module specification

GI5005S - 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
Spring semester North Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

One of the main objectives of the discipline of International Relations is to explain the behaviour of states in the international system. The main goal of this module, therefore, is to better understand the practice of foreign policy through the use of theory. The emphasis is conceptual – and the focus is on interdisciplinary theories of human and state behaviour applied to the study of foreign policy. The Module explores the theoretical core of International Relations and it outlines the different perspectives which can be used to understand the dynamics of the international system and the manner in whcih states orientate their foreign policy decisions.

In examining the historical development of these different theoretical approaches students will be faced with complex questions about key concepts in the study of International Relations and state behaviour. This module encourages students to question the nature of the relations between states, the domestic / international divide and the relationships between theory and practice.

The discipline of International Relations has come under criticism for its traditional focus on power and conflict, and this module investigates both the “orthodox” theories and the “new approaches” with a view to establishing the relevance of theory in the arena of contemporary foreign policy making.

In addition to this the module recognises that students often have difficulty in distinguishing between methods to social enquiry and theories of IR and foreign policy. Consequently, one of the goals will be to encourage students to reflect on the important distinctions between methodology and theory.

Module aims

This Level 5 module aims to
• critically evaluate the importance of theorizing about global politics;
• distinguish between a number of theoretical approaches to International Relations;
• offer a critique of Realism’s relevance and influence in the late 20th Century;
• explore the links between theory and practice in international politics; and
• critically assess the explanatory power of the key International Relations theories.
• understand the nature of foreign policy.
• analyse the way governments make foreign policy decisions in the state system with particular reference to the foreign policies of specific States.
• critically examine the contribution that specific theories of International Relations, human behaviour and models of foreign policy have made to the way that foreign policy decisions are analysed.
The Module will also encourage you to develop a range of important Generic Skills much wanted by employers of all types.
• Word Processing and accessing Web Sites for Research purposes will provide you with an opportunity to use Computers and learn about research using Information Technology.
• Presenting papers and holding debates in Seminars will increase your confidence, and improve your ability to think quickly.
• Researching topics for Essays AND Seminars will provide you with essential research skills invaluable for employment and further study.
• In completing an extended, assessed essay you will be expected to pay particular attention to improving your writing style, essay structure and organisation, referencing, and presentation.


Indicative syllabus – for full details see section C in Module Booklet
The importance and development of IR Theory; Idealism; Realism; From Realism to Neorealism; Marxism; General Critical Theory; Critical Theory and notions of Emancipation; Postmodernism; Feminism; Environmentalism; The Level of Analysis Problem and State-Centric Approaches; Foreign Policy Analysis as a Positivist Science; Reflecting on “Foreign Policy” conceptually. What do we mean by “Foreign Policy”? What is the National Interest, how are foreign policy decisions made, and why is it so difficult to find satisfactory answers to questions about foreign policy? State-Centric Analysis. The State as a Rational Actor. Analysing and applying the Rational Actor Model; Going beyond state–centric approaches. Pluralism and the breakdown of international and national barriers. The role of bureaucracies and organisations in foreign policy making; Pluralist analysis and the domestic sources of foreign policy. Economics, public opinion and other domestic variables; Belief Systems. Foreign Policy Analysis in the next generation. Looking at the link between Psychology and Foreign Policy Analysis; Case Studies. The United States, the Soviet Union/Russia, Developing States; Constructivism and the future of IR.
Employability: The Role of the Foreign Policy Adviser and Policy Advice. These sessions examine the real world of Foreign Policy making and specifically address the role of the foreign policy adviser, the nature of foreign policy advice and the advice relationship. The sessions examine the process of advising a
policy-making body or policymaker in relation to contemporary foreign policies. This is a key part of the
module's employability focus examining scenarios that students who aspire to foreign policy roles may
find themselves in just a few years hence.

Learning and teaching

Teaching consists of a weekly one-hour lecture followed by a one-hour tutorial. Lectures will involve a combination of taught lectures, videos, 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. 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 Black Board, which will include a list of resources students can use to answer the questions and study the subject in greater depth.

Reflective learning will be encouraged at all stages of the module, with the emphasis being on developing independent learning skills. This is reflected in the percentage of time the module allows students to carry out guided independent study (80%), building on skills developed at Level 4, and encouraging students to expand their abilities in preparation for the workplace or postgraduate study.
Practitioners will be invited to lectures to discuss key subjects and employability issues with students. Indeed, two weeks of lectures will address the latter.

Learning outcomes

Studying this Module will enable students to
• Reflect on the connections between International Relations theories and the foreign policy process
• Understand and reflect on the nature of “national interest”
• Apply foreign policy theories and models to decision-making
• Investigate what domestic and international level variables influence foreign policy decisions

Assessment strategy

1. Summative Assessment: An essay of 2,500 words. This will require the student to demonstrate an ability to apply insights from the field in their analysis of a particular case study and to demonstrate self-direction and originality in this work. The essay will count for 100%.
2. The first formative piece of work will be a group presentation, which will be peer reviewed in class and will be completed by students mid-module to 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. 
3. A second formative piece of work in the form of a 500 word briefing paper on a particular country/region, to be presented in class in the second half of the module. This will also be peer reviewed, allowing instant feedback. This will enable students to reflect on what they have learnt to date and put in place relevant learning strategies.



Indicative bibliography and key on-line resources
• T Dunne et al., 2010. International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press.
• S Burchill et al., 2009. Theories of International Relations, 4th edition, Basingstoke, Palgrave.
• J Steans et al., 2010. An Introduction to International Relations Theory: Perspectives and Themes, 3rd edition, Harlow, Pearson Education.
• Haynes J., Hough P., Malik S. and Pettiford L., 2011. World Politics, International Relations and Globalisation in the 21st Century, Longman.
• Jackson, R. and Sorensen, G., 2007. Introduction to International Relations: Theories and Approaches, 3rd edition, Oxford University Press.
• Reus-Smith C. and Snidal D., (eds.), 2009. The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, Oxford University Press.
• Little, R and Smith, M (eds.), 2006. Perspectives on World Politics, 3rd edition, Routledge.
• Smith, S., Hadfield, A., and Dunne, T. (eds.), 2008. Foreign Policy: Theory, Actors, Cases, Oxford University Press.
• Hill, C., 2003. The Changing Politics of Foreign Policy, Palgrave Macmillan.
• Weber, M. and Smith, M. 2002. Foreign Policy in a Transformed World, Prentice Hall.