Course 2018-2019 a.y.


Department of Social and Political Sciences

Course taught in English
Go to class group/s: 24
PPA (6 credits - II sem. - OB  |  SPS/04)
Course Director:

Classes: 24 (II sem.)

Class-group lessons delivered  on campus

Mission & Content Summary


What are the odds of a war between Russia and USA? Did UN peace missions mitigate violence in civil wars? Do international treaties matter trade? And, why does NATO still exist? All these questions about international politics have been systematically discussed through different theoretical approaches and empirical evaluations by a subfield of Political Science called International Relations (IR). The mission of this course is to introduce students to the main concepts and debates in International Relations, though always with a puzzle-oriented approach and using empirical material to evaluate theoretical arguments. The aim is to cover the main IR theoretical approaches and discuss the core components of the IR debates such as power, anarchy and uncertainty. Then, using empirically oriented scholarly works, we will tackle puzzles about war, trade, intentional organizations. We will also analyze the available empirical evidence so as to evaluate the ability of various theories to explain observed patterns.


The course focuses on International Relations moving from core concepts and theoretical approaches to several crucial questions that characterized intentional politics. The core concepts, related operationalizations and data will be power, anarchy/hierarchy, interdependence and uncertainty. The course will review the main IR paradigms (Liberalism, Realism and Social Constructivism) and critically evaluate their contribution to understand international politics. Moreover, we will focus on possible strategies of conflict and cooperation between states. Then, we will tackle central IR questions such as:


  1. Why do see war if it so costly?
  2. Is trade just about economics?
  3. Are treaties just about law?
  4. Do domestic politics matter for international politics?
  5. Do international politics matter for domestic politics?
  6. Should we care about leaders in international politics?
  7. Are international organizations useful?
  8. Why do countries pursuit military occupations?
  9. Why bombing other countries?
  10. Are domestic conflicts a domestic business?


We will conclude evaluating the relevance of IR “great theories” versus hypotheses testing and the evolution of International Relations as discipline.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILO)


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Discuss main IR approaches and related debates;
  • Recognize how different analytical levels (domestic and international) and actors (states, IOs, NGOs) interplay in international politics;
  • Locate main data sources for the study of international politics;
  • Explain under what conditions conflict and cooperation are more likely in international politics;
  • Assess different empirical expectations of the IR theoretical models


At the end of the course student will be able to...
  • Use the theoretical and empirical insights presented during the course to analyze and explain international politics;
  • Find and critically assesses data sources for evaluating policies in international politics;
  • Analytically evaluate unfolding events in the international arena.

Teaching methods

  • Face-to-face lectures
  • Guest speaker's talks (in class or in distance)


Lectures will be structured according to the standard format: the instructor will present and elaborate on the material contained in the required readings, which the students will have read before class, so as to enhance in-class discussions and students’ participation.


Some lectures will be held by professors who are leading experts on the topic treated in the lecture. This will allow students to learn additional insights from experts who have actively contributed to the scientific literature on a certain topic.



Some of the assigned readings will feature a high degree of sophistication in terms of methods of analysis. Therefore, students’ attendance is strongly recommended. In fact, although no formal prerequisites are required, the lectures will provide students some necessary (yet informal) background that will help them gain a better understanding of those readings that include a technical component.

To qualify as an attending student and be allowed to take the midterm exam, an attendance rate equal to or higher than 75% must be reported.

Assessment methods

  Continuous assessment Partial exams General exam
  • Written individual exam (traditional/online)


With the purpose of measuring the acquisition of the above-mentioned learning outcomes, the student assessment is based on two main components, a midterm written exam and a final written exam, each making up 50% of the final grade, and both based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions. Multiple choice questions will be designed to test the students’ knowledge of the basic fundamental concepts and theoretical paradigms in International Relations. Open-ended questions will be aimed at evaluating the students’ ability to establish connections between findings reported in different readings and to use these connections to evaluate the prospects of conflict and cooperation in international politics.


The midterm exam will focus on the readings covered in the first part of the course, which mainly address questions on IR core concepts and theories, while the final written exam will focus on the readings covered in the second part of the course, which mainly address questions and puzzles about war, trade, international organizations, civil wars and relationship between domestic and international politics.


Written general exam, (100% of the finale grade) based on a mix of multiple-choice and open questions, which aims to assess the student’s ability to describe the main theoretical and empirical findings contained in the readings covered over the course of the semester.


Teaching materials


The required readings for this course will be scientific articles and book chapters that represent the key and/or state of the art contributions to the different topics analyzed. A complete list of the required and suggested reading will be provided at the beginning of the course and will be available on Blackboard.

Last change 02/05/2018 09:44