International relations: a website for students — and others

What a useful resource could be provided if any student could put his or her essays on international affairs on a website for all to read!   Now an enterprising group of graduate students from a number of universities have done just that.  In the words of one of its editors:

A group of postgraduate students from UK universities including Oxford, Leicester and the LSE run an independent website (e-International Relations) aimed at international politics students. As well as essays, news feeds, and political blogs it contains short editorial comment pieces. The recently built site has already had submissions from British, American and Islamic academics, students, journalists, politicians and advocacy groups. Amongst others we’ve received pieces from Ian Lustick, Charlie Beckett, John Redwood and David Steinberg.

Since that was written, I too have responded to an invitation to contribute an ‘editorial comment piece’  I decided it was best to rewrite my essay on one of my favourite topics, familiar to all Ephems readers:  it’s currently the ‘featured editorial‘ on the website.

“e-International Relations”, at, is well worth a visit, not only as a laudable and interesting initiative, but also for lots of stimulating content (not just my own contribution, either!).  Of course the student essays as well as the gurus’ and others’ ‘editorial comments’ offer rich pickings for student essay-writers to plunder, but then so does all Web content, and these days alert tutors have ways of tracking down plagiarism.  Anyway the line between plagiarism and inspiration fired by others’ ideas is a blurred one.  (Personally I would find it rather flattering to be plagiarised, although naturally I’m unlikely to know it even if I have been.)

The other possible objection is that the mere appearance of an essay or a comment piece on a quasi-academic website may lend it a spurious air of authenticity and authority when in real life it may be full of inaccuracies and misrepresentations.   But “e-International Relations” is frank about the status of its contributions, and anyone who takes a student essay (or even a comment piece by an old fogey) as gospel has no business being a student, formal or informal.  Caveat lector!  In some cases hyperlinks to original sources are an aid to verification by the suspicious;  in other cases the main substance is more opinion than fact, and the reader is at liberty to agree or disagree.  Some essays include impressive bibliographies and other footnotes, facilitating verification: and all of them include provision for visitors to append comments, or to comment separately on the associated blogs, both sure-fire ways of keeping writers in the blogosphere honest (as we bloggers all know, sometimes to our cost).

It’s an excellent initiative, expertly executed, and it deserves to flourish.  More publicity for it is needed: fellow-bloggers, please copy!


3 Responses

  1. Forough Ramezan-Khah says:

    Dear Brian,

    Thank you unreservedly for the link , I went on it immediately and discovered a very interesting article by Professor Simon Dalby, very relevant to my study. I forwarded the article to a number of friends too.

    With the kindest regards,


    Brian writes:  Glad you found it useful already, Forough. 

  2. Oliver Lewis says:

    Thank you for your kind words, Brian. The "e-International Relations" project is very much reliant on as widest an exposure as possible.

    The plagiarism issue was one we pondered over for a considerable time, and it continues to make some students reluctant to contribute their essays for fear of plagiarism. When initial reactions fall away, what students are worried about is losing their sense of ownership; the same concerns often arise when discussing whether to release a podcast of a lecture or even whether to charge for software or make it open source. What is the purpose of the material?  What good can come of keeping one’s entire efforts secret

    When the project first started, we were very concerned that the student essays would reflect unfavourably on the prospect of academic support, particularly in the form of commissioning editorials. Any website that has an 'essay bank' tends to be looked upon with suspicion. We hope that making every essay available in its entirety – for free – goes some way to allay these suspicions. Personally, I think it incredibly valuable to showcase the variety of questions we students of IR have to tackle, how we go about this, and in the case of those who have submitted essays from multiple years of study, how their style and academic ability has developed over time.


    Brian writes:   I agree with your comments, Oliver.  Anything 'published', whether on the Web or in print or otherwise, is liable to be plagiarised:  that's in the nature of publication.  It's a valuable new resource.

  3. Peter Harvey says:

    Thank you. I have recommended it to my students.