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POLS 2250 Introduction to International Relations
Theory Paper– Star Trek Balance of Terror
Purpose:
The purpose of this assignment is for you to practice analyzing a situation using different
theoretical lenses based on the theories that we have studied in class. We use a fictional
television show instead of a real-world scenario for this practice, because it removes some of the
pre-conceived notions (and potential bias) that we all have from media coverage or even just
broad assumptions we make of current events.
What to Watch:
You will need to watch a 50-minute episode from the original Star Trek television series called
“Balance of Terror” (an episode from season 1). The episode is available for streaming online
from the following sources:
• Netflix
• Amazon – free with Prime membership, otherwise $2.99 to watch
• Hulu – free with a trial membership
• You can probably find it elsewhere on the internet too.
If you are not familiar with Star Trek, here is a little bit of background: Captain Kirk leads the
crew of the starship Enterprise which is part of Starfleet, a military-capable exploration and
peacekeeping armada. Starfleet is part of the United Federation of Planets, also called “The
Federation”, which is an organization of many sovereign planets that work together for peace
and prosperity in the universe. In this episode, the Enterprise comes across the Romulans, a
population that is not part of “The Federation.”
General Guidelines:
For this assignment, you will write a 1200-1500 word essay about the “Balance of Terror”
episode. Please refrain from describing the plot of the show in your paper – you can assume the
reader of your paper has seen it. Instead focus on the context. Apply each of these three
theoretical perspectives that we have covered in class: realism, liberalism, and constructivism.
Do not use radicalism – it does not fit well with this case.
For each theoretical perspective, first describe the aspects of the theory that you are applying
including main characteristics and/or a variation of the theory. For example, if you are using
realism, you might consider offensive and defensive realism, or perhaps you prefer to apply
neorealism, or perhaps aspects of balancing. Choose aspects of the theory that are the most
useful to apply to the episode. Then use that theory to explain the characters’ behaviors and the
situational outcomes.
You do not need to use any outside sources. You can just draw on the material from class (no
citations needed). I do expect you to reference at least one major theorist for each theory (such as
Waltz, Wendt, Kant, Saint Augustine, etc.)
Paper Format:
Your essay should be well-organized and demonstrate critical thinking that is clear, insightful,
and relevant to the topic. Your paper should be divided into the following 5 sections:
A. Introduction
• Briefly introduce the main idea of your paper.
B. Realism
• How will you apply realism?
o Describe the characteristics of realism that you plan to apply. Refer to a
major theorist.
• Where was the theory evident in the episode?
o Describe how the actions of the characters or the outcome of the situation
can be explained by this theory.
C. Liberalism
• How will you apply liberalism?
o Describe the characteristics of liberalism that you plan to apply. Refer to a
major theorist.
• Where was the theory evident in the episode?
o Describe how the actions of the characters or the outcome of the situation
can be explained by this theory.
D. Constructivism
• How will you apply constructivism?
o Describe the characteristics of constructivism that you plan to apply. Refer
to a major theorist.
• Where was the theory evident in the episode?
o Describe how the actions of the characters or the outcome of the situation
can be explained by this theory.
E. Conclusion
• Was the application of multiple theoretical perspectives useful in analyzing the
episode and/or understanding the characters?
Grading Rubric:
Style: (10 points)
Expressive writing with varied sentence structure and sophisticated language. No spelling
or grammatical errors. Does not overuse quotations (no more than 2-3 short quotes).
Length: (10 points)
1200 – 1500 words
Organization: (10 points)
The essay is well-organized into sections and paragraphs with a thesis statement clearly
stated up-front and supported throughout.
Introduction and Conclusion: (10 points)
The paper had an introduction that stated the main idea of the essay and a conclusion that
provided an effective summary.
Realism: Comprehension (10 points)
Elements of this IR theory were correctly defined. There was an effective reference to at
least one major theorist.
Realism: Application (10 points)
Elements of this IR theory were correctly applied to the episode. The student had points
of great insight in their application.
Liberalism: Comprehension (10 points)
Elements of this IR theory were correctly defined. There was an effective reference to at
least one major theorist.
Liberalism: Application (10 points)
Elements of this IR theory were correctly applied to the episode. The student had points
of great insight in their application.
Constructivism: Comprehension (10 points)
Elements of this IR theory were correctly defined. There was an effective reference to at
least one major theorist.
Constructivism: Application (10 points)
Elements of this IR theory were correctly applied to the episode. The student had points
of great insight in their application.

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