This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Luca Tardelli CBG.10.05


This course is available on the BSc in International Relations, BSc in International Relations and Chinese 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 IR398 Course Co-ordinator 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 a 2,000-3,000 word dissertation sample as long as this is submitted by the end of the 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 There is no requirement for the use of primary sources and original material such as unpublished documents, archives, or personal interviews.


This course is delivered through a combination of classes and lectures totalling a minimum of 10 hours and 30 minutes across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of online lectures and in-person classes/classes delivered online.

In addition to formal teaching, students will see their dissertation supervisors regularly during both terms (usually twice per term, for a maximum of six times in total over the course of the year) for meetings of around 30 minutes each. The IR398 Course Co-ordinator will also run small group tutorials in the Lent Term and will be available for consultation throughout the year to help students address problems as and when they arise.

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 and tutorials 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 IR398 Course Co-ordinator will provide guidance on the nature and process of writing an IR dissertation, through the course lectures, classes and workshops, and office hours. 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 ST.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
First 38
2:1 47.8
2:2 8.7
Third 2.2
Fail 3.3

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2019/20: 40

Average class size 2019/20: 25

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information