Introduction to International Relations

POLS 285-2/ Spring 2008/ 3:30-4:45 Mon. & Wed.


Class Information


Class Time: Monday and Wednesday 3:30-4:45pm

Location: DU 461

Instructor: Theresa Eckard

Office: Zulauf 407                             

: 847-977-1809 (Please use email whenever possible)                                                                   

Office Hours: Mon. 1:15-2:45pm and Tues. 2-3:30pm        

  e-mail: (expect an e-mail response usually within 24-48 hours)


Why are you here?


Welcome! International relations are ever-changing, ever-evolving, and dramatic events that change the landscape of the political world in which we live. In order to understand the effect of issues such as globalization, terrorism, weapons of mass destructions, global warming, and ethnic conflict on the global system, it is vital to engage in intellectual study of the international political system. So, in light of this, the course has one overarching objective and three secondary objectives.


First, the overarching objective is to get you excited about your connection to the world around you and to understand why studying political science, and specifically international relations, is so important for understanding the dynamics of the global community that we all live in.


Second, as an introductory course, I will strive to provide everyone with a basic understanding of the theories and models that are used to analyze and explain international relations. Because the field of international relations remains divided, students will be exposed to a range of competing theories. Remember, these are theories that have been developed by leading political science scholars in an attempt to explain international events, such as the causes of WWII. Theories are not reality.  In fact, real life happens with or without theories, but it is our job as political scientists to come up with a general explanation to explain those real events. We will be looking at models for analyzing international relations, and will be learning the basic terms and concepts that are used in the study of international relations.


Third, I want you to be able to use these theories, models, terms and concepts that are learned in the course in order to analyze some of the most pressing international problems that are now facing our global system. With each of the topics, students will be asked to read a short case that presents a specific international decision that was made to deal with the issue. You will be asked to remake these decisions in class as part of a small group case discussion or case simulation. We will also be discussing world events in our in class and in our online discussions based on our reading of the Christian Science Monitor.


Finally, I want you to be able to develop your analytical skills and develop your abilities to think and argue logically both orally and in writing. In addition to the immense significance of the issues that we will discuss in class, the greatest benefit that the course will hopefully give will be to provide individual students opportunities to logically consider international issues and to present their opinions intelligently. Toward this end, this course will use a variety of highly participatory teaching methods including: discussion of Christian Science Monitor articles, issues from lectures, and case studies.






What am I expecting of you?



1.  The main text for the course is: Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Understanding International Conflicts, 6th edition, Longman Classics in Political Science, 2007. You are expected and encouraged to purchase the text, as we will be using the text a great deal.  You can purchase the book from the University Bookstore, the Village Commons Bookstore, or online.


2. Web links to additional assigned internet readings will be posted on Blackboard.

3. Case study learning is an effective and interactive way to learn about specific political situations and circumstances, which will allow for direct application of the information that we are learning in class.  I will provide you with web links or copies as needed before the cases are due. You must read the case studies by the assigned date, as it is essential to in class participation (and you may be quizzed).


4. Current Events Readings:  You will be required to read the online version of the Christian Science Monitor.  Despite its name, the CSM is not primarily a religious newspaper; rather, it is one of the most respected international papers and thought to have some of the most balanced reporting of any major paper. Moreover, the CSM has been shown to have the highest percentage of international news of any major American newspaper. You may read the electronic version at

Discussions of current events relating to international relations will be held during the first 15-30 minutes of class every Wednesday. Students are expected to have read some stories related to international relations each week and should come to Wednesday’s class ready to summarize and comment on them. Questions from all news about international relations discussed in class may appear on quizzes and on the examinations.


Class Assignments:                                                                                                                                                   1. Journal Submissions:  Each student is required to keep a journal of news stories related to international relations.  To maintain the journal, each student must write one entry each week which is due at the beginning of class every Wednesday.  Each journal should be in reference to a major article linked to the Christian Science Monitor Each journal should be one whole page in length (typed, double spaced with font #12).  The content of the journal should include a very brief summary of the issue(s) presented, but more importantly, the journal should also provide the student’s commentary on and analysis of the article’s main thesis.  You may write multiple journal entries on the same international relations issue as it develops to ease the difficulty of choosing and writing your case study paper (see below).

