Research Topic:

How can interventions in fragile states be made more effective?

More info:

The term ‘fragile states’ refers to states where globalization and liberalization have led to high levels of poverty and inequality, low levels of state capacity, vulnerability to internal and external shocks and the potential for domestic and international conflict. This issue of id21 insights explores different dimensions of state fragility, sources of political legitimacy and strategic considerations for the donor community. In doing so, it seeks to determine how interventions in fragile states can contribute effectively to securing peace and development.


The purpose of this assignment is to make a plan for your research. The final proposal should be about 10-12 pages.

TOPIC: Start with a general topic that interests you. Make sure that it is related to the topic of our course — imagine future students reading your paper in week four or six because it illuminates one of the main themes of the course. Try to relate the topic to one of the course objectives.

REFINING YOUR TOPIC: Read about your topic for no more than an hour from a national newspaper — the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal — or a reputable website —,,

RESEARCH QUESTION: During that hour, something probably sparked your interest; turn it into a question. State this in the form of a single, clearly worded open-ended question that is not able to be answered with a “yes” or “no” response. For example, “What is the future of terrorism?”

HYPOTHESIS: This should be your initial best guess at what you think the answer to your question will be. After some preliminary reading, you should have some idea of what you think is the answer. In this example, the answer might be: “Because of the success of current counterterror methods, terrorist groups will need to choose more clandestine organizational models, such as leaderless resistance.” Form it into an equation, so that you have multiple parts which you can measure (albeit qualitatively). counter terror methods’ success = more clandestine organizational models. And you’ll need to define all of these variables/terms. For example, how do you define success? Is it the elimination of the terror group? What is a more clandestine organizational model? These will be found in literature reviews on terror organizations.

METHODOLOGY: Again, building on your preliminary research, you will have some idea as to how you will be able to answer the question. Some possibilities include: comparison, counting, natural experiments, case study, model building, or theory testing. Check out this summary of interesting methodology ideas:

LITERATURE REVIEW: Using the library’s EBSCO search, JSTOR, Proquest, CIAO database, find articles that help you define your terms and set up an understanding of what your variables are and how they will help you answer your question. Organize the information that you derive around the parts of the hypothesis — the variables. In our example, you’ll need to describe various counter terror methods, then explain your definition of success, then describe a variety of clandestine organizational models. Each of these elements should have a paragraph or two in the literature review. For the proposal, you don’t have to have this completely finished, but you will need to have a very good start on it with at least 6-8 sources. For the final research paper, it will need to be complete. I’ve added an example of a short lit review below.

btw, I’ve attached here a link to a great video on how to write a literature review from David Taylor (U of Md). Scroll down for the first and second parts.

SOURCE OF DATA: Give me an idea of how you will a answer the question. From where will you get the answer? You don’t have to write the research for this part yet; save that for the research paper. But I do want you to tell me what is the source of the data. Give me a little bit of a description and justification too. Remember, the literature review is just the start of YOUR research. You will make an original contribution to the study of national security with YOUR conclusions; thus you will go beyond the literature review, and you will find the answer to your question in original data. You might use newspaper accounts, histories, government documents, speeches, press releases, databases (Global Terrorism Database, or the RAND Database of Worldwide Terrorism Incidents, for example.)

You must use Turabian/University of Chicago citation style, with footnote/endnote and bibliography format preferred. Whichever style you use, be consistent and follow the format in Turabian.

Your paper may be organized in whatever fashion you want, but you should have the following sections (with more than a few lines under each one):
(Remember, this is a formal proposal; it should be written formally, and you don’t need to tell me all about what you read in the newspaper or how you came to choose this topic. Even though I have suggested a few preliminary steps above, you don’t need to tell me about them in the proposal.)
an introduction (tell me why this topic is important)
a research question
a hypothesis
a suggested methodology (including details on the explanatory variables.)
a literature review (organized around variables, not around articles)
a suggested source of data.



The paper should build on your proposal and lit review (with improvements in editing and content as needed) and should be about 18-20 double-spaced pages with 1″ margins, not including the cover page, the reference list, and any appendices. Do not right-justify the text. The following is a good guideline to use, along with suggested page lengths for each section. Note that the Analysis section is the most lengthy and significant part of the paper.

I’ve attached a sample final paper here, and although it is longer than required, you will see that it contains all of the elements below.

I. Introduction (1-2 pages)
a. Background on topic (why is it important to study?).
b. Clearly stated research question (do not compose a question that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” response).
c. Hypothesis (your tentative answer to your research question).

II. Literature Review (6-7 pages)
a. Using the recommendations for the lit review from the instructions on the proposal section, make sure to organize this review around themes or variables that will help you answer your question. Don’t just summarize. Remember the literature review is all about the conclusions, concepts, ideas, and theories of other authors. It is not the same as the data that you will use later.
b. Summarize the literature review by showing what your tentative answer is based on what other authors have said about your topic. Use the other authors to help you, but don’t just summarize what they have said.

III. Theory and Methodology (1-2 pages)
a. Theoretical Framework — how does your paper relate to the theories in the field of IR. If your paper is not especially theoretical, this might not apply to you.
b. Methodology — justify the way that you are answering your question by showing that it’s the best way to do it.

IV. Analysis & Findings (8-9 pages)
a. This is the primary section of the paper where you lay out your data and the analysis using your methodology and information/data. Remember, data is not the same as the literature review. Data is facts and information.
b. present your findings and summarize them.

V. Conclusion (2-3 pages)
a. Recap and briefly summarize your findings as they relate to answering your research question and either supporting or not supporting your hypothesis.
b. Give a strong conclusion that shows very clearly what you found.

Submission Instructions: Your paper will be reviewed by turnitin. Please be sure to limit your quotes to less than 10-15% of your paper. Know the plagiarism rules. Check your Turnitin results and resubmit paper if the similiarity index shows possible plagiarism. Please be reminded….. you may NOT use any paper or any part of a previous paper submitted in past courses. This must be original work.


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