Jun 16, 2024  
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog 
2020-2021 Graduate Catalog [Not Current Academic Year. Consult with Your Academic Advisor for Your Catalog Year]

Political Science, PhD

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College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences  > Department of Political Science  > Political Science, PhD

The graduate program of the Department of Political Science provides advanced training in the discipline of political science to students whose career goals include college teaching and advanced research.

The department is organized into six major subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, quantitative methods, and public policy. Students take comprehensive exams in a major and minor subfield of their choice.

Recent graduates of the PhD program have obtained teaching positions at colleges and universities throughout the U.S. and abroad.

Admission Requirements

In addition to meeting the college graduate admission requirements, applicants must meet the following minimum requirements for unconditional admission to the Ph.D. in Political Science program:

  • Applicants must have a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution by the date of enrollment with at least a 3.00 grade point average (A = 4.00) in the most recent 60 hours of undergraduate course work and at least a 3.0 cumulative grade point average for any graduate level courses.
  • International applicants have further documentation requirements, including proof of English language proficiency, which are described on the International Graduate Students website.
  • Applicants should prepare a one-to two-page statement of purpose.
  • Secure three letters of recommendation from professors directly familiar with the student’s work.
  • Application fee ($65 domestic applicants/$140 international applicants).

Political Science students are generally admitted only in the Fall semester. However, Spring admissions are decided on a space available basis.

Degree Requirements

Credit hours required for this degree: 60.0

A minimum of 48 hours of course work is required for a political science PhD, plus at least 12 hours of dissertation credit. Students must successfully complete oral and written comprehensive examinations.

Comprehensive examinations are normally given after two and a half years of coursework, or the equivalent in terms of credit hours for part-time students. Upon successfully completing exams, students are expected to be continuously enrolled in dissertation hours until the degree is completed. Students who are not on teaching fellowships may enroll for as little as 3 dissertation hours per semester (this includes the summer), but note that a student must enroll for a minimum of 12 dissertation hours prior to completion of the degree. Following the completion of a dissertation, students must participate in an oral dissertation defense. Students who enroll as doctoral candidates must complete their degree requirements within 10 years of the date of first enrollment with a doctoral degree objective. Failure to comply will result in the candidate being ineligible for the doctoral degree. Doctoral students who fail to complete the dissertation within 5 years after passing the comprehensive examination must retake the examination.

Core Courses

All students intending to obtain a PhD must take the three required core courses in their first two years in the program, or, in the case of part-time students, as soon as practically possible. Students who are admitted to the PhD program with financial support must enroll in the department’s core courses during their first year in the program.

  • Credit Hours: 3.0
  • Credit Hours: 4
  • Credit Hours: 4

    The core curriculum is designed to provide beginning PhD students with a broad overview of important topics in Political Science. For the beginning student, the core should provide the necessary background to select areas for further concentrated study. The methodological component of the core (POLS 6480 and POLS 6481) is designed to provide the student with the appropriate statistical foundation to become an informed consumer of Political Science research and to set the stage for the student to perform research of his/her own.

Degree Plan

During the last term of core course work students should develop a degree plan in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and the student’s academic adviser. Students must select two areas of study in Political Science in which to concentrate. One of the chosen areas is designated a student’s major area, and a minimum of twelve credit hours (four courses) is required in this area. In the minor area of study, nine credit hours (three courses) are required as a minimum. Students will also have six hours (two courses) in elective courses which can be taken in any area chosen.

It is required that students with a major or minor in American Politics take at least one course from each of the following two subsets:

  1. Elections, Public Opinion, Psychology and Politics
  2. Legislative Process, The Presidency, Political Parties

Tools Requirement

The tools requirement exists for the purpose of assuring competence in the methods necessary for effective scholarship in the student’s chosen specialty. Each student must complete two relevant research courses (6 hours) beyond POLS 6480 and POLS 6481. Choice of possible tool offerings should in all cases should be guided by the question of appropriateness for the student’s academic interest. Students should consult with their advisor about the most appropriate courses for them. In all cases, the student’s choice of tool requirements must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Among the possible course offerings that may satisfy the requirement area:

A. Political methodology courses:

B. Computer Applications at a more advanced level than POLS 6480 and POLS 6481.

C. Foreign language (in rare instances).

D. Other research methods specifically relevant to the dissertation research of the student.

Degree Path

In most cases, the American politics core course and the first two courses in the methods sequence should be completed in the student’s first year. Progress toward degree will normally take a path similar to the following:

Year One: Year Two: Year Three:
1. Research Design (POLS 6302) 7. Tools (1) 13. Major (4)
2. Methods (POLS 6480) 8. Major (2) 14. Elective (2)
3. Elective (1) 9. Minor (2) 15. Prospectus seminar
4. Methods (POLS 6481) 10. Tools (2)   
5. Major (1) 11. Major (3)   
6. Minor (1) 12. Minor (3)  

Academic Policies

Students must also successfully complete oral and written comprehensive exams. Upon successfully completing comprehensive exams, students are expected to be continuously enrolled in dissertation hours (a minimum of 12 dissertation hours must be completed prior to the completion of the degree). Upon completion of the dissertation, the student will participate in an oral dissertation defense.


Every spring term the department’s faculty meets to review the progress of all students in the department’s PhD program. This review will usually involve consultation with all faculty members who have taught the student during the previous two semesters. The Director of Graduate Studies will refer to the Graduate Committee for review any students who do not seem to be making adequate progress toward the PhD degree.

Students are expected to meet the following minimum standards:

  • maintain a 3.0 grade point average,
  • receive one A or A- for every three courses completed, and
  • carry on their transcripts no more than two incompletes at any one time (except in cases of medical emergency, which must be documented to the satisfaction of the Director of Graduate Studies).

Students who have not met these minimal requirements will be deemed not to have made satisfactory progress. After having registered for 18 hours or more of course credit, students who have not made satisfactory progress will be counseled by the graduate committee and given the opportunity to explain what steps they will take to improve their performance in the future. Such students will be advised that they are in jeopardy of losing financial support or being expelled from the political science PhD program. A letter to that effect will be entered into each student’s file. These students will be given a probationary term to improve their grades and/or to remove incompletes from their records.

Students who have any incompletes or have not achieved grades of A or A- for one third of their graduate credit hours will not be permitted to take doctoral comprehensive exams. Full-time students will normally take their exams after their third year. Part-time students must complete a minimum of 48 hours of course credit before taking comprehensive exams.

Independent of the “progress review”, the Director of Graduate Studies is responsible each term for monitoring whether students are making satisfactory progress toward their degrees, discussing the situation with the student, and reporting and making recommendations to the Graduate Committee regarding any student failing to make satisfactory progress.

Students in the Political Science Graduate Program who are not doing satisfactory work may be advised to pursue the MA degree only and not go on for the PhD Depending on how many courses they have completed at the point such advice is given, these students may choose either the Plan I MA (which requires a thesis) or a Plan II MA (which requires more course work and a bibliographic essay). Students who are not doing satisfactory work will receive a letter from the department notifying them of this. Any student who fails to make satisfactory progress may be suspended from the Graduate Program by the Director of Graduate Studies. A student may appeal a suspension to the Graduate Committee.

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