Journals must be submitted every Wednesday during the semester.  The total number of articles that need to be summarized is 12.  Please be sure to indicate on your journal the title, author, date, source for each article, and the web link for the article.  Stapled to your journal should also be a print out of the article discussed for my reference.  More guidance on writing the journal and grading standards will be given the first week of class.

2.  Paper: You will be required to write your own case study at the end of the semester. I will provide you with detailed instructions on how to complete this assignment once we get started with the course. You will also have some extra credit opportunities for your paper. The paper is due Monday April. 21st and is worth 20% of your final grade.

The paper will be 5-7 pages in length. No more, no less.  Citations must appear within the paper either as footnotes, endnotes, or in-text parenthetical citations.  In addition to the citations, a bibliography is required. Although primary consideration in evaluating the paper will be placed on content and the logic of the arguments, presentation (including spelling, grammar, and correct word use) will also be considered.

In order to help ensure the paper is completed on time, students will adhere to the time line below for submitting components of the paper. More guidance on the case study paper will be given in the coming weeks, but be aware that you can not pass this class if you do not submit a case study paper.


In addition to general office hours, there will be appointment sign-up sheets for those interested students who would like to personally discuss paper topics.

Monday, February. 11, 2008- Submit Paper Topic

Monday, Feb 25, 2008- Submit Bibliography- At least 5 credible sources written in a proper format.

Monday, March 24, 2008- Submit Outline

Monday, April 21, 2008- Paper Due


Written assignments are due at the beginning of class on the assigned day.  Late assignments will be downgraded 1/3 letter grade for each day that they are late. (An assignment submitted after class will be considered one day late).  Thus, an "A" assignment becomes and "A-" after one day and a "B+" after two days. Exceptions to this rule will be considered only in the most extraordinary circumstances and all late papers will receive some deduction. Thus, students with sick relatives, paper eating canines, low-life typists, frequent auto accidents, or ill tempered computers--as well as those students who are routinely taken hostage aboard alien spaceships--are strongly encouraged to compensate for any potential mishaps by preparing their written assignments in advance of the submission deadlines.  Assignments may be e-mailed to establish a submission date.  However, a printed version, identical to the e-mailed version, must be received within a week.

Plagiarism Statement: According to the NIU Undergraduate Catalog “Students are guilty of plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or other sources without identifying and acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the university.” In short, all ideas that are not your own or well known must be cited. A general rule is that if the information cannot be found in three or more commonly available sources it should be cited. All direct quotes must be placed in quotation marks with a citation. These guidelines will be enforced. If you are unsure as to what should be cited either play it safe and place an in-text footnote, endnote, or parenthetical citation, or ask for assistance.

Undergraduate Writing Awards: The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department's spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28. All copies should have two cover pages--one with the student's name and one without the student's name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year's competition even if the student has graduated.

3. Participation: Participation is an important part of this course, and as such is required of all students. The participation grade will comprise 20% of the final grade and is designed to assess both the quantity and quality of each student's participation in this collective learning experience. Participation grades will include:

5%- Attendance- Attendance will be taken every class session. Students may have 4 absences from class with no penalty. You may use these absences in anyway you wish, but use them wisely in case some minor emergency/sickness/appointment arises that forces you to miss class.  For example, if you miss four classes and then miss an additional two due to illness, you have six absences.  I do not differentiate between excused or unexcused absences except in extraordinary circumstances.  This is why I stress that you use your absences wisely.  You do not need to notify me in advance of your absence unless you will be missing a test or final, or you will be absent for a considerable period of time due to an emergency.  If you are an NIU athlete and you will be missing more than four class sessions, you must submit your sport schedule to me in advance.  Furthermore, you are expected to attend all other class sessions during the semester. Please be aware that anyone missing more than 8 class sessions with documentation of an extraordinary circumstance will fail the course automatically.                                 

5%- Class participation- This includes active participation in the Wednesday news discussions and general participation during the class session.                                                                                                                                                                   5%- Case Study Days- Students who miss more than two cases-for whatever reason-will have a deduction taken from their participation grade.  In addition, in order to receive the full 5% for this component, students must actively participate in the group work on the case study day.                                                                             

5%- Blackboard Postings- A message group will be formed on our Blackboard course ( which is intended to promote or continue discussions outside the classroom.  The instructor will present some topics and questions and students are encouraged to respond and even promote their own discussions throughout the semester. In order to receive the full 5% for this component, students must post 10 substantive messages to the class discussion group throughout the semester.

