Identify a global studies topic to research

Identify a global studies topic to research

Weekly Objective: Identify a global studies topic to research

During the course of this semester, you’re going to build a research paper in three stages. This is the first stage and it’s about picking the topic. The next stage will be in Week 6 when you pick your complete list of sources for the topic, and then the final paper in Week 8.

The stages of this project are designed with the intention of serving you beyond this one class, helping you gather skills and resources that you can use in all future coursework and research.

Please follow these steps to build your proposal for your topic (list them in a Word document of approximately 2 pages). There is a template attached that you can use to fill out your topic. 

Step 1: Relevance. The first step is to draw from existing areas of research in Global Studies. To make sure your topic is relevant to this field, review the following resources to consider countries, problems, and themes that interest you in Global Studies. Pick a subsection of these books that relates to your interests.

– Bates and Ciment 2013, Global Social Issues, An Encyclopedia (scroll through the issues and click ones of interest)

– Table of Contents in Campbell, MacKinnon, and Stevens 2010, An Introduction to Global Studies

– Table of Contents in Juergensmeyer 2014, Thinking Globally, A Global Studies Reader

Indicate the book, chapter, and subsection that caught your attention. You don’t have to read these whole books or chapters — this is just a hunting mission.

Step 2Researchability. Make a list of keywords that relate to your topic (approximately 5 keywords). You can use these in Step 7 and future assignments. To get further inspiration, you can mine the following sources. Please indicate the sources that inspired your list, if any.

– Center for Global Development: Topics.

– University of Illinois: List of topics for “global issues in the news”

Step 3: Appropriate Scope. Now that you have a general topic and some keywords, refine the topic into one phrase and state the topic. Make sure it’s narrow enough that you won’t be stuck reading everything ever written, but broad enough that there will be material to find.

Tips: “Global poverty” will be far too broad for this paper, but “poverty in Somalia” would work for getting started. “Climate change” is also too broad, but a topic on the capacity of a specific developing state to deal with climate change would work, or a study of a specific climate-related policy. “Human trafficking” is too broad, but the topic of how one specific country or organization is combatting trafficking would work. Similarly, “causes of war” is far too broad and unmanageable for this type of essay, but a study of aspects of a specific war or conflict would work. Other ways to narrow the focus are to pick one type of international organization, such as an intergovernmental organization (IGO) or nongovernmental organization (NGO). If in doubt about this part, feel free to write the instructor with questions or brainstorming and we’ll get the scope of the topic just right.

Step 4: Articulating the Topic. Describe your topic in a full paragraph (4-6 sentences). Describe why it has global implications, even if it’s specific to one country or place. The topic should be possible to address in an International Relations or Global Studies framework. (That it, be sure it doesn’t drift into other fields of study that we aren’t working on in this class).

Step 5: Interests to Take Forward. Describe one thing that you just learned about your specific topic so far and one thing about the topic that you would like to learn more about (2-3 sentences).

Step 6Research Question. Formulate your research question (exactly 1 sentence). What question will your research and study set out to answer?

Tip: Be sure to develop a research question that does not have a yes/no or fact-based answer. A question like “Is desertification occurring?” would not be an appropriate question since the facts show that the answer is, simply, yes. There can be no reasonable disagreement about the fact that it is happening. One might disagree, however, about the best or most reasonable ways to combat this issue. And that is what we’re looking for: a question that smart people will answer in different ways.

Pro tip: formulate the question as a “how” question to examine a relationship. “How has microlending affected women’s employment in East Africa?” or “How have Private Military Companies affected conflict in ____?”

Step 7: Sources. Finally, let’s get some sources! Using your class readings and resources, the above textbooks, authoritative websites, and/or resources in our online library, locate 3-5 new sources with full citations to show that there is material waiting for you. (You don’t have to have read everything this point; this is a test of the topic’s researchability).

Sources should be in Chicago, Author-Date style. Here’s a link with examples;


Before you submit, does your topic meet these requirements?

  1. It must be mentioned in the above textbooks (row #1 in the rubric below)
  2. It must be global in impact/scope (row #1)
  3. It must be addressable within an IR/Global Studies framework. Be sure the topic doesn’t drift into fields of study that we’re not covering in this class. (row #1-2)
  4. It must be researchable. That is, you must be able to find scholarly articles and books in our online library about the topic. (row #3)
  5. It must lend itself to the formulation of a research question about which reasonable people disagree. (row #4)

Recommended resources from the APUS Library:

“Academic Research.” n.d. Richard G. Trefry Library, APUS.

“Finding Articles using a primo search” (video). n.d. Richard G. Trefry Library, APUS.

“Q. What are Boolean Operators?” n.d. Richard G. Trefry Library, APUS.

“Q. How do I find peer-reviewed or scholarly articles?” n.d. Richard G. Trefry Library, APUS.


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Identify a global studies topic to research


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