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Political Science at HSE University-St Petersburg: Students' Term Papers and Theses

One of the most important deadline for the HSE students of each educational programme is the one for choosing the topic for term papers. For some people, it might be hard to define the area of their research interests due to the great variety of theories, events, and approaches. Others most likely have no idea what to write about. We will tell you what political scientists prepared the papers about last year and help to sort out the potential topics.

Political Science at HSE University-St Petersburg: Students' Term Papers and Theses

HSE University–Saint Petersburg

The students of the Bachelor's programme 'Political Science and World Politics' prepare term papers in the second and third years of the studies. At the end of the studies, the graduates have to hand in and present their thesis.

The term paper in the second year is a literature review. It is a critical analysis of articles on the subject where the students have to describe the scientific gaps or debates in the field of their research. In the third and fourth years, the literature review is one of the chapters of the whole thesis, which also includes the empirical section. This part comprises the description of the research methods—quantitative and qualitative—and the analysis of the collected data. The differences in the paper’s specifics may influence the topic, but the field of research can be similar in the second, third and fourth years of studies.

In order to write and hand in the paper successfully, you should choose the topic which would be interesting for you during the entire year and inspire you to work on the term paper without postponing it to May. It is important to build it upon the already acquired knowledge, so that the topic would be clear for you and the context and research field would be familiar. A lot of students change the topic, realising that they do not know the context or do not understand the field. The clear topic would make it easier to see the design of the term paper, analyse the literature and choose the methods.

Which research directions can the students of 'Political Science' choose?

A ready-made topic implies that you already have a research question and an idea of research design and methods. Such criteria for a ready-made topic require the student's extensive work: to read articles, to think the research through, to discuss it with a thesis supervisor. But you can start with the field of research—a general topic or a direction of Political Science which seems to be interesting.

You can choose the direction based on the courses you have already completed: 'The Political Theory', 'Contemporary Russian Politics' or 'Politics & Media'. If the lecture topics or texts for a seminar hooked you, you can choose the field of research based on them. At the moment, political scientists mostly examine the topics related to the social movements, political economy, comparative politics and political theory.

Yury Kabanov, Academic Supervisor of the Bachelor's programme 'Political Science and World Politics'

The students choose a wide range of topics: more theoretical ones on Political Science and International Relations, more applied ones on Political Analysis and Public Administration. Some of them prepare term papers in the form of projects aimed at solving specific social and economic tasks.

The students' choice is influenced by a great number of factors: we strive to make each topic to be the result of the joint creative work of students and lecturers. So the students have the interest in the topic, and the lecturers have the necessary expertise.

Besides, the choice may be affected by the course which the student especially liked. For instance, after completing the course 'Politics & Media', many students think about examining the political media space. In the senior years, the thesis topic may be related to the future career expectations of the students, a further Master's programme or the profession. So if you plan to work in the public administration, it is reasonable to choose a thesis in the form of a project. If it is the energy sector, you should opt for a topic connected with energy policy.

Which directions are the most interesting for the students of the Bachelor's programme 'Political Science and World Politics'?

In the 2021/22 academic year, the second-year students chose the following research topics the most often (in order of popularity):

  • Political theory;
  • Political regimes;
  • Electoral research;
  • Media and Politics;
  • Policy analysis.

For the third-year students, the order of the popular topics is a little different:

  • Media and Politics;
  • Political institutions;
  • Electoral research;
  • Political regimes;
  • Research of ideologies and identities.

In 2022, the programme graduates opted for the following thesis topics the most often:

  • Policy analysis;
  • Media and Politics;
  • Research of ideologies and identities;
  • Political regimes;
  • Analysis of political discourse.

Some students approached the topic choice very creatively. They prepared papers about the music industry and politics. For example, the term paper of the third-year student: 'The Impact of State Involvement into the Music Industry onto the 'Soft Power' Capabilities of South Korea'. Among other unusual topics is the analysis of the interrelationship of politics and comedy in the paper called 'The Influence of Political Humour in Modern Russian Stand-Up Comedy on the Public Opinion Building among Young People'. Such extraordinary directions can become a very interesting field of research.

How to decide on the topic of a term paper or a thesis?

The decision should be well-considered and based on the read literature and gained knowledge. Besides, research seminars can contribute to the choice of the topic. It is necessary to remember that the topic must be interesting, so that you have enough motivation to write about it. At the same time, all the directions mentioned above are too broad to be a thesis topic. It should be narrow enough to examine and give a constructive response to the research question. Moreover, the topic should include ‘a puzzle’, something that is not clear or seems to be contradictory. If you have a research 'puzzle', you will be able to find a research question. Finally, the topic should be possible to study, which means that the student should have relevant skills, enough time, and an opportunity to find the corresponding literature and supporting information.

The article was prepared by Daria Polygalova, project 'Free Editorial'