Watson Institute at Brown University
International Relations


IR requires all concentrators to conduct a capstone project in their senior year. The capstone can take one of three forms: an internationally focused research paper for an IR-approved seminar, a directed research paper (Independent Study) on an international theme, or a two-semester honors thesis on a pressing global problem. For the first two options, the capstone paper should take the form of a fairly substantial research paper (e.g. 20-25 pages).

The purpose of the capstone is to synthesize and apply the knowledge that students have acquired through the IR Program's curriculum—the disciplinary perspectives, theories, and methods learned—to those particular interests you have developed throughout the concentration. All capstones must demonstrate research in a second language. Capstones offer students the opportunity to integrate and build upon what they have learned in the concentration while demonstrating intellectual creativity in solving problems and the ability to communicate effectively.

Students may wish to begin thinking about the capstone in their junior year, especially those considering writing a senior thesis or doing an independent study. For the majority of students, the capstone paper will be written in the context of a seminar taken senior year. All students must submit an entry in the Capstone Catalog describing the capstone project and its intellectual rationale.

  • Must be taken senior year (excluding summer and winter sessions).
  • Must incorporate research in a second language.
  • Must be taken for a letter grade.
  • All IR capstones fulfill the Dean of the College's WRIT requirement.
  • WRIT writing requirement must be fulfilled by 7th semester.
  • CPT independent studies do not fulfill the capstone requirement.
  • INTL senior seminars are limited to 20 students. Priority given to IR Seniors and Juniors.

Steps Required for Completing IR Capstone

 1. Select Capstone Option

  • Seminar paper, independent study, or honors thesis?
  • Learn more about the three options.

2. Decide on a Project (deadlines vary)

  • For a seminar paper, meet with your seminar instructor to discuss and follow syllabus deadline.
  • For an independent study, the IR Concentration Advisor must approve it prior to the beginning of the semester in which the project is to be undertaken.
  • If applying to the Honors Program, see the Honors page for instructions and deadlines. Students apply for Honors in spring of junior year.
  • For all capstone projects, you may also discuss ideas with your track or concentration advisor.

3. Complete Capstone Catalog Entry

All students are required to complete an entry in the online Capstone Catalog to graduate. This includes a 100 word maximum abstract of the project and reflective analysis. The IR Capstone Catalog is advised and monitored by the IR Concentration Advisor. Upon completion of the capstone, submit your entry to the capstone catalog online. Required to graduate.


Your Track and Concentration Advisors are available to guide you in making this a cumulative intellectual project but do not oversee project details (this would fall to the seminar instructor, the independent study instructor, or the thesis readers).