4.  Quizzes: I will be quizzing throughout the semester on case studies and/or reading assignments. You can expect anywhere from 10-12 quizzes, depending on the level of class participation and comprehension. Of these quizzes, the lowest 2 will be dropped at the end of the semester; therefore, makeup quizzes will not be allowed. The quizzes will be worth 10% of your grade.

5. Examinations: There will be two examinations, a mid-term and a final. Each examination will be worth 20% of the semester grade. The mid-term examination will be held on Wednesday, February 27th and will include all course materials and readings covered to that date. The final examination will be held on Monday, May 5th from 4-5:50pm.  Each examination will contain 50 multiple choice questions (each is worth 2 points). 

6. Extra Credit:  Extra credit points will be available for selected films, movie nights and talks on campus.  Extra credit opportunities are worth 3 points each.  Usually, the way in which to earn extra credit points is to attend movie nights, watch selected films at home or in-class and write a one page reaction paper, or attend a selected talk or event on campus that deals with a terrorism issue.  If you know of a relevant activity, please notify me at least one week in advance for consideration.  These extra credit points will be added to your final class grade at the end of the semester.


Students with Disabilities: NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding provision of reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities. Moreover, your academic success is of importance to me. If you have a disability that may have a negative impact on your performance in this course and you may require some type of instructional and/or examination accommodation, please contact me early in the semester so that I can provide or facilitate in providing accommodations you may need.  If you have not already done so, you will need to register with the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR), the designated office on campus to provide services and administer exams with accommodations for students with disabilities. CAAR is located on the 4th floor of the University Health Services building (753-1303). I look forward to talking with you to learn how I may be helpful in enhancing your academic success in this course.



Grading: The final grade will be derived from:

  1. 20% Mid-term Examination
  2. 20% Final Examination
  3. 10% Quiz Grade
  4. 10% Journal Submissions
  5. 20% Case Study Paper
  6. 20% Participation (see the Participation section above for grade break down).                                                


Final but Important Notes and Expectations

            1. Respect in the classroom- Topics related to international relations can at times be controversial. If we are to understand these important issues in all their complexities, we must create a learning space that is conducive for exploring these controversial topics.  The purpose for exploring all sides of an issue is to understand the opposing arguments in order for the student to make a fully informed opinion or decision about the issue at hand.  In order to facilitate this safe, open classroom environment, we must maintain a respectful atmosphere at all times.  Therefore, there is absolutely no name calling, cursing, personal attacks, or demeaning speech against another student allowed at any time, including in the Blackboard postings.  We must ensure that everyone in the class room communicates and debates with one another respectfully at all times.  Lastly, controversial conversations that occur during class time should not be carried over into the hallway after class in order to provoke or continue an unhealthy debate.


            2. Multi-media teaching style-  Our class has access to Smart equipment in which we can access the internet, use the projector, watch DVDs, VHS, etc.  Therefore, the format of this course is designed to utilize most, if not all, of the technology available to us in the classroom.  Not only does this expand the instructor’s resources for presenting material, it accommodates the various learning styles of the students in the class.  Often times, the purpose for showing a movie, documentary films or news clips is to provide the visual reality of the complexity of an issue that can not be achieved by class lecture or discussion alone. I ask that you remain open-minded when these films are shown.  Some are informative, some are dramatic and emotional, but all are very educational. Please be advised that some of the films contain brief footage that is graphic and you may find it disturbing.  In these instances you will be notified in advance of class as well as before the film begins.  For this reason, you will not be required to watch any film that may make you uncomfortable.  If this is the case, come see me privately and we will try to find another way for you to earn extra credit points that would also be fair and available to the rest of the students. 


      3.  10- Minute Rule- If on the very rare occasion the instructor is late, please see if a class cancellation notice has been posted.  If not, wait 10 minutes for the instructor’s arrival.  If it is longer than 10 minutes, you are free to leave and class will be considered cancelled. 


      4. Cell phones- Please have them silenced during class.  In the rare case you are expecting an important call, please sit near the exit in order to excuse yourself with minimum disruption to the class session.  If you must text message for an important reason, please be quick and discreet.  Your cooperation in not abusing this policy is vital to the maintenance of a non-disruptive learning environment.


