The MPIA offers students the possibility of undertaking a Major Research Paper (MRP), with the approval of the Graduate Programme Director (GPD), in the final term of the programme. Students undertaking an MRP are exempted from the two elective courses in the 2nd term of their 2nd year (last academic term) and from the Capstone Seminar.
The purpose of the present document is to provide more detailed guidelines on the MRP scope, process and evaluation in order to assist students, supervisors, second readers and the GPD. It is intended to strike a balance between the need for a consistent structure and the necessary flexibility of graduate research.
Scope of the MRP
The MRP is a substantial piece of original research (e.g. 60-70 pages) in which students write about an original topic in public and international affairs. The MRP is expected to situate the topic within the broader literature as well as the suitable concepts, and to provide a policy-relevant examination that applies the appropriate methodology and critical analysis.
For the purposes of the MPIA, “original research” is interpreted to mean that the student will make a moderate contribution to knowledge in at least one of the following ways:
- Empirical contribution to knowledge: This could entail the collection of new data and/or the interpretation of existing data (e.g. secondary statistical data) in a new way.
- Conceptual or theoretical contribution to knowledge: In this case, the student would introduce or refine a particular concept or theory and/or apply an existing concept or theory in a new way or to a case study that has not previously been examined through this conceptual/theoretical lens and that includes interdisciplinary considerations.
- Methodological contribution to knowledge: This would entail the development of a new epistemological or methodological framework, a new research method and/or the application of existing epistemologies, methodologies or methods to a new area of research that integrates an interdisciplinary approach.
Given the fact that the research project is a major research paper (and not a thesis) at the Master’s level, the threshold for a contribution to knowledge will be moderate. Moreover, it is understood that a student is not required to gather primary empirical data. It is recognized, however, that the MRP must go beyond a mere literature review; it should not simply be an aggregate of previous coursework (but can draw on this). In other words, the MRP should reflect analysis that is more in-depth than what is required for a term paper.
The topic must also address a policy issue that is relevant to public and international affairs.
Given the bilingual nature of the MPIA, students must demonstrate in their MRP that they have surveyed the relevant literature in both English and French. Specific issues concerning bilingualism are to be discussed with the supervisor.
The MRP option is a privilege and not a right. Given resource constraints, the MRP option can only be granted to a small number of MPIA students.
The process is as follows:
1. Students wishing to pursue an MRP must fill out and submit a Proposal Form to the MPIA Planning Committee. The Proposal Form must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by September 30th of the year prior to undertaking the MRP. (For example, if a student is applying to undertake a MRP in the winter 2020 term, s/he must submit the application by September 30th, 2019.) The proposal must include:
a. A proposed title
b. A written approval for supervision by a professor in the program (or in another program in exceptional circumstances)
c. A description of the research project containing: a research question or a hypothesis that can reasonably be answered/tested in one semester; a description of the conceptual framework and the methodology; a bibliography of a dozen of titles.
d. A discussion of any ethical issues (see below for information on ethics approval)
2. The Planning Committee will make a decision on each application by October 15th. Only students who have received written permission from the Planning Committee will be allowed to proceed. The Planning Committee’s decision will be based on the following considerations:
- Quality and feasibility of the research proposal
- Student’s academic standing in the program to date (A- minimum for the overall average, and A- minimum in the methodology course, except in extraordinary circumstances)
3. Once the student has received permission to undertake an MRP, s/he will meet with her/his supervisor to devise a work plan with deadlines. The MRP Formatting Guidelines provide more instructions on MRP format and style.
4. By January 30th of the year in which the student is undertaking the MRP, the student, in consultation with the student’s supervisor, must submit to the Planning Committee the name of a proposed second reader who has agreed to serve in this capacity. (Please see below for selection criteria of the second reader.) The name of the proposed second reader must be emailed to email@example.com by January 30th.
5. The student must submit his/her MRP to their supervisor and second reader no later than April 1st.
6. The student integrates the supervisor’s and second reader’s comments (if any). After obtaining approval from the supervisor and second reader, the student submits a soft copy (pdf) of his/her MRP, together with an MRP Permission Form, to the MPIA Graduate Program Assistant by April 15th.
7. The Supervisor, upon consultation with the Second Reader, communicates the grade and submit the Supervisor and Second Reader Evaluation Report to the student, GPD and GPA by April 27th.
Students intending to undertake primary research with human subjects must obtain permission from the MPIA Planning Committee prior to conducting any research with human subjects. It is the student’s responsibility to apply for ethics approval in a timely manner. Only students who have received permission to undertake an MRP can apply for ethics approval.
