module specification

GI5005A - Approaches to International Relations and Foreign Policy (2017/18)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2017/18
Module title Approaches to International Relations and Foreign Policy
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 15
School School of Social Sciences
Total study hours 150
45 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
105 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 100%   2500 word research essay
Running in 2017/18
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Autumn semester North Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

One of the central questions for the discipline of International Relations is to explain the behaviour of states in the international system. This module explores the various theoretical perspectives which can be used to understand the dynamics of the international system and how they condition state behaviour. It explores both explanatory and critical approaches to this issue, the former seeking to explain how the international system operates, with the latter seeking to transform the nature of world politics in one way or another.

Module aims

This module aims to:
1. Critically evaluate the importance of theorising about international politics.
2. Distinguish between theoretical approaches to International Relations.
3. Explore the links between theory and practice in international politics.


The importance and development of IR Theory; Realism and Neorealism; Liberalism and the Democratic Peace Thesis; the English School; Marxism; Critical Theory; Poststructuralism; Feminism; Environmentalism; Constructivism.

Learning and teaching

Each week teaching will consist of a two-hour combined lecture and workshop and a one-hour seminar. Each lecture/workshop will comprise an interactive lecture followed by an activity undertaken by small groups, with the result of these activities fed back in a plenary session towards the end of the two-hour session. The seminar will involve small group discussions, debates and group work.

The module makes extensive use of blended learning, with full use of the dedicated WebLearn site for the module.

Reflective and independent learning will be encouraged through the regular interactive lectures and seminar discussions. Students will be required to attend all classes, to engage in the set activities, to prepare in advance by attempting assigned readings, to complete coursework ahead of deadlines, to access markers’ comments on their work and act on the feedback they receive.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to:
1. Analyse the key debates in International Relations theory.
2. Evaluate competing theoretical perspectives on the international system.
3. Demonstrate an understanding of the nature of foreign policy.
4. Investigate what domestic and international level variables influence foreign policy decisions.

Assessment strategy

The module will be assessed by a 2500 word essay.


Bull, H., The Anarchical Society. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Macmillan
Burchill, S. and Linklater, A. (eds) (2013) Theories of International Relations, 5th edition. Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Daddow, O. (2013) International Relations Theory: The Essential, 2nd edition. London: SAGE
Dunne, T., Kurki, M. and Smith, S. (eds) (2016) International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, 4thedition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jackson, R. and Sorensen, G. (2016) Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches, 6th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Little, R and Smith, M (eds.) (2006) Perspectives on World Politics, 3rd edition. London: Routledge
Mearsheimer, J. (2001) The Tragedy of Great Power Politics. New York: Norton
Reus-Smith C. and Snidal D. (eds.) (2009) The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Wendt, A. (1992) ‘Anarchy is What States Make of it: The Social Construction of Power Politics’, International Organization, 46: 2.