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International Studies Dissertation Topics

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Published: 16th Aug 2021 in Dissertation Topic

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Tagged: International Studies

We have provided a selection of example international studies dissertation topics below to help and inspire you.

International Politics

If you are interested in international politics and would like to focus on this for your dissertation but are unsure on how to narrow down your topic, then maybe these examples could help you:

Example international politics dissertation topic 1:

An investigation into the ongoing nature of democracy in Botswana

Botswana is classified as a democratic country for the legislature and chief executive are elected through multi-party elections; however the nature of its democracy can be questioned – for, if faced with defeat, would the ruling party accept or enable itself to be defeated? In discussing this it is pertinent to note that the paternalistic President Masire stepped down in 1998 rather than force an election and that this approach was also adopted by his successor who stepped down in 2008. Accordingly, from an international studies perspective, it is debatable whether or not Botswana should be viewed as a true democracy. This dissertation uses secondary political theory sources as well as interviews with leading commentators within the country.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Good, K. (2010). ‘The illusion of democracy in Botswana’. In, Diamond, L. and Plattner, M.F. (eds), Democratization in Africa: Progress and retreat. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, pp. 280-294.
  • Holm, J.D. (1987). ‘Botswana: A paternalistic democracy’, World Affairs, Vol. 150(1), pp. 21-30.
  • Sebudubudu, D. and Osei-Hwedie, B.Z. (2006). ‘Pitfalls of parliamentary democracy in Botswana’, Africa Spectrum, Vol. 41(1), pp. 35-53.

Example international politics dissertation topic 2:

Demophile regimes and an abandonment of the West in favour of China: A new dynamic in African foreign affairs?

A demophile is a regime ruler who claims that his or her regime provides its citizens with a lifestyle superior to that found in traditional democracies. Underlying this dissertation is an eco-political assumption: that both Western democracies and China wish to expand their trade and influence within Africa. From this standpoint the paper subsequently suggests that, unless Western democracies change their long-standing belief that it is in the best interests of all nations for all regimes to become democratic in nature, they risk further alienating African rulers and in turn pushing them towards partnership with China. Though there is a growing body of academic literature upon this subject, this is a challenging dissertation topic. It does, however, offer the researcher a real opportunity to add to the existing knowledge base and make a name for themselves within this field of international studies.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Aboa-Bradwell, S. (2011). The Demophile Deal for Africa: Blueprint for a new Western policy towards Africa. Medway: African Peoples Advocacy.
  • Brautigam, D. (2011). The dragon’s gift: The real story of China in Africa. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Carmody, P.R. and Owusu, F.Y. (2007). ‘Competing hegemons? Chinese versus American geo-economic strategies in Africa’, Political Geography, Vol. 26(5), pp. 504-524.

Example international politics dissertation topic 3:

Estonia: A model of democracy emerging after communism

As the most northerly of the three Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, this dissertation looks at the political and economic realignment of the country in the decades following the collapse of communism. In so doing it addresses two primary areas of research: first, whether the nature of state-building in post-communist Eastern Europe is materially different to that which follows regime change elsewhere. Secondly, the paper examines the lessons that may be learnt from the embracing of democracy by Estonia for other states that are presently in a state of political-system upheaval: focusing particularly on Syria and Libya.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Berglund, S. (2001). Challenges to democracy: Eastern Europe ten years after the collapse of communism. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
  • Diamond, L. and Plattner, M.F. (200). Democracy after communism. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Laitin, D.D. (2007). Nations, states, and violence. New York: Oxford University Press.

Example international politics dissertation topic 4:

The effect of the oil boom in Angola upon its poorest citizens: An investigation

Focusing on the present oil boom in Angola, this dissertation explores how the oil boom has increased the welfare of the poor within the country in two distinct ways. First, it evaluates that the influx of dollar capital into the country (through oil export) has resulted in a streamlining of foreign aid programmes to the country. Secondly, the paper evaluates the mechanisms through which the Angolan government must channel those oil revenues so as to ensure that the health, educational, and infrastructural needs of its people are met. This paper is particularly relevant as a result of the global change from unconditional aid to one in which First World nations are increasingly interested in Africa trading its way out of poverty.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Gary, I. and Karl, T.L. (2003). Bottom of the barrel: Africa’s oil boom and the poor. Baltimore, MD: Catholic Relief Services.
  • Karl, T.L. (2007). ‘Oil-led development: Social, political, and economic consequences’, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Working Paper No. 80.
  • Macmillan, J. (2005). The main institution in the country is corruption: Creating transparency in Angola. Stanford, CA: The Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.