More information on the ethics review process is available at:
For questions on Ethics procedures, please contact the Graduate Program Assistant.
Roles and responsibilities
• The student is responsible for respecting all deadlines, as outlined above. Extensions will only be granted at the Planning Committee’s discretion in extraordinary personal, family or medical circumstances.
• The student must respect the principles of academic integrity, as per Senate policy (http://www.yorku.ca/academicintegrity/students/index.htm). Students found guilty of plagiarism will fail the MRP.
• Students who intend to undertake primary research with human subjects are responsible for obtaining ethics approval prior to undertaking any primary data collection.
• The supervisor must be a member affiliated with the Faculty of Graduate Studies and a member of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. Where the student is unable to find a faculty member within the MPIA programme who has relevant research interests and is available to supervise, s/he may propose a supervisor from another programme at York University. The Planning Committee will ultimately determine the appropriateness of proposed supervisors. Co-supervision is discouraged, but may be approved with sufficient justification.
• The supervisor is primarily responsible for providing overall academic guidance to the student.
• The supervisor is responsible for identifying, in collaboration with the student, a potential second reader. S/he will approach the second reader to determine availability/interest and submit the proposed second reader to the GPD for approval.
• The supervisor will evaluate the MRP, in collaboration with the second reader. S/he is responsible for writing the evaluation report, incorporating comments from the second reader, and for submitting the final grade and report to the student, Planning Committee and MPIA Graduate Program Assistant before the deadline for final grades.
• The second reader must be a faculty member affiliated with the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Ideally, s/he will be a member of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs. Where the supervisor is unable to find a faculty member within the MPIA programme who has relevant research interests and is available to serve as second reader, s/he may propose a colleague from another programme at York University. The Planning Committee will ultimately determine the appropriateness of proposed second readers.
• The second reader is primarily responsible for reading the final draft of the MRP and providing his/her assessment, along with written comments, to the supervisor prior to the due date for final grades.
• The second reader may be available for consultations with the student prior to the final submission of the MRP. However, it should be noted that the supervisor is primarily responsible for academic guidance, and that the second reader should endeavour to provide complementary rather than contradictory advice to the student. Where there appears to be a discrepancy of view, it is the second reader’s responsibility to communicate this to the supervisor.
Graduate Program Director (GPD) and MPIA Planning Committee
• The Graduate Program Director is primarily responsible for ensuring that the MRP process respects all applicable guidelines and policies at the programme, faculty and university levels.
• Upon consultation with the MPIA Planning Committee, the GPD makes a final decision on the MRP application, as well as designation of the supervisor and second reader.
• Should the student have any problems or concerns with the supervisor or the MRP process, s/he should discuss these with the GPD as soon as possible. The Planning Committee is responsible for addressing these concerns and finding solutions, in collaboration with the student and supervisor.
Graduate Program Assistant (GPA)
• The MPIA administrative assistant is primarily responsible for assisting the student, supervisor, second reader and Graduate Program Director with the administrative procedures and requirements for the MRP.
• S/he keeps copies of relevant documents, including forms and the final MRP.
The final MRP is assessed by the supervisor and second reader. They should come to an agreement on the final grade and the comments to be included in the evaluation report. Should the supervisor and second reader be unable to agree on the final grade and comments, they will notify the GPD as soon as possible. The GPD will then appoint a third reader to assess the MRP.
A letter grade will be assigned to the MRP. While this grade will appear on the student’s transcripts, it will not be calculated as part of the student’s GPA.
The letter grade should be assigned in accordance with the Faculty of Graduate Studies guidelines:
B+ (Highly Satisfactory)
In assessing the MRP, the supervisor and second reader should consider the following evaluation criteria:
• Literature review: Does the paper situate the topic within the relevant literature? Has the student engaged critically with the existing research?
• Conceptual and analytical framework: To what degree does the student adequately define and apply key terms/concepts? Is there an appropriate conceptual framework to guide the analysis? Is the methodology well explained and justified? Does the analysis integrate interdisciplinary approaches?
• Originality: To what degree has the student made at least one of the contributions to knowledge specified above – i.e. empirical, conceptual and/or methodological in an interdisciplinary perspective? Does the paper go beyond a mere literature review?
• Argumentation: Does the student adequately support her/his analysis with evidence, existing sources and examples that are persuasive?
The examiners’ report should provide an overall assessment, in addition to addressing the evaluation criteria above.