PSCI 3810: Introduction to International Relations

Dr. Paul Hensel
Office: 165 Wooten Hall

Please note that this web page does not include the full syllabus for this course. The remainder of the syllabus -- most notably the schedule of assigned readings, course exams, and other assignments -- is only available in the full syllabus (in PDF format). Be sure to print out that complete syllabus and be familiar with it, so that you do not fall behind or miss any assignments during the semester.

Course Description

This course is meant to acquaint students with the core concepts, processes, and issues of international relations (IR). The first portion of the course explores essential concepts: the actors in international relations, how foreign policy is made, the role of power, and the most prominent general approaches to understanding IR. The remaining sections of the course examine contemporary and future problems in the international system, particularly armed conflict, cooperation, and economics. It should be noted that this is not a course in current events, although some reference will be made to current events in discussing the theories and topics covered in the course. Also, I do not seek to indoctrinate students with my own opinions about international relations (whatever those may be); rather, my goal is to provide students with the tools to evaluate events themselves and form their own opinions.

Students are expected to attend every class meeting, having already done the assigned reading and thought about the discussion points listed in the syllabus. Class performance will be measured with three (non-cumulative) exams that combine multiple choice, short answer, and map identification questions; occasional quizzes that are meant to measure attendance and preparation for class (drawing from the assigned readings and the discussion questions listed in this syllabus); and four short (2-3 page) discussion papers that are meant to make students think about topics to be discussed in class. Upon completion of this course, students should have a strong basic understanding of international relations and a foundation for taking upper-division courses on the subject.

This course will help you develop several important learning objectives that will help you in your career. Analytical thinking, or applying ideas and evidence to draw conclusions, is an important part of the class lecture and discussion. The discussion papers, which are focused on drawing lessons from current news stories about topics covered in the course, will also help you develop analytical skills and bridge between current events and theories. Critical thinking, or questioning evidence and considering multiple perspectives before drawing a conclusion, is also important. This course will analyze major problems of international conflict and cooperation from multiple perspectives, ranging from world views like realism and liberalism to many different causes of war or solutions to conflict, and we will consider the strengths and weaknesses of each of these before attempting to draw conclusions. As it turns out, in many cases there will be several different perspectives that each have valuable insights to offer about part of the topic, while no single perspective can explain everything adequately by itself.

Required Texts

* Textbook ("SCD"): James M. Scott, Ralph G. Carter, and A. Cooper Drury (2019). IR, 3rd edition. Boston, MA: Wadsworth. ISBN 978-1-5063-9708-5.

* Canvas: Canvas: The remaining readings are made available through this course's Canvas page.

* Optional: These resources will help students follow and understand world politics, but are not required.

Course Requirements

(1) Examinations: three (non-cumulative) exams will be given in class. The first two will be given in class, and the third will be given in the regular class room on the day and time that UNT assigns for the course's final exam. Each exam counts for 25% of the course grade, and will draw roughly equally from the assigned readings and the instructor's lectures. Each will contain 40 multiple choice questions, 5 short answer/fill-in-the-blank questions, and a map section (with students being asked to identify 10 countries on a blank map). Be sure to be on time; once the first student leaves the exam, anybody else who enters to take the exam will lose five letter grades.

(2) Preparation, Attendance, and Participation: Students are expected to complete the assigned readings before class, attend class regularly, and participate actively in class discussion. Class preparation will be measured through approximately 6-10 (unannounced) quizzes given at the very beginning or ending of class periods, which together will be worth 10% of the total course grade; each student's quiz grade will be determined by dropping his/her lowest quiz score.

(3) Discussion Papers: Students are required to complete four 2-3 page discussion papers during the course of the semester, as described at the end of this syllabus (all students must complete the two required papers as well as any two of the five optional papers). Taken together, these papers will account for 15% of the total course grade.

Rest of Syllabus

The remainder of the syllabus -- course rules, notes about the academic honor code and the Americans with Disabilities Act, and assigned readings -- is only available in the complete syllabus (in PDF format). Be sure to print out that complete syllabus and be familiar with it, so that you do not fall behind or miss any assignments during the semester.

World Map Resources

An important part of studying or understanding international relations involves being able to place countries and events in a geographic context. (More to the point of self-interest, this course's three exams each require you to identify countries on a blank map, so it is a good idea to become familiar with countries' locations if you want to pass the class...) The following links cover several of the Web's best sites for maps, as well as several sources offering blank or outline maps that can be used to help prepare for map quizzes on exams:

Collections of Maps and Related Resources

Blank/Outline Maps

The following maps are the ones that will be used on the actual exams in this course; please be aware that any country shown on each map is fair game for the exam.

World News Resources

Another important part of studying or understanding international relations involves being aware of what is going on around the world. The following links offer good coverage of international news; I try to visit most of these sites each day, to get a relatively broad picture of world politics from a variety of perspectives. Note that the point here isn't to endorse news from a particular national or political viewpoint, but to see how major news sources around the world are covering a topic; you will often find that the BBC or Xinhua (for example) are covering stories that aren't in any of the major American papers, and each of these news sources will often provide details that the others missed.

In most cases, these links are to the main news page on each site. Many of these sites offer regional or topical news pages, with many more news stories than they could fit on their main page, so you may want to explore these pages as well as the main headlines page. Many of these sites also offer RSS/Atom feeds, which makes it easy to follow news headlines automatically in your favorite feed reader/aggregator (like the free Google Reader).

World News Sites

These sources offer good coverage of events around the world (please note that I have tried to limit this to sources that provide original content, rather than sources that primarily repackage stories from the major news agencies):

Newspapers and Similar Sources

News Agencies

Regional News Sites

These sources may include some coverage of events across the world, but they are best at covering certain regions, offering news or details that the more global sites listed above may miss:

Other News-Related Links on My Web Site
Last updated: 12 May 2020
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