POLS 285-3: Introduction to International Relations

Spring Semester 2009


Instructor: Mariana Cotromanes

Class: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9AM-9:50AM

Location: DuSable 246

Email: mcotroma@niu.edu

Office Hours and Location: Monday and Wednesday, 10AM-11:30AM in the POLS Graduate Assistants Office (DU 476), and by appointment


Course Background

This course begins by studying the historical developments of international relations (development of the state and international system).  We will then move on to cover such topics as international governance, ethnic conflict, war, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and globalization.  Overall, this course concentrates on achieving a clear understanding of international relations theories and models, and learning how to apply them when studying current events and issues.      


Course Work


Course Materials

The readings are assigned according the course schedule below.  Please have the readings done prior to attending a class meeting.  The readings are integral to class lecture, discussions, exams, and papers, so it is vital that the readings are completed.  There are documents on Blackboard which will be required reading, but for the majority of this course, we will be reading the following book (available at the University Bookstore, Village Commons Bookstore, and Amazon.com). 


Karen A. Mingst, Essentials of International Relations, FOURTH Edition, 2008


In addition, we will be watching videos in class on occasion; issues concerning the videos may appear in class assignments (exams, papers, etc.).  If you miss a class in which a video was shown, there is no guarantee that you will have access to it. 



Attendance will be taken at every class meeting, but officially there is no attendance policy; though it is strongly encouraged to come to class.  If at the end of the semester students have “borderline grades” and I see that they have attended class often, I will consider bumping their grades up to the next grade.  Attendance is also strongly encouraged because some topics will be covered in classes which are not in the textbook. 


Participation (10 percent)

Participation is worth 10 percent of your grade.  If you are not in class, you obviously cannot participate, so attendance is thus encouraged. At times there will be group activities (case studies) which will be part of this participation grade. 

Grading of participation is based upon the thoughtfulness and frequency of comments during class discussion and group activities.  For example, frequent and voluntary participation with insightful comments will receive full credit.  However, if participation is sporadic, involuntary, or non-existent, this will be looked upon as barely above average, average, or below average/failing, respectively. 


Case Studies

Attendance is also encouraged through occasional case studies, which count towards your participation grade.  Roughly, for every other week you will be required to read a case study (a study of a certain event in international relations).  On a case study day you will break up into groups to negotiate, debate, and/or discuss aspects of them—thus is it very important to read these case studies closely. 


Presentations (10 percent)

You are required to present one news story to the class.  You will sign up for a presentation date today.  You will need to choose a news story no less than three days before your presentation and post it on the Blackboard discussion board so that all the students can read the new story prior to class.  Failure to do this promptly will result in a one-letter grade deduction.  Your presentation should be 5-10 minutes long in which you: explain the background/history of the issue/event, explain the issue/event/individuals involved, the policy options available to resolve the issue, and provide your opinion regarding the policy options.  Also, you will ask the class questions to promote a 5-10 minute class discussion (which you will lead with my assistance).  This is an informal presentation, so powerpoint is unnecessary (handouts are acceptable).


Research Paper (20 percent)

There will be one research paper for this course, which is worth 20 percent of your grade.  They should be seven to ten pages (12-point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced, standard margins)—papers should absolutely not be any shorter than seven pages, or any longer than ten (the quality of your work will likely suffer if the paper is too short or too long, which may result in a lower grade).  Quotes and ideas from the book and other sources should be cited in the following format: (Smith, 15).  There must be a bibliography at the end of the paper.  Beware of plagiarism, as it will not be taken lightly—it will result in failing the assignment, if not the entire course. 

Grading is based upon the student’s ability to adequately answer the question, while integrating class materials and reflecting thoughtful analysis of the question.  See attached papers for more information.

·        Paper topic: is very open—you are to choose an international issue of interest to you, discussing it in detail providing historical and background information, and providing practical and well-researched policy recommendations which could be used by the major actors involved.  More details will be provided later on in the semester.


Research Paper Detailed Outline (10 percent)

You are required to turn in a detailed outline of your research paper.  This means that you will use normal outline format, explaining your ideas, citing your sources throughout, and providing a bibliography.  This assignment is to be between two to four pages (12- point font, Times New Roman, double-spaced, standard margins).  Outlines should absolutely not be any shorter than two pages, or any longer than four (the quality of your work will likely suffer if the outline is too short or too long, which may result in a lower grade).


Exams: Midterm and Final (25 percent each; 50 percent total)

There will be two exams, each with 50 multiple choice questions.  Each exam is worth 25 percent for a total of 50 percent. 


Grade Breakdown


Participation: 10%

Presentation:     10%

Research Paper: 20%

Detailed Outline: 10%

Exams (2): 50%______



Important Dates

March 2: Midterm Exam

March 23: Detailed Outline Due

April 20: Research Paper Due

May 6: Final Exam


Special Notes/Class Policies



Items on this syllabus are subject to change.  You will be notified of such changes either in class or by email.  Please be sure to check your email on a weekly, if not daily, basis. 



