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2nd Year - PhD in International Relations & Diplomacy

United States Institute of Leadership and Diplomacy

The second year of a PhD program in International Relations and Diplomacy at the United States Institute of Leadership and Diplomacy is crucial for advancing from foundational coursework to more specialized research. During this period, students are expected to deepen their theoretical understanding, develop methodological expertise, and begin significant work on their dissertation. Here are the key objectives for the second year:

1. Advanced Specialization

  • Objective: To deepen the student’s knowledge in their specific area of interest within International Relations and Diplomacy.

  • Description: Students will take advanced courses and seminars that focus on specialized topics related to their dissertation research. This might include areas such as global governance, security studies, regional studies, international political economy, human rights, or environmental diplomacy.

2. Research Methodology Proficiency

  • Objective: To equip students with advanced research skills and methodologies necessary for their dissertation.

  • Description: Courses and workshops on qualitative and quantitative research methods, data analysis, case study methods, archival research, and fieldwork techniques. Students will learn to design and conduct robust research, ensuring methodological rigor in their dissertation.

3. Comprehensive Exams Preparation

  • Objective: To prepare students for comprehensive exams, which assess their grasp of key concepts, theories, and methodologies in International Relations and Diplomacy.

  • Description: Students will review and integrate knowledge from their coursework and readings, often through intensive study sessions and practice exams. Comprehensive exams typically cover major theories, methodological approaches, and specialized knowledge in the student's research area.

4. Dissertation Proposal Development

  • Objective: To develop a clear, feasible, and significant dissertation proposal.

  • Description: Under the guidance of a faculty advisor, students will refine their research questions, conduct literature reviews, and outline their research design and methodology. The proposal should articulate the research problem, its relevance, theoretical framework, and planned research methods.

5. Engagement with Scholarly Community

  • Objective: To integrate into the scholarly community and begin contributing to academic discourse.

  • Description: Students will attend and present at academic conferences, participate in departmental seminars, and engage with professional networks. They might also begin to publish articles in peer-reviewed journals, sharing preliminary findings and theoretical insights.

6. Teaching and Academic Service Experience

  • Objective: To gain experience in teaching and academic service, which are important components of academic careers.

  • Description: Students may serve as teaching assistants or instructors for undergraduate courses, helping to develop their pedagogical skills. They might also participate in departmental committees or contribute to academic journals, gaining insights into academic administration and peer review processes.

7. Fieldwork and Data Collection Planning

  • Objective: To plan and prepare for any fieldwork or data collection required for the dissertation.

  • Description: If the research involves fieldwork, the second year is a time to plan logistics, obtain necessary approvals (such as Institutional Review Board (IRB) clearance), and develop data collection instruments. This might include preparing for interviews, surveys, or archival research.

8. Professional Development

  • Objective: To prepare for post-PhD career opportunities in academia, government, international organizations, or the private sector.

  • Description: Workshops and seminars on professional skills, such as grant writing, academic publishing, job market preparation, and career planning. Networking opportunities with alumni and professionals in the field are also important.

The second year of a PhD program in International Relations and Diplomacy is designed to transition students from coursework to independent research, laying the groundwork for their dissertation and future academic or professional careers. By focusing on advanced specialization, methodological rigor, and professional development, students are prepared to contribute original research to the field of International Relations and Diplomacy.

2nd Year PhD Program Overview 

International Relations and Diplomacy

Second-year PhD course in International Relations and Diplomacy involves creating a curriculum that enhances students' specialized knowledge, research skills, and professional competencies, and preparing for dissertation work. Here is a detailed outline for a course titled "Advanced Research and Theory in International Relations and Diplomacy, " including key topics, assignments, and references.

Course Title:

Advanced Research and Theory in International Relations and Diplomacy


Course Objectives:

  1. Deepen Theoretical Knowledge: Enhance understanding of advanced theories in International Relations (IR) and Diplomacy.

  2. Develop Research Skills: Equip students with advanced research methodologies and techniques.

  3. Prepare for Dissertation: Guide students in developing their dissertation proposals.

  4. Professional Engagement: Foster engagement with the scholarly community and develop professional skills.

Course Structure:

The course is structured into four main modules, each focusing on different aspects of advanced research and theory. Each module spans approximately 4-5 weeks, culminating in a major assessment or project.

