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Unit information: Theories of International Relations in 2021/22

Unit name Theories of International Relations
Unit code POLIM3014
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Filippo Dionigi
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will provide students with an overview of the major theoretical traditions for the analysis of world politics. It will focus on the basic concepts and questions, major scholarly traditions or perspectives, significant debates, and prominent authors in the study of international politics in order that students can develop an appreciation of the terrain of the discipline. The literature coverage will be extensive rather than intensive, indicating the breadth of debate in the field. The theoretical traditions to be covered comprise four from the mainstream camp of IR theory realism, neorealism, neoliberal institutionalism, and constructivism and four critical IR traditions Marxisms, feminisms, postmodernism, and green theory. Overall, the unit is designed better to prepare the student as a scholar and as a citizen to understand the workings of world politics through a greater awareness of the diversity of IR theories and their respective strengths and weaknesses. This unit is only available to students registered for MSc/Diploma degrees in the Department of Politics. Please note that the Department does not permit the auditing of any of its units.

This unit aims to:

  • Provide an overview of major competing theoretical traditions for the analysis of world politics
  • Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of these competing theoretical approaches
  • Evaluate the application of different theories to the analysis of world politics
  • Consider the political implications of the various theories of world politics

Intended Learning Outcomes

On completion the student should be able to:

  • Explain the structure and content of diverse theoretical traditions for the analysis of world politics
  • Assess the relative strengths and weaknesses of these diverse theoretical traditions
  • Critically and comparatively evaluate the utility of these theoretical traditions for the investigation of world politics
  • Apply these theories to historical and contemporary case studies
  • Write articulate, concise and persuasive essays
  • Engage in thoughtful and constructive discussions by contributing actively and continuously to the seminar activities
  • Constructively engage in critical thinking in the final essay and in discussion with peers.
  • Effectively read and understand the course literature.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities

Assessment Information

10% participartion 90% 4000 word essay


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. POLIM3014).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.