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Thesis and Methods in International Relations and Research (GOHP)


Admission requirements

Compulsory course for all MA International Relations students.


This course is designed to provide practical answers to common questions with regard tot the MA thesis. How do I write a literature review? How do I develop a research question that may contribute to the literature of my academic discipline? How do I design a research project?

This course guides students through the process of envisioning, designing, and carrying out an academic research project. Throughout the course, students will develop their own MA thesis research projects by learning: how to formulate research questions based on an effective review of the current literature; how to develop a causal and/or constitutive research design to answer this question; and how to adopt some of the data collection and analytical tools commonly used in the humanities.

The first half of the course will consist of lectures. Here, we’ll enter into strategies for writing your thesis, go through the key components of the thesis, and venture into qualitative methodology. You’ll learn to identify a research question and evaluate the evidence to answer your question. The second part of the course consists of seminars in which students actively engage with the material.

Course objectives

The thesis is an independent project. The purpose of the course is to provide the student with a toolkit to engage in self-directed academic research towards their MA-thesis in International Relations. After successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • Identify a research puzzle with the potential to contribute to scientific knowledge

  • Clearly establish the academic relevance of a research puzzle

  • Formulate a research question

  • Identify potential answers to a research question

  • Identify both (case-) specific and general academic literature.

  • Synthesize the academic state of the art into an effective literature review

  • Design research to answer a research question

  • Identify cases or observations that are relevant to answering a research question

  • Generate observable implications of a theory

  • Identify potential ethical concerns in a research design

  • Contemplate on researcher positionality


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

Lectures and seminars

Assessment method


Literature review: 50%
Research design learning activity: 35%
Participation: 15%


The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.


A resit opportunity is available for papers that receive an insufficient grade at the first attempt. The resit for the final examined element is only available to students whose mark of the final examined element is insufficient.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list


  • Hart, Christopher 1998, Doing a literature review – Releasing the Social Science Imagination, London: Sage.

  • Trachtenberg, Marc 2006, The Craft of International History – a guide to method, Princeton and Oxford: PUP.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.

  • students should enroll for both the lecture: 5184VIS15H and one of the seminar groups: 5184VGO02W


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


Not applicable