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First Year PhD 
International Relations and Diplomacy Objectives

The first year of a PhD program in International Relations (IR) is designed to lay a strong foundation in both theoretical and methodological aspects of the field. Here are the key objectives typically associated with the first year:

1. Develop a Solid Theoretical Foundation

  • Understanding Core Theories: Gain in-depth knowledge of the major IR theories, such as Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism, Marxism, Feminism, and Post-Colonialism 

  • Critical Analysis: Learn to critically analyze and compare these theories, understanding their applications and limitations in explaining international phenomena.

2. Methodological Training

  • Research Methods: Acquire proficiency in qualitative and quantitative research methods. This includes learning techniques such as case study analysis, statistical methods, ethnography, and archival research 

  • Research Design: Understand the principles of designing robust research projects, including hypothesis formulation, operationalization of variables, and data collection strategies.

3. Literature Review and Research Skills

  • Comprehensive Literature Review: Conduct comprehensive literature reviews to identify gaps in existing research and establish a theoretical and empirical basis for your own research .

  • Information Literacy: Develop skills in locating, evaluating, and synthesizing scholarly sources, including the use of academic databases and citation management tools.

4. Developing a Research Proposal

  • Proposal Writing: Begin to formulate a detailed research proposal, outlining the research questions, theoretical framework, methodology, and expected contributions to the field .

  • Feedback and Refinement: Present the proposal to faculty and peers for feedback and refinement.

5. Academic Writing and Communication

  • Writing Skills: Enhance academic writing skills, focusing on clarity, coherence, and argumentation. This includes writing seminar papers, research proposals, and potentially journal articles .

  • Presentation Skills: Develop skills in presenting research findings to academic and non-academic audiences, including the use of visual aids and effective communication techniques.

6. Engagement with the Academic Community

  • Seminars and Workshops: Participate actively in departmental seminars, workshops, and conferences to engage with ongoing research and scholarly debates .

  • Networking: Start building a professional network with faculty, peers, and other scholars in the field of International Relations.

7. Ethics and Professionalism

  • Research Ethics: Understand the ethical considerations in conducting research, particularly in international contexts, including issues related to human subjects, confidentiality, and intellectual property .

  • Professional Conduct: Develop a sense of professionalism, including time management, academic integrity, and collaboration.

The first year of a PhD program in International Relations at the United States Institute of Leadership and Diplomacy is crucial for building the necessary theoretical, methodological, and practical skills required for advanced research. By the end of the first year, students should be well-prepared to embark on their own research projects with a clear understanding of the academic and professional standards in the field.

First Year PhD Curriculum in International Relations and Diplomacy

The first year of a PhD program in International Relations (IR) and Diplomacy is designed to provide a comprehensive foundation in both theoretical and methodological aspects of the discipline, along with practical skills and scholarly engagement. Here is a detailed curriculum outline:

Semester 1: Foundational Theories and Methods

Course 1: Core Theories of International Relations

  • Description: This course covers major IR theories including Realism, Liberalism, Constructivism, Marxism, Feminism, and Post-Colonialism.

  • Objectives: Understand and critique various theoretical perspectives, analyze their applications in contemporary international issues.

  • Reading List:

    • Waltz, Kenneth. Theory of International Politics.

    • Wendt, Alexander. Social Theory of International Politics.

    • Keohane, Robert. After Hegemony.

Course 2: Research Methods in International Relations

  • Description: An introduction to qualitative and quantitative research methods in IR.

  • Objectives: Gain proficiency in designing research projects, conducting statistical analysis, and employing qualitative techniques.

  • Reading List:

    • King, Gary, Keohane, Robert O., and Verba, Sidney. Designing Social Inquiry.

    • Creswell, John W. Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches.

Course 3: International Law and Organizations

  • Description: Exploration of the role of international law and organizations in global governance.

  • Objectives: Understand the legal frameworks governing international relations and the functions of key international organizations.

  • Reading List:

    • Abbott, Kenneth W., and Snidal, Duncan. The Governance Triangle: Regulatory Standards, Institutions and the Shadow of the State.

    • Finnemore, Martha, and Sikkink, Kathryn. International Norm Dynamics and Political Change.

Workshop 1: Academic Writing and Presentation Skills

  • Description: Develop skills for academic writing and presenting research findings.

  • Objectives: Enhance clarity and coherence in writing, learn effective presentation techniques.

  • Activities: Writing exercises, peer reviews, presentation practice sessions.

Semester 2: Advanced Topics and Research Design

Course 4: Advanced Topics in International Relations Theory

  • Description: In-depth exploration of advanced theoretical debates and emerging perspectives in IR.

  • Objectives: Critically engage with contemporary theoretical debates, develop original theoretical contributions.

  • Reading List:

    • Buzan, Barry, and Little, Richard. International Systems in World History.

    • Acharya, Amitav, and Buzan, Barry. The Making of Global International Relations.

Course 5: Diplomacy and Foreign Policy Analysis

  • Description: Study of the theory and practice of diplomacy and the analysis of foreign policy decision-making.

  • Objectives: Understand the processes and strategies involved in diplomatic negotiations and foreign policy formulation.

  • Reading List:

    • Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy.

    • Hudson, Valerie M. Foreign Policy Analysis: Classic and Contemporary Theory.

Course 6: Global Political Economy

  • Description: Examination of the global economic structures and their impact on international relations.

  • Objectives: Analyze the intersection of economics and politics in the global arena, understand economic policies and their implications.

  • Reading List:

    • Gilpin, Robert. Global Political Economy: Understanding the International Economic Order.

