POLI 150H: Introduction to International Relations (Honors)

Syllabus (updated Fall 2018)

This course introduces students to world politics from a logical, scientific perspective. In particular, the goal is to understand why political actors in the international arena make the decisions they do. To accomplish this goal, the course employs a unique textbook, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita’s The Principles of International Politics. In counterpoint to the myriad introductory texts that offer discussions of theoretical and substantive issues entertained by scholars, Principles is novel in that it encourages students to acquire the tools necessary for investigating policy issues and outcomes in world politics. The goal of the course is not simply to inform students of how others have studied problems in world politics; rather, the intent is to demonstrate how theories of world politics can be applied, and, in turn, to have the students engage in this process of application.

POLI 350: CURE: Peace Science

Developed and Taught with Stephen Gent

POLI 350 is a course-based undergraduate research experience (CURE). It will introduce you to the practice of quantitative research on peace, conflict, and conflict resolution. You will work in teams to develop original research projects that answer policy-relevant questions in the field of peace science. Through hands-on experience with data gathering and analysis, you will learn how to develop and test novel hypotheses about the causes and consequences of conflict as well as the processes of conflict resolution and management.

The course will be structured in two parts. In the first part of the course, you will develop skills needed to engage in peace science research. To build this toolkit, you will replicate existing research in the field and learn how to gather and manage data. In the second part of the course, you will put what you have learned in practice. Working in teams, you will formulate a research question and develop a novel hypothesis. You will then engage in multiple rounds of analysis, receiving peer feedback along the way. At the end of the semester, your group will create a final research report and publicly present your findings.


POLI 446: Defense and National Security Policy

This course introduces the basic issues surrounding national security policy. The primary focus is on issues related to the use of force between and within countries. The goal of the course is to provide students with the analytical tools and factual knowledge that you will need to identify and assess current and future threats to national security. This is not a course only on U.S. national security, even though much of the material deals with the specific problems of the United States. Students are encouraged to apply what you learn in this course to the security concerns of any nation in the international system.

The course presupposes some basic familiarity with international politics as taught at the level of Poli 150. The emphasis is on developing your analytical capacity to examine and assess the problems that exist in current defense policy. The ability to memorize factual material is taken for granted, but it is not the primary goal of the course. Students who attempt to do well by relying on short bursts of memorization will find that the strategy is unworkable for the course as a whole, though it may suffice for short stretches. To excel in this course, you must demonstrate the ability to integrate theory and facts by applying analytical concepts to security puzzles in the international arena. In short: think, be creative, and be ambitious.

POLI 457: International Conflict Processes

This course is an advanced seminar on the causes and patterns of international conflict. It begins with the assumption that there may be recognizable patterns of behavior that influence the occurrence of conflict. The broad task for the students is to evaluate the scholarly attempts to uncover these patterns and the underlying causes of war. In the end, we will try to assess the validity of this assumption that general causes of war indeed exist.

The course presupposes basic familiarity with international politics as taught at the level of Poli 150 (Introduction to International Relations). The teaching emphasis is on developing the students’ analytical capacity to examine and assess the causes of war. The ability to memorize factual material is taken for granted, but it is not the primary goal of the course.

POLI 458: International Conflict Management and Resolution

Syllabus| Sakai Course Site

This course is an advanced seminar on the management and resolution of international and civil conflict. How and why do states decide to resolve their conflicts, or the conflicts of others? When are conflict and war amenable to the opportunity for management? What determines intervention and mediation strategies for third parties, and why do attempts at conflict resolution so frequently fail? In this course the student will be exposed to theoretical and empirical investigations into these questions, learning about the occurrence and success (or failure) of conflict management through an analytical as well as historical lens.

The course presupposes basic familiarity with international politics as taught at the level of POLI 150 (Introduction to International Relations), and is designed to complement the material taught in POLI 457 (International Conflict Processes). The emphasis will be on developing your analytical capacity to examine and assess scholarly arguments.


POLI 750: International Relations Theory

This seminar is a graduate-level introduction to the study of international relations. The goal of the course is to expose graduate students to the core literatures of the field and to develop a foundation for future coursework and research. As such, we will cover a large selection of readings in order to survey the field. It is impossible, however, to engage in a comprehensive survey of the field in one semester. We will focus here on the theoretical contributions of the literature and the issues related to testing these theories. The readings strike a balance between the major traditional theoretical debates and contemporary developments.

No prior experience with international relations is required to take this course, although a basic familiarity with the subject at the undergraduate level is helpful. Some of the materials covered herein are technical (using formal theories and econometrics). While I assume that students are not familiar with these research tools, I do expect them to become familiar with them in this course.

POLI 891: Conflict Processes

This course focuses on the conditions that affect the prospects for conflict between and within nation-states. Various factors at different levels of analysis (national, dyadic, and systemic) will be considered in an attempt to understand why nations fight. In addition, the historical patterns, expansion, and outcomes of war and conflict will be considered. Readings will consist of current empirical research in this topic area (without ignoring, however, certain “classic” theoretical approaches). The readings primarily cover the scholarly literature within the formal and quantitative research communities of international relations.

This course should only be taken as an advanced graduate course for students interested in pursuing a PhD in Political Science. POLI 750 (International Relations Theory I) should be considered a prerequisite.