This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Christopher Hughes


Dr Anna Getmansky


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations and BSc in Politics and International Relations. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

Candidates submit a dissertation of up to 10,000 words, excluding bibliography, but including notes and any appendices and tables, in the first week of Summer Term. The subject of the dissertation can be anything within the field of International Relations that IR Faculty are able to supervise. Candidates submit the title of their dissertation for approval by the Course Co-ordinator/s before the end of the Michaelmas Term, and an outline of their project early in Lent Term. Students also receive written feedback from their supervisors on up to 3,000 words of text as long as this is submitted by the end of Reading Week in Lent Term.

Dissertations offer students the chance to enhance their knowledge through an in-depth analysis of a question in an area of particular interest to them. The dissertation assesses different skills from examinations. The aim is to develop the ability to make independent judgements and decisions about a promising and feasible research question, and on selecting and analysing the most important and relevant material. The outcome will be a coherent, sustained, systematically developed, and well supported argument on a topic, typically combining empirical material and theoretical insights, within the field of International Relations. The dissertation may draw entirely on secondary literature. There is no requirement for the use of primary sources and original material such as unpublished documents, archives, or personal interviews.


2 hours of lectures and 6 hours of classes in the MT. 1 hour of lectures and 1 hour and 30 minutes of workshops in the LT.

There is also a 1-hour introductory lecture in the Summer Term of the preceding year for those interested in taking this option. In addition to formal teaching, students will see their supervisors six times (usually three times in MT and three times in LT) for meetings of around 30 minutes each. 

IR398 contains lectures on how to formulate a research question, how to structure a dissertation, and how to find and use evidence. Classes explore how questions are formed, how literature is used, and how evidence is deployed. Workshops are a chance for students to discuss outlines, and receive guidance on issues of structure, research design and evidence. There may also be a chance for some students to present their work.

Advice and Assistance

The Course Co-ordinator/s will provide guidance on the nature and process of writing an IR dissertation, mainly through the course lectures, classes and workshops. They will also be available for consultation throughout the year to help students address problems as and when they arise.

While students will receive ample guidance and feedback on their work, the dissertation is an independent project. As such, although students will have a supervisor, and colleagues both in IR and other departments can be approached for informal advice, no Faculty member can read a full draft of the thesis.


Dissertation (100%, 10000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2015/16 - 2017/18 combined)

Classification % of students
First 24.4
2:1 52.4
2:2 19.5
Third 1.2
Fail 2.4

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2017/18: 28

Average class size 2017/18: 14

Capped 2017/18: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information