Tourism is a very interesting topic when it comes to international studies. Whether you are interested in the way tourists are treated internationally, tourist attractions and the way they can effect a countries economy, this subject could be for you! Take a look at some options below:

Example tourism dissertation topic 1:

The international movement of student ‘gap year’ tourists: Changing destinations, changing perceptions, changing priorities

This dissertation focuses upon ‘gap year’ students from the UK and three destination countries: Kenya, Australia, and Thailand. By use of qualitative research, the changing destinations, perceptions and priorities of students who have deferred their studies for a year ‘out’ are analysed. Drawing participants from the University of Surrey and surrounding independent schools, twenty students who have spent a gap year abroad are interviewed as well as twenty sixth-formers who intend to spend a gap year abroad at the end of the present academic year. In advancing this study, it is anticipated that the reasons for choosing destinations and the types of projects undertaken upon such trips will, as a consequence of tuition fees and increased competition amongst elite universities increases, show noticeable signs of change. This is an exciting primary research based study that in studying the international movement of people addresses a core concept involved in International Studies.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Stehlik, T. (2010). ‘Mind the gap: School leaver aspirations and delayed pathways to further and higher education’, Journal of Education and Work, Vol. 23(4), pp. 363-376.
  • Sugden, J. (2012). ‘Welcome back for gap year after its gap year’, The Times Good University Guide, August 16th, 2012.
  • Taylor, J. and Gee, N. (2010). Turning 18: Pathways and plans. Fitzroy, Vic: Brotherhood of St Laurence.

Crime and Punishment

International crime and punishment is a fascinating subject and can lead to very interesting dissertation! It is a popular subject to choose and there are many avenues you can take. If you are looking for some examples, take a look at some below:

Example crime and punishment dissertation topic 1:

An analysis of differing government responses to offensive material upon the internet: Iceland, Greece, Brazil

Concerned with the different approaches and responses of governments, this dissertation also addresses aspects that relate to issues of governing international spaces. The three countries chosen for study are markedly different; geographically, politically, and culturally, and therefore provide a rich stream of data for international comparison and analysis. This is a dissertation in which it is envisaged primarily secondary sources will be used. However, the use of additional primary material would be particularly welcome were this to be expanded upon at Master’s level.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Roman, R. (2007). ‘What if ICANN can’t?: Can the United Nations really save the internet?’, Syracuse Science & Technology Law Reporter, Vol. 2(2007).
  • Avgoulea, M., Bouras, C., Paraskevas, M. and Stathakopoulos, G. (2003). ‘Policies for content filtering in educational networks: The case of Greece’, Telematics and Infomatics, Vol. 20(1), pp. 71-95.
  • Reis, F.A.S. (2003). Internet Hotlines Fighting Online Child Pornography: A comparative study between Brazil and England. Master’s thesis, Sheffield University.

Example crime and punishment dissertation topic 2:

The effects of violence upon depression in adolescents: A case study of Vietnam

Using the Asian adolescent depression scale, this paper analyses the effects of witnessing violence upon levels of depression within adolescence in Vietnam. In so doing this paper concentrates on three distinct types of violence: first, violence experienced at home, secondly, violence within the community; and thirdly, violence at school. In focusing upon these three distinctive types of violence it is anticipated that levels of depression recorded may not only be different depending upon the time of the violence experienced but also as a consequence of gender. Grounded within existing literature and academic theory this study also benefits from collating evidence for this study from 50 students in their penultimate year of schooling within Hanoi.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Choi, H. (2002). ‘Ancestry and ethnicity: Understanding adolescent depression in an ethno-cultural context’, Advances in Nursing Science, Vol. 25(2), pp. 71-85.
  • Krug, E.G., Mercy, J.A., Dahlberg, L.L. and Zwi, A.B. (2002). ‘The world report on violence and health’, The Lancet, Vol. 360(3669), pp. 1083-1088.
  • Latzman, R.D. and Swisher, R.R. (2005). ‘The interactive relationship among adolescent violence, street violence, and depression’, Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 33, pp. 355-371.

