Student Research Opportunities

When students conduct original research while working closely with a member of the faculty, they are able to address critical international challenges, develop potential policy solutions and participate at the cutting edge of key policy debates, while also developing their analytical and communication skills. The skills and relationships developed through this experience make students well-positioned for graduate study and exciting career opportunities.

There are numerous ways Elliott School undergraduate students can engage in research beyond the confines of the traditional classroom. Explore your options below.

See the 2024 Student Research Showcase Winners


Eric Teller stands with a mountain range in view in the background

While studying abroad in Peru, I began a research project examining how Quechua farmers in the Cusco region respond to the degradation of native forests. With support from the Elliott School’s Undergraduate Scholars Research Program, I returned to Cusco for several weeks to further investigate the relationship between the indigenous communities and the NGO working to restore the forests... This yearlong research led to a deeper understanding of how NGOs can create sustainable development programs that foster local investment and empower communities.

Eric Teller
Class of 2018

Some of Our Opportunities

Independent Study

Independent Study courses are an opportunity for students in the Elliott School to receive credit for individualized academic projects supervised by a GW faculty advisor. The faculty advisor may be any GW professor who has taught at GW at least two times in the past three years, and they must have knowledge of the issue or topic the student will explore in the independent study. Independent Study coursework must not duplicate courses that are traditionally offered at the University. This research opportunity offers a range of credit options, which are determined by the length of the research paper:

  • 1 credit = 10 page minimum
  • 2 credits = 20 page minimum
  • 3 credits = 30 page minimum


  1. Junior or senior standing (60 or more earned credit hours)
  2. Cumulative GPA must be 3.0 or higher at time of application

Course Requirements

IAFF 3198: Independent Study and Research — To complete the independent study, students must fulfill the following academic requirements:

  • Research Paper: Students must complete a research paper relevant to contemporary international affairs. The paper is to be developed over the course of the semester in conjunction with the faculty advisor. The faculty advisor has final approval on all aspects of the paper except the length, which is described above.

  • Readings: Decisions regarding what books and articles must be read are to be negotiated by the student and the faculty advisor. Faculty advisors may assign readings or they may approve readings that students suggest if they feel the content is appropriate and relevant. In addition, faculty advisors have the authority to set deadlines and assign any related work.

  • Faculty/Student Meetings: The faculty advisor and the student will meet regularly throughout the semester.

Responsibilities for the faculty advisor:

  • Sign the student's Independent Study application

  • Meet with the student regularly during the semester

  • Assign appropriate readings, review/revise the final product periodically

  • Submit a grade at the end of the semester*


* The Elliott School will send a form to the faculty advisor about two weeks prior to the end of the semester to request a grade.

Deadline: Applications for the Independent Study are due no later than the Friday of the second week of classes in the semester.


Internship Course

Students are able to apply for an internship course for credit or for zero credits. The internship course for credit has two options: 1) Students can enroll in the Research Paper course and work closely with a faculty advisor to write a final research paper relevant to their internship and contemporary international affairs; or 2) Students can enroll in the Professional Development Seminar that will emphasize professional competencies, leadership, and skills development.  Details about all options can be found in the Guidelines linked below.  

International Internships

Governments and organizations outside the US sometimes require prospective undergraduate student interns to complete internship agreements that the George Washington University cannot support. Instead, and in consultation with our Office of General Council, the University has created an internship agreement form that you can submit to those governments or organizations to complete. Please contact Sarah Squire, the director of undergraduate academic advising, if you are pursuing an internship opportunity with a government or organization outside the US that requires you and GW to sign an internship agreement form. 

Research Seminar

Research Seminar courses provide an opportunity for students to write a substantial research paper on an issue related to the general subject of the seminar. Students will earn 3 credit hours by completing a Research Seminar course (IAFF 4191 or 4191W).


Students must meet all of the following requirements in order to register for a Research Seminar:

  1. Junior or senior standing (60 or more earned credit hours)
  2. Cumulative GPA must be 3.4 or higher at time of application

Course Requirements

IAFF 4191: Research Seminar — To complete the Research Seminar, students must attend a course that meets weekly. The seminars can be viewed on GWEB or on the GW Schedule of Classes by searching for IAFF 4191 or IAFF 4191W. Research Seminars topics vary and are subject to availability (Some topics are not offered each semester).

How to Register for the IAFF 4191: Research Seminar

Students must submit a Registration Transaction Form (RTF) (PDF) to your academic advisor. Your academic advisor will then verify your eligibility, and sign you into the course.

Earning Elliott School Special Honors

Students who complete a Research Seminar course as a senior with a grade of A- or higher, earn a cumulative GPA of 3.7 upon graduation, and earn 60 credit hours in residence at GW will be awarded Special Honors. Special Honors is noted on a line of the final transcript that indicates graduation with Special Honors from the Elliott School.

*Please note ESIA Special Honors is designated to students participating in the Research Seminar in their final year of study. Juniors who take the Research Seminar can take another Research Seminar during their Senior Year if they wish to qualify for ESIA Special Honors and concurrently satisfy additional requirements within their specific plan of study. Students are encouraged to consult with their Academic Advisor if planning on taking the Research Seminar as a Junior. 

