IST9006 – Theories and Concepts in IR


University Of Lincoln



Module Code

Theories and Concepts in IR

Assessed Essay (3000 words) 


Students demonstrate, in a 3,000-word essay (not including bibliography), their ability to use independent research skills to critically address the academic debates we learn about in this module. The purpose is to demonstrate the ability to intervene in a knowledgeable way in theoretical debates in international relations. Students will choose their own essay question to answer. 


Please write an essay on a question of your own choice (you are encouraged to discuss ideas for essay questions with the instructor beforehand).

Bibliography: You should reference your work throughout. Use Harvard referencing. The bibliography should only include works used in the body of your text. The bibliography is not included in the word count (all other sections are).


When preparing your assessment consider some of the following: 

  • Have you chosen a question that is put in a way that can be answered directly?
  • Have you chosen a question where you have to be analytical, and not merely descriptive, to answer it?
  • Have you made your argument clear in the first paragraph?
  • Have you written an answer that is clearly structured (with a roadmap, topic sentences)?
  • Are there counterarguments to what you are saying? Why do you find them less persuasive?


Learning Outcomes Assessed:


LO1: Critically reflect on the discipline of international relations and its history.

LO2: Explain, critically evaluate and understand key debates and core concepts in International Relations.

LO3: Understand and critically explain the utility of international relations theory. 

LO4: Critically analyse international relations theories and their descriptive, predictive and normative dimensions. 

LO5: Systematically employ international relations theories and concepts to analyse current and historical international issues.


Knowledge & Skills Assessed: 


You will be assessed on your ability to show abilities at:

  • Comprehension of key theoretical claims
  • Independent research
  • Literature searching
  • Reading comprehension
  • Development of research questions
  • Articulation of theoretical argument.

Professional Graduate Skills

This assessment will help you develop the following graduate skills:

  • Independent research
  • Written communication
  • Critical thinking
  • Time management.

Career-focused Skills:  

This assessment will help you develop the following career skills:

  • Persuasive analysis.
  • Identifying research questions.


Assessment Submission Instructions: 


This assessment should be submitted electronically via Turnitin on Blackboard. This assessment must be submitted by Wednesday 13th December 2023 (by 12 noon) via Blackboard

Submissions should be submitted by 12pm on the due date. Any work submitted after the deadline will be marked LATE. 

Late work is subject to a penalty of 10% per working day. 

The word count for each assessment must be respected (but it is acceptable to be 5% above or below the word limit). A fixed 10% penalty will apply to word counts which exceed the buffer. 

The main text and in-text references count towards the word limit, but the title page and bibliography do not. 


Date for Return of Feedback: Feedback for this assignment should be available within 15 working days. 


Format for Assessment: 


Students will choose their own essay question. 

The word count for each assessment must be respected (but it is acceptable to be 5% above or below the word limit). A fixed 10% penalty will apply to word counts which exceed the buffer. 

The main text and in-text references count towards the word limit, but the title page and bibliography do not. 

 For each written coursework, we ask that you include on the title page:

  1. The module name and code
  2. The question/task addressed
  3. The module co-ordinator’s name
  4. Your name, student number and degree programme
  5. The word count
  6. The date of submission


We also ask that you:

  1. Write your name and student number on every page
  2. Double space your work
  3. Use font size 12
  4. Make margins at least 2.5cm
  5. Insert page numbers


Please ensure your essay includes a cover sheet listing your name, the final word count (excluding the bibliography) and the chosen essay title.



Referencing is a very important aspect of academic writing. It not only demonstrates that your work is grounded in the appropriate literature, but also gives the reader the information they need to find that literature for themselves, if they so wish. 


As you will see when you read academic journals and books, there are several different referencing styles. Some use a footnote or endnote system, while others use in-text references and a bibliography. Versions of the latter are often referred to as the ‘Harvard’ system of referencing and this is the School of Social and Political Sciences’ preferred method. The University of Lincoln Library has developed a Harvard system and we recommend that you use this in your work. 


The University of Lincoln Referencing handbook: Harvard (2nd edition) is available in hard copy from the Library and as a PDF via this link: http://guides.library.lincoln.ac.uk/learn/referencing/. (Please ensure you get the Harvard version (purple), as the Library produces guides on other styles as well.) 


The Library runs workshops on referencing, which you may wish to attend.


Marking Criteria for Assessment: 


70+: Analytical and critical stance with a command of the materials, data and arguments. Does not accept on “face value.” Develops an argument based upon critical evaluation of the evidence from theoretical perspectives and authorities through to apparent practices. Arrives at considered and clearly developed conclusions on the subject which are substantiated by the materials covered. In this respect it gives further insight into the subject rather than simply a paraphrase of existing materials. Innovative, thorough and imaginative. Progressively higher marks will be awarded for work showing greater strengths, such as insight, originality and imagination.

60-69: Analytical approach. Discusses main arguments for and against the issue with reference to theoretical debates and central authorities. Tries to establish strengths and weaknesses of perspectives. Critical, well integrated, well referenced and well presented.

50-59: Descriptive, “some” attempt at analysis, references to help substantiate and support points, but coverage could be more comprehensive and less or no attempt to critically evaluate these sources. Often illustrated by contradictory points presented as if unproblematic and with undue simplification.

Marks below 50 are failing marks at MA level.

40-49: Overwhelmingly descriptive, relevant but lacking depth, more so concerned with unsubstantiated assertion and personal anecdotes with little or limited evidence of coverage of available literature. Weak argumentation.

35-39: Weak, little or no evidence of work, often a paraphrase of an introductory text/s or key article/s. Limited bibliography with little evidence of appropriate use of sources. Little structure or purpose; vague and perhaps inaccurate. May be reliant upon unsubstantiated assertion and anecdote. Marks towards the lower end of this range reflect more serious deficiencies or lack of compensating strengths.

0-34: Lacking academic content, irrelevant and failing to address the task. Presentation weak. Poorly structured. Potentially also including serious absence of appropriate references and little or no evidence of reading; disingenuous use of sources (e.g. citing work that is not used); reliance on “pseudo” commonsense. The final mark will reflect the extent to which the work is flawed.


Please note that all work is assessed according to the University of Lincoln Management of Assessments Policy and that marks awarded are provisional on Examination Board decisions (which take place at the end of the Academic Year.

Feedback Format: 


Feedback will be typed and available in the comments box via grade centre. Students will also have an opportunity to make an appointment to discuss their assignment and feedback further.


Additional Information for Completion of Assessment: 


Office hours will also be available for students to access support (upon arrangement). 


Students will have the opportunity to receive formative feedback on an essay plan.


All the information you need to do well in your assessment are available on the Module Blackboard Site. Please make extensive use of the reading materials provided in the module reading list.


Important Information on Dishonesty & Plagiarism:

University of Lincoln Regulations define plagiarism as ‘the passing off of another person’s thoughts, ideas, writings or images as one’s own…Examples of plagiarism include the unacknowledged use of another person’s material whether in original or summary form. Plagiarism also includes the copying of another student’s work’.

Plagiarism is a serious offence and is treated by the University as a form of academic dishonesty. Students are directed to the University Regulations for details of the procedures and penalties involved.


For further information, see plagiarism.org