The International Relations Program is one of the few majors on campus that requires all seniors to successfully complete a thesis over two semesters in their senior year. You will register for the senior thesis seminar sequence (INTR390-391). These seminars will guide you through the process of proposing, planning, researching, and writing a senior thesis.
We believe that the senior thesis is an opportunity for you to showcase what you have learned over the last four years, and is one of the most important (and rewarding) aspects of the IR major. The thesis is meant as a capstone experience. We expect you to bring everything you have learned at UPenn—the substantive knowledge you have gained from your classes, the analytical techniques and approaches to knowledge you have mastered in the various disciplines, any language skills that might be relevant, the experiences you have had abroad—to bear on your thesis topic. It truly is a culmination of your academic experience here. The thesis will be challenging, hard even. But it will be one of the most rewarding things you do as an undergraduate.
When you began as IR majors, we stressed that by the time you leave the program we expect you to have acquired expertise in some aspect of international relations. Choosing an area of focus was the start of that process, and the thesis is the culmination. The thesis will allow you to further refine your knowledge of your field of specialization and hone your analytical and writing skills. The thesis will start you on your way to becoming a truly knowledgeable specialist.
Up to this point, your entire academic training has consisted of consuming knowledge produced by others. Now it is your turn to give something back---to contribute new and original insights to the collective pool of knowledge that informs us all.
Norman D. Palmer Award
The Palmer Award is bestowed annually on the student submitting the best undergraduate thesis in International Relations. The award was established jointly by the IR Program and the Anspach Institute for Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs in honor of Dr. Norman D. Palmer, Professor Emeritus, and a pioneer in the field of International Relations. For past prize winning theses, see the links below.