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Course Details

Course Details

Course Code: IRLS699 Course ID: 3842 Credit Hours: 3 Level: Graduate

The Master’s Capstone in International Relations is the capstone course for graduate programs in International Relations. NOTE: This course may not be taken until all other courses are COMPLETED and student has a 3.0 GPA. THIS COURSE IS 16 WEEKS.

Course Schedule

Registration Dates Course Dates Session Weeks
12/28/20 - 06/04/21 06/07/21 - 09/26/21 Spring 2021 Session C 16 Week session
01/25/21 - 07/02/21 07/05/21 - 10/24/21 Summer 2021 Session A 16 Week session
02/22/21 - 07/30/21 08/02/21 - 11/21/21 Summer 2021 Session K 16 Week session
03/29/21 - 09/03/21 09/06/21 - 12/26/21 Summer 2021 Session C 16 Week session
04/26/21 - 10/01/21 10/04/21 - 01/23/22 Fall 2021 Session A 16 Week session
05/21/21 - 10/29/21 11/01/21 - 02/20/22 Fall 2021 Session K 16 Week session
06/28/21 - 12/03/21 12/06/21 - 03/27/22 Fall 2021 Session C 16 Week session

Current Syllabi

The Master’s Capstone Seminar is a course in which students complete a major research project to demonstrate their mastery of the research process, analytical skills, and ability to produce a well-written and properly cited paper that contributes to the body of knowledge in their field of study. This 16-week course provides sufficient time and opportunity for students to apply their advanced research and analytic skills to a topic relevant to the Intelligence study program and of sufficient U.S. or international security interest.

In addition to the institutional and degree level learning outcomes objectives, the Master of Arts in Intelligence Studies assumes that students have mastered and applied the concepts of the Program objectives and will be able to:

  • Analyze classical and alternative theories of international relations, the heritage and development of the discipline, and the major debates concerning world order, diplomacy, and international law underlying its inherent nature as an interdisciplinary study within the field of political science.
  • Evaluate the changing role of the state in the context of globalization, regionalism, and security, including the impact of non-state actors, competing interests, and emerging norms within international systems.
  • Assess the nature and distribution of economic, political, and military resources in the context of interdependence and delimited by cultural, social, and historical issues.
  • Distinguish the interactions of state, non-state, and supra-national actors through a dynamic appreciation of contemporary issues and differing levels of analysis.
  • Examine the major theories of conflict and change within the context of globalization and the role of traditional and emerging norms and institutions in the pacific settlement of disputes, human rights, and environmental issues.

Students are expected to work with their instructor, following the guidance offered by the structure of the course and the instructor’s mentorship as students complete the requisite components of the research project. Students should not expect to submit a final product at the end of the course without having completed each stage of the research process as outlined in the assignments below.

Please note: The language in the evaluation procedures section is a compilation from the APUS End of Program Assessment Manual for Graduate Studies. Some passages are verbatim from the Manual. For clarity, these passages have not been specifically identified as quoted passages but are integrated into the syllabus. The student should read this syllabus in conjunction with the End of Program Assessment Manual.

The course grade is based on the following assessments:

Discussion Forums – 1 percent

Discussion questions will be provided and posts should reflect an assimilation of the readings and respond to the assigned topic(s). Students are required to provide a substantive initial post by Thursday at 11:55 pm ET and respond to two or more classmates by Sunday 11:55 pm ET. Forum posts are graded on timeliness, relevance, knowledge of the weekly readings, and the quality of original ideas.

Proposed Research Question and Purpose Statement – 0 percent (this grade will be assigned with the final research question submission)

This element is submitted through Assignments for review by the instructor who will also provide feedback and any “course corrections” to focus the project feedback. The components of this assignment include a research question and a purpose and design statement. It must contain at least eight sources, at least six of which must be peer-reviewed. The specific research question should be of depth and breadth required for a major project. Length: 3 pages (proposal title page and reference list is never included in the page length).

Final Research Question and Purpose Statement – 1 percent

This element is a revision of the above assignment based on instructor critique and peer-interaction in the discussion forums. The components of this assignment include a research question and a purpose and design statement. It must contain at least eight sources, at least six of which must be peer-reviewed. The specific research question should be of depth and breadth required for a major project. Length: 3 pages (proposal title and references is never included within the page length).

Thesis Proposal – 1 percent

A formal proposal shall be prepared in accordance with the standards of the academic discipline. The formal proposal must provide a clear and lucid description of a question or problem and a proposed method of answering the question or solving the problem. The instructor must approve the proposal before students move on to the next stage of the process.

The proposal should explain the question or problem to be investigated and convince the thesis instructor that the question or problem merits investigation. It should show that the student has read the relevant and recent literature on the subject and it should contain a list of academically appropriate resources consulted during the preliminary stages of research.

