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IR Research Assistant Internships

The International Relations Program mentors dozens of interns annually, of which probably most leverage the experience to publish papers, speak at conferences, enter graduate or profession school, or acquire full-time jobs. Faculty-led research projects seeking interns will be posted here.


Research Internship

Think Tanks and Civil Society Program

Dr. James McGann


The Think Tanks and Civil Society Program (TTCSP) runs a small, highly selective internship program for students (grad and undergrad) and recent graduates interested in gaining first-hand experience in public policy research in domestic and international affairs.

Candidates must be highly motivated and able to work independently in a demanding research environment. The research intern positions require excellent research and analysis skills as well as data collection and project management skills. Candidates must be proficient in both oral and written English. Knowledge of Chinese, French, Spanish and Arabic is a plus but not a prerequisite for most projects. Internships are unpaid and based in our Philadelphia office on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania. Virtual internships can be arranged on a case by case basis. Interns work independently and in teams. We do our best to match the qualifications and interests of our interns with research and consulting projects to which they can contribute most.

This is an excellent opportunity for those students who are planning to attend graduate school in international relations, public policy, law school and/or work in a think tank or international organization. Ideal for International Relations, Political Science, English, Environment, Global Health and Development majors and those with an interest in public policy, foreign policy and security studies.  While the program focuses on think tanks and policy oriented NGOs the skills acquired can be applied to the fields of business, law, international affairs and consulting.

The research interns meet weekly to review progress and discuss career oriented issues and other topics of interest. The TTCSP is a collaborative effort between the International Relations Program, University of Pennsylvania and the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

The duration of the internship is 16 weeks and the time commitment ranges from 8-10 hours a week for a part time internship.

Students seeking a more in depth experience can work on major research projects and serve as a project lead for a research project, publication or conference. This is an excellent opportunity for those students looking to gain work experience before entering graduate school or for those who want to position themselves for full time paid employment at a law firm, think tank or consulting firm. These internships require a minimum of 10-15 hours a week.

The work schedule is flexible with the vast majority of the assignments being done off-site at a research library. Interns are entitled to attend (free of charge) conferences and lectures on domestic and foreign policy topics at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, World Affairs Council and the University of Pennsylvania.


Interested in Interning for TTCSP?

Review the attached pdf located at the bottom of this page. This document contains an itemized list of TTCSP requirements and requisite qualifications.

Then send an email to Dr. James McGann and include a copy of your resume with a brief statement of purpose outlining what you expect from an internship and what you would bring to TTCSP. Also provide a short statement outlining how the internship fits into your career and educational plans. Please indicate which projects from the projects listed below you would like to be considered for—they must be in rank order. Acceptance to the Program will be made on a rolling basis until all positions are filled.




Global Go To Think Tank Rankings (GGTTTR)  The GGTTTR is now recognized as the most authoritative source for the leading public policy research organizations in the world. As a member of the team you will help implement the process for the annual ranking of think tanks  that recognizes centers of excellence in public policy research. The annual rankings have been featured in the Economist and Foreign Policy magazine. This global index involves scholars and leading policymakers from around the world. Last year over 1500 individuals and organizations from 110 countries participated in the process.  The GGTTTR research team will also help develop presentations of the findings of the Global Rankings for the United Nations, World Bank and other international organizations. The team will be invited to attend the briefings in Washington and NY. 

Foreign Policy Challenges the Facing Emerging Powers This project will identify and then examine how think tanks in a variety of political and economic systems are helping their respective countries understand and respond to the new challenges and dymanics of a multi-polar world. Emphasis will be placed on identifying and explicating the unique foreign policy challenges these countries face and the strategies and programs that (SIA) think tanks have developed to respond to these challenges. In addition, emphasis will be placed on identifying best practices for research and policy advice and for building the capacity of think tanks and other relevant policy actors. Specific focus will be on a select but comparative representative sample of tanks and the role they have played in shaping security and international affairs policies at the national, regional and global level.

Security and International Affairs-Trends and Transitions This project will profile the leading security and international affairs think tanks in the Middle East and North Africa and Latin America and then analyze the current research agendas of these organizations in an effort to identify key trends and new approaches to enduring and emerging policy issues in international affairs.

Think Tanks and Policy Advice in Asia This on-going project involves mapping and analyzing the state of indigenous health policy research in countries in Asia. The research examines civil societies, think tanks, major policy issues and policy advice in the region.

Nonstate Actors in Global politics and Public Policy  Conduct background research and literature reviews on non-state actors and global public policy and global governance.

Global Directory of Think Tanks  The TTCSP database and directory is the leading resource for information about public policy research organizations that is used by inter-governmental organizations (World Bank, United Nations, Organization of American States), non-governmental organizations (colleges, universities and civil society organizations) around the world. This project involves tracking and updating data on think tanks in 150 plus countries, preparing directories of think tanks for posting on the University of Pennsylvania web site and for the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s web site and developing reports, charts and graphs. Must have a working knowledge of Excel and be detail oriented. Project Lead must be proficient in Excel.


Research Intern Positions

Research Intern: Collects and analyzes data, prepares a review of relevant literature, conducts research on assigned topics. 

Intern Coordinators: Organizes weekly programs, schedules individual and group meetings for interns, arranges speakers and provides a communication link to all interns.

Project Lead: Organizes a research team and manages the research project under my direction.  Must have demonstrated leadership ability and excellent organizational skills. 


Think Tank and Civil Societies Program

The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of the International Relations Program at the University of Pennsylvania examines the role policy institutes play in governments and in civil societies around the world.  Often referred to as the 'think tank’s think tank,’ TTCSP examines the evolving role and character of public policy research organizations.  Over the last 25 years the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program has laid the foundation for a global initiative that will help bridge the gap between knowledge and policy in critical policy areas such as international peace and security, globalization and governance, international economics, environment, information and society, poverty alleviation and health. This international collaborative effort is designed to establish regional and international networks of policy institutes and communities that will improve policy making and strengthen democratic institutions and civil societies around the world.  The Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program works with some of the leading scholars and practitioners from think tanks and universities in a variety of collaborative efforts and programs.  If you would like additional information about our publications and programs contact Dr. James Mcgann.

TTCSP Research Internships 2013