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Maxwell School
Maxwell / International Relations Program

Welcome to the International Relations Distinction Program

The Distinction Program enables students majoring in International Relations to engage in an enhanced research and mentoring experience.  Distinction candidates are required to produce a research project of substantially superior quality and longer length than the capstone research project required of all International Relations majors. As with the capstone, the Distinction research project must combine the student’s topic and region concentrations. In addition, the Distinction Program aims to provide young scholars with the skills and support needed to produce an original analysis based on primary sources or fieldwork, as appropriate, suitable for presentation at an academic conference or for publication in an undergraduate social science academic journal (Publication Opportunities).

For more information, please read our Distinction Program FAQs

Eligibility for Distinction

Students are invited to join the Distinction Program after a careful review of the academic preparation of all declared IR majors.  Minimum requirements for selection are:

  • Junior standing (minimum 54 credits accrued) with preference given to those with senior standing
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.4
  • International Relations major GPA of 3.5
  • Successful completion of a social science research methods course with a grade of C or better
  • Significant progress toward completion of major requirements, including topic and region concentration coursework
  • Students must demonstrate a commitment to academic integrity

Candidates who exceed the minimum eligibility requirements may be invited by the International Relations faculty to consider enrolling in the Distinction Program in International Relations.

2017 Distinction ClassRequirements for Distinction

  • Supervision by an IR-affiliated faculty member of the design and execution of a suitable research project (typically the instructor of the distinction seminar)
  • Successful completion of a designated Distinction seminar appropriate to topic and region concentrations, with a grade of B or better
  • Successful presentation of the research project in a public forum or conference
  • Acceptance of a Distinction capstone research project of at least 6,000 words by the International Relations Curriculum Committee
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.4 and IR GPA of 3.5 at time of degree certification

Research Methods Course Requirement

To complete such an in-depth research project successfully, students need adequate training in research design and methods. Therefore, all International Relations majors pursuing Distinction are required to take a research methods course, preferably in line with their chosen topic concentration and proposed Distinction research project. For example, Distinction candidates with a topic concentratin in Intercultural Communication (ICC) would take a research methods course in Anthropology or Sociology. Research methods course selection should occur in consultation with an academic advisor in the International Relations Program.  Courses that meet the research methods requirement include:

  • ANT 484 Social Movement Research Methods
  • ECN 422 Introduction to Statistics and Econometrics
  • ECN 521 Economic Statistics
  • GEO 383 Geographic Information Systems
  • GEO 386 Quantitative Geographic Analysis
  • MAX 201 Quantitative Methods for the Social Sciences
  • PSC 202 Introduction to Political Analysis
  • SOC 318 Introduction to Research
  • SOC 319 Qualitative Methods in Sociology

Distinction Program and Renée Crown Honors Program

Candidacy for Distinction in International Relations is compatible with work in the Renée Crown University Honors Program. The Distinction thesis may form part of the material submitted in an Honors capstone, subject to the approval of both the IR Distinction seminar instructor and of the Honors advisor.  Students pursuing the Honors program and the IR Distinction will need to register for both the Distinction Seminar and IRP 499 Honors in International Relations.  Students interested in combining Honors and Distinction in International Relations should explore these options prior to entering the Distinction Program with the Director of Undergraduate Studies in International Relations. 

Please note that the IR Distinction thesis may not be submitted for Distinction in any other major academic program.