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Unit Overview


This unit examines some of the key theories and methods associated with the subject and study of public international law. It also explores how debates about these theories and methods arise in a number of contemporary issue areas in international law. With these aims in mind, the unit examines some of the different ways scholars have understood and explained what international law is, how it operates and changes, and how it should be studied. Examples of perspectives that are discussed include positivism and natural law theory, as well as critiques of international law such as feminism and postcolonialism. In terms of methods, topics include doctrinal legal research and empirical legal research methods. Students then apply these perspectives to a number of international issue areas. They also develop their independent research skills by developing and writing a major essay on a topic related to the unit content.

6 points
(see Timetable)
Non-standard teaching periodUWA (Perth)Face to face

Students are able to (1) demonstrate thorough developed knowledge and understanding of some of the key theories and methods associated with the subject and study of public international law; (2) critically develop and analyse the contributions and limits of these theories and methods and apply these theories and methods to the study of various international issue areas, such as the use of force by states, the protection of human rights, and the regulation of international trade; (3) employ relevant theories and methods to conduct research on specific topics related to the unit content; and (4) present orally and in writing a well-developed argument about issues related to the unit content.


Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) research essay; (2) in-class presentation; and (3) class participation. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Student may be offered supplementary assessment in this unit if they meet the eligibility criteria.

Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Fiona McGaughey
Unit rules
Enrolment in
20810 Doctor of Juridical Science
LAWS5224 Foundations of Public International Law or equivalent as recognised by the Faculty
Enrolment in
LAWS5225 Theory, Method and Contemporary Issues of International Law
Contact hours
Content will be available from 17th February 2023. Students are expected to attend all classes (1st and 8th March 2023 from 9.30am to 5pm)
  • The availability of units in Semester 1, 2, etc. was correct at the time of publication but may be subject to change.
  • All students are responsible for identifying when they need assistance to improve their academic learning, research, English language and numeracy skills; seeking out the services and resources available to help them; and applying what they learn. Students are encouraged to register for free online support through GETSmart; to help themselves to the extensive range of resources on UWA's STUDYSmarter website; and to participate in WRITESmart and (ma+hs)Smart drop-ins and workshops.
  • Unit readings, including any essential textbooks, are listed in the unit outline for each unit, one week prior the commencement of study. The unit outline will be available via the LMS and the UWA Handbook one week prior the commencement of study. Reading lists and essential textbooks are subject to change each semester. Information on essential textbooks will also be made available on the Essential Textbooks. This website is updated regularly in the lead up to semester so content may change. It is recommended that students purchase essential textbooks for convenience due to the frequency with which they will be required during the unit. A limited number of textbooks will be made available from the Library in print and will also be made available online wherever possible. Essential textbooks can be purchased from the commercial vendors to secure the best deal. The Student Guild can provide assistance on where to purchase books if required. Books can be purchased second hand at the Guild Secondhand bookshop (second floor, Guild Village), which is located on campus.
  • Contact hours provide an indication of the type and extent of in-class activities this unit may contain. The total amount of student work (including contact hours, assessment time, and self-study) will approximate 150 hours per 6 credit points.