International relations is traditionally divided into two main fields: international security (the study of war, conflict, peace, etc.,) and international political economy (trade, foreign direct investment, international finance, etc.). However, it increasingly includes other areas of global concern, including the environment, human rights, and international law, as well as fields that span substantive areas, such as the study of international organization.
Columbia has been known for a long time as one of the very top places to study international security. The international relations group cooperates with comparative politics colleagues in mounting one of the strongest programs in the study of civil wars.
Faculty in the department use a wide range of theories and a variety of methods, from formal models to statistical analyses, to case studies and archival research. They urge students to deploy multiple methods and to deal with alternative explanations. Most of the group's graduate students publish revised versions of their dissertations either as a book or as a series of articles.