Module 1:

Advanced Theoretical Frameworks

  • Duration: Weeks 1-4

  • Content:

    • In-depth study of contemporary and classical IR theories (realism, liberalism, constructivism, Marxism, feminism, post-colonialism, critical theory).

    • Application of these theories to current global issues.

    • Exploration of interdisciplinary approaches linking IR with other fields (e.g., sociology, economics, law).

  • Assessment:

    • Comparative essay analyzing two or more IR theories in the context of a contemporary issue (e.g., climate change, global security).

  • References:

    • Burchill, S., Linklater, A., Devetak, R., Donnelly, J., Paterson, M., Reus-Smit, C., & True, J. (2013). Theories of International Relations (5th ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Dunne, T., Kurki, M., & Smith, S. (Eds.). (2016). International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity (4th ed.). Oxford University Press.


Module 2:

Research Methodologies in IR and Diplomacy

  • Duration: Weeks 5-9

  • Content:

    • Advanced qualitative methods: case studies, ethnography, discourse analysis.

    • Advanced quantitative methods: regression analysis, statistical modeling, big data analytics.

    • Mixed-methods research designs.

    • Ethical considerations in research.

  • Workshops: Hands-on sessions using software tools for data analysis (e.g., NVivo, SPSS, Stata).

  • Assessment:

    • Research design proposal outlining a mixed-methods approach to a specific research question.

  • References:

    • Lamont, C. (2015). Research Methods in International Relations. Sage Publications.

    • Klotz, A., & Prakash, D. (Eds.). (2008). Qualitative Methods in International Relations: A Pluralist Guide. Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Creswell, J. W., & Creswell, J. D. (2017). Research Design: Qualitative, Quantitative, and Mixed Methods Approaches (5th ed.). Sage Publications.

Module 3:

Dissertation Proposal Development

  • Duration: Weeks 10-14

  • Content:

    • Crafting a research question and hypothesis.

    • Conducting a comprehensive literature review.

    • Defining research objectives and methodology.

    • Structuring a dissertation proposal.

  • Seminars: Peer review sessions for dissertation proposals.

  • Assessment:

    • Fully developed dissertation proposal, including research question, literature review, methodology, and expected contributions to the field.

  • References:

    • Booth, W. C., Colomb, G. G., & Williams, J. M. (2016). The Craft of Research (4th ed.). University of Chicago Press.

    • Yin, R. K. (2017). Case Study Research and Applications: Design and Methods (6th ed.). Sage Publications.

    • Ridley, D. (2012). The Literature Review: A Step-by-Step Guide for Students (2nd ed.). Sage Publications.


Module 4:

Professional Development and Scholarly Engagement

  • Duration: Weeks 15-19

  • Content:

    • Writing for academic journals and preparing conference papers.

    • Networking strategies and professional engagement in academic and policy communities.

    • Career planning: academia, government, international organizations, and the private sector.

    • Preparing for comprehensive exams.

  • Workshops: Sessions on public speaking, grant writing, and job market preparation.

  • Assessment:

    • Professional development portfolio, including a draft journal article, conference paper, and career development plan.

  • References:

    • Belcher, W. L. (2019). Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks: A Guide to Academic Publishing Success (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press.

    • Gordon, A. (2014). The PhD Survival Guide: Expert Tips for International Students. Palgrave Macmillan.

    • Harman, G., & Harman, K. (2010). Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research (Vol. 25). Springer.

Capstone Project

  • Duration: Ongoing, culminating in Week 20

  • Content:

    • Independent research project relevant to the student's dissertation topic.

    • Integration of theoretical, methodological, and practical insights gained throughout the course.

  • Presentation: Students present their capstone projects in a mini-conference format, receiving feedback from peers and faculty.

  • Assessment:

    • Comprehensive research paper and oral presentation.

