Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Approaching the Political
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 19 Hours (19 x 1 hour)
Seminars / Tutorials 9 Hours (9 x 1 hour)


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Seminar attendance/writing exercises  10%
Semester Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay  50%
Semester Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay  40%
Supplementary Assessment 2 x 500 word writing exercises  10%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 2,500 word essay, if essay element failed  40%
Supplementary Assessment 1 x 3,000 word essay, if essay element failedy  50%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Outline key basic concepts and concerns of political theory
2. Analyse the core assumptions of liberal political thought
3. Outline and evaluate how Marxism disputes Liberalism's understanding of political modernity
4. Assess the importance of gender for thinking about the political
5. Demonstrate an understanding of what is meant by Post-Positivism and why such approaches emphasise power and knowledge
6. Relate changing political thought to its historical context
7. Evaluate competing contemporary perspectives on approaching the political
8. Discuss the significance of political theory for the study of International Relations

Brief description

The aim of the module is to provide an accessible introduction to modern political theory. The module will seek to familiarise students with both the idea of theory and with key concepts that inform political thought. Throughout, students will be encouraged to think critically about problems of power and political order.

The course will be organised in four broad themes. First, students will be introduced to Liberalism, as the dominant form of political organisation of the modern world. This will be followed by overviews of three critical challengers to the Liberal orthodoxy: Marxism, Feminism and Post-Positivism. These various approaches to thinking about the political will be set within a historical context, in order to bring out the connection between history and the development of theory. At each stage students will be introduced to the central concepts of the theories covered and will be asked to think about the different ways in which they shape both how we might think about the world and how we can understand international relations.

Additionally, seminars for this module will focus on developing students' study skills. Time will be spent in the seminars discussing strategies for reading, analysis, referencing and writing skills, using writing exercises. The module will be assessed through three pieces of written work in order to give students an early opportunity to practice and develop essay writing technique.


1. Introduction to the module
2. Why and how do we use political theory?
Seminar 1: (skills: strategies for reading)

3. Context of Liberalism
4. Liberty and the individual
Seminar 2: Liberalism and Power (skills: writing exercise - description)
5. The Liberal state
6. Liberalism and the international
Seminar 3: Liberalism and Political Order (skills: writing exercise - analysis)

7. Context of Marxism
8. Capital and class
Seminar 4: Marxism and Power (skills: writing exercise – argument)
9. International Political Economy
10. Marxism and the international
Seminar 5: Marxism and Political Order (skills: referencing)

11. Context of Feminism
12. Gender
Seminar 6: Feminism and Power (skills: reflecting on essay one)
13. Knowledge
14. Feminism and the international
Seminar 7: Feminism and Political order (skills: writing exercise - conclusion)

15. Context of Post-Positivism
16. Power
Seminar 8: Post-Positivism and Power (skills: bibliography and footnoting)
17. Knowledge
18. Post-Positivism and the international
Seminar 9: Post-Positivism and Political Order (skills: thinking again… using theory)
19. Conclusion


This module is one of a suite of Part One modules which provide a comprehensive introduction to the study of Politics and International Politics. It provides an introduction to ways of understanding 'the political', and developing critical analytical skills from a range of different theoretical positions. Continuity will be ensured by developing a similar format of lectures for each approach, and by focusing on the themes of power and the political order.

This module will also serve to introduce and develop essay writing skills at the university level through carefully devised seminar writing exercises. This will be of significant benefit to students throughout their academic career.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will learn how to present their ideas both verbally and in writing and how to how to present their arguments most effectively. They will learn the importance of information and clear communication and how to exploit these. They will know how to use the many sources of information available and how to use the most appropriate form of communication to best advantage. They will learn to be clear in their writing and speaking and to be direct about aims and objectives. They will learn to consider only that which is relevant to the topic, focus and objectives of their argument or discussion. Students will also be required to submit their essays in word-processed format and the presentation of work should reflect effective expression of ideas and good use of language skills in order to ensure clarity, coherence and effective communication.
Improving own Learning and Performance The module aims to promote self-management but within a context in which support and assistance is available from both the convenor and fellow students alike. Students will be expected to improve their own learning and performance by undertaking their own research and exercising their own initiative, including searching for sources and deciding (under guidance) the direction of their coursework and presentation topics. The need to prepare for assessed seminar participation and to meet coursework deadlines will focus students' attention on the need to manage their time.
Information Technology Students will be expected to submit their work in word-processed format. Also, students will be encouraged to search for sources of information on the web, as well as seeking sources through electronic information sources.
Personal Development and Career planning This module is designed to hone and test skills of use to students in their working lives, particularly in speaking to small groups, listening, thinking and responding to the statement of others. Moreover, the written work includes writing clearly and concisely, which is a common task in the workplace. Students will be encouraged throughout to reflect on their performance and to consider lessons for future application.
Problem solving Independent work and problem solving will be one central goal of the module; the submission of three essays and undertake writing exercises will require that students develop independent research skills as well as problem solving skills. The ability of students to solve problems will be developed and assessed by asking them to: adopt differing points of view; organize data and estimate an answer to the problem; consider extreme cases; reason logically; construct theoretical models; consider similar cases; look for patterns; divide issues into smaller problems.
Research skills Students will be required to undertake independent research for elements of the assessed work. This will involve utilizing media and web sources, as well as more conventional academic texts. Students will in part be assessed on their ability to gather appropriate and interesting resources materials.
Subject Specific Skills Students have the opportunity to develop, practice and test a wide range of subject specific skills that help them to understand, conceptualise and evaluate examples and ideas on the module. These subject specific skills include: - Collect and understand a wide range of data relating to the module - Evaluate competing perspectives - Demonstrate subject specific research techniques Apply a range of methodologies to complex historical and contemporary political problems.
Team work Students will undertake team exercises in the seminars. For many of the topics of this module, seminars will consist of small-group discussions where students will be asked to discuss as a group the core issues related to the seminar topic. These class discussions and debates form a significant part of the module, and will allow students to approach and examine a given topic through team work.


This module is at CQFW Level 4