      5.  Email- If you are absent, you may email me your assignment to establish a submission date, but do so at your own risk.  I can not be responsible for emails that do not reach my in-box.  In addition, if you want the assignment graded you must submit a hard copy to me within one week.


      6.  Submit work that is properly proofread and organized. Nthing is mre frustating then reciving worke tht is not property prof red & havin too tri and decifer hwat u r tryin to sayy.  It not only wastes my time grading the assignment but should not occur at the university level.  If you are crunched for time on an assignment that is due, submit the work after class when you have more time to look it over.  It is much better to accept a slight deduction for lateness, than to receive a low grade for poor writing (which you will receive).  Furthermore, with poor writing your arguments are severely weakened.  If you genuinely need help with writing, please come see me and I can refer you to the NIU Writing Center ( or to other helpful resources.

      7. Do not miss class because you have not completed an assignment that is due or you have failed to complete the assigned readings.  Do not be too embarrassed to come to class, you can still participate in class and learn, plus receive credit for attending as well as earn potential quiz points.  I prefer you come to class and only take a slight deduction for a late assignment rather than not attend at all.  Of course, do not make a habit of being unprepared for class.

      8.  In general, assignments will be graded on how well the student meets or exceeds the basic minimum requirements. More specific guidance on the grading of particular assignments will be explained later.  However, in general, these are my benchmarks for grading:

F-work: Failing to turn in an assignment at all, submitting work that is plagiarized, or submitting work that can not be understood or has nothing to do with the assignment.

D-work is when the student simply does not meet the very basic minimum requirements of the assignment by failing to consider the objectives of the assignment as identified by the instructor. In addition, a student may receive a D if there are significant proofreading errors in the paper which makes it very difficult to read and understand.

C-work is when the student simply meets the very basic minimum requirements of the assignment.  In addition, a student may receive a C if there are major proofreading errors which weaken the credibility of the arguments presented.

B-work is when the student achieves the minimum requirements but also offers more well-rounded arguments and presents some cited facts or ideas to support those arguments. The work may include some proofreading errors, but the errors do not significantly interfere with the arguments presented.

      A-work is when the student goes above and beyond the minimum requirements and offers a clear, well-rounded, thoughtful, organized paper, journal, or blackboard posting.  The arguments presented are highly developed and supported effectively by cited facts.  In addition, there are minimal proofreading errors which allows the instructor to read the assignment with clarity and ease.


9. Finally, don’t be the “weasel”.  This is the student that purposely undermines or finds every loophole to exploit class policies so that s/he can avoid taking responsibility or accountability for his or her poor class work, attendance, and efforts.  If all you want is a C in this class to graduate, that is fine, but do so at your own risk.  Do not do D or F work and expect a mercy grade of a C.  Most will find this class extremely rewarding, engaging, and enlightening.  With this positive mentality, the work will be enjoyable and appropriate.  However, in the end, grades must be earned.


LINKS to Relevant Sites:

Web Site: Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department event, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to  The syllabus for this course, and all recommended links, can also be found on the department web site.

General News Sources:
BBC World News
Christian Science Monitor
CNN Breaking News
The Times  (London)
New York Times
Washington Post








*The instructor will personally grade all examinations, essays, quizzes, journal submissions, blackboard discussions.  All appeals of these grades should go directly to the instructor.

*The instructor also reserves the right to make any changes to the syllabus as she deems appropriate for the course.  Timely notification will be given to the students.

Tentative Course Outline and Due Dates:




M Jan 14


W Jan 16


I.  Introduction & Distribution of Syllabus


Important concepts in International Relations

Readings due: Nye Chapter 1 pgs 1-12


M Jan 21


W Jan 23

No Class


Case Study 1: The Melian Dialogue

Readings due:

 “The Melian Dialogue,”

Nye Chapter 1 pgs. 12-29

Assignment Due: Journal 1 due Jan 23




M Jan 28





W Jan 30




II. Realism and Liberalism



Readings Due:

“Realism in International Relations,”



Readings Due:

“Liberalism in International Relations,”

Assignment Due: Journal 2 due Jan 30



* All Cases must be read prior to their discussion in class.  Cases are underlined in the outline.

            ** Some adjusting of the schedule will no doubt be necessary.  However, dates for the examinations, journal submissions, and case study will not be changed.