Watson Institute at Brown University
International Relations

Honors FAQ

What does it mean to be in the IR Honors Program?
Students in the IR honors program are eligible to receive an honors degree in the concentration. 
Students must maintain high quality grades in the concentration (majority As), a majority of As at Brown overall, and complete an honors quality thesis. Honors students also complete 15 requirements instead of 14, as the thesis is a two semester capstone. Honors students are required to take a thesis preparation seminar in the fall (INTL 1970) and to present their research in the IR Honors Conference in the spring.

When and how do I apply to the program?
In the spring of junior year or 6th semester. Mid-year graduates apply one semester early, in their fifth semester at Brown. This enables them to fulfill the INTL 1910-1920 sequence and present their research in the Honors Conference in May. See How To Apply.

Who can be a Thesis Director/First Reader? 
Any member of the teaching faculty at Brown with a PhD who is interested and knowledgeable about your topic and who is in residence at Brown for both semesters of your senior year. You must have acquired a First Reader in order to apply to the Honors Program.

Who can be a Second Reader? 
Any member of Brown's teaching faculty who is interested, knowledgeable, and willing to serve. Second Readers must be acquired no later than mid-September senior year.

How long is an IR thesis? 
There is no page requirement. Most IR theses, however, are organized around 5 or 6 chapters and have an average of 130 pages.

Where can I find previous IR theses?
Students are strongly encouraged to read theses from previous years which may be checked out from the IR Program office. Please see thesis abstracts and presentation slides from recent years for a sense of the broad range of topics, research questions, and approaches.

Do thesis writers get an additional photocopy allowance from the university?
Unfortunately, no.

Are there funding opportunities for thesis work?
IR students have received Research at Brown (RAB) grants for up to $500 for specific research needs. Please know that RAB applications are considered on a rolling basis and are competitive. Also, the IR Research and Travel Grant provide up to $2000 to support summer fieldwork travel for students accepted into the IR Honors Program. Applications are due in the spring.

 How often should I meet with my First Reader? 
At least once every two weeks, and perhaps once a week. It is imperative that you establish a regular meeting time early in September. It may not always be necessary to meet in person—emails and the telephone are often helpful—but it is always good to have a time set aside when you KNOW you can talk with your First Reader. Use these meetings wisely. Some advisors require students submit something in writing beforehand to guide progress. In any case, be prepared with a prioritized list of questions or points to discuss.

How often should I meet with my Second Reader? 
Typically, less often than with your First Reader. The First Reader is your primary advisor; the Second Reader MAY choose to be more involved, or you may invite such involvement, but the Second Reader is generally consulted much less regularly. The Second Reader may have expertise in a particular aspect of the thesis and may be particularly helpful early in the project in guiding you to sources, during your research on a particular chapter, and in the final draft.

Who else should I get to know? 
The study of International Relations is multidisciplinary. Therefore, feel free to consult faculty in any department with expertise on your topic. Be sure to get to know, and work closely with, library specialists early on. Subject specialists are listed by discipline, geographic region, and period of history on the Library homepage, each with associated resource guides. Of particular interest to IR students are the Rock’s vast holdings of UN and government documents. The IR subject librarian is Corina Cournoyer; you can sign up for appointments on line.

When is the final version due? 
Generally, in the third week of April.

Does everyone who writes a thesis get Honors? 
While the great majority of submitted theses do receive Honors, not all of them do. A thesis that is not based on original research or is not rigorous according to the standards and conventions of academic thesis writing will not receive honors. While all students who complete a thesis will receive a grade for their work, only theses judged to be of high quality by the Thesis Committee are eligible for Honors. Theses submitted late are ineligible to receive honors.

Who's on the IR Advisory Committee? 
The IR Program Director and Associate Director/Concentration Advisor, the instructor for the Thesis Preparation Seminar, and Track Advisors.

If I am conducting research with human subjects that may require Institutional Research Board (IRB) approval, when should I get in touch with them? 
Immediately. First, go on IRB's webpage and study all documents. Second, make an appointment with the IRB office to determine whether your project requires IRB approval. The approval process requires assistance from your primary thesis advisor and is time-sensitive. Therefore, it is to your advantage to contact the IRB office asap. Delaying this process may affect your research design.

What if I want to do a thesis in an unconventional format, such as a documentary or a website, or coauthor a project with a friend?
A thesis is a thesis is a thesis. It is an individual research project that  follows a set of conventions that make it a thesis. Therefore, students must follow standard research and formal writing protocols for thesis work. Approved alternative projects may be undertaken as Independent Study through the Dean of the College (ISP/GISP); Departmental Independent Study in IR (INTL 1970); or, one of the one semester capstone projects. Only thesis work is eligible for Honors in IR.

Can I use the senior thesis I am writing for my other concentration for IR honors?
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.

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.

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 acceptedLearn how to apply and download the application form.

How strict is the IR Program regarding the thesis topic?
The thesis is a year-long enterprise and as such it should be a topic that you are passionate about and one in which you have substantial background and language skills. IR is a broad area of study that includes comparative work. However, ALL theses must focus on some aspect of a pressing global problem and have an international intellectual frame. Research on the politics of a single country, for example, without reference to a broader international significance to the real world and IR debates is not accepted.

What does it mean to incorporate a second language in the thesis/capstone project? 
Basically, this means that research and analysis must be derived from second-language sources. For example, you might hold interviews in another language or use original materials (government documents, pamphlets from a social group) or secondary sources such as books and scholarly articles written in the language.