How to Write a Generic International Relations Article

You may have never written an academic IR article, and if you are very lucky you may have never read one. Don’t worry about that though, no one else does either. But in case you ever decide that this is some kind of cred you need in your life…well, I have some tips for you. Its not say that all tropes are bad or they don’t exist for a reason, but let’s examine the tropes to get you on your way in the most speedy manner possible.

1. Your Article Title: Should it be Followed by a Subtitle Question?

Yes. In fact, if your title deviates from the above format I just used you clearly aren’t a real scholar. See, a real scholar always makes the point they are arguing obvious by the question they ask, yet still asks it as a question in a transparent attempt to posture from a type of faux-humility. That way, your question makes it look like you care about debate, but also cuts to the chase by showing you have already made up your mind. Some more examples I will make up on the fly which are more topic relevant:

The Straits of Doom: Taiwan U.S. Ally or Liability?

The Ties That Bind: Sino-Russian Relations, Towards Partnership or Rivalry?

Xerxes at the Gates: Does the European Union Undermine its Own Influence in Greece?

Not My Mother’s County: Immigrant Radicalization, a Reaction to Cable News Sensationalism?

With enough experience regarding IR journals you will soon be able to summarize all of these articles simply by reading the titles. Basically the answer is either ‘yes’ or ‘whatever the option that less people are assuming to be true at the date of publication.’ Sure, you could be honest and just drop the question mark-thus stating your point clearly and without unnecessary and condescending obfuscation, but why do that when you can be a real scholar?

2.  Let us take our original title and build on it, so your article is called ‘Your Article Title: Should it be Followed by a Subtitle Question?’ Begin the article with a statement about how you are about to change everyone’s assumptions, you genius you. Do this by assuming that your audience of two adjunct professors at Ball State University have only ever heard of Professor Derpheim’s mainstream (lamestream, amirite?) point that actually, having question ended subtitles is just bizarre and unnerving. State that he is wrong because questions lead to thinking, and thinking is what real scholars encourage. They teach, they do not dictate. But you wish to encourage original thinking, you are a professor after all. That is a title you clearly take much more seriously than Derpheim.

3. Having established your argument, use case studies. But don’t pick them from anywhere outside of your primary research background. You have to be on ground where you can trumpet being an expert to shut down criticism, and you can’t do that if you go outside your personal geographic or theoretical practices now can you? No matter how global the topic, if you leave people alone they might do the same to you. Only criticize scholars far above your pay grade that everyone else criticizes too, then you have herd immunity. Professor Derpheim is raking in too much dough from book sales these days to care about your little resume-padder article. He won’t retaliate, and if he does your position gets elevated anyway.

4. Conclude with a non-conclusion. We can be argumentative but not disagreeable here. What if one day you escape from teaching Waltz 101 to bored undergrads at Chucklefuk County Community College and get invited to join the prestigious ranks of Spotsdale Suburban University, where Professor Derpheim teaches? What if he is on your hiring board? What if his office is next to yours? You are an academic, not an actual writer. You can only fight your battles using asymmetric passive-aggressive tactics. But surely you couldn’t do it all day, at such close proximity?

No, the risk is too great. You must hedge. No matter how bold your opening statement, or the eloquence of your point that question subtitles are indeed necessary for journal titles, you still need an escape clause. Therefore, declare your research not to have turned the argument on its head entirely, but rather ‘problematized’ it. Never mind that ‘problematize’, or any conjugation thereof, is not even a word…you have done your part to dress up your argument with decorum, and thus are a real scholar.

Congratulations on your article! Oh, and if anyone criticizes you for not actually talking about IR in your long dense diatribe about article titles, just tell them you are a post-structuralist. This will drive the people who aren’t away from asking more, and those who are will nod approvingly at your genius.

Now for some serious and non-facetious writing advice. Nujabes. Nujabes makes great background music for writing.

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