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Step 11: Capstone Research Projects

It is important to know ahead of time the procedures and requirements for the type of capstone research project you plan to undertake. Whether it is a senior honors thesis, a directed research project, a Fulbright proposal or other scholarship award, each has its own set of criteria and procedures for application. Knowing this ahead of time will help you plan the preceding steps in the research process to ensure that you complete them in a timely manner.

Senior Thesis
The senior honors thesis is an interdisciplinary project culminating in a report, essay or performance that demonstrates exceptional undergraduate achievement. It represents an opportunity to conduct original research on an issue that you have already gained some knowledge of or experience with; and constitutes an advanced work that demonstrates a higher standard of learning.

For interdisciplinary programs such as International Relations, the senior honors thesis brings to bear many of the disciplinary perspectives that students learn through the program's major requirements. While students make a year-long commitment in the senior year to write an honors thesis, the process to develop a plan, formulate a research question, locate faculty to oversee your project, and gather data needs to begin by the junior year. The earlier you get started, the better off you'll be in the senior year.

For university procedures on the senior honors thesis, read the Tufts Bulletin.

Additional resources on the Senior Honors Thesis process:

Dean of Undergraduate Education
The Dean of Undergraduate Education oversees senior honors theses at a university-wide level. However, each department or program has its own guidelines, procedures, and deadlines.

The Academic Resource Center (ARC)
The ARC offers support services, workshops, and writing consultants to help seniors through the process. Contact Carmen Lowe in the ARC's Writing Center to learn more.

The International Relations Program
In addition to the university policies and procedures surrounding a senior honors thesis, the IR Program has some of its own. Visit the IR web site to learn about writing a senior honors thesis in IR.

So, you're thinking about writing a senior honors thesis in IR? Read the IR Senior Thesis Handbook (pdf) for detailed information on tips, the thesis process, procedures, and deadlines.

In collaboration with the History Department, IR offers a Senior Thesis Exchange (pdf) for students and faculty working on senior honors thesis projects. Students and faculty meet throughout the year in informal scholarly settings to discuss the process, share insights and strategies, build community, and support each other throughout the experience.

Tips Each academic department and program may have its own procedures and deadlines for writing a senior honors thesis so check in with your major's department/program.


Fulbright Program
Each year, the Fulbright-Hays Program provides one-year foreign study and research grants for nearly 1000 U.S. students. Opportunities exist in most countries, and there are exciting new additions every year. Restrictions on field of study vary by country, but there are many opportunities to do research in the field of international relations. Any U.S. citizen with a B.A. or B.S. degree is eligible to apply. Language proficiency is required based on your selected country, and each Fulbright applicant will be tested. The office of the Dean of Undergraduate Education oversees the Fulbright Program for Tufts.

Professor Charles Inouye, former Dean of Colleges, has developed several useful resources for students, as has Professor Jeanne Penvenne in History (pdfs):

Directed Research Project
Directed Research represents an opportunity to pursue original research on topics and material with which students already have some knowledge and experience. In IR, the Directed Research is a one-semester capstone research project. Students may high-demand enroll through the IR Program Office for a one-semester IR Directed Research project (INTR 195 or INTR 196) under guidance of a member of the International Relations Core Faculty. Proposals are due in IR before the Curriculum Committee meets to determine courses for the following semester. Check the IR web site for deadlines. In IR, students can substitute a faculty-mentored directed research project for the IR Seminar Requirement.

Other programs and departments may have different procedures and deadlines so check with the appropriate department or program for further information.

Independent Study
Many departments and programs, like IR, offer an IR Independent Study option to encourage students to broaden, deepen or sustain intellectual interests that grow out of coursework or participation in programs such as EPIIC (Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship).

In IR, the Independent Study option (INTR 193 in fall, INTR 194 in spring) is available by petition only to declared IR majors and is subject to IR guidelines outlined on the IR web site. Unlike the directed research option, which can fulfill the IR seminar requirement, a credit in independent study may be counted only in the student's thematic cluster. Students may apply either an IR Independent Study or an IR Internship toward their thematic cluster but not both. The independent study option may only be directed, evaluated, and graded by a member of the IR Core Faculty.

Visit other department and program web sites to learn about their independent study options.

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