Undergraduate Research

Let your curiosity lead the way.

Research addressing global and international issues is a fundamental part of the IAS program. IAS Program faculty and students are actively engaged in research projects that explore historical and contemporary issues around the world and draw on various disciplinary approaches. The research projects allow for, and help develop, a variety of skills that distinguish IAS from disciplinary programs: IAS scholars speak at least one foreign language, they are conscious participants of intercultural encounters, and they are aware of historical and cultural linkages across political and geographical boundaries. IAS scholars are prepared to use various methodological and theoretical approaches that suit their questions and take into account the cultural, political, and historical specificity of their research sites.

Students are encouraged to publish their original research in a Senior Honors Thesis and/or are strongly encouraged to submit to and present at the Undergraduate Research Symposium. Qualified graduates are recognized by the IAS program as Research Scholars each year.

Research Spotlight: Jaszmine Parks

IAS and French major Jaszmine Parks (LA'17) journeyed to Senegal to interview local women about their Islamic faith after finding their voices.

Research Spotlight: Nicholas Okafor

Research Spotlight: Nicholas Okafor

IAS major Samantha Pitz publishes independent study project during a semester in Geneva

IAS major Samantha Pitz publishes independent study project during a semester in Geneva

Take Your Knowledge Further

Opportunities for Independent Research

Many IAS courses include research components and final projects. In addition, IAS encourages students to gain credit through approved independent study projects, supervised research under the direction of IAS faculty, or participation in the IAS Research Assistant Team (Directed Research in IAS L97 4005). Additional opportunities may periodically exist to join faculty projects. If interested, students may also form research cohorts under faculty direction.

Independent Study Projects

Research Assistantships

IAS will select a limited number of Research Assistants (RAs) each fall. This is especially beneficial for students who are planning to write a thesis in their senior year. Students who complete their work as an RA also will be awarded the Research Scholar Distinction within IAS. 

To apply for the Research Team, students must fill out an application and register for Directed Research in IAS (L97 4005) with Dr. Caddel. Students should also fill out the following application.

RAs will meet once a week for a one-hour research workshop to introduce new skills and resources. In addition, RAs will be assigned to work on a faculty research project and will provide 5 hours of research assistance per week to their faculty member.

While we encourage you to pursue individual interests outside the classroom format by enrolling in L97 IAS 400 (Independent Study) OR L97 IAS 4005 (Directed Research) under the direction of one or more faculty members, please note that electing either of these two options may not necessarily fulfill your 400 level requirements for your specific IAS concentration and direct approval must be sought from your concentration's coordinator. If that approval is given, a limit of 3 units of independent study may be counted toward the 36 units needed to complete the IAS major.

If you have additional questions, please contact Dr. Caddel.

Email Dr. Caddel

Honors Thesis

Writing an honors thesis is exciting and very rewarding, but it can also be challenging, exhausting, and far more time consuming that you imagine. Ideally, you need to start thinking about potential topics and meeting with potential advisors by the end of your sophomore year. The deadline to declare your intent to write an honors thesis (by completing this intent form and sumbitting it to the IAS main office) is the second Friday in April of your junior year. You must have your thesis advisor secured at this time. [For those students graduating in December, the deadline for the intent form is the second Friday in November of their junior year.]

In writing a thesis, you will work closely with a faculty advisor to articulate a narrow research question, identify the type of data and secondary sources you will examine to answer this question, and formulate an original argument based on your findings. Your faculty advisor will do their best to guide you, but ultimately, the project is up to you. In the Fall, all IAS honors students will enroll in an honors seminar course (L97 IAS 485). In this seminar, you will present your thesis proposal, your results at various stages of progress, and a final presentation. To write a first-rate research paper, all scholars need the opportunity to present their ideas and receive feedback. In addition, you will have the opportunity to interact and learn from your fellow honors students. In the Spring, all honors students will enroll in L97 IAS 486. You will work closely with your thesis advisor (they will determine and submit the final grade for your thesis). Once your research and writing is complete, you will present your thesis to the IAS Honors Committee. We view this more as an assessment than a defense, and as an opportunity for professional development in preparation for the public presentation at our annual spring semester conference.

Through the process of writing a thesis, you make the transition from being a consumer of other scholars’ analyses to being a contributor to knowledge. Regardless of your future plans, conducting an independent research project in the form of a thesis is a meaningful intellectual process. Moreover, the thesis can be helpful professionally. If you plan to attend academic graduate school or any professional graduate school requiring independent research, analysis, and writing, you should strongly consider writing a thesis.

IAS majors who write an honors thesis are eligible for Latin Honors (level is determined by the College of Arts & Sciences) and are strongly encouraged to submit to and present at the Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Note:  there are special requirements for students who conduct independent research involving human participants - for more information on the Institutional Review Board (IRB) process, contact your thesis advisor. The WUSTL Human Research Protection Office (HRPO) website has information for undergraduates conducting research, including information for students who conduct research abroad, and a special section for SIT program participants.

For more details about the thesis writing process, please consult the Director of the Honors Program.

"The experience of writing my thesis on a United Nations climate change policy was both challenging and incredibly rewarding, as it pushed me as a writer and a critical thinker. I continue to use my research, writing, and critical thinking skills daily at my job as an analyst at a consulting firm in D.C. specializing in government-driven markets such as the aerospace, defense, energy and healthcare industries."

―Rachel MeyerIAS major, Class of 2011