International Relations

Taught: Winter 2023


December 20, 2022

Course information

Course description

This course is a graduate-level introduction to the field of international relations (IR), focusing on core theoretical and empirical debates in the literature. Readings are a mix of old and new, leaning towards newer work.

The primary goal of this course is to for students to develop a sense for where the literature has been and where it is going. As students move forward with their studies, this course will help students develop a fuller sense of the context in which other work they read is situated.

Course policies

Late proposals, papers, etc. will be penalized by a letter grade per day, up to two days, then it’s a zero.


Participation (5% of grade)

To receive full credit you must:

  1. come to class having read

  2. be engaged in discussion

Discussion questions (DQs; 10% of grade)

Eeach week you will post one bullet point discussion question/comment per reading to Canvas. The questions/comments need to be good. A good discussion question offers a specific critique, is thought-provoking, generates discussion among the group, etc. A not-good discussion question is above all generic – it is not specific to the reading and leaves the group without guidance on where to take the discussion.

⭐ Due dates: Sunday by midnight before each class

Peer-review (30% of grade)

You will write two mock “peer-reviews” in the spirit of working as a reviewer for a journal. Your review should eschew summary in favor of critically evaluating the paper (a great guide here). The goal is to make a recommendation to an editor (me) as to whether or not the paper should be published. If your recommendation is to “revise and resubmit” assume that implies a high probability of publication. The review should be between 500 and 800 words in length.

Due dates:

  • Review 1 due by February 3rd, 2023 ⭐
  • Review 2 due by March 3rd, 2023 ⭐

Choose two from the following:

Dataset presentation (25% of grade)


The goal of this assignment is to become acquainted with an important data collection effort in our field. You will download the data, clean it as needed, learn its ins and outs, and produce some compelling visuals. You will then present on the dataset to the class for ~ 10 minutes. Points to hit in the presentation:

  • What does an observation look like in this data? What is being measured? How do the authors get from raw text to the final product? (~ 1 slide)
  • You will create and discuss two interesting visualizations from this dataset; could be time series, bivariate relationship, conditional means, a table, etc. (2 slides)
  • Strengths and weaknesses – what is good and exciting about this project? What kinds of questions could we answer with this data? What are the limitations (temporal, spatial, conceptual)? (~ 1-2 slides)

See Data sets for a list of ideas. Below are also some good templates for making interesting visualizations of datasets:


You will work in pairs and submit jointly (sign up sheet in class). Two outputs: an R script with the code used to make visuals/tables + the presentation. Each pair of students will email me these shortly after their presentation.

Research proposal (30%)

6 pages. See the rubric. You should meet with me to talk through your idea, sooner rather than later.

⭐ Due by March 21, 2023.


Note: the schedule is subject to change.

Week 1 – Jan 10 : What does good research in IR look like? Theory, causality, prediction


Week 2 – Jan 17 : What are the fundamental characteristics of the international system? Cooperation and conflict under anarchy


Week 3 – Jan 24 : Why war? Bargaining and information


Week 4 – Jan 31 : How and when do states intervene in each other’s affairs? Third-party interventions


Week 5 – Feb 7 : How does national politics shape foreign policy? Domestic audiences and incentives for war


Week 6 – Feb 14 : How much do leaders matter? Leaders, autocrats, regimes


Week 7 – Feb 21 : Do interstate ties constrain state behavior? Networks


Week 8 – Feb 28 : When do states cooperate? Agreements and IOs


Week 9 – Mar 7 :How does the international affect the domestic?


Week 10 – Mar 14 : Borders, territory, migration


Extra stuff, no room


state capacity



Power, deterrence, reputation

Repression and protest



Data ideas

Here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of datasets you might consider:

  • The COW datasets
  • LEAD (leader characteristics dataset)
  • Minorities at Risk project
  • Social Conflict Analysis database
  • Global Terrorism Database
  • Political Instability Task Force
  • Quality of Governance data
  • Varieties of Democracy (VDEM)
  • Transparency International
  • AID Data (William & Mary)
  • Nonviolent and Violent Campaigns
  • Change in Source of Leader Support (CHISOLS) Data
  • The Varieties of Coups D’état: Introducing the Colpus Dataset
  • Electoral intervention dataset 1946–2000
  • Bread before guns or butter: Introducing Surplus Domestic Product (SDP)
  • Yes, Human Rights Practices Are Improving Over Time
  • Introducing the Military Intervention Project: A New Dataset on US Military Interventions, 1776–2019
  • DCAD dataset
  • Conflict Events Worldwide Since 1468BC: Introducing the Historical Conflict Event Dataset
  • frozen conflicts in world conflict dataset
  • UN Fatalities dataset
  • Partisan electoral interventions by the great powers: Introducing the PEIG Dataset
  • near crises in world politics
  • Post-Cold War sanctioning by the EU, the UN, and the US: Introducing the EUSANCT Dataset
  • Threat and imposition of economic sanctions 1945–2005: Updating the TIES dataset
  • Financial contributions to United Nations peacekeeping, 1990–2010: A new dataset
  • The Autocratic Ruling Parties Dataset: Origins, Durability, and Death

Final research design rubric

6 pages MAX, double-spaced.

  1. Introduction (1 pages)
    1. Motivate why we should care about the question you want to answer (e.g., because of its real-world impact, as a gap in the literature)
    2. BRIEFLY preview what the project will do (I will argue that X) and how it will do it (I will collect XYZ data)
  2. Literature review (2 pages)
    1. Briefly describe what we already know about your topic
    2. Highlight what is unknown or what gap your project will fill
  3. Theory + hypotheses (3 pages)
    1. Big note: theory != literature review
    2. Need an argument about a causal process
    3. Think about who the actors are in your story, what they want, and how their interactions produce different outcomes