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The University of Southampton

PAIR6001 International Relations Theories

Module Overview

This module will chart the developments in IR theory, from the classical positions to contemporary debates. The module provides an essential introduction required for an informed understanding of contemporary international affairs.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To familiarise students with the core theoretical positions in international relations.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • To help students develop the skills to conduct research and dissertation projects in this field.
  • Analyse and apply the main theories and concepts in the field of IR
  • Critically evaluate related debates
  • Build on empirical studies to assess policy alternatives in the conduct of IR


The module introduces key theoretical perspectives on international relations, such as Realism, Liberalism, and Constructivism, etc. It also addresses revisions to traditional schools and recent theoretical developments in the field of IR, including post-positivist approaches. For each stream of thought, it highlights how theory informs the study of concrete, real-world issues as well as the policies implemented to address those issues. The syllabus presents the goals, organisation, assessment methods, schedule and reading list of the module, together with marking criteria, a summary of important dates, links to resources and the university policies.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching and learning is organised around seminars including interactive short lectures, group work and the advanced discussion of required readings.

Independent Study176
Total study time200

Resources & Reading list

P. Viotti and M. Kauppi (Eds.) (1999). International Relations Theory. 

Reus-Smit, C. and Snidal, D. (2008). The Oxford Handbook of International Relations. 

Hollis and Smith (1999). Explaining and Understanding International Relations. 

S.Burchill and A.Linklater (Eds.) (2009). Theories of International Relations. 

M. Griffiths (Ed.) (2007). International Relations Theory for the Twenty First Century. 

Steve Smith, Ken Booth and Maria Zalewski (1996). International Theory: positivism and beyond. 

Jackson and Sorenson (2007). Introduction to International Relations. 

Tim Dunne, Milja Kurki, and Steve Smith (2007). International Relations Theories: Discipline and Diversity. 

C.Brown (2001). Understanding International Relations. 

J.Baylis and S.Smith (Eds.) (2001). The Globalization of World Politics: An Introduction to International Relations. 

Steve Smith, Ken Booth and Maria Zalewski (1996). International Theory: positivism and beyond. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Class discussions 15%
Presentation 10%
Reaction paper 35%
Reflective essay  (2500 words) 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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