International Sociology

If you are interested in the dynamics of society,relationship and social interactions then this could be the best subject for you! There is lots of research available and it could make for a interesting dissertation! Take a look at some of our suggestions below:

Example international sociology dissertation topic 1:

Colombian and Brazilian family planning: A comparative study

Profamilia is one of the world’s largest and oldest family planning organisations. It presently works with the poorest, most vulnerable and most marginalised populations of Colombia. Using data from Profamilia as well as governmental sources, this dissertation compares and contrasts the work of Profamilia with comparable agencies in Brazil. In the latter, increased access to education, information and contraception have combined to lower the birth rate by two thirds over the last five decades. Through so doing the paper proffers further methods of education that could be adopted by family planning agencies in Colombia to help young women undertake more education and to live independently.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Ferreira, A.L.C.G., Souza, A.I., Lima, R.A. and Braga, C. (2010). ‘Researches on contraceptive methods in a post-abortion family planning clinic in northeast Brazil’, Reproductive Health, Vol. 7(5), pp. 2-5.
  • Miller, G. (2010). ‘Contraception as development? New evidence from family planning in Colombia’, The Economic Journal, Vol. 120, pp. 709-736.
  • Quintero, A.L. and Culler, T.A. (2009). IDP health in Colombia: Needs and challenges. New York: Reproductive Health Access, Information and Services in Emergencies.

War and Weapons

One fo the most facsinating topics to focus on for international studies is that of war and weapons. There is a vast amount of research and articles available for you to review for your dissertation and this could lead to a very exciting piece of work! Take a look at some of our suggestions below:

Example war and weapons dissertation topic 1:

The nuclear future of Mongolia after Fukushima: An unrivalled opportunity?

As Angaavlusan (2009, p. 1) notes, ‘as the world changes and the economic growth center (and thus the demand) shifts eastward to Asia… of special importance [for Mongolia] is being next door to China’s enormously large and growing market’. Further, as a country rich in Uranium, and with the Japanese nuclear industry in a state of ongoing flux (after Fukushima), Mongolia has an unrivalled opportunity to develop its nuclear technology and uranium processing industries to meet ever-increasing Chinese demands for power. Though a primarily geo-politically focused international studies dissertation, this study also has the potential to hypothesise on the advantages that increased trade with China could bring to the wealth of the citizens of Mongolia and is thus a truly multi-faceted international studies proposal.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Angaavlusan, U. (2009). ‘Fueling the future: Mongolian uranium and nuclear power plant growth in China and India’, Mongolian Mining Journal.
  • Lester, R.K. and Rosner, R. (2009). ‘The growth of nuclear power: Drivers and constraints’, Daedalus, Vol. 138(4), pp. 19-30.
  • Bulag, U.E. (2009). ‘Mongolia in 2008: From Mongolia to mine-golia’, Asian Survey, Vol. 49(1), pp. 129-134.

Example war and weapons dissertation topic 2:

Mass killing and guerilla warfare in Guatemala, 1960 – 1996

This dissertation focuses on the mass killings that took place in the Guatemalan civil war from 1960-1996. Its primary focus is on understanding the impetus for mass killings within the conflict, for it differed from the ethnic cleansing impetus of mass slaughter in campaigns such as those in Yugoslavia or Rwanda. The paper therefore not only includes a comparative study element but also analyses the issues of political and military strategy between Guatemala’s government and leftist rebels, that led to the bloody deaths of more than 200,000 people, many of whom were non-combatants.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Snodgrass, A. (2002). ‘Lynchings and the democratization of terror in postwar Guatemala: Implications for human rights’, Human Rights Quarterly, Vol. 24(3), pp. 640-661.
  • Valentino, B.A., Huth, P. and Balch-Lindsay, D. (2004). ‘Draining the sea: Mass killing and guerrilla warfare’, International Organization, Vol. 58(2), pp. 375-407
  • Vantino, B.A. (2004) Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th century’, New York, Cornell University Press.

For further guidance on dissertation topics see our guide on how to choose a dissertation topic.

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International Studies relates to the studying of economics, politics, culture, and other aspects of life on an international scale. International Studies allows you to develop an understanding of international relations and gives you an insight into global issues.

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