module specification

GI4005 - Introduction to International Relations (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Introduction to International Relations
Module level Certificate (04)
Credit rating for module 30
School Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
Total study hours 300
Running in 2017/18 No instances running in the year

Module summary

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the study of International Relations as an academic discipline. It identifies the key actors in international relations and examines how these have changed or been threatened by the forces of globalisation. It also considers the historical context of international relations in the Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries and demonstrates the challenges that globalisation poses to the structures and processes of world politics. In particular, students will explore issues as diverse as the development of the Westphalian system, North-South tensions, the international political economy, theoretical approaches to international relations, and international security dilemmas, such as terrorism, nuclear proliferation, the clash of cultures, poverty, human rights, the role of gender, and the environment.  At the end of the module students should be able to make informed judgements about current international affairs – and future developments.


Please note: This module supersedes GI1022/GI1023


Module aims

The broad aim is to develop an understanding of the fundamentals of the study of international relations. In particular to:

• Analyse historical precedents and the institutions underlying contemporary international relations.
• Understand the contemporary challenges facing the world and the institutional and political factors which hinder, or help provide, solutions to these problems.
• Make informed judgements about current international affairs – and future developments – within the larger theoretical frameworks and approaches to international relations.


The syllabus will include: An introduction to International Relations and the Globalisation of World Politics; The Competing Paradigms of Realism, Liberalism, Marxism, and the Inter- Paradigm Debate; The Evolution of International Society and the Westphalian system; International History 1900-1945; International History 1945-1990 and the End of the Cold War; International and global security in the post-Cold War era; International Political
Economy in an Age of Globalisation; Trans-national Actors and International Organizations in Global Politics; Intergovernmental Politics in an Age of Globalisation; Nuclear Proliferation and Weapons of Mass Destruction; Cultural Conflict in World Affairs; Terrorism; The Environment
in International Relations; Poverty (including the international relations of the developing world); Gender; Human Rights; Humanitarian Aid; and Human security.

A key element of the syllabus will be skills specific, supporting students in developing learning skills for life. This will include class taught skills and exercises using blended learning opportunities on weblearn/BlackBoard. Topics covered will include: how to take lecture notes; how to research a subject; how to prepare for a seminar; and how to write an essay. The applicability of these skills to enhancing employability will be explored.

Learning and teaching

Teaching consists of a weekly two hour lecture followed by a one hour tutorial. Lectures will involve a combination of taught lectures, videos, skills workshops, and the use of primary and secondary documents and websites. During the module seminars will combine a variety of methods including discussion based on pre-set questions and role plays. Blended Learning will be a key component of the module, building on existing face-to-face contact time via a virtual environment, and offering additional resources for students to develop. Lecture notes and primary and secondary documents for use in class will be posted on line, as will web links for academic and governmental websites, as well as video links.  Some recorded material by the module convenor may also be made available on line and by e-mail.

Materials for use in class will be posted at least one week in advance on line to allow students to reflect on the subject and prepare. Questions for class discussion will be available from the beginning of the module via the Module Booklet available on weblearn/Blackboard, which will include a list of resources students can use to answer the questions and study the subject in greater depth.

Skills development will form a central component of the module, including specific sessions on essay preparation and writing, complimenting skills workshops featured on other level four modules provided by GIR.

Two activity weeks will also form part of the syllabus, allowing further skills development and subject-specific study.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should:

  • Be able to identify key actors and processes in international relations, both historically and in the present day;
  • Gain an understanding of the basic theories of international relations, including Realism, Liberalism and Marxism;
  • Be able to assess and take an informed overview of selected contemporary international developments, including critical analysis of international events, their causes, and the implications.

The transferable employability skills students should have developed include:

  • The ability to communicate effectively in speech (the ability to work under pressure in seminars, where students must demonstrate the ability to respond to questions orally) and writing (for example, writing an essay using commonly accepted standards of definition, analysis, grammatical prose, and documentation);
  • Research skills, including the ability to synthesise and analyse arguments, to read and understand texts on international relations, and to exercise critical judgement;
  • The capacity to work independently, demonstrating initiative, self-organisation and time-management, as well as co-operating with other students to achieve common goals.

Assessment strategy

Two formative pieces of work are required for this module.

The first formative piece will be a short paper, up to 500 words long, which will summarise a key issue in international affairs. It will be completed in week 7 of the module. This will be commented on by the module tutor in order to identify key strengths and areas for improvements in writing skills (in relation to the written assignment which is one part of the summative assessment – see below) and subject awareness and understanding. It is hoped that this will be submitted on line.

The second formative piece of work will be a group presentation on a contemporary issue, which will be peer reviewed in class, and will be completed by students during the second half of the module. This will enable students to reflect on their understanding of the subject matter to date in order to put in place learning strategies for the remainder of the module. This will encourage the development of a variety of employability skills including: research involving information retrieval from a variety of resources; analysing and advocating solutions to problems; developing a reasoned argument; exercising critical judgement; and collaborating with others towards a common goal. 

The first summative assessment will be an essay, 1,500-2,000 words long due in week 15. The essay will provide students with the opportunity to submit a major piece of work of their choosing on a key element of the module covered in the first half of the module. This will enable students to build on the formative writing exercise and to develop further many of the employability skills introduced during the module, reflecting on what they have learnt and making use of constructive feedback.

The second summative assessment will be a detailed briefing paper on a key issue covered in the second half of the module, such as terrorism, climate change, or poverty. Students will be expected to consider solutions to the issue they choose, presenting the arguments for and against, and recommending a course of action. The paper will be 1,500-2,000 words long.  This will enable students to build on the summative writing and presentation exercises and will develop further many of the employability skills introduced during the module, in particular the ability to present information in a concise, well-balanced and constructive manner, drawing considered conclusions which lead to a policy recommendation. Students will also be encouraged to reflect on what they have learnt and make use of the constructive feedback they have received.


There are two recommended core textbooks for this module:

Baylis, John, Smith, Steve, and Owens, Patricia, (eds.), (2011),The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations, 5th Edition, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Haynes, Jeffrey, et al., (2011), World Politics, Harlow: Pearson.

Other recommended books include:

Kegley, Charles and Wittkopf, Eugene, (2008),World Politics: Trend and Transformation,
12thed., Basingstoke: MacMillan.

Steans, Jill and Pettiford, Lloyd, et al.(2010), An Introduction toInternational Relations Theory: Perspectives and Themes, 3rd ed., Harlow: Pearson.

Beeson, Mark, and Bisley, Nick, (eds.), (2010), Issues in 21st Century World Politics, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

On-line resources include: Foreign Policy atwww.; Foreign Affairs at; The Washington, the Journal of International Affairs at, and a growing selection of e-books.