Please do not hesitate to meet with me during office hours if any help is needed with course work (paper writing, considering a political science major, understanding the material better, etc.).  Communication by email is also strongly encouraged.



Professional conduct in class is expected.  This includes, but is not limited to: coming to class on time, acting with respect towards others and the opinions they express, no phone calls (cell phones absolutely must been vibrate and only answered/used in an emergency!), no text messaging, no private conversations, no sleeping, no newspaper reading, no internet surfing, etc.  If behavior becomes disruptive I reserve the right to ask individual(s) to leave the classroom.   



Students will be held to the academic integrity standards as articulated by the Northern Illinois University Undergraduate Catalog.  During exams students will be watched closely for cheating and papers will be checked closely for plagiarism.  Cheating of any sort will be taken very seriously; the consequence may be failing an assignment, or even the entire course.


Late Papers

Late papers are absolutely NOT accepted.  If you do not turn in a paper on time, you will receive a zero for that paper.  Papers must be turned into class ON TIME in hardcopy format as well as on SafeAssign on Blackboard.  Failure to submit hardcopy and electronic copy promptly will result in a ZERO for the assignment.  To turn in a paper late there must be extreme circumstances, for which you can provide official documentation.  If your car breaks down, show me the towing or garage receipt; if you have the stomach flu, get to the doctor and ask for a note to bring to me.  Also, you must contact me as soon as possible before the paper is due.  The purpose of this is so that all students have the same amount of time to complete an assignment and get graded on it; this policy is made to encourage fairness.


Makeup Exams

There are NO makeup exams.  If you miss an exam you will receive a zero for that exam.  Only under extreme circumstances (for which you must provide official documentation; see previous) can a makeup exam be taken.  Also, you must contact me as soon as possible before the paper is due.


Students with Disabilities

NIU abides by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 regarding provision of reasonable accommodations for students with documented disabilities.  If you have a disability and need instructional or examination accommodation, please contact me immediately in order to provide the necessary accommodations.  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).


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 $50.00. 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 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.


Department of Political Science 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 events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to http://polisci.niu.edu.


About the Political Science Department

The department is located on the 4th floor of the Zulauf building.  If you are considering a political science major or minor, please feel free to visit and/or contact the following individuals for guidance:

Andrea Mathie, Undergraduate Adviser: Zulauf 420, (815) 753-7045, amessing@niu.edu

Matthew J. Streb, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Assistant Professor: Zulauf 407, (815) 753-7046, mstreb@niu.edu

Karen Schweitzer, Undergraduate Studies Secretary: Zulauf 415, (815) 753-1015, karens@niu.edu


Course Calendar


Week 1

January 12: Introduction

January 14: Introduction to theories and history; Read pages 1-53

January 16: Case Study #1: The Melian Dialogue; available at: http://www.nku.edu/~weirk/ir/melian.html


Week 2

January 19: *No class*- Martin Luther King Day

January 21: Introduction to theories and history continued

January 23: News Story Day #1


Week 3

January 26: Overview of international relations theory; Read pages 55-80

January 28: Overview of international relations theory continued

January 30: Case Study Day #2: Deciding Germany’s Future, Part A


Week 4

February 2: *No class* *office hours canceled*

February 4: The international system; Read pages 81-98

February 6: News Story Day #2


Week 5

February 9: Discussion of current events

February 11: *No class* *office hours canceled*

February 13: Case Study Day #3: From Russia, to Kalingrad, Part A


Week 6

February 16: The international system continued

February 18: The state; read pages 99-162

February 20: News Story Day #3


Week 7

February 23: The state continued

February 25: The state continued

February 27: Review


Week 8

March 2: Midterm Exam

March 4: News Story Day #4; Review Midterms

March 6: *No Class* Spring Break – *(last day to withdraw)*


Week 9

March 9: *No Class* Spring Break

March 11: *No Class* Spring Break

March 13: *No Class* Spring Break


Week 10

March 16: The individual; Read pages 139-162;

March 18: The individual continued

March 20: News Story Day #5


Week 11

March 23: Intergovernmental organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and international law; Read pages 163-208; Detailed Outline Due

March 25: IGOs, NGOs continued

March 27: Case Study Day #4: Peacekeeping and Diplomacy in Cyprus


Week 12

March 30: Tentative movie day on Rwanda

April 1: Tentative movie day      on Rwanda

April 3: News Story Day #6


Week 13

April 6: War and strife; Read pages 209-248

April 8: War and strife continued

April 10: Case Study #5: Watershed in Rwanda, Part A


Week 14

April 13: International political economy; Read pages 249-287

April 15: IPE continued

April 17: Case Study #6: Russia’s Sale of Cryogenic Rocket Missiles to India, Part A


Week 15

April 20: Globalizing issues; Read pages 288-328; Research Paper Due

April 22: Globalizing issues continued

April 24: Case Study Day #7: The Case of the Huai River Basin Clean-Up Plan, Part A


Week 16

April 27: News Story Day #7

April 29: Review for Final Exam

May 1: *No Class*-- Reading Day


Week 17

May 6: **Final Exam**  8AM-9:50 AM, in DU 246