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A capstone is a culminating product of your learning and achievements during your years at Stanford. It is an opportunity for students to reflect on, apply, and integrate what you learned and experienced as an IR major and to create a tangible takeaway that you could cherish after you graduate. It will also provide a group experience in developing and presenting your work to your peers and to the broader community. All IR majors starting with graduating seniors of 2025 must complete their capstones. Transfer students who entered in AY2022-23 or thereafter and plan to graduate in AY2024-25 or later will also be required to complete a capstone. Students can choose one of the following ways to fulfill the IR capstone requirement. 

Honors Thesis

The IR Honors program offers qualified students the opportunity to conduct a major independent research project under faculty guidance. Honors application must be made by March of the junior year. All honors students must complete INTNREL 200A/B/C, which starts from the spring of the junior year, as well as INTNREL 198 (Senior Thesis) with their thesis advisors. For details about the program, including examples of past thesis topics, consult the IR Honors Program page.

Interdisciplinary Honors

Like departmental honors programs, Interdisciplinary Honors programs generally require an application, a minimum GPA, and some selected classes, as well as the thesis or capstone project. Most application deadlines are during the winter quarter of junior year, but may range from sophomore spring to senior fall. You may check each program for further details. Prior approval is needed for projects in all interdisciplinary honors programs except the Center for International Security and Cooperation and the Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

Policy Practicum

The Practicum offers students hands-on experience in policy-making by having them work in small teams to develop an analysis or recommendation for a client organization. A practicum seminar (5 units) is typically offered in the autumn quarter but may vary from year to year. Enrollment is limited, and students must submit their applications in advance. Priority will be given to senior students.

Capstone Project

Students will craft their own creative project that that could derive from prior coursework, overseas studies, internship, etc. Projects can take a variety of forms such as a collection of op-ed pieces, a podcast, a photo essay, a short documentary film, an educational website, an online exhibit, or a creative writing piece. Students will take a project design course (3 units) that offers skills workshops and peer feedback, followed by an independent course (2 units) to complete their individual projects.

Capstone Paper

Students will write an original research paper ideally building on research done in prior coursework. The course (5 units) will provide training on research and writing, interim deadlines for rough drafts, peer review, and opportunities to present the work to other students.

Who to contact:

Questions and consultation on the overall IR capstone requirement: Dr. Aiko Takeuchi (atakeuch [at] (atakeuch[at]stanford[dot]edu) or appointment via Calendly)

Honors thesis and Policy practicum: Dr. Erica Gould (egould [at] (egould[at]stanford[dot]edu))

General questions about the IR major: Director Professor Kenneth Schultz (kschultz [at] (kschultz[at]stanford[dot]edu)), Associate Director Paul Festa (pfesta [at] (pfesta[at]stanford[dot]edu))

Logistical questions and issues: SSO Stephen Busse (sebusse [at] (sebusse[at]stanford[dot]edu)), Program Associate Olivia Williams (oliviacw [at] (oliviacw[at]stanford[dot]edu))

Helpful resources on campus:

Hume Center for Writing and Speaking -- provides individual consultations, workshops, and courses to help students develop their writing and speaking skills, including creative writing, public speaking, digital presentation, and storytelling.

Research Compliance Office (for non-medical IRB application) -- An IRB review may be needed when dealing with human subjects in your research, including interviews and questionnaires. Approval must be obtained prior to conducting research. Consult the IRB staff to check if an IRB approval is needed for your specific topic, as well as to learn more about the application process and forms.

Making Spaces – offers spaces, tools, and assistance to students on a variety of creative projects, from 3D printing, laser cutting, crafts to woodworking.

Haas Center for Public Service – provides opportunities and support for community-based research and partnerships.