    • Strange, Susan. States and Markets.

Workshop 2: Research Proposal Development

  • Description: Guided development of a research proposal for the PhD dissertation.

  • Objectives:  Formulate a research question, design a methodological framework, and outline the theoretical and empirical contributions.

  • Activities:  Proposal writing, feedback sessions, peer reviews.

Additional Requirements

Seminar Series: Current Issues in International Relations and Diplomacy

  • Description: Regular seminars featuring guest speakers on contemporary international issues.

  • Objectives: Engage with ongoing research, broaden understanding of current global challenges.

  • Activities: Attending seminars, participating in discussions, writing reflection papers.

Comprehensive Exam Preparation

  • Description: Preparation for comprehensive exams to be taken at the end of the first year.

  • Objectives: Demonstrate mastery of the core areas of IR and Diplomacy covered in the first year.

  • Activities: Review sessions, mock exams, study groups.

Assessment Methods

  • Coursework: Essays, research papers, and presentations for each course.

  • Workshops: Participation and submission of writing exercises and research proposals.

  • Comprehensive Exam: Written and oral exams covering the core theoretical and methodological areas.

  • Seminar Participation: Attendance and active participation in seminars, along with reflection papers.

The first year of a PhD program in International Relations and Diplomacy is designed to equip students with the theoretical knowledge, research skills, and practical expertise necessary for advanced research. By the end of the first year, students will have a solid foundation to pursue their dissertation research and contribute original insights to the field of International Relations and Diplomacy.

Annual Hours  for the First Year PhD

The number of hours for the first year of a PhD program in International Relations and Diplomacy at the United States Institute of Leadership and Diplomacy involves a careful balance between coursework, research, and professional development activities. Below is a structured outline including coursework, seminars, and independent study, totaling approximately 1,500 hours for the academic year. This assumes a full-time commitment and a standard academic calendar.

Total Annual Hours: 1,500

Breakdown of Hours:

  1. Core Coursework: 600 hours

  2. Research and Dissertation Preparation: 400 hours

  3. Seminars and Workshops: 200 hours

  4. Professional Development and Teaching: 150 hours

  5. Independent Study and Reading: 150 hours

1. Core Coursework: 600 hours

Typically, PhD programs require students to complete core and elective courses during the first year. Each course is 3 credits, with an expected 150 hours of effort per course (including class time, reading, assignments, and exam preparation).

Course Load:

  • Fall Semester:

    • Course 1: Theories of International Relations (150 hours)

    • Course 2: Research Methods in International Relations (150 hours)

    • Course 3: International Law and Global Governance (150 hours)

  • Spring Semester:

    • Course 4: Global Political Economy (150 hours)

    • Course 5: Foreign Policy Analysis (150 hours)

    • Course 6: Elective or Special Topics in International Relations (150 hours)

2. Research and Dissertation Preparation: 400 hours

Students begin developing their dissertation topics and conducting preliminary research during the first year. This includes formulating research questions, conducting literature reviews, and drafting research proposals.

  • Fall Semester:

    • Initial Literature Review: 100 hours

    • Research Question Development: 50 hours

    • Preliminary Data Collection and Analysis: 50 hours

  • Spring Semester:

    • Continued Literature Review: 50 hours

    • Research Proposal Writing: 100 hours

    • Feedback and Revision: 50 hours

3. Seminars and Workshops: 200 hours

Attendance at departmental seminars, research workshops, and conferences is essential for academic and professional development.

  • Weekly Seminars and Colloquia:

    • 2 hours per week x 30 weeks = 60 hours

  • Specialized Workshops (e.g., grant writing, public speaking):

    • 3 workshops per semester, 5 hours each = 30 hours per semester

    • Total: 60 hours

  • Academic Conferences:

    • Participation in at least one major conference (attendance and travel): 40 hours

  • Professional Networking Events:

    • Departmental and interdisciplinary events: 40 hours

4. Professional Development and Teaching: 150 hours

Professional development activities prepare students for future academic and non-academic careers. This includes teaching assistantships, pedagogical training, and career workshops.

  • Teaching Assistantships:

    • Assisting in undergraduate courses: 5 hours per week x 15 weeks per semester = 150 hours

5. Independent Study and Reading: 150 hours

Independent study allows students to explore topics beyond the classroom and stay current with the latest research.

  • Independent Reading and Study:

    • Reading academic journals, books, and reports: 5 hours per week x 30 weeks = 150 hours


Weekly Schedule:

Fall Semester:

  • Monday:

    • 9:00-12:00: Course 1 Lecture and Discussion (3 hours)

    • 13:00-16:00: Independent Study and Reading (3 hours)

  • Tuesday:

    • 9:00-12:00: Course 2 Lecture and Discussion (3 hours)

    • 13:00-16:00: Teaching Assistantship (3 hours)

  • Wednesday:

    • 10:00-12:00: Departmental Seminar (2 hours)

    • 13:00-15:00: Literature Review and Research (2 hours)

  • Thursday:

    • 9:00-12:00: Course 3 Lecture and Discussion (3 hours)

    • 13:00-16:00: Preliminary Data Collection (3 hours)

  • Friday:

    • 9:00-12:00: Writing and Proposal Development (3 hours)

    • 13:00-16:00: Specialized Workshop/Professional Development (3 hours)

  • Saturday:

    • Open for conference attendance, additional reading, or catch-up work.

This structured schedule ensures that PhD students in International Relations and Diplomacy at USILD can balance their coursework, research, professional development, and independent study effectively, totaling approximately 1,500 hours for the first academic year.

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