Theories of International Relations

This information is for the 2013/14 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr George Lawson CLM 5.12


This course is compulsory on the MSc in International Relations (Research) and MSc in International Relations Theory. This course is not available as an outside option.

It may not be combined with IR410 International Politics. 

Course content

The major schools of thought in the theory and methodology of international relations. The course covers the main explanatory and normative approaches to international relations theory. The purpose of the course is to provide a thorough background in all schools of International Relations theory and the debates between them regarding their view on the nature of international relations and how this is to be conceptualised, understood and judged. Theoretical/methodological approaches to be considered include: classical and neo-realism; liberal institutionalism and neo-liberalism; Marxism; constructivism; English School theory; critical theory; post-structuralism; feminism; rationalism and reflectivism. Watch a short introductory video on this course:


13 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 4 hours of seminars in the ST.

The course is taught through a combination of lectures and seminars. 23 one-hour lectures, twice weekly during weeks 1-3 of MT and weekly thereafter, and 20 two-hour weekly seminars also from week 1 of MT. 

Formative coursework

Students are required to submit formative coursework and to deliver at least one formal seminar presentation. All students are expected to prepare for and participate in seminar discussions. 

Indicative reading

Chris Brown and Kirsten Ainley (2010) Understanding International Relations, 4th Ed. (Palgrave Macmillan); Fred Chernoff (2005), The Power of International Theory, (London: Routledge); Tim Dunne, Milja Kurhi and Steve Smith (eds, 2010), International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity, 2nd Ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press); Patrick Jackson (2010), The Conduct of Inquiry in International Relations, (London: Routledge); Christian Reus-Smit and Duncan Snidal (eds, 2010), The Oxford Handbook of International Relations, (Oxford: Oxford University Press); Cynthia Weber (2009), IR Theory: A Critical Introduction, 3rd Ed. (London: Routledge).


Exam (50%, duration: 2 hours) in the main exam period.
Essay (50%, 4000 words) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2009/10 - 2011/12 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 27.7
Merit 50.5
Pass 20.8
Fail 1

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2012/13: 41

Average class size 2012/13: 14

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Problem solving
  • Communication

Course survey results

(2010/11 - 2012/13 combined)

1 = "best" score, 5 = "worst" score

The scores below are average responses.

Response rate: 81.6%



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