Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2019-2020 (archived)

Module SGIA49630: International Relations Theory

Department: Government and International Affairs

SGIA49630: International Relations Theory

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2019/20 Module Cap None.


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with the opportunity to explore advanced topics in International Theory, including but not limited to specific debates within International Relations theory or specialized topics;
  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of select key concepts and theories in International Relations;
  • To enable students to critically evaluate theoretical arguments;
  • To enable students to develop advanced skills in the deployment of theory.


  • Lectures will provide theoretical grounding for the module, providing context in which to understand the core concepts, issues, theories, or debates that the module explores. Lectures may also respond to significant debates or major theoretical approaches in the study of international relations. Indicative content may include some of the following:
  • • Different theoretical approaches within International Relations:
  • o Realism
  • o Idealism
  • o Liberalism
  • o Marxism
  • o Critical Theory
  • o Feminism
  • o Post-colonialism
  • o Post-structuralism
  • o The “English School”
  • • Key areas of debate within International Relations:
  • o Security o Ethics and War
  • o Democratic Peace
  • o The Environment
  • o Justice
  • o Power
  • o Sovereignty

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module, students will acquire knowledge and understanding of:
  • • key concepts and theories in International Relations;
  • • specific debates within International Relations;
  • • specific literatures within International Relations;
  • • A deep appreciation of the significance of theory in political research.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of the module students should be able to:
  • • The ability to use critically the relevant theoretical concepts and approaches in international theory;
  • • Effectively describing and applying more advanced academic literatures;
  • • Identifying and evaluating key disputes and debates in the context of international theory;
  • • Showing awareness of and some sophistication in the use of methodological ideas and approaches to theorising.
Key Skills:
  • Students will also develop some important key skills, suitable for underpinning study at this and subsequent levels, such as:
  • • Independent learning within a defined framework of study at an advanced level;
  • • Independent thought in analysing and critiquing existing scholarship on the subject area and in evaluating its contribution;
  • • Advanced ability to seek out and use relevant data sources, including electronic and bibliographic sources, as well as primary sources, and policy reports;
  • • Ability for independent thinking informed by the academic debate at an advanced level.
  • • Advanced essay-writing skills and the ability to work to a deadline;
  • • Effective written communication of research and policy applications;
  • • Ability to reflect critically on their own work and performance.

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

  • Students are taught through lectures and a simulation, such as “Statecraft”, where students will have the opportunity to deploy and assess the theories explored in the module. Lectures introduce the main theoretical and conceptual frameworks for the study of international relations, and will also provide opportunities for group work (using the simulation) and revision.
  • Students are expected to complete a formative a quiz to help them prepare for the final exam by identifying core concepts, theories, and relevant theorists.
  • Students are required to submit a 1200 word summative essay reflecting on the simulation, to be submitted in week 9 of epiphany term.
  • Students are required to complete a take-home exam comprising of series of short answer questions in the Easter Term. They will need to answer 5 questions from a selection, with each question having a word limit of 400 words. Students will have 72 hours to complete the assignment. The questions will provide students with the opportunity to, for example: demonstrate a close understanding of the course content by having to explain key concepts and/or theories, including the identification and overview of significant debates within the field, and identify the significance of specific theorists.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures (one hour lecture and one hour small group work devoted to simulation 10 Fortnightly 2 hours 20
Lectures (no simulation) 1 Epiphany term 1 hour 1
Simulation support 4 Variable throughout the year 1 hour 4
Preparation and Reading 275
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Short Answer Questions Component Weighting: 80%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Short answer questions (72 hour take home exam conditions) 2000 100%
Component: Reflective Essay Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1200 100%

Formative Assessment:

1-hour quiz, to take place during lecture in week 9 of Michaelmas.

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