The aim of this capstone dissertation module on the MA International Relations programme is to enable students to undertake a significant piece of independent research on a particular topic and/or region in international relations, international studies and global affairs. This module provides students with opportunities to: (i) apply their learning on the programme to analyse contemporary and ‘cutting edge’ problems and issues of relevance to international relations scholars or practitioners (or both); (ii) deepen their knowledge and understanding of a particular topic and/or region of interest to them; (iii) produce a complete piece of scholarly work from conception through to a final dissertation; (iv) further their independent research skills; and (v) make an original contribution with either theoretical or policy-making value, or both.
The dissertation must demonstrate: (i) an analytical and critical approach to problem definition; (ii) the derivation of appropriate research questions, propositions and/or hypotheses; (iii) skills in selecting, designing and implementing a suitable methodology for gathering, analysing and interpreting data and information that address the research problem, questions and/or hypotheses; (iv) knowledge and understanding of literature and theory relevant to the area of inquiry, and the ability to apply it appropriately, (v) the ability to write up the research as a dissertation, and (vi) the ability to combine academic depth and good scholarship with an appreciation of relevant practical and policy issues (as appropriate) in the chosen subject area(s).
A. Demonstrate a substantial and systematic understanding of current and recent theory and research in fields relevant to the chosen research topic.
B. Critically evaluate and apply relevant theories to study the research topic.
C. Develop skills in conducting a research project through producing an appropriate research design, paying attention to research ethical considerations, collecting data through appropriate methods and analysing data using suitable approaches.
D. Demonstrate breadth and depth of understanding in a specific subject area in the field of international relations.
E. Present findings in a coherent and logical flow as a dissertation that conforms to scholarly conventions in the study of international relations.
F. Think, learn and work independently whilst demonstrating initiative, responsibility, self-discipline, self-motivation, self-direction and originality in tackling and solving research problems in international relations.
There are several elements to the method of teaching and learning on this module.
First, private and independent research is undertaken by the student with the support and advice of a supervisor from faculty during regular meetings and consultations that begin in the second half of Semester 2. It is likely that the supervisor will be from the Department of International Studies, although a supervisor from another department in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) may be allocated, depending on topic, expertise and availability. The module leader will work with students and faculty to allocate supervisors according to staff expertise. The role of dissertation supervisor is to support students during their dissertation project once the supervision is confirmed. Supervisors are expected to meet with their students and provide support in key aspects of the research project (including topic selection, literature review, research methodology and methods, data analysis and findings) periodically throughout Semester 3. For reasons of progress-updating and record-keeping, students are required to submit monthly progress forms to the supervisor to report their progress in the last month and actions and targets in the coming month(s).
Second, students are required to attend four workshops at the beginning of Semester 3, during which they will be presented with basic notions and advice on how to conduct post-graduate research, how to organize their empirical research, and how to structure and write-up their dissertations. This will allow for syllabus topics (see below) which may have not been covered by individual supervision to be addressed.
Finally, students will be required to submit a research dissertation that conforms to scholarly conventions at Master’s level.