Honors Thesis & Defense

International Studies Honors Thesis

International Studies is the study of foreign affairs, global interaction, and the relations between states, intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and multinational corporations (MNCs). It encompasses exploration of international security, international economics, foreign relations, history, political science, geography, sociology, anthropology, and foreign languages, and draws on the resources and expertise of many academic departments across campus. Your thesis should reflect this subject and should delve into a topic/question of relevance to the field. This can be done from a number of methodological and disciplinary perspectives, and, as such, great diversity can be expected from one IS thesis to the next. All, however, should be marked by excellence and conform to certain academic standards and expectations. The following guidance should be kept in mind when completing your thesis:

  1. Thesis Length and Depth:

    While there is no specific page length required by the Fulbright College Honors Program or University of Arkansas Honors College, an Honors Thesis in International Studies should be no less than 50 pages (including notes and bibliography) and no more than 125 pages (including notes and bibliography). Requiring a minimum length of 50 pages will ensure that you approach your thesis with the necessary research depth and expertise to warrant Honors designation; suggesting that you cover no more than 125 pages will teach you to write efficiently and make your argument in an effective and succinct manner if you would otherwise go beyond this.

  2. Argument

    An honors thesis should have an argument. That is not to say that it should be argumentative or polemical (indeed, it should be neither) but rather that it should be more than mere description or explanation. You should have a definite position on your topic, a position that is grounded in a careful reading of the literature and the available sources and that can be explained using well-reasoned analysis. Even if your reader does not ultimately agree with your argument, he/she should be able to follow your rationale for it and understand why you have arrived at your conclusions. An argument must always be supported. Argument is not just opinion.

  3. Impact on the Field:

    Within your thesis, you must provide the appropriate context for your argument. That is to say, you should be able to show where it fits in the larger field of International Studies. Who has already written on your topic? What has their analysis been? Where have their arguments conflicted or differed? Have any “schools of thought” developed on your topic? If so, what are they? Once you have established what has already been said on your topic, you can then say what contribution your thesis makes to this broader exchange. An IS honors thesis should not simply re-invent the wheel, but should be a new voice in an on-going conversation about International Studies

  4. Sources

    A good IS honors thesis should make use of a variety of sources, both secondary (those written by International Studies scholars) and primary (those written by those involved in an event or witnessing an event, such as government reports, newspaper accounts, etc). How many sources are appropriate for an IS honors thesis? A good rule of thumb I advise my own students to follow is that there should be approximately the same number of sources in your bibliography as there are pages in your paper. For example, if you are writing a 5-7 page paper, there should be 5-7 sources in the bibliography; if you are writing a 25 page paper, there should be approximately 25 sources in the bibliography; and for an honors thesis of 75-100 pages, there should be 75-100 sources, a mix of both primary and secondary. Students should make particular use of the journal literature, which is where much of the academic work in International Studies takes place. Ultimately, of course, you should defer to your own thesis supervisor for advice on this matter.

  5. Citation of Sources

    An honors thesis in International Studies must include appropriate citation of sources. In the discipline of International Studies, citations can be given parenthetically (in-text) or in footnotes. Generally speaking, if your thesis topic is following a more social science approach, drawing primarily from the methodologies of political science, sociology, or a related social science discipline, parenthetical citation is more appropriate. If your thesis topic is taking a more narrative or humanities-based approach, drawing largely from history, citation in footnotes is more appropriate. If using parenthetical citation, you should follow MLA (Modern Language Association) guidelines. The library has prepared a ready-reference guide, which is available online here: http://libinfo.uark.edu/reference/citations/mla.asp. If using footnote citations, you should follow Turabian or Chicago guidelines. The library has prepared a ready-reference guide, which available online here: http://libinfo.uark.edu/reference/citations/turabian.asp. Whichever citation method you choose, you should use it correctly and consistently throughout your thesis. Ultimately, you should discuss with your thesis supervisor which is the preferred form for your thesis topic.

  6. Style and Presentation

    Unless otherwise agreed with your thesis supervisor, your honors thesis should follow standard style and presentation. That is to say, it should be written in Size 12 Times New Roman font, doubled-spaced, with one-inch margins throughout. The thesis should include a cover page and a bibliography, and all pages should be numbered. You should be aware that upon successful defense a copy of your thesis will be kept in the Honors Lounge where it will be available to all students and faculty. You will thus want to make sure it is your highest quality work.

The International Studies Thesis Defense:

Once your thesis has been written and submitted, you will need to defend it orally before your thesis supervisor, a departmental (IS) reader, an outside reader (not from the International Studies Program), and a representative of the Honors Council. While you will choose your supervisor, departmental reader, and outside reader, the Fulbright Honors Program will choose the representative of the Honors Council. An honors thesis defense will typically last 45-60 minutes. Some students choose to present their thesis (with PowerPoint or some other media) prior to receiving questions, while others prefer to turn right to questioning. Your thesis supervisor may have a preference on this matter also. In your defense, you should be prepared to explain your argument and should be ready to take questions that relate to your thesis or are expansions on something within your thesis. You should also be able to show how your thesis is original and where it fits into the larger literature of the field. The most important aspect of preparing for your defense is to know your thesis and be sure of your material.