MA International Relations (Standard)

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Graduate Seminar in International Relations Theory

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI70401
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course is normally only offered to students taking the MA programme in International Relations. There are no prerequisites or co-requisites, but if you do not have a background in political science or international relations, it means that you must read, and work hard.



This course offers a critical introduction to key theories of international relations. No prior knowledge is assumed. This course is crucial background for the Spring Semester module POLI70412 Critical Approaches to International Politics.  Although by members of staff with particular expertise on the theory under discussion will lead seminars and contribute their insights, the course is intended primarily to facilitate and encourage debate among participating students.


This course will:

introduce students to a range of theoretical approaches in International Politics

familiarise students with critiques of dominant ways of conceptualising international politics

help students to identify the epistemological, ontological, and normative dimensions of the range of theories considered

enable students to reflect critically upon ways of theorising international politics.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful participants will be able to:

Work as a team to resolve problems.

Begin to describe and critically analyse a range of theories of international politics.

Identify the distinctive epistemological, ontological and normative characteristics of a range of theories used to approach international politics.

Understand the differing conceptions of the relationship between theories and practices of international politics.

Have a clear sense of the significance of the multiple ways in which to read the discipline.

Present independent study and research findings in a range of verbal and written forms to meet Postgraduate level requirements. 

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly two-hour seminars (attendance compulsory).

The course convenor will facilitate the course and assessments. Each session will be led by one of the teaching team who will introduce a particular theory of international politics, present their reading of its key tenets and then lead a discussion on issues arising from this presentation and the assigned readings. There will also be a session on project design. This session will look specifically at the way in which different theories ‘design’ projects differently by drawing out certain types of questions over other types of questions and by focusing attention on particular ways of talking and thinking about the ‘international’ in politics.  This session will be linked to discussion about student essay projects. Advanced preparation by students will be compulsory.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%

1,200 words Article Analysis (30%) and one 2800 word essay worth 70%

Recommended reading

  • Scott Burchill, Richard Devetak, Andrew Linklater, Matthew Paterson, Christian Reus-Smit and Jacqui True, Theories of International Relations (2nd ed. or later), Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2002 or later.
  • Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki and Steve Smith (eds), International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007
  • Ní Mhurchú, A. and Shindo, R. (eds.) Critical Imaginations in International Relations. London, Routledge, 2016.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 130

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Michael Magcamit Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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