PSCI 3810: Introduction to International Relations

Dr. Paul Hensel
phensel@unt.edu
http://www.paulhensel.org
Office: 165 Wooten Hall

Please note that this web page is not 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 (2020). IR, 4th edition. Sage/CQ Press. ISBN 978-1-5443-8166-4. Note that this ISBN number is for the looseleaf version of the book, which is the version I ordered through the bookstore, but any format of the book is fine as long as it is the correct edition; a paperback version is available from the publisher for $15 more (ISBN 978-1-5443-8161-9), and a digital version is available on the publisher’s Vantage platform for $15 less (ISBN 978-1-0718-2907-3).

* 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.


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Last updated: 25 January 2022
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