Course Schedule

First Semester:

  1. Advanced Theoretical Frameworks

  2. Research Methodologies in IR and Diplomacy

Second Semester:

  1. Dissertation Proposal Development

  2. Professional Development and Scholarly Engagement

Evaluation and Grading

  • Comparative Essay (Module 1): 20%

  • Research Design Proposal (Module 2): 20%

  • Dissertation Proposal (Module 3): 30%

  • Professional Development Portfolio (Module 4): 10%

  • Capstone Project (Final): 20%

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of key theories and debates in International Relations and Diplomacy.

  2. Apply sophisticated research methodologies to complex questions in IR.

  3. Develop a coherent and feasible dissertation proposal.

  4. Engage professionally with the academic and policy-making community.

  5. Prepare effectively for comprehensive exams and future career opportunities.


This course is designed to ensure that second-year PhD students in International Relations and Diplomacy are well-prepared for the challenges of their dissertation research and future professional endeavors.

2nd Year PhD Program Total Annual Hours

Establishing the number of hours for the second year of a PhD program in International Relations and Diplomacy at the USILD involves a shift from coursework to more focused research, dissertation work, and professional development. The following breakdown assumes a full-time commitment and follows a standard academic calendar, totaling approximately 1,500 hours for the academic year.

Total Annual Hours: 1,500

Breakdown of Hours:

  1. Advanced Coursework and Seminars: 300 hours

  2. Research and Dissertation Work: 700 hours

  3. Teaching and Academic Service: 200 hours

  4. Professional Development and Conferences: 150 hours

  5. Independent Study and Reading: 150 hours

1. Advanced Coursework and Seminars: 300 hours

While the second year focuses more on research, some advanced seminars and specialized courses continue.

  • Advanced Seminars and Specialized Courses:

    • Typically 1-2 courses per semester.

    • Each course/seminar: 75 hours (including lectures, reading, and assignments).

    • Total: 2 courses x 75 hours each = 150 hours per semester.

  • Fall and Spring Semesters:

    • 150 hours per semester x 2 semesters = 300 hours.

2. Research and Dissertation Work: 700 hours

The primary focus in the second year is on dissertation research and writing.

  • Fall Semester:

    • Literature Review and Theoretical Framework: 100 hours

    • Data Collection and Fieldwork: 150 hours

    • Data Analysis and Interpretation: 100 hours

  • Spring Semester:

    • Continued Data Collection and Analysis: 150 hours

    • Dissertation Writing (Chapters 1-3): 150 hours

    • Revisions and Feedback: 50 hours

  • Total for Year: 700 hours

3. Teaching and Academic Service: 200 hours

PhD students often take on teaching responsibilities and participate in academic service activities.

  • Teaching Assistantships or Lectures:

    • 5 hours per week x 15 weeks per semester = 75 hours per semester

    • Total: 75 hours per semester x 2 semesters = 150 hours.

  • Academic Service (e.g., committee work, peer reviewing):

    • 50 hours per year.

4. Professional Development and Conferences: 150 hours

Engaging with the academic community and enhancing professional skills are key components.

  • Conferences and Workshops:

    • Attending and presenting at conferences: 40 hours

    • Professional development workshops (e.g., grant writing, job market preparation): 40 hours

  • Networking and Engagement:

    • Departmental and interdisciplinary events: 70 hours

5. Independent Study and Reading: 150 hours

Continuous engagement with current literature and independent research is crucial.

  • 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: Advanced Seminar 1 (3 hours)

    • 13:00-16:00: Dissertation Literature Review (3 hours)

  • Tuesday:

    • 9:00-12:00: Data Collection/Fieldwork (3 hours)

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

  • Wednesday:

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

    • 13:00-16:00: Data Analysis (3 hours)

  • Thursday:

    • 9:00-12:00: Advanced Seminar 2 (3 hours)

    • 13:00-16:00: Dissertation Writing (3 hours)

  • Friday:

    • 9:00-12:00: Professional Development Workshop (3 hours)

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

  • Saturday:

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

This structured schedule ensures that second-year PhD students in International Relations and Diplomacy can effectively balance their advanced coursework, intensive research, teaching responsibilities, professional development, and independent study, totaling approximately 1,500 hours for the academic year.

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