Core Subject: Concepts in International Relations

Course content

Revised 3 May 2022:


This course introduces you to engaging with the discipline of International Relations (IR) at post-graduate level. Based on the understanding of theories developed at the undergraduate level, it challenges you to develop your own theorisations and analyses through an engagement with concepts and the contestations surrounding them. The focus is on enabling you to identify problems and develop your own scholarly arguments in response to them, drawing on your understanding of concepts and conceptualisations.


The course is organised in three parts. Part 1 engages with research as knowledge production that requires theorization and uses concepts. It also highlights that it is an activity in practice. When we think, read and write as researchers we make use of concepts. This section of the course establishes that as a student at Masters level, you participate in this knowledge production.


Part 2 works through a series of concepts that have significance in IR. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all the concepts relevant to IR, or even to identify the most important ones. Rather this section of the course shows how concepts work and how researchers work with concepts in different ways to enhance theorisation and to analyse what is called the real world. Particular attention will be paid to highlighting that in scholarly analysis we always put concepts in relation: with other concepts, the object of analysis and so on. 


Part 3 returns to your role as researcher and analyst and reflects on how to prepare for the exam.


Core subject in the core subject tracks in Foreign Policy and International Relations and Conflict Resolution. Only accessible to students who are admitted to these core subject tracks.


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semesters only, as the course is not offered in the spring


Notice: It is only possible to enroll for one course having a 3-day compulsory written take-home assignment exam due to coincident exam periods.

Learning outcome

Knowledge and Understanding:


  • Understand what is involved in producing knowledge about international relations
  • Understand the role and functions of concepts in research and how these can be analysed, developed and used in knowledge production
  • Know core contemporary research directions in the discipline
  • Identify different approaches to concept analysis and use, as well as their respective weaknesses and strengths



  • Interrogate texts and engage with the conceptualisations they produce
  • Construct, defend and critique arguments



  • Critical thinking
  • Independent working

The course is taught in one 2-hour session per week over the 14 weeks of the semester. Students are expected to prepare for each session through careful reading and to actively contribute to class discussion. The course will combine lecture elements with individual and group work in class to enable students to work with concepts.

Revised 3 May 2022


Berenskoetter, Felix (2017) “Approaches to Concept Analysis.” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 45(2): 151–73.

Berenkoetter, Felix (ed.) (2016), Concepts in World Politics, London: Sage.

Andreas Gofas, Inanna Hamati-Ataya, and Nicholas Onuf (eds.) (2018), The SAGE Handbook of the History, Philosophy and Sociology of International Relations, London: Sage.

Ish-Shalom, Piki (ed.) (2021), Concepts at Work: On the Linguistic Infrastructure of World Politics, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2021.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship

- In the semester where the course takes place: Three-day compulsory written take-home assignment

- In subsequent semesters: Free written assignment


NB! All exams (both ordinary and re-exams) will take place at the end of the autumn semesters only, as the course is not offered in the spring

Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28


Course number
7,5 ECTS
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 semester

Department of Political Science, Study Council
Contracting department
  • Department of Political Science
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
Course Coordinator
  • Maja Zehfuss   (12-6f636c63307c676a68777575426b6875306d7730666d)
Saved on the 06-05-2024

Are you BA- or KA-student?

Are you bachelor- or kandidat-student, then find the course in the course catalog for students:

Courseinformation of students