Senior Thesis

The Senior Thesis is an opportunity for students to participate in a semester-long independent research project under the guidance of a GW faculty advisor. The faculty advisor may be any GW professor who has taught at GW at least two times in the past three years, and they must have knowledge of the issue or topic the student will explore in the senior thesis. During the semester, students will write a substantial research paper on an issue related to international affairs. Students will earn three credit hours for completing the Senior Thesis course (IAFF 4199)


Students must meet all of the following requirements prior to applying for registration.

  1. Senior standing (90 or more earned credit hours)
  2. Cumulative GPA must be 3.4 or higher at the time of application
  3. Final Year of study at GW

Course Requirements

IAFF 4199: Senior Thesis — Students must conduct original research and write 30 or more pages about an international affairs topic of their choice. Students are responsible for finding a GW faculty advisor who is willing to meet on a regular basis throughout the semester to supervise the research and writing process.

How to Apply/Register for IAFF 4199 Senior Thesis

Please note that students cannot register for the Senior Thesis via GWeb.

Seniors applying for the thesis option (fall or spring) are required to 

  1. Review the IAFF 4199 information slides
  2. Identify a GW faculty advisor to work with. Students should discuss their project with their prospective faculty advisor and define their research question well ahead of the deadline - preferably in the previous semester.
  3. Follow the registration process listed below.

Once received, applications will be reviewed for eligibility.

Deadline: Applications for the Senior Thesis are due no later than the Friday of the second week of classes in the semester.

How to Register for Independent Study, Internship Courses, or Senior Thesis

To register for:

  • IAFF 3195: Internship for Zero Credit
  • IAFF 3195: Internship for Credit
  • IAFF 3198: Independent Study
  • IAFF 4199: Senior Thesis

Please use the following link and complete the Qualtrics Survey: 

Fall 2024

Application deadlines:

  • Fall 2024: August 30, 2024
  • Spring 2025: January 24, 2025

To register for IAFF 3196 Internship Professional Development Seminar, students do not need to complete the Qualtrics Survey. Please follow the directions in the Internship Courses section and contact the listed instructor in the Schedule of Classes. 

Dean's Scholars Program 

The Elliott School of International Affairs created the Dean’s Scholars Program to provide an intensive research opportunity for undergraduate students who wanted to distinguish themselves both professionally and academically. Designed to be a two-year program, juniors and seniors interested in expanding their knowledge and skills in the field of International Affairs. Selected participants are supported in designing individual research projects and conducting field research in their specific area of interest under the guidance of a faculty mentor. Applications open in the spring semester of students' sophomore year.

Benefits of the Program

  • Small group research classes that allows collaborative and in-depth learning across multiple semesters.
  • Customized curriculum that guides each student through the research design, data collection and writing processes.
  • Close relationship with faculty mentor and the program's Associate Director. 
  • Financial support to be used for research travel, materials, and expenses.
  • Support and mentoring for fellowship applications

General schedule of the program

  • Junior Fall Semester – IAFF 2040: Research Methods in International Affairs – Scholars take a 3-credit research methods section specifically tailored to the Dean’s Scholars program where they will design their research project.
  • Junior Spring Semester – Scholars take a 1-credit seminar where they will refine their project proposals, prepare data collection materials, and obtain approval through GW’s Institutional Review Board before conducting their research.
  • Junior Summer Semester – Scholars conduct their fieldwork and begin data analysis.
  • Senior Fall Semester – Scholars take a 3-credit WID course where they will analyze their data and write-up their research papers.
  • Senior Spring Semester – Scholars present their research at conferences, submit their revised papers to peer-reviewed journals, and finish any fellowship applications.

Please email the program's Associate Director, Maryam Deloffre, with any questions about the program.

Research Assistant Awards

To encourage students to participate in faculty-led research projects, the Elliott School offers the Research Assistant award. The Application form and deadline are available on the Funding Opportunities page.

Elliott School faculty may seek outstanding students to assist them with an original research project. Selected students will receive an undergraduate research award of up to $1,500 to help with faculty-led research. The size of the award will depend on the amount of research work the undergraduate is likely to perform. Although an Elliott School faculty member must lead the research project, the student recipients of these awards are not required to be Elliott School students.

Research Awards

To encourage students to pursue their own original research, the Elliott School offers the Undergraduate Research Award. The Application form and deadline are available on the Funding Opportunities page.

These awards are for student-initiated projects designed to help with student research expenses (e.g., data collection, the purchase of research materials, and project-related travel). To be eligible to apply, the student must be an Elliott School undergraduate who is enrolled in a Senior Thesis, Research Seminar, or Independent Study course.

Information about these awards and when students can apply are sent via email from the Elliott School and are included in the advising newsletter.  In addition to the above awards, students may find research funding opportunities at their center, institute, or program. 

Please contact the Undergraduate Program Coordinator at [email protected] with any questions about funding for research projects in the Elliott School.

Other Funding Opportunities 

GW Available Research Funding & Application

There is also funding available via a general GW Undergraduate Research Award for students across GW. *Note: The project may begin during the summer and must be concluded during the spring semester of the following year.