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Prospective IR/CP Schools *Not a "Rate my Chances"*


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Hey everyone, new poster here! 

 

I would like to get suggestions on schools that might be "good fits". I have an interest in pursuing a Ph.D. in either IR, CP, or both. I am comfortable with both quant and qual research methods. I am interested regionally in the Middle East, more specifically on the Mediterranean countries of the Middle East. Topic wise, I have an interest in the catalytic factors (domestic and external) of violent internal conflict and civil unrest, particularly why certain types of conflicts happen in certain areas at certain times. 

 

I've done a fair amount of research on schools thus far and typically when I've found faculty members with seemingly promising research interests, on further investigation I seem to find that many are more often just interested in conducting public opinion surveys and examining institutional corruption. I understand that those are important, but I'd like to also look at factors like geopolitics, domestic and international economy, colonial legacies, institutional structure, cultural particularities, etc. 

 

Any suggestions on where I might best be able to pursue this kind of work or directions to relevant threads would be great. 

 

Here's a little background if it might be useful: 

Current UG Year: Junior 

Majors: Political Science and Economics

GPA: 3.9 (4.0 in upper-division courses)  

School: Unheard-of LAC

Languages: Spanish (reading and writing proficiency) and Modern Standard Arabic (very basic knowledge)  

Misc. Items of merit:

Currently revising paper for presentation at regional conference

RA to Chair of Poli Sci dept.   

College honors program

Extensive campus leadership experience

 

Thanks! 

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just an update on this, I have found faculty members at Yale, Duke, Michigan, MIT, UNC-Chapel Hill, and Columbia with whom I feel I could be compatible. If anyone could provide insight on whether or not those programs strike you as being well-fitted, at least pertaining to research, I would be truly grateful. 

 

Secondly, is it a death trap to market yourself as having an area-specific interest when applying to IR programs? I have heard that this is the case and that I should focus more on emphasizing my interest in a phenomenon, regardless of location, instead of framing it within a certain geographic area. Thoughts? 

 

*Side-note: After looking back through my post, I apologize if I sounded dismissive when I said certain professors are 'just' interested in conducting public opinion surveys, etc... This was not at all my intention and I have no desire to make judgement calls about anyone's choice of methodology.  

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Actually, knowing your preferred methodology can be important. Don't apologize for knowing where your interests lie. Like you said though, just don't let it allow you to disparage the work of others (which it sounds like you didn't, so there you go!). 

If you found faculty members of interest, then that's always a good sign. Great tip that really helped me a ton when I was searching: try to talk to people who know your field of interest! Academia's a small world. The schools you're talking about are powerhouses in Political Science, which means that these faculty you're referring to are likely going to be well-known in their sub-fields. If you're at an "unheard of LAC," then find a larger school nearby whose faculty seem to have compatible research interests. Email them and present your situation, tell them you're looking to make the most out of grad school choices, and see if they'd like to have an informational meeting. You'd be surprised how accessible professors can be (sometimes). 

Also don't discount profs at LAC's or smaller schools. Remember that in the context of the academic job market, these are still most likely people who came out of grad school with some sort of research agenda. They might also know people or at least know about their work.

In terms of framing, if your interests are in a geographic area then don't lie about it. These are academics. They can draw connections. If your research question is good, they'll pay attention to your application. Also, don't forget that your statement has to line up with your experience: if you did RA work or wrote a paper focusing on the Middle East, you'd be insane not to at least include that theme in your statement. You're trying to sell yourself as a researcher who knows his s*it, not necessarily someone who's coming in with a theoretically groundbreaking dissertation prospectus (which is what the study of "generalizable phenomena" ultimately entails). 

If nothing else, I'd seriously consider at least using your geographic interests to illustrate the phenomenon you're interested in studying. Again, it'll signal that you've seriously thought about the question, and that you're not just some kid who read two articles in APSR and started tossing around ideas. But that's just my opinion; no one can give you gospel on what to do and what not to do. 


Hope that helps. You seem like you know what you're doing for the most part.



 

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I'd say specific area interests are more common on the comp. politics side of the divide, so it might be in your interest to do a CP/IR combination and emphasize the CP. Beyond that, I'd work on developing a narrower research agenda that you can write up for the statement of purpose; noting you want to look at geopolitics, political economy, culture, etc. is fine, but it doesn't indicate to me what within all that you think are interesting research questions. 

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HK2004, that was thank you for the thoughtful and thorough response. I will definitely take your suggestions into consideration over the next year and try to get in touch with some faculty members. 

 

RWBG, thank you for your response as well. As far as forming a concise research question or group of questions, I'm admittedly still working on that. I've got about three guided research projects that I'll be working on over the course of the next year out of which I'm hoping to gain a more focused sense of exactly what questions I would like to examine within the realm of conflict. 

 

Cazorla, it's funny those two are the one's you mentioned as they're more on the periphery of schools I'm looking at, but I found that Fotini Christia and Roger Petersen at MIT and Virginia Page Fortna and Jack Lewis Snyder at Columbia all had some research that I found interesting both in terms of broader concern with conflict phenomena and regional interest in the Middle East, to varying degrees. For example, I really like some of Roger Petersen's work analyzing emotions as both causes and tools in ethnic conflict, but his area emphasis is much more in Eastern Europe with only some of his more recent work focusing on the Middle East. So, if I were to decide that I was more interested in examining phenomena than regions, I might lean towards him, whereas if I wanted more regional focus, I would probably take him off the list.  

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  • 1 month later...

I'd say specific area interests are more common on the comp. politics side of the divide, so it might be in your interest to do a CP/IR combination and emphasize the CP. Beyond that, I'd work on developing a narrower research agenda that you can write up for the statement of purpose; noting you want to look at geopolitics, political economy, culture, etc. is fine, but it doesn't indicate to me what within all that you think are interesting research questions. 

 

If I were to say that I'm interested in studying how both domestic and foreign-assisted development programs can be used as tools to mitigate the risk of violent conflict, particularly focusing on the Middle East, would that be a more pointed research question/objective? If so, toward which programs should I be heading in order to pursue this area of study? I still feel like Yale, Michigan, Duke, and UNC-CH could be viable, but are there other key programs that I'm missing? 

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