San Francisco State University, Spring 10

IR 550

HSS 362

MW 8:10-12:50

Office hours: M 4:30-6 W 4:30-5:20


Andrei P. Tsygankov


Office: HSS 354

Office phone: 87493




This is a capstone course that aims to assist a student in producing a high quality paper on foreign policy or another area of international relations. You are expected to build on and bring together everything you have learned during the Program— research and presentation skills, theory, and area studies knowledge. We will compare various theoretical and methodological approaches to foreign policy developed in International Relations and explore various policy issues in the light of existing theories. We begin by surveying the current state of writing a research paper on foreign policy and differentiating between various theoretical approaches. The bulk of the course is an independent research and preparation of a large paper/presentations under supervision of instructor and teaching assistant. Our discussion will include questions, such as “How do state foreign policies change over time, across nations and issue areas?”; “What are the sources of change?”; and “What forces are responsible for foreign policy formation?”




Students must complete all the International Relations core courses and pass all the required tests, such as English and the library test.  




Attendance, participation and consistent progress in research – 5 points. The biggest problem in this course is procrastination. As you all know, this class is most demanding. While in some other classes procrastination and a late jump on research may still get you a satisfactory grade, in this class it will not! In this class, (self) discipline is most of the success. I will monitor your progress and reserve the right to drop you from the class after the first month if your research progress is not sufficient. On attendance, I allow up to two unexcused absences, after which I begin to take points off (1 pnt of your final grade for each unexcused absence). Work-related absences, traffic, and computer problems do not count as a valid excuse.


3 paper-related assignments – 20 points (5, 5 and 10 points, respectively). Must be done on schedule, no special rescheduling will take place. For description please see below.


2 in-class presentations (20-25 minutes each) – 30 points (10 and 20 points, respectively). Outline must be submitted the class before the actual presentation—the presentation will not take place otherwise. Debriefing sessions will be held after each presentation. See below for additional description.


2 paper drafts (20 and 60 pages) – 45 points (20 and 25 points, respectively). Must be done on schedule, no special rescheduling will take place. See below for additional description.


Responsibilities of a Group Assistant:


1. Peer-reviews and in class discussions of your classmates’ work. 


2. Supervising students presentations. This includes making yourself available for students’ questions at all stages of their presentations/papers’ preparation; scheduling order of presentations; and serving as advocate during debriefing sessions. 


3. Taking students through at least one rehearsal of their in-class presentations and providing critical feedback for further improvements. 


4. Preparing the class for presentations and trouble shooting in case of possible AV equipments’ problems. This includes coming to class earlier and making sure the equipment and the room are in shape for presentations. 


5. Grading style and slides of presentations and providing critical feedback for further improvements. If there is more than one teaching assistant, s/he cannot grade presentations of those from his or her region/ group.




Separate memos on grading presentations and papers will be made available and will be discussed in class. 




Incompletes will be given if a student (1) completes at least 50% percent of the course’s work and (2) is unable to continue with the course’s requirements (and able to provide a documentation for such inability).  


Academic honesty/ plagiarism:


I adhere to academic standards for academic honesty and will not hesitate to report incidents of plagiarism (most typically, appropriation of materials/ sources, without citing them). To avoid any unpleasant situations, I urge all of you to consult me or other faculty when you are in doubt on citation rules.




Smith, S., A. Hadfield and T. Dunne, eds. Foreign Policy. Oxford UP, 2008

Rosell, L. and S. Spray. Research and writing in International relations. Longman, 2008.

Articles on electronic reserve (e-r), by email, and through SFSU electronic library (the link:



Assignment 1: tentative title, 2 paragraph description, and 1-2 inspiring academic sources

Assignment 2: academic bibliography (20 sources minimum) and description of research lacunas (10-15 pages)

Assignment 3: theory, alternative hypotheses, methodology or proposed way of theory testing, and proposed method of collecting evidence




Presentation 1: main argument, literature review and methodology

Presentation 2: recap of theory and analysis of existing evidence




Paper is also submitted in two drafts, each following presentation

Paper 1: main argument, literature review and methodology

Paper 2: theory recap and analysis of existing evidence

In-class Discussions:


Discussions: discussion of readings and feedback on Assignments 1-3

A class will be divided in groups, each responsible for reading each other work (across groups) and being prepared to designate a group spokesperson to provide critical comments and suggestions for others


The course schedule (all dates and readings are subject to change):


Week 1 Jan 25                          Introduction

Week 1 Jan 27                          Research Design – lecture 1 / Assignment 1 due

Week 2 Feb 1, 3                        Research Design – discussion / Assignment 1 discussion

                                                Realists & Liberals – lecture 2

Week 3 Feb 10                          Realists & Liberals – discussion

Week 4 Feb 15, 17                    Constructivists – lecture 3

                                                Constructivists & FP theories – discussion

Week 5 Feb 24                          Assignment 2 due

                                                Assignment 2 discussion

Week 6 March 1, 3                    Dos/Donts on Style & Slides

Independent work

Week 7 March 8, 10                  Assignment 3 due

                                                Assignment 3 discussion / Presentation 1 outline due

Week 8 March 15, 17                Presentation 1

Week 9 March 22, 24                Presentation 1 cont. / Paper draft 1 due

Week 10 March 29, 31              BREAK          

Week 11 Apr 7                        Independent work

Week 12 Apr 12, 14                  Independent work / Presentation 2 outline due

Week 13 Apr 19                        Presentation 2

Week 14 Apr 26, 28                  Presentation 2 cont.

Week 15 May 4, 6                     Presentation 2 cont.

Independent work (incorporate comments)

Week 16 May 12                       Summary / Paper draft 2 due


Please note university-reserved and individual furglough days: Feb 8, Feb 22, April 5, April 21, May 10


Discussions (readings are subject to change):


Research Design:

Smith et al: chap. 14 (Khong)

Articles by Odell; Drulak & Kratochvil;


Realists & Liberals:

Smith et al: chaps. 2-3 (Wohlforth, Doyle)

Articles by Brooks & Wohlforth; Legro; English


Constructivists and FP theories: 

Smith et al: chaps. 1, 4 (Hudson, Checkel)

Articles by Ringmar; Tsygankov (Geopolitics); Kaarbo; Mearcheimer & Walt