Get access

Bravo for Brevity: Using Short Paper Assignments in International Relations Classes


  • Author's note: The author thanks the editors and anonymous reviewers for their help in improving this manuscript.


This paper examines the use of short writing assignments in undergraduate international relations courses. It gives instructors ideas about thinking beyond traditional research papers and instead focuses on shorter assignments that demand critical thinking skills. The ability to write concisely is useful for students with future careers in government, business, nonprofits, journalism, electoral politics, or academia. By requiring application of theoretical frameworks (perhaps as policy recommendations in a memo), students can see how policymakers employ international relations theories, thereby simulating the work inside the National Security Council or US State Department. This highlights the connections between theory and policy. Short papers can also better showcase role playing and connect with active learning techniques. Research papers of 10 pages or more may not be as useful as shorter assignments that focus students' attention on analyzing an issue, presenting a case study, or writing a policy brief.