In general, the thesis proposal should include background information related to the research topic, purpose of the research, methodology, and analytic procedures to be used. Proposal drafting is considered a learning process and helps students avoid oversights and possible mistakes. The formal proposal should not exceed five (5) pages (proposal title page and references not included). Length: 5 pages.

Literature Review—2 percent

This section contains a narrative summary of the major sources that inform the research topic. The articles under review must be peer-reviewed articles, scholarly texts, or other appropriate sources and websites. The literature review is not an annotated bibliography or a “laundry list” of reviewed articles. It should capture the issues in the research topic and be organized thematically and be written as a narrative essay. At the end of this review, students should remind the reader that the research question has still not been adequately answered and there is more research to conduct, which is the purpose of the project! The review should include 20 or more sources and include a list of complete citations. Length: 12-18 pages in length not including title page or references.

Methodology – 1 percent

This section of your paper provides the reader with a description of how you are planning to conduct research. It explains what research approach you have chosen, and why. It describes any special considerations and defines any limitations and terms specific to this project, if necessary. If you are using any specific research measures (like interview or survey questions) you would include these as an appendices. This section will range from 5-8 pages.

This section should go beyond the unhelpful description of "this research paper uses a qualitative/quantitative/mixed research method." You will need to clearly describe and explain the research method in use, how you chose any cases under investigation, how you intend to measure your variables, how you will carry out your research (including both the collection and assessment of data), and how you will draw your conclusions. You will draw from you research proposal as a starting point since this should have been briefly covered in your week 4 submission.

Capstone Thesis Project — 84 percent

Based on your prior submissions, the capstone thesis project will reflect the substantive elements developed and approved throughout the capstone course, representing a partnership between the student and the instructor. The thesis should include all substantive sections of the paper in their entirety, in addition to the final remaining sections. The assignment is not meant to be an outline of what the student will write for the final capstone thesis but rather the thesis in its complete form. It must contain in-text citations in Turabian parenthetical style and include the complete citations in the List of References. Examples of successful capstone papers are available in the classroom to illustrate structures and formats that may vary depending on the research question and methodology in use. Keep in mind that appropriate stylistic formatting and documentation are the student’s responsibility. Student papers that do not follow the prescribed style rules will not be accepted. All declarations, appendices, metadata, and submission information as outlined in the End of Program Graduate Assessment Manual shall be part of the capstone thesis project. Length: 50-65 pages excluding front matter, references and appendices.

Library Ready Package – 10 percent

This package should include your “Library Ready” thesis. This includes your revised thesis and thesis submission form. Your library ready thesis should address all comments made on your capstone thesis project and have all grammatical, referencing, and formatting errors resolved. Student papers that do not follow the prescribed style rules will not be accepted. All declarations, appendices, metadata, and submission information as outlined in the End of Program Graduate Assessment Manual shall be part of the library ready thesis. Length: 50-65 pages excluding front matter, references and appendices.

NameGrade %
Discussion Forums 1.00 %
Week 3 Forum 0.25 %
Week 5 Forum 0.25 %
Week 7 Forum 0.25 %
Week 11 Forum 0.25 %
Final Research Question and Purpose Statement 1.00 %
Final Research Question 1.00 %
Paper Proposal 1.00 %
Thesis Proposal 1.00 %
Literature Review 2.00 %
Literature Review 2.00 %
Methodology 1.00 %
Research Design and Methods Section 1.00 %
Capstone Paper 84.00 %
Capstone Paper 84.00 %
Library Package 10.00 %
Library Package 10.00 %

Suggested Resources

Bui, Yvonne N. 2014. How to Write a Master’s Thesis. 2nd ed. SAGE Publications, Inc.

Saldaña, Johnny. 2016. The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers. Sage.

Turabian, Kate.2013. A Manual for Writers of Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Eighth Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Flick, Uwe, ed. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis. London: SAGE Publications Ltd., 2014. doi: - general book on qualitative research methods.

Hahn, Christopher. Doing Qualitative Research Using Your Computer. London: SAGE Publications, Ltd., 2008. doi:

- Has guidance on coding using tools like MS Word.

Halfpenny, Peter and Rob Procter. 2015. Innovations in Digital Research Methods. Sage.

Hardy, Melissa, and Alan Bryman, eds. Handbook of Data Analysis. London, England: SAGE Publications, Ltd., 2004. doi: - general book on data analysis.

Most students will complete the capstone course with a very well-written research paper, and one that with more effort, could be transformed into a journal article fit for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. The book below will help students do just that.

Belcher, Wendy Laura. 2009. Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success. Sage.

Additional Resources and Web Sites

Videos and web sites are available within the classroom under the Lessons tabs and through the university electronic library.

Book Title:Various resources from the APUS Library & the Open Web are used. Links provided inside the classroom.
Author:No Author Specified

Previous Syllabi

Not current for future courses.