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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2018-19. The current handbook year is 2020-21

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA1221: Introduction to International Relations

Type Tied Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap None. Location Durham
Tied to L200 Politics
Tied to L202 Politics (Year Abroad)
Tied to L250 International Relations
Tied to LL12 Economics and Politics
Tied to LV25 Philosophy and Politics
Tied to VL52 Philosophy, Politics and Economics
Tied to LMV0 Combined Honours in Social Sciences
Tied to LA01 Liberal Arts
Tied to T102 Chinese Studies (with Year Abroad)
Tied to T202 Japanese Studies (with Year Abroad)


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to provide an overview of the field of International Relations including its historical context.
  • The module aims to offer students the opportunity to explore different traditions of thought in the field of International Relations.
  • The module aims to develop students’ skills in using theory, and the ability to engage in critical analysis of core concepts of relevance for the study of international relations.


  • The module offers an overview of the core theoretical traditions and debates within International Relations.
  • In exploring these traditions and debates, the module also offers the opportunity to distinguish different methodological approaches in International Relations.
  • The module addresses core concepts of relevance in the field. Indicative concepts include, power, sovereignty, the international system, the international society, the state, and norms.
  • The module includes the opportunity to engage in various critiques of how international relations is theorised.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • students will develop knowledge and an understanding of:
  • Major elements of International Relations theory and International Political Theory, both normative and analytical.
  • Theoretical knowledge of who are the key actors in international relations, and why;
  • The interaction of political and international structures and ideas in the international arena;
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Describe accurately a broad range of theories, concepts, institutions and processes in a variety of contexts relating to international relation;
  • Apply appropriate methods of analysis to problems in the study of international relations and advocate solutions.
  • Place specific international systems and phenomena in appropriate historical and/or historical context.
  • Understand the significance of political ideas and ideals to the conduct of international relations.
  • Analyse and evaluate competing conceptualisations and explanations of international relations, producing defensible, evidence-based judgements.
Key Skills:
  • Retrieving and using competently and confidently resources to which they have been directed.
  • Identifying resources on their own initiative and assessing their suitability and quality for the project in hand.

  • Planning and completing successfully a variety of written assignments.

  • Using C & IT in appropriate ways for the retrieval, analysis and presentation of information.
  • Clear written communication focused on the analysis, comparison and assessment of different theories and/or data, and the ability to improve through feedback.

  • Flexibility in applying knowledge to new areas and problems while working to deadlines.
  • Project design and management at both (i) individual and (ii) group level, the latter involving teamwork; or both.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching and learning are via lectures and smaller-group tutorials. Lectures provide for the delivery of subject specific knowledge and enable staff to highlight key areas of dispute in the field, including the role of methodological disputes. Smaller-group tutorials enable students to explore the subject in more depth and discuss competing evaluations and assessments of the theories and debates covered in the module. They also offer an opportunity for students to structure and communicate their knowledge in response to the dynamics of the class.
  • Formative essay of 1,000 words covering a theoretical topic in International Relations – to be selected from a list of essay titles – offers students the opportunity to practice University-level essay writing, and familiarize themselves with referencing and other related academic-writing practices. In addition, the short word count requires students to pay particular attention to the primary point and avoid unnecessary words, stimulating their wordcraft skills.
  • Summative work is split across two assignments in order to test different skills and lessen the pressure per assignments.
  • A 1,500 research essay on a theoretical topic – to be selected from a range of essay titles – offers students the opportunity to apply writing, analyzing, and research skills to a deadline. The research essay provides the opportunity to develop research skills beyond the reading list and in analysing and applying a wide-range of knowledge to produce a critical assessment of a theory or theoretical issue. The essay tests the ability to plan a more substantial piece of work, identifying and retrieving sources and selecting and displaying appropriate subject specific knowledge and understanding. It tests the ability to develop an extended discussion which utilizes concepts and examines competing interpretation and analysis. It also develops key skills in sustaining effective written communication and information presentation to high scholarly standards.
  • A group written policy document of 1,250 words, which will be based on the outcome of a group simulation activity to be held in the last term. The policy document offers the opportunity for group work. The assignment requires that students link theoretical debates with normative policy recommendations, grounding these recommendations upon a persuasive analysis. The assignment offers further opportunity to develop the skills deployed in the formative and summative essays.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 16 Weekly; 8 in term 1 with a reading week in teaching wk6; 8 in term 2 with a reading week in teaching wk16 1 hour 16
Tutorials 9 Fortnightly in terms 1 and 2 1 hour 9
Module specific activity 3 By arrangement to discuss policy document summative 1 hour 3
Preparation and Reading 172
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research essay 1,500 100% August
Component: Group assignment Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Policy document 1,250 100% August

Formative Assessment:

One 1,000 word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University