Module code: POLM013

Module Overview

The module explores a range of theoretical approaches to study of International Relations thus introducing students to different ways current trends in the international system. The module will follow a historiographical approach thus starting with the “classical debates in IR theories, then moving on to mainstream debates and concluding with critical approaches.

Module provider


Module Leader

GILLESPIE Ciaran (Politics)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 128

Lecture Hours: 11

Seminar Hours: 11

Module Availability

Semester 1

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

General Synopsis:

The module explores a range of theoretical approaches to the study of international relations. The module begins by introducing mainstream debates in IR theories, before moving on to evaluate the contribution of critical approaches, including their influence on three (critical) subdisciplines.


  • Introduction (Week 1)

  • Mainstream Approaches (Weeks 2-6)

  • Alternative Debates (Weeks 7-9)

  • Critical Subdisciplines (Weeks 10-11)

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework ESSAY I (2000 WORDS) 40
Coursework ESSAY II (3000 WORDS) 60

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate

  • Assessments will come in the form of two essays (1x2000 and 1x3000), which will be based on a variety of set questions that facilitate a broad engagement with any of the relevant theory perspectives.

  • Essays are used primarily as a reflection of the denseness of the ground covered in terms of topics, demonstrating a deep understanding of the relevant literature will require a substantive piece of writing that is well researched, evidenced and structured.

  • Students will be instructed on best strategy for writing such an essay as many are new to theory based assessments.

Module aims

  • Assess contemporary debates and disciplinary concerns in International Relation
  • Evaluate the development of International Relations as a discipline through the analysis of theoretical paradigms
  • Evaluate continuities and change in contemporary theoretical discourses
  • Introduce students to the post-structuralist challenge in International Relations
  • Evaluate the contributions of each theoretical approach to our understanding of contemporary trends in Internal Relations

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 Identify key features of theoretical approaches in International Relations KCPT
002 Demonstrate the ability to compare and contrast between positivist and post positivist theoretical approaches in International Relations. Understand and be able to situate IR theories across a range of different spectra from Problem Solving to Critical, from Rationalist to Relativist etc. KCT
003 Show critical appreciation for the epistemological and philosophical basis of theoretical approaches, their evolution historically, their relationship to each other in terms of political and academic development. KCT
004 Ability to show detailed understanding through writing of key debates KCPT
005 Ability to show detailed understanding through discussion of key debates KCPT
006 Demonstrate ability to make links between key IR literature and contemporary empirical problem areas. KCPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

  • Introduce and develop student knowledge of both traditional and non-traditional IR theories

  • The course is taught along a ‘spectrum of criticality’, moving from classical IR theories and concepts within the liberal and realist traditions in the first sessions, towards more critical and post-modern reflections in the middle and final sections

  • Students will be given an opportunity to cover a wider range of highly differentiated, oppositional theoretical outlooks that will challenge them to reflect on how we construct an evidential basis for the explanatory power of IR perspectives.


The learning and teaching methods include:

  • Classes are two hour blocks, split between lecture and seminar. The format can shift between the two several times over the course of the teaching block, facilitating an interactive teaching environment

  • Simulations, debates and policy analysis form key components of seminar activity, giving opportunities for practical application of concepts derived from literature.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: POLM013

Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
International Relations (International Intervention) MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
International Relations MSc 1 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2019/0 academic year.