Course Description

‘International Relations’ is the study of how interests, institutions, ideas, and identities shape the politics that extend beyond countries’ boundaries. It seeks to answer questions such as why countries go to war, make alliances, sign treaties and join organizations. Given the complexity of social interactions, answering these types of questions might seem daunting. However, academics and practitioners of international relations attempt to do so by analyzing differences across countries and time.

To facilitate finding explanations (and to know where to look), they rely on different theories – logically coherent propositions on how the ‘real’ world operates that some subset of individuals believe are supported by evidence and are useful for analysis. Thus, this introductory course is a mix of the theoretical and the empirical. Students not only learn about predominant theories, but practice using these to generate different explanations for political phenomena. Over a period of thirteen weeks, they hone their ability to perceive the world through different theoretical lenses by simulating, discussing, writing, and reading about international politics in the issue areas of security, international political economy, human rights, gender and race, and the environment. This course seeks to not only provide students with a greater understanding of international relations, but provide them with tools that will enable them to analyze and interpret politics beyond the cases discussed.

Expected Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, successful students will have demonstrated the ability to:

  • Think critically about the incentives, structures, and norms that shape the behavior of international actors.
  • Analyze phenomena using different theoretical perspectives.
  • Identify and understand the principle arguments from complex and difficult academic literature efficiently.
  • Reflect on their past experiences and knowledge using new concepts.
  • Use theory and empirical evidence to present a compelling argument.
  • Empathize with individuals or actors who hold very different experiences, interests, and/or ideas.

Teaching Philosophy

We are all responsible for contributing to each other’s learning experience. This course is designed to foster on-going learning. As such, students are expected to have read and thought about the material before attending class. To encourage this, I incorporate small ‘journal’ assignments and quizzes. These are designed to be short and effective – if you’ve been doing the readings and attending class, they should be relatively easy.

Recognizing that sometimes people have a bad week or may struggle with some of the material, the quizzes and assignments are designed to be flexible. Although all are mandatory, only your best ones will count towards your grade.

Students that are willing to put in a few hours a week into the course usually do well. Rather than having to ‘cram’ at the last minute to study for an exam or write a paper, on-going learning requires a continual commitment.

Correspondence & Office Hours

During the semester, the TA and I are prepared to meet at our offices with all students enrolled in the course.

For questions related to quizzes, journals or your writing assignment outlines, students should first contact the TA. For all other questions, including those related to the content of the course, students should contact me.

Students are welcome drop in anytime during office hours, but preference is given to those who sign up on the sheet outside my office door.

To contact me, students may either send a message through Moodle (preferred), or e-mail.  Please include your course code in the subject of your e-mail.  NOTE: Please do not reply to class-wide announcements sent through Moodle as I will not receive these e-mails.


The major outputs of this course are:

  • 20 %         Quizzes (Best 9 of 10)
  • 20 %         Midterm
  • 15 %         Journal Reflection Responses (Best 12 of 13)
  • 20 %        Writing Assignment
  • 25 %         Final Exam

Lateness Policy

Deadlines are final. There will be no makeup quizzes; or journals, or paper outlines accepted after their respective deadlines. Exceptions may only be granted in extraordinary circumstances, when students provide documentation and receive prior approval at least a week in advance. For final paper submissions, late assignments will be penalized 2.5 % per day and will not be accepted beyond a week past the deadline. If you run into unforeseen challenges during the semester, please speak with me ASAP. It is easier to work things out before deadlines pass.


There are ten quizzes. Your best nine will be worth 20 % of your final grade. The quizzes focus exclusively on the content from the weeks before. Some questions are derived from material only discussed in class (and deliberately not included on PowerPoint slides), some from the readings. The quizzes are designed to penalize those that do not attend class or complete the readings.

Writing Assignment: Analyze an Op-Ed in the New York Times

The writing assignment for this course (worth 20 % of your final grade) is a critical analysis of arguments presented in an Op-Ed from the New York Times. First, you will select an Op-Ed written after 1 December 2017.  Then you will analyze and critique this piece using the theoretical perspectives you have learnt in this course. Is it logical, compelling and factually correct in its analysis and findings? 

The aim of this paper is to demonstrate your ability to identify arguments, classify them according to theories we have discussed, and provide compelling analysis.  This is not an opinion piece (e.g., I think that…), nor a critique of the style of Op-Ed. Imagine you are crafting a response to the position presented by the author. Any assertions you make must be supported with evidence, logic and citations. 

Breakdown of assignment’s grade:
  • By Week 6: Bring Op-Ed to class and identify three arguments, and three possible sources you might cite while analyzing it (10 %)
  • By Week 10: Bring rough draft to class for peer-review (5 %)
  • By Week 12: Submit final draft (85 %)

Journal Responses

Before each class, students are expected have answered journal prompts on the assigned readings, for a total of 13 responses during the course. Students will be allowed to miss one prompt, without penalty, throughout the term.

