Ph.D. Programs


The student is responsible for meeting the requirements of the degree program and for taking note of registration periods, meeting deadlines for the submission of thesis and dissertation, and for organizing and communicating with their supervisory committee. The supervisory committee and/or its Chairperson is primarily responsible for advising students, planning programs, selecting courses, and assessing student progress. During the registration period, each graduate student should secure an appointment with the Graduate Coordinator to approve the program worked out in conjunction with the supervisory committee. The advisement form listing the courses, together with the signature of the Graduate Coordinator, is necessary for registration. Students who do not follow the proper procedures may have their registration canceled at the request of the Department.

Students wishing to take independent study with the faculty (POS 6909) must secure the approval of the faculty member with whom they desire to study prior to registration. The proposed course of study must be clearly set forth on the form. The necessary forms are available from the Department office.

To assist students in planning and monitoring their progress within the program all PhD students are required to fill out a Graduate Annual Activity Report (GAAR)  at the end of each spring semester (specific dates are announced each year). It is a good idea for new students to immediately familiarize themselves with the GAAR form and make note of the types of information they will be responsible for collecting and updating annually. GAARs are also used in evaluating current students for available departmentally funded TA/RA and teaching positions, as well as other internal ranking decisions (for externally controlled awards and/or assignments). For this reason it is critical that students keep GAARs up-to-date and include all appropriate/requested information. Activities and achievements not noted within the GAAR will not be taken into consideration when evaluating students.

Supervisory Committee

As soon as possible after the student has been admitted to the Ph.D. program, a doctoral supervisory committee should be selected to approve a program of study for the student. The committee consists of five members, with a member from outside the Department and at least one member from within the department but outside of your primary field. The chair, the outside member, and at least one additional member of the committee must be members of the graduate faculty who have been approved for the direction of doctoral dissertations. Membership on supervisory committees may be altered at the request of the faculty or the student.


A minimum of 90 semester hours (including M.A. work) is required for the doctoral degree. Ph.D. qualifying examinations normally are taken after four or more semesters of study. Students generally take from one to three years to complete the dissertation.

The student, with the approval of his/her supervisory committee, selects a major field (normally the proposed dissertation field) and two minor fields. Students are required to pass qualifying examinations in the major field and one minor field.

Students are expected to complete the equivalent of four or five seminars in preparation for the qualifying exam in the major field and three seminars in preparation for the qualifying exam in the minor field. Completion of two seminars in the minor non-examination field is expected. Each field specifies which seminars are needed to meet its requirements. Students are responsible to ensure that all field requirements are met.

The student is responsible for meeting the requirements of the degree program. Deadline dates for each semester should be obtained from the Graduate Secretary. All other graduate requirements are contained in the Graduate School Catalog.

Core Requirements

Core requirements ensure that students develop an appreciation for the broad scope and methodologies of political science as a discipline of study. The core curriculum for all Ph.D. students consists of:

  • POS 6736 Conduct of Inquiry
  • POS 6716 The Scope and Epistemologies of Political Science
  • POS 6737 Political Data Analysis
  • POT 6502 Politics and Theory

Graduate work in other graduate programs may in certain cases be applied toward fulfillment of the core requirements with the approval of the Graduate Coordinator. In special cases a requirement may be waived, but only with the approval of the Graduate Coordinator and the unanimous support of the student’s supervisory committee.

The Language Requirement

(adopted 12 December 1997)

The Political Science graduate programs have no general language requirement, but students should recognize that language may be an important, and sometimes indispensable, tool in their present or future research. M.A. students are expected to acquire reading skills necessary to understand published research in their area of interest. Ph.D. students are expected to acquire language skills that will satisfy their research objectives, which may include conducting field research with non-English speaking people or conducting book, journal and popular press research with non-English texts. To meet these objectives, a student’s supervisory committee may require the student to take additional work in a foreign language when this is necessary for their program of study and research.

Up to 6 hours of language coursework at the 3000 or 4000 level can count toward the M.A. and Ph.D. hours requirement, provided that the language study is closely tailored to the student’s general curriculum (as determined by the supervisory chair and the graduate coordinator). Courses taken at the 1000 or 2000 level never count as graduate hours.

Completing M.A. Requirements

Before taking qualifying examinations and being admitted to candidacy to pursue dissertation work, students pursuing a Ph.D. must first complete the requirements for a Masters Degree. Students may choose to do the M.A. with thesis or the M.A. without thesis. In both cases, meeting the M.A. requirements for credit-hours is adequately fulfilled by taking the Ph.D. core curriculum and meeting all Ph.D. field requirements. Certificate programs may have additional requirements.

