IR7012 - Theorising International Relations, Conflict and Security

What will I learn on this module?

In this module, you will investigate how scholars have conceptualised international relations, as well as conflict and war as key phenomena within it. You will gain a firm grounding in the discipline by critically analysing the foundations of structural and post-structural/critical theories if you have not studied International Relations before. If you have prior knowledge of International Relations theory, you will deepen your knowledge and understanding of theories by approaching them in a way that focuses on conceptual similarities and differences, analysing themes, as well as ontological, epistemological and methodological differences.

You will study structural theories such as those of the Realist and Liberal schools, including variants such as the English School and Constructivism, as well as post-structural and critical theories, such as Critical Theory, postmodernism, feminism, post-colonialism, international political theory. You will engage with Waltz’ three images and gain an overview over theories of the causes of war.

How will I learn on this module?

A significant part of this module will take place in independent, guided learning of key (‘original’) texts. You will be encouraged to treat these texts as primary sources and analyse them in their historic and methodological context. In seminars you will build upon your reading, analysing theories’ strengths and weaknesses, and their application to contemporary issues in discussion with your peers. Lectures will discuss key themes and issues raised by various theories and schools of theory, and will support you in your development of critical analytical skills and their application in the discipline.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will receive ongoing formative feedback throughout the module, and you will be able to access your module tutor for consultation and feedback during dedicated office hours. Extensive feedback is also provided in response to summative assessment, which will enable you to build upon and improve for future assessments.

Teaching is technology-enhanced, which means that you will have access to all learning materials through the electronic learning platform and electronic reading list.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. Critically analyse and discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of various International Relations theories
2. Systematically analyse and evaluate theories of International Relations, conflict and war for their explanatory value for contemporary challenges in conflict and security

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
3. Critically analyse and appraise information by creating connections between different texts and evidence in order to develop new and surprising conclusions
4. Deconstruct theories by interrogating their epistemological, ontological and methodological foundations

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
5. Develop and apply curiosity and an enquiring mind to begin to use International Relations theory as a way of constructing and deconstructing the world around you

How will I be assessed?

Formative assessment will be provided throughout the module as you will have the opportunity to present your work in seminars.

Summative assessments are

- one 1000 word book review (worth 30% of the overall mark)
- one 3500 word essay (worth 70% of the overall mark)





Module abstract

Why do states go to war? Why do states cooperate? What is the role of individuals, states and the international system in shaping international relations, conflict and war? This module will investigate these questions by interrogating theories of International Relations. Approaching these theories in a thematic way, you will gain an advanced understanding of IR theories, suitable to study at Masters level.
IR theories form the lens through which scholars analyse and interpret their ‘data’, be that current affairs and events, (contemporary) history, arguments put forward by politicians, the media and even the public. Understanding how theses lenses are formed, and what informs their key assumptions and methodologies, will provide you with key tools of analysis to understand the world around you and the issues studied as part of the MA in International Relations, Conflict and Security.

Course info

Credits 30

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 1 year Full Time

Department Social Sciences

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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