Foreign Policy Analysis

Course Description: 

This course aims to familiarize students with the process by which foreign policy is made. In exploring this question, the course takes students on a tour through the foreign policy analysis (FPA) scholarship, which utilizes a variety of theoretical frameworks and research strategies. Broadly speaking, the course follows a traditional "levels of analysis" structure, beginning with the systemic or structural level, where we examine constraints on foreign-policy making such as balance of power considerations and alliance structures. 

The course’s main aim is to provide students with a sound understanding of:

 1)      Competing theories of foreign policy

2)      The principal differences between foreign policy and international politics

3)      The trade-offs involved in using different levels of analysis

4)      The uses and limits of comparative foreign policy analysis

5)      How to ascertain the relative influence of psychological factors versus political institutions versus systematic constraints on foreign policy

6)      How to identify analogies, national roles and norms in the production of foreign policy

7)      How to write and deliver foreign policy papers.

Learning Outcomes: 

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

 -  Distinguish the causal logics of competing theories of foreign policy

-  Explain foreign policy formation in concrete cases

-  Test the relative explanatory value of competing theories using empirical analysis

-  Undertake foreign policy analysis using process-tracing and other techniques

-  Identify the policy implications of competing theories of foreign policy

-  Develop, present and defend policy papers


(1)   Policy Paper (30%). Students are expected to write a policy paper addressing a foreign policy problem facing their own country. The paper should be 2,500 to 3,000 words in length (10-12 pages double-spaced). Students should consult with me in advance about their topics. Due 10 a.m. November 12. Details TBA.

 (2)   Presentation (15%) Students will be expected to deliver a presentation in class based on their policy paper. They should be prepared to to argue for and defend their policy position in class (November 13, 15). Details TBA.

 (3) Final Exam (40%). Students will be given an in-class final exam on the final day of class, December 6. This will be comprehensive, covering all the material in the course. Students will be allowed to take a page of notes to the final with them and will be given additional time to complete the exam, if needed.

 (4) Class Participation (15%).  Students are expected to attend all the seminars and participate in class discussions; since the course is highly interactive, it is essential that students attend the seminars having read the materials for that day’s class. Additional short policy readings may also be assigned for selected seminars.

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