Watson Institute at Brown University
International Relations

Independent Research

The IR concentration offers numerous opportunities for students to develop their research and writing skills while working closely with faculty. Students are challenged to critically apply their knowledge and to think creatively about international issues through their research projects. 

Senior Seminar

Senior seminars are offered on different topics every semester and provide an opportunity for students to integrate and build upon their interdisciplinary coursework in international relations by focusing in depth on a specific topic. Limited to 20 students, the seminar fulfills the required capstone experience in the Program. Seminars emphasize student discussion, have advanced readings, and require students to complete a major research project that demonstrates their skills in a second language.

Current IR-approved seminars

Independent Study (DISP, GISP)

Independent study projects allow students, either individually (DISP) or in small groups (GISP), to initiate coursework that in content, emphasis, or procedure, is not duplicated in the established curriculum and involves working closely with a faculty member for one semester. Students are responsible for designing the course syllabus which involves extensive reading followed by a major piece of scholarly writing (e.g. 25-30 page research paper). Independent study may also be an academic follow-up to an internship. Students with advanced language capabilities are encouraged to use these skills in their research. INTL 1970 must be taken for a grade.

Independent Study Research Project Approval Form (DISP, GISP, GLISP, CPT) 

The Global Independent Study Project (GLISP)

A GLISP combines independent research with the study abroad experience. Students design a project to be undertaken outside the United States under the sponsorship of a Brown faculty member. GLISP projects last one-semester and typically incorporate archival work in their host university or other local institutions as well as interviews.

Independent Study Research Project Approval Form (ISP, GISP, GLISP, CPT)
Visit the Office of International Programs to learn more about the GLISP.

The IR Honors Program

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 fulfills the IR capstone requirement and must demonstrate research in a second language. Honors students may apply for university grants to conduct thesis-related research off campus and, in some cases, abroad. Honors students may be nominated for several research and publication awards.

Visit the Honors web pages for more information on the IR Honors Program and recent thesis titles and abstracts.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

For international students
Curricular Practical Training (CPT) is work authorization for off-campus employment in the student’s field of study which is a required part of the curriculum. Training that is not required may meet CPT requirements if you receive academic credit for the employment experience and if it is an integral part of your studies. In other words, you must earn credit for your involvement by taking an independent study course based on the internship the following Fall semester.

To request a CPT, you must submit to the IR concentration advisor the following:

  1. Copy of letter of internship offer.
  2. IR CPT Authorization Approval Form that includes description of how the internship and the subsequent course are INTEGRAL to your IR concentration.
  3. Completed IR Independent Study Form signed by an IR-affiliated faculty member supervising the IR course (INTL 1970). The independent study course must be taken in the fall following the internship.
  4. Week-by-week syllabus of topics and readings (approximately 150-200 pages per week) either attached separately or pasted into the Independent Study Form. Syllabus course description must include how the course relates to your internship as well as how the course is evaluated (20-25 page paper).
  5. Copy of letter from faculty sponsor.
  6. Once CPT is approved, by IR Concentration Advisor and Dean of the College, obtain an override for INTL 1970 from the Academic Program Manager, Anita Nester.
  7. Register for INTL 1970 under your sponsor's section in the fall. All IR independent studies must be taken for a grade.

Plan ahead and allow sufficient time for course preparation and CPT approval.

NOTE - CPT independent studies do not fulfill the capstone requirement for IR.

For additional information see the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISSS).