Course Syllabus

International Politics

The study of international politics has changed substantially over time. If a student's grandparents or great-grandparents had taken a class on international relations, their course would have primarily been a study of diplomatic history, meaning they would learn who did what, where, and when. Exams would have tested knowledge such as when the Peace of Westphalia occurred, which nations signed it, and who the foreign ministers were.

While those types of questions are important, major events in the 20th century led students of international relations to wonder if they were really asking the right questions. The high loss of life and destruction of World War I led many to call it “the war to end all wars," yet the world found itself in another such war within a generation in World War II.

Instead of asking who did what, when, and where, many began to wonder if perhaps the much more important question was why? In other words, what causes war? Moving from historical questions of place and time to causal questions has transformed the study of political science, particularly the subfield of international relations.

The tools for answering the question of why are the techniques of the scientific method. Answering hard science questions such as “what causes cancer?” or “why does gravity keep us on the ground?” requires the application of theory, hypothesis, and testing. Social science, like international relations, uses these same methods. In this class, students will explore the theories that attempt to answer significant questions of international relations such as the following:

  • What causes war? How can it be avoided?
  • Do democracies go to war with each other?
  • What can be done about global terrorism?
  • Why are some countries so poor?
  • Are there basic global human rights everyone should enjoy?

Even though this course is an online course, it is not an independent study course.

This course involves large amounts of reading and is designed to meet the expectation that each week, students will spend 3–4 hours per credit working on course materials. Therefore, students will need to commit to working on this course for 9–12 hours each week. If a student is unable to commit to the time demands this semester, they should consider taking this course when they have the necessary time to complete the workload.

Civility in Political Discourse

Students often hold strong feelings about political ideology, political parties, and the politics of different regions of the world. While students are encouraged to be actively engaged in the political process, they are also strongly encouraged to view and follow The Mormon Ethic of Civility.

The political science department shares the Church’s growing concern about “the politics of fear and rhetorical extremism that render civil discussion impossible.” The First Presidency reminds, “The need for civility is perhaps most relevant in the realm of partisan politics.” The Church “embraces the richness of pluralism” while recognizing that “the political diversity of Latter-day Saints spans the ideological spectrum. Individual members are free to choose their own political philosophy and affiliation. Moreover, the Church itself is not aligned with any particular political ideology or movement. It defies category. Its moral values may be expressed in a number of parties and ideologies.”

As this is an online class, students will be interacting with others in various assignments. Please remember to be kind, considerate, and respectful of differing viewpoints. Students may differ in opinions (sometimes the best learning for students comes when others challenge their thinking), but they should still be civil. Any violation of basic common courtesy—including interaction with the instructor—will negatively impact  students' grades.

NOTE: Though this course is relevant and engaging, it is also time-intensive. Each week has several readings with accompanying activities. Former students report finding the topics so intriguing, they ended up spending extra time each week. However, students should carefully consider if they have the necessary time to devote to this course this semester. 

Learning Outcomes

Students should be able to do the following things:

  • Understand the main theories of international relations (realism, liberalism, Marxism, constructivism), including the implicit assumptions in each. Be able to apply these theories to day-to-day international events.
  • Be aware of both the differences and linkages between domestic (national) and international politics.
  • Understand the different levels of analysis (individual, state, and systemic) and how these levels might impact international politics.
  • Have a basic understanding of key issues in international affairs, including economics, globalization, nationalism, ethnicity, human rights, major conflicts, and global environmental politics.
  • Be able to read, understand, analyze, and critique articles of varying complexity related to international politics.
  • Be able to apply international relations theories and concepts to real-world events.

Course Architecture

In an online course, regular and sustained attention to the course is critical. Be attentive to the deadlines, reading assignments, and course activities. This course will run in 12 weeks with an additional introductory week (W01) at the beginning and a conclusion week (W14) at the end. In Week 01, students will complete course introduction activities which will help orient them to the course and give them practice using the Canvas tools.

NOTE: Students may experience an issue with loading pages in Firefox and Chrome where the content is determined as “insecure.” As a default, these browsers will not load those pages. If any of the pages don't load correctly or come up as a blank page, read Help! My Page Isn’t Loading.

Each Week

  • Each week will open early in order to accommodate students who want extra time to get started.
    • New weeks will open on Thursdays of the preceding week
    • Weeks will close nine days later (Saturday)
  • Each week has the following due dates:
    • By Wednesday, students will need to complete the following weekly assignments:
      • An initial post on the current events discussion board
      • Study
      • Model Diplomacy simulation
    • By Saturday, students will need to complete the following weekly assignments:
      • Subsequent posts on the current events discussion board
      • Geography quizzes
      • Accountability quiz (an opportunity for students to report on things they have done throughout the week that are not assessed elsewhere)

NOTE: The due dates of the introduction week activities are not until Wednesday of Week 02. This extra time is given so students who add late to have time to complete the assignments. Be sure not to procrastinate these assignments until Week 02, as that will make the Week 02 workload more difficult and time-consuming.

Course Benefits

During the semester, the class will discuss important concepts and approaches to understanding the nature of world politics. The class will explore the role of individuals, states, and the international system in shaping the policy options available to nations and their eventual choices. This course will help students build a knowledge base of principal analytical approaches to international relations by helping them do the following things:

  • Learn about the major “isms” or theories of international relations—realism, liberalism, constructivism, and even a little Marxism—and taking these concepts from the dry world of academia (perhaps students will find that it isn’t quite so dry?) into the real world of politics.
  • Apply the theories to some of the major issues of the last century, which will include an examination of the causes of war and peace, the security dilemma, nuclear weapons, arms races, arms control, the role of the UN and other international organizations, ethnic conflicts, and the issue of human rights.
  • Understand the issues and problems that have arisen since the end of the Cold War.

Not all of these ideas and skills will come easily. It may take a lot of work and practice before some of the things talked about will even start to make sense, so don’t be surprised to find that it may take a little extra time to comprehend these ideas. Just be patient. As students approach the end of the semester, their knowledge of and proficiency in the things studied will start to come together, and they will really see how much progress they have made. They will understand what this course is working to teach them and be glad they persisted in their efforts to learn.

An additional benefit of this course is that as students thoughtfully apply the Learning Model to Prepare, Teach One Another, and Ponder and Prove what they have learned, and as they humbly seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the following blessings are available:

  • The Lord will bless students with a greater knowledge of His mercy and love.
  • Students will receive an increased testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Course Activities

  • Study: Spend time reviewing the week's study materials, reflecting on the assigned readings, viewing any supplemental materials, and preparing for a reading quiz.
  • Geography quiz: This quiz will assess students' understanding of the concepts and applications covered in the assigned readings. The quizzes will consist of a few essay and/or short answer questions.
  • Initial post on the current events discussion board: Students may use this board weekly to civilly and thoughtfully share their ideas, opinions, and/or questions with classmates about what is happening in world news and how that relates to what is being learned in this course.
  • Initial post on the group exercise and study group discussion boards: Demonstrate understanding of the study materials by posting insightful responses, and encourage classmates to participate in the discussion.
  • Model Diplomacy project: This simulation project will begin in Week 05. They will set the priorities for teammates during that week of participation within the course simulation.

NOTE: The time it takes to complete the assigned readings may not be consistent every week. Students are encouraged to work ahead when they can.

Course Requirements

Course Text

Karen Mingst, Essentials of International Relations (9th Edition ISBN 978-0-393-87202-6).

Compare prices for textbooks through the University Store Price Comparison. They will show all of the options from the University Store as well as other options to help students find the best price. You must purchase the following required textbook: Karen Mingst, Essentials of International Relations (9th Edition ISBN-13: 978-0393872187). The required book for this course is a low cost Auto Access digital book. Access the book using the link provided in the Textbook Access module of this course. You will be automatically charged, in your student account, for the digital book on the first day of the semester. If you do not want to use the digital book (perhaps you already purchased the print version), you must opt out or you will be charged for the digital book. If you drop the course, you will be refunded within 24 hours. The last day to receive a refund for Auto Access is the W-drop date which occurs in week 04 of the semester. Learn about Auto Access and learn how to opt out: BYU-I Auto Access. There is an option to opt-out of Auto Access materials on your Book List.

