When attending any Model UN conference, solid preparation is essential to having a productive, fun, and successful conference experience. While more advanced delegates might develop their own means of conference preparation after years of experience, a generic way that consistently yields quality preparation for delegates of any level is with the creation of a good research binder. The purpose of a research binder is to compile information on your country, your committee, the topic of debate, and to organize your ideas for potential solutions: all in one, convenient location where information can quickly be found during committee if so needed. This is how you can organize your research binder, as well as a list of basic essentials that you’ll always want to make sure you have to ensure you’re well prepared for conference:
Before starting, ensure that you have the following supplies to create your research binder:
- a three-ring binder
- minimum 4 dividers (to organize the different sections)
- a printer available (you’ll need to print out articles, documents, and statistics in order to fill your binder with the necessary information)
- lined paper (for notes and resolution writing once the conference begins)
Your binder should have four main sections (use the dividers to organize these):
1.) Topic Research
In this section, you need to gather the necessary information to achieve a deep, wholistic understanding of the topic of debate. Make sure you use reliable sources to get your information. Find articles about the history of the topic, the underlying causes of conflict, the modern status of the issue, and the different stakeholders. Figure out which countries the issue affects most: often times, certain countries are the perpetrators of an issue (i.e. North Korea in a debate about nuclear proliferation) and others are the victims (i.e. nations of the Caribbean in a debate about natural disaster relief.) In considering the different ways in which countries relate to the topic, you can predict the different positions that will be voiced in committee and prepare your means of refuting opposite standpoints.
2.) Country Research
This should be a smaller portion of your binder, because the end goal of this section of research is to understand a general attitude towards the topic, not write down a bunch of random import/export statistics which you’ll never use in committee. In this section of your binder, you should gather information about the country you were assigned. In order to accurately represent your country, you should aim for a basic understanding of the current political environment, history regarding foreign affairs, and style of governance/political leadership. These topics may seem unimportant when dealing with a specific topic for committee, but the key to understanding your country’s position on the topic is understanding how that position was eventually arrived at (history, politics, past national leadership, etc.) Here are a few questions you should consider when searching for information:
- Is your country historically isolationist or interventionist?
- Does your country cooperate with the United Nations?
- Does religion play a role in dictating political affairs in your country?
- What style of government does your country utilize?
- What kinds of internal issues is the government currently addressing, or not addressing?
- What are the prominent religions in your country? Official languages? Ethnic groups?
- What global alliances does your country have? What global enemies?
- Is your nation a member of any transnational/trans-regional organizations? (i.e. NATO, European Union, African Union, ASEAN)
The most important thing you should be striving for in this section is understanding your country’s perspective. You don’t need to try and learn the entire history of the country, but make sure you can identify political and social factors that characterize the modern foreign policy of the government.
3.) Country/Topic Connection
In this section, you should try and figure out how your country relates to the topic of debate. In some cases, this will be more obvious than others: if the issue doesn’t directly affect your assigned country, you might need to broaden your search to a whole region instead of just one country. Typically, a certain topic has a few different common positions taken by various regions or groupings of countries: these are called “bloc positions,” and they can be a great way to understand your country’s policy without finding information that directly pertains to your country. That being said, you should always search for speeches/government issued statements from your country (primary sources) in order to get the most accurate understanding of your country’s position.
4.) Potential Solutions
This is absolutely the most critical part of preparing for a conference, and often times overlooked! You must show up to the first committee session with a developed list of brainstormed solutions to the topic that match your country’s position. First, remember that prewriting a resolution is absolutely prohibited at Model UN conferences in North America, and showing up with prepared operative clauses could result in serious consequences, usually in the form of disqualification from awards or the conference as a whole. However, brainstorming ideas to potentially include in a resolution that you would advocate in committee is not at all against the rules, and is actually encouraged by most secretariats. Coming prepared with your ideas for solutions already thought out will give you a strong advantage in committee because it allows you to push debate forward and begin forming a bloc as early as the first committee session. Brainstorming solutions means making a list of new ideas that address specific aspects of the issue OR simply finding solutions that already exist and advocating for further development of those programs (or even just additional fund allocation.)
The single most common mistake made by delegates creating research binders is printing out a bunch of articles, stuffing them in a binder, and never reading them. This is a complete and utter waste of time, energy, and paper.
Your binder should be filled with ~80% handwritten or typed notes, and ~20% printed out articles, maps, and tables. Conduct your research online or at a library, and write out notes in your own words which summarize the key components, and then organize the notes into the four aforementioned sections. Remember that the function of your research binder is to provide a means of organizing information that you have already processed and condensed in your mind.
While preparing extensively for a MUN conference might seem boring or tedious when you are weeks away from the actual conference date, I promise you that conferences are always more fun when you come prepared. Having a fully prepped research binder will allow you to walk into that first committee session with confidence and pride: these characteristics are essential in performing well in any conference, and will undoubtedly increase your odds of winning an award.