Prompts will be provided at least three days prior to the class. Responses should be approximately 250 words, submitted online through Moodle, BEFORE class. Full grade for entries will be given when:

1. The entry provides some indication that the student read the required readings.

2. The student demonstrates that some time was taken for reflection.

Midterm and Final Exams

Your midterm and final exams are worth 20 % and 25 %, respectively, of your grade. Whereas the quizzes are non-cumulative, exams focus on overarching questions and core concepts of the course.


There is no textbook for this course, all readings are online. As identified in this syllabus, some texts are provided on Moodle, others are available through the university’s subscriptions to journal databases. To access these texts, you have several options. You may (a) use a computer in the library, (b) use your own computer on the university wireless network, or (c) connect to the university network from home using a VPN ( Students are not responsible for the content of optional readings. Those interested in a topic or pursuing further studies in international relations are encouraged to read these additional texts.

To help students read difficult material efficiently, each week I provide reading questions.

The Globe and Mail or The New York Times—subscribe to read one of these papers on-line, or get a real paper delivered. Be ready to discuss recent articles at the beginning of many classes. You are responsible for knowledge of major current events.

Academic Honesty

Don’t cheat. Today’s technology makes it very easy to catch cheaters. All your assignments will be verified online. Everything in your assignments must be your own work. Neither ignorance of these policies nor the lack of an intention to cheat or plagiarize will be considered a legitimate defense. Raise questions you have with me before problems arise.

Department of Political Science Statement on Plagiarism

The Department has zero tolerance for plagiarism.

1.  What is plagiarism? The University defines plagiarism as “the presentation of the work of another person, in whatever form, as one’s own or without proper acknowledgment.” (Concordia Undergraduate Calendar 2017–2018, page 55-56). Plagiarism is an academic offence governed by the Code of Conduct (Academic). To find out more about how to avoid plagiarism, see

2. What are the consequences of getting caught? The Dean may impose the following sanctions on students caught plagiarizing: a. Reprimand the student; b. Direct that a piece of work be resubmitted; c. Direct that the examination be taken anew; d. Enter a grade reduction for the piece of work in question or enter a grade of "0" for the piece of work in question; e. Enter a grade reduction in the course or enter a failing grade for the course; f. Enter a failing grade and ineligibility for a supplemental examination or any other evaluative exercise for the course; g. Impose the obligation to take and pass courses of up to twenty-four (24) credits, as specified by the Dean, in addition to the total number of credits required for the student’s program. If the student is registered as an Independent student, the sanction will be imposed only if he or she applies and is accepted into a program.

An Academic Hearing Panel may impose the following sanctions: a. Any or all of the sanctions listed above; b. Impose a suspension for a period not to exceed six (6) academic terms. Suspensions shall entail the withdrawal of all University privileges, including the right to enter and be upon University premises; c. Expulsion from the University. Expulsion entails the permanent termination of all University privileges. (Undergraduate Calendar, page 56.) 

Complete regulations can be found beginning on page 54 of the Undergraduate Calendar or  (

3. See also The Political Science Department's "Resources on Avoiding Plagiarism" at:


The University of Concordia is working to create inclusive learning environments. Please notify me if there are aspects of the instruction or design of this course that result in disability-related barriers to your participation. You are also encouraged to contact the Access Centre for Students with Disabilities (ACSD) as soon as possible so that this office can assist with the necessary accommodations.

Policy on Audio and/or Video Recording of Lectures

Pursuant to Concordia’s Policy on Audio and/or Video Recording of Lectures, you may not record lectures without prior written permission, and when granted, you may not distribute these recordings online or through any other medium.

The Use of Electronic Devices in the Classroom

Studies suggest that compared to taking written notes, using a laptop hinders learning (e.g., Mueller and Oppenheimer, 2014). Moreover, browsing the internet and using electronic devices during class is distracting. To avoid affecting the learning experience of other students, texting during class is prohibited and students that insist on using laptops must sit in the last row of the room.  

Sexual Harassment

As a professor, one of my responsibilities is to help create a safe learning environment for my students and for the campus as a whole. If you have experienced sexual harassment, sexual violence or discrimination, Concordia’s Sexual Assault Resource Centre provides information on available resources:

On-Campus Resources for Students

Student Success Centre (Tutoring, Mentoring, Workshops)

SGW: 514-848-2424, ext. 3921
514-848-2424, ext. 3555

Room H-440

Access Centre for Students with Disabilities

Phone: 514-848-2424, ext. 3525

Room GM-300

Counseling and Psychological Services

SGW: (514) 848-2424, ext. 3545
(514) 848-2424, ext. 3555

Room H-440


Sexual Assault Resource Centre

514-848-2424 ext. 3461

Room H-645

Changes to the Syllabus

I reserve the right to amend the schedule of meetings and assignments listed in this syllabus as might become necessary based on events throughout the semester. Any changes to the syllabus will be announced and the most up to date syllabus can be found online.