Step 1: Research Preparation: Planning Your Coursework
Be mindful of how your coursework can help you conduct research. Courses exist across the departments and programs at Tufts that can offer you preparation to undertake your research plan. If you are an IR major, some of these courses may count toward the major as well.
Some undergraduate majors at Tufts require students to take research methods courses and/or sophomore or foundation seminars typically in the sophomore year. While they vary in intent, many of these courses provide the disciplinary basics of a Tufts education, often in terms of thematic and methodological focus.
The International Relations Program offers the two-course colloquium on international research (INTR 91/92: International Research Colloquium) to help students prepare to conduct research while abroad. Though we encourage students to take the course if they are thinking of conducting research while abroad, it is not a required course, nor does the major require students to take such a course as a sophomore.
Since many of the sophomore, foundation, and methodological seminars and courses fulfill IR requirements, the IR Program strongly recommends that you take advantage of these course offerings to help you prepare for research. Below, we outline some of the distinctions between methodological and thematic courses and provide links on how to learn more about these courses.
Methodological courses, or methodologically-focused courses, help students to understand how knowledge is acquired within a particular discipline as well as understand the methods and logic of inquiry and research. While some courses offered at Tufts may not primarily be about methodology, they typically integrate methodological concerns into the course content. In addition, a segment of a course may be centered on methodological approaches and one or more of the readings may emphasize research methods. Many departments recommend that students take these courses in the sophomore year as they provide the foundation for future research endeavors.
See tip sheet for list of methodological and methodologically-focused courses in IR's contributing departments. We have gone through all of the courses offered in departments that contribute to IR and selected the research methods courses or methodologically-focused courses. We welcome faculty to submit short descriptions of their courses that they feel are appropriate identifying how the course can help students develop research skills or prepare to undertake international research.
Several departments that contribute to IR offer seminars for majors (typically sophomores) or prospective majors to offer them opportunities to engage in research and writing, explore a disciplinary topic in greater depth, gain exposure to research theory and methods, and interact more closely with faculty and students, since classes are typically limited to 15-20. These seminars, called Sophomore Seminars in Political Science, Foundation Seminars in History, and "culture courses" in the language departments, offer in-depth knowledge of a particular content area. If you are an IR major, many of these seminars count toward the IR Thematic Cluster Requirements.
These seminars are also a great way to get to know a faculty member. If you're planning on going abroad junior year, making faculty contacts beforehand will be extremely beneficial. (See Step 7: Making Faculty Contacts.) We recommend that students thinking of working on a senior capstone project take a seminar in the sophomore year pertaining to their research interests or with a faculty member with whom they would like to work.
Visit the web sites of departments and programs to learn about course offerings or visit the tip sheet on the IRN that highlights specific courses.
Political Science Sophomore Seminars: http://ase.tufts.edu/polsci/handbook/seminars.asp
History Foundation Seminars: http://ase.tufts.edu/history/undergrad_prog.html
Sociology/Anthropology Seminars: http://ase.tufts.edu/socanth/
Economics Seminars: http://ase.tufts.edu/econ/announcements/seniorth.html
Languages and Literature Culture Courses: http://ase.tufts.edu/romlang/writing_workshop.htm and http://www.tufts.edu/as/ger_rus_asian/.
The university and IR Program require foreign language proficiency for a reason. You may find that the key scholarly literature on your topic is written in a foreign language or you may wish to interview people who speak a language other than English. Being able to speak other languages enriches your research with perspectives from multiple points of view.
German, Russian, Asian Languages and Literature: http://www.tufts.edu/as/ger_rus_asian/
Romance Languages and Literature: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/romlang/
To be a good researcher, you also need to be a good writer. Developing your writing skills takes time and practice. Be thoughtful in your writing in your classes and take advantage of the resources that exist at Tufts to help you improve your writing skills.
Resources at Tufts can help you improve your writing skills:
1. Writing Across the Curriculum
The Writing Across the Curriculum program sponsors 15-20 undergraduate courses each semester in a variety of academic disciplines at Tufts. Writing Workshop (WW) courses are not writing courses per se, but rather altered versions of already-established courses in departments across the curriculum. Their goal is to help students attain a deeper understanding of course material and to promote intellectual interactions with instructors and fellow students Instructors in WW courses emphasize exploratory, getting-started stages of papers, proposals, and reports
2. The Writing Center in the Academic Resource Center
The Writing Center provides one-on-one tutoring, workshops, and other writing resources for undergraduates.