satisfactory performance, fulfillment of Brown graduation credit, and final approval by the IR concentration advisor. Many students fulfill both regional courses with study abroad, although some prefer to use only courses taken at Brown. Abroad credit may also fulfill one semester of the language sequence with the approval of the language department and the IR concentration advisor. Core courses and the capstone must be taken at Brown. Get more information about study abroad.

Study abroad (course pre-approval): Do I have to file my IR concentration before I can get a pre-approval signature from the concentration advisor?
Yes. The purpose of the pre-approval meeting is to discuss the applicability of your course selection, including a GLISP, to your IR curriculum and to offer advice on tying the abroad experience into IR more generally. Until your concentration is approved in ASK, you have no concentration advisor or concentration plan.

Summer credit: How many summer courses can I use for IR?
Two. If you are taking courses at an institution that is not Brown, please check with the Dean’s office to be sure the course fulfills Brown graduation credit. If the course does not meet Brown graduation credit, then we cannot use it for IR.

Transfer credit: How do I get IR concentration credit for courses taken abroad?
Obtaining concentration credit for courses taken abroad is a two-step process: (1) preliminary approval of your course selection before you go and (2) final approval when you return to Brown with your coursework and transcript. All students, including those on Brown-run programs, must obtain formal IR concentration approval upon return to Brown. If you fail to obtain formal concentration approval, you will not be able to count your study abroad toward the IR concentration and will instead have to fulfill concentration requirements with courses taken at Brown. See transfer credit instructions.

Transfer credit: I am a transfer student. How many credits from another university can I apply toward IR?
The university determines the number of transfer credits Brown accepts when you are admitted as a transfer student. But the IR Program decides whether and how to apply your transfer credits toward the IR concentration. In order that your degree be truly a Brown experience, we require that at least 10 of the 14 IR requirements be completed at Brown. You must meet with the IR concentration advisor who determines which credits may fulfill requirements. Note: The IR Program cannot apply credit taken at another institution until it appears on your Brown transcript. See transfer credit instructions.

Transfer credit: Can I use online courses to fulfill IR concentration requirements?
No. Although the University counts courses taken online towards graduation credit, those courses cannot be used to fulfill IR concentration requirements.