Writing your undergraduate Human Rights thesis will be far from a one-man show; a student will likely find themselves using upwards of 20 sources in the final version of their project. Here are five free resources you can — and should — turn to as you write your human rights thesis.
1 Your Thesis Adviser
The most important free resource will be your thesis advisor. Choose a professor who shares similar research interests with you, and don’t forget to take advantage of their expert experience in the field. More likely than not, they will be happy to brainstorm ideas with you. Take the time to read some of their publications prior to meeting, and let that be a factor in choosing who you ask to advise you. Really have the best version of your work prepared for every check-in with your advisor. They may be the first connection in your professional network, so it’s in your best interest to impress them.
2 NGO Reports
Take some notes from the professionals. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the ACLU are among the most prominent organizations in the way of research, policy advocacy and acting as government watchdogs. All three organizations make their published reports available for free download on their respective websites. At the beginning of your project planning, you might find your thesis inspiration by browsing NGO websites. Scroll through article headlines, or begin more broadly by checking out the general human rights issues an organization publishes content about. If an issue sparks some interest at first glance, try reading Google News articles about some of those topics. Which topics return the most hits when you search online? Consider how many pages of content you need to be able to write on your thesis topic. These articles will likely be your first sources as you start writing. Don’t make things too hard on yourself by electing to study a topic that only returns a few articles or publications in journals.
Further along in your project, you might benefit from looking to these NGO sites again; in particular, at the structure and formatting of the reports. Your thesis will be well over fifteen pages long, so if you want to maximize the readability of your paper, you’ll have to pay strict attention to the overall outline and section breakdowns. Take a closer look at the section titles in published reports, and notice the similarities in outlines. Many human rights reports (no matter the organization publishing them) include sections dedicated to the topic background, methodology, the legal framework, and also recommendations to the government or other entities. These often form the overall structure of the report, and are further broken down (usually) into smaller subsections that will make for a final product with high readability.
3 Legal Resources
Human rights theses will almost always require some legal research, analysis, and citation on the student’s part. The best sources to trust when searching for these documents will be directly from the databases and human rights bodies themselves — try WorldCourts, the World Legal Information Institute, Human Rights Law Centre, Oxford Public International Law, and courts like the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights or any UN treaty bodies. There’s no need to worry about biased information on these websites, and when all of the necessary information is right in front of you, citing your sources will be nearly effortless. When you turn to outside sources for analysis and annotated versions of legislation, you run the risk of major bias. So when you’re developing your legal framework section, you should turn first to sources like these.
4 Grammar and Styling Tools
Errors that will always detract from someone’s credibility and their paper’s professionalism are those in formatting, grammar, and in citations. Part of the reason these mistakes hurt your credibility are simply because you have so many free online reference guides at your fingertips, and because these errors are so easily fixed in a matter of minutes — so take a few minutes to get it right. You’ve put so many hours into writing your thesis at this point that it makes no sense to take big hits for the smaller errors in your paper. Universities are the best sources for these free online guides, and you’ll probably find that a lot of their library departments offer free downloads of reference books that were written exactly for this type of project. Try checking out the Library Guides at University of Washington Libraries, and the annotated sample papers over at the Purdue Online Writing Lab. Other more interactive grammar tools worth giving a try are Grammarly and Scribens.
5 Human Rights Theses
The final resource, which may just be the most valuable of all, are the thousands of human rights theses published and made available online by universities around the world. The two most user-friendly databases, with larger collections, are probably the Oxford University Research Archive and the University of Toronto’s TSpace.
When the time comes to tackle that human rights thesis, seriously consider utilizing these free resources. The list is general enough that every student, no matter the specific topic of their paper, can rest assured they’ll hit the ground running. Don’t stress so early on about the technical, more nitty and gritty resources that will cater to your specific research needs. You’ll find that your idea of what kind of specialized, more involved sources you’ll need will become more apparent as you progress in the writing process. More than that, you’ll likely find that these five resources will not only teach you what those other sources will be, but where exactly you can look for them. In other words, treat these resources as effective and powerful tools at your disposal.