The will also be using a software program that implements a simulation of international politics. The Model Diplomacy simulation is free. Directions on how to participate in the simulation are included in Week 5.

Additional readings are available in I-Learn.

Proctored Exams and Assessments

This course will use an online proctoring software called Proctorio. This makes it possible for students to take assessments and exams without a human proctor present. Proctored exams can be accessed like any other exam, once the software has been installed. Exams will be recorded by Proctorio and reviewed by the BYUI Testing Center. Any questionable exams will be forwarded to the instructor for further review.

For step-by-step instructions on Proctorio installation, please refer to Student Help: Proctorio in Canvas.

Grading Criteria

Activity Total Points
Introductory Activities 15
Current Events Discussion Boards 50
Study Materials Quizzes 5
Class Activities 15
Geography Quizzes 160
Model Diplomacy Council Guide 10
Model Diplomacy Case Study/Simulations 55
Model Diplomacy Debrief and Final Policy Memo 30
Essays 75
Exams 285
Total Points Possible 715

There will be three exams (in W05, W09, and W14) for this course. The final exam study guide will be distributed two weeks in advance (in Week 12). The final exam is weighted more heavily to reflect both the comparative demands of the final and the fact that students will have a better understanding of what is expected of them after the midterm.

Grading Scale

Letter Grade Percentage Grade
A 93%–100%
A- 90%–92%
B+ 89%–87%
B 83%–86%
B- 80%–82%
C+ 77%–79%
C 73%–76%
C- 70%–72%
D+ 67%–69%
D 63%–66%
D- 60%–62%
F 59% and below

Class Policies

Course Questions, Problems, and Concerns

This course has an Announcements page where students can post general questions, problems, concerns, etc. Using this page will inform the instructor, class members, and others monitoring the course of the issues students find, and it will allow the proper people to correct the issues for everyone. If a student is experiencing the same problem as another student who has posted, they can post as well so others know the seriousness of the problem. If a student knows the answer to a problem, they're invited to post solutions. Helping to solve classmates’ problems is another way to teach one another. The instructor will also use this board to inform students of fixes and solutions. Check back often to learn of any changes to the course.

NOTE: Students should email the instructor directly only if the problem is of a personal nature or the instructor informs the student this is the way they would like to be informed of questions, problems, or concerns.

Study Assistance: Go to Academic Learning for information about how the Academic Support Centers for writing, reading, math, and study skills can help students increase success in this and all of their classes.

Late Work Policy

No late work will be accepted without permission from the instructor. Assignments are due on the day indicated. Work that is late hampers students' abilities to fully participate in the course and will be accepted only at the instructor’s discretion. Inform the instructor before the assignment is due. Any late work that is accepted is subject to a penalty as determined by the instructor.


While all students sign the Honor Code, there are still specific skills most students need to master over time. These include correctly citing sources—especially in this new age of the internet—and dealing with the stress and strain of college life without resorting to cheating. Please know that the instructor will notice instances of cheating on exams and plagiarizing in papers. Academic honesty is expected from all students. Be aware that ignorance of plagiarism rules is not an excuse.


The instructor reserves the right to change any part of this syllabus any time during the semester in order to adapt to changing course needs. Students will be notified prior to any changes that may take place.

University Policies

Students with Disabilities

Brigham Young University-Idaho is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere that accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have a disability and require accommodations, please contact the Disability Services Office at (208) 496-9210 or visit their website and follow the Steps for Receiving Accommodations. Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with students and instructors by the Disability Services Office.

This course may require synchronous meetings. If you are currently registered with the Disability Services Office and need an interpreter or transcriber for these meetings, please contact the deaf and hard of hearing coordinator at (208) 496-9219.

Other University Policies

Student Honor and Other Policies

Please read through the document called University Policies. It gives important information about the following topics:

  • Student Honor
    • Academic Honesty
    • Student Conduct
      • Sexual Harassment
  • Student with Disabilities
  • Complaints and Grievances
  • Copyright Notice

Go to the Student Resources module to review further resources and information.

Course Summary:

Date Details Due