IR5008 - Theories of International Relations

What will I learn on this module?

In this module I will learn how different scholars have thought about and conceptualised international relations. I will study the range of theories of International Relations, including the three main schools of Liberalism, Realism, Marxism and their variants, and post-structural and critical theories. Learning about the different ways in which we can see, understand and explain international relations will provide me with a better range of tools to form my own understanding and explanation of what I observe, study and read, and thus enhance my skills of critical analysis when engaging with academic literature but also when engaging with political events around the world.

Theories covered in this module will include:
• Neorealism, Neoliberal institutionalism, English School, Constructivism, neo-Marxism
• Critical theory, Postmodernism/Poststructuralism, Feminism, Postcolonialism, International Political Theory

How will I learn on this module?

I will learn on this module by attending lectures where I will be presented with the core concepts, claims and arguments outlined by different theories and scholars. I will attend seminars where I will build upon my reading for the lectures and where I will discuss what I think are the strengths and weaknesses of each theory, and their potential for application and explanation.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

My academic development will be facilitated through engagement with the academic literature and by talking with my peers and academics about my understanding of the literature. I expect to have my notions of international relations challenged in this module. I will also use seminars and tutorials to further enrich my learning experience.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Critically analyse the way in which scholars understand key issues of international relations, such as the potential for war and peace/conflict and cooperation, the nature of state interest, the role of language, economics, law and norms
2. Critically discuss and compare and contrast the strengths and weaknesses of various International Relations theories and apply them to the practice of international politics

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Critically engage with theories to investigate and analyse problems and case studies
4. Apply knowledge and understanding of theory and its use to challenge their use in a variety of claims and arguments, including ‘common sense’ explanations of international relations and my own understanding of international relations / IR.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. The ability to synthesise complex information and to construct an argument based upon evidence and critical engagement with the ideas presented by various theories

How will I be assessed?

I will be assessed through:

• 1 x podcast portfolio (40%) consisting of: a 15-minute group podcast presentation and individual 1000 word reflective piece
• 1 x 2000-word essay (60%)

My knowledge and understanding of traditional theories will be tested in a podcast portfolio which will consist of a group podcast presentation and a 1000-word reflective piece. In the podcast presentation, I will critically discuss the strengths and weaknesses of traditional theories and apply them to the practice of international relations. The podcast presentation will take the form of a group discussion about the merits and weaknesses of specific theories (neorealism, neolioberalism, English School, constructivism). The 1000-word reflective piece will discuss the arguments put forward in the podcast and what was missing in the podcast that could have improved the discussion.

My knowledge and understanding of post-structural/critical theories, and my ability to analyse and critically discuss these theories, their assumptions and application, will be tested in one 2,000 word essay, which will cover post-structural/critical theories.

I will have the opportunity to present my work in the seminars and will receive formative feedback from my lecturer on any presentation I might make. Formative assessment through feedback by my lecturer and through engagement with my peers will enable me to test ‘common sense’ explanations and to test and form my own understanding of international relations.





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

UCAS Code L2L2

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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