IR Doctoral Proseminar

This course is part of doctoral education. Education in its truest sense is a process of allowing students to draw out from themselves greater effort and potential. Doctoral education applies that objective to students who are engaged in the process of acquiring a credential that will enable them to present themselves as someone who has certifiably produced a quantum of original research (that is, a Ph.D. based on a research dissertation). In that sense, doctoral education is a combination of that truest sense of education and also a trade degree just as much as any vocational certificate. (There’s a reason you’ll occasionally hear people refer to a doctorate as a “union card”.)

As part of a professional credential and the modern equivalent of apprenticeship in this field, doctoral education in a discipline should leave you more familiar with the discipline’s folkways and folklore as well as the content of the discipline, its methods, and its standards. In this course, that means introducing you to the major academic debates in International Relations, major journals and scholarly book presses, and the standards that contemporary political scientists are expected to meet to gain employment. 

As an introductory course, this class will be resolutely engaged in showing you breadth rather than depth. You will not find everything we encounter to your taste; you may wish that we would have spent weeks on something I relegate to a single week, or less. That is the nature of the introductory buffet. You have a lifetime to specialize; I have a semester to introduce you to the field. You will soon learn, in fact, that a career as a scholar means a constant trade-off between where to attain satisfactory and where to display superlative performance.

The course will not rigorously adhere to any particular point of view, aside from a rejection of antiquated obsessions with “paradigms” (identified as realism versus liberalism). That is not because I am methodologically, philosophically, or substantively “eclectic”, but rather because introducing you to the breadth of a field means introducing you to a breadth of methods, empirical approaches, and substantive topics. Regardless of your later choices in specialty, you should be minimally conversant with different approaches to the field.

Finally, the course will include readings, discussions, and exercises meant to help you orientate yourself to the discipline. This is a core part of the course, as learning skills, facts, and folklore about the discipline is part of your socialization.