Qualifying Examinations

In the third year of study, after the completion of the language, M.A., and field requirements, the student should take the Ph.D. qualifying examinations.

The qualifying examinations are scheduled twice each year, in the early fall and early spring. Qualifying examinations have both a written and oral component. The format of each examination is determined by individual field committees. It is the responsibility of the student to acquaint himself or herself with the form of the examination, as well as the committee’s expectations for acceptable performance. Students may elect to take both the major and minor examinations in the same semester or in successive semesters.

The questions for the written components of qualifying exams will be distributed by the Graduate Secretary at noon on the date announced by the Graduate Coordinator. Answers will be due back to the Graduate Secretary in 48 hours for minor field exams, and in 72 hours for major field exams. (approved 16 November 2001)

Students are required to register for sufficient hours to be considered full-time students in the semester in which qualifying examinations are taken. The precise number of credits will vary depending upon the student’s status.

Qualifying examinations are written by the various field committees and evaluated by them or designated subcommittees. The examinations may be evaluated as “high pass, pass, or failure.” The chair of the field committee is responsible for communicating the results of this deliberation to the student and to the Graduate Coordinator on the appropriate forms.

Failure in two major field qualifying exams or failure in two minor field qualifying exams constitutes unsatisfactory progress toward the Ph.D. degree, and will lead to dismissal from the program. (This applies whether the student fails two examinations at the same level in the same field or in different fields.)

Dissertation Prospectus and Admission to Candidacy

After passing both qualifying examinations, the student will begin the process of proposing and defending a dissertation topic. This process will happen in two stages. For the first stage, the student must submit a statement of direction to the supervisory committee, and convene a meeting of the committee to discuss the statement. This meeting must occur by the end of the semester in which the student successfully defends her or his final comprehensive exam. The statement of purpose should reflect the student’s state of thinking about a direction for dissertation research at that point in time. The committee at this stage will discuss the proposed research direction with the student, and will make clear to the student what is expected in a dissertation prospectus.

The second stage of the process is the submission and defense of the dissertation prospectus. The oral defense must happen within nine months of the student’s defense of her or his final exam, although students can formally petition for an extra three months if, in conjunction with the committee chair, they feel this is necessary. The prospectus must follow the guidelines set out by the committee in the meeting at the first stage of the process. The prospectus should be supplied to the supervisory committee at least one week prior to the scheduled defense.

Successful oral defense of the prospectus will result in the student officially being in candidacy for the PhD. The supervisory committee may, at its discretion, determine that the statement of direction fulfills the requirements of a prospectus. In such cases, the committee may treat the first meeting as the oral defense, and waive the requirement for a second meeting. Failure to defend the prospectus in a timely manner shall constitute evidence of unsatisfactory progress towards the degree.

The Dissertation

The dissertation is written under the guidance of the “reading committee” of the supervisory committee. This normally consists of the chairperson, one other member from political science, and the member from outside the department. The student may, of course, choose to utilize the full supervisory committee throughout the writing period. The student has five years from the date of admission to candidacy to complete the dissertation and pass an oral examination in defense of the dissertation. Short extensions may be secured from the Graduate School upon the recommendation of the dissertation supervisory committee and the Graduate Coordinator. In these cases there must be ample evidence that the dissertation can realistically be completed. If this is not the case, the student must retake the qualifying examinations and proceed through the candidacy procedure once again.

General PhD Requirements

The dissertation defense must be held at least three weeks before the end of the semester. There will be no exception made on the basis of either student or faculty pleas. The dissertation defended must be a typed and finished manuscript.

The oral defense is attended by the full membership of the supervisory committee (a minimum of five), each of whom should have had a copy of the completed dissertation well in advance of the examination. The student must be registered for a minimum of three hours in the semester in which graduation takes place. However, students who have completed all requirements for the Ph.D. degree, including course requirements, final submission of dissertation, and the oral defense after the specified deadlines, but before the beginning of classes of the next term, may receive the degree in that next term without registration. Such students must apply for their degrees by the specified deadline. The 90 semester hours and residency requirements must also be satisfied. The student should consult the Graduate Catalog, the notice of deadline dates produced by the Graduate School, and the editorial section of the Graduate School on the second floor of Grinter Hall for details concerning dissertation submission to the Graduate School. The student must submit the original copy of the dissertation to the Graduate School, a bound copy to the Department, a second copy to the chairperson of the student’s supervisory committee, and a third copy to 235 Library West.

Conditions for dismissal of graduate Students from the doctoral program are specified in the Department’s bylaws.