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Ph.D. Program


We seek Ph.D. students with a clear sense of intellectual purpose whose academic profiles and promise are outstanding and whose interests fit well with the academic strengths of our Department.

One of the hallmarks of our Ph.D. program is the frequent interaction between graduate students and faculty. We seek to recruit a class of nine to eleven Ph.D. students each year, which is large enough to ensure a diversity of backgrounds and interests, and small enough to ensure that each student receives sustained attention from individual faculty members.

We also work to involve our graduate students with the broader community of professional political scientists.  The Dauer Lecture Series brings prominent political scientists from around the country to Gainesville to present their latest work and meet with our faculty and graduate students.  We also encourage students to submit their best research to regional and national political science conferences, and provide funding for conference travel from the Department, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the Graduate School.

Our Professional Development Program helps PhD students develop their professional profiles, and includes workshops on strategies for success in graduate school, conference participation, grant writing, and placement strategies.

The Political Science Graduate Student Council works with the Department to address student concerns, as well as providing a “buddy system” to help advise new PhD students in navigating the first year in the PhD program.

This webpage provides important information and rules about our PhD program.


Core seminars


Comprehensive Exams

Dissertation Research


Faculty mentor

Supervisory Chair and Supervisory Committee

Individual Development Plan

Professional Development

Research Seminar in Politics





Completing M.A. requirements

Language requirement

Satisfactory Progress

Retention of Financial Awards



A minimum of 90 semester hours (including M.A. work) is required for the doctoral degree, including Core seminars, Coursework, Comprehensive Exams, and Dissertation Research.


Core Seminars

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 6716 Theory and Epistemologies of Political Science (fall semester)

POS 6737 Political Data Analysis (fall semester)

POS 6736 Conduct of Inquiry (spring semester)

Students admitted prior to Summer 2019 are also required to complete:

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.


Students take courses in a major field and a minor field (selected from American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, and Political Methodology). Each field has specific seminar requirements for the major and for the minor. Students are responsible to ensure that all field requirements are met.

Students take additional coursework in methods, language, or substantive areas related to their research interests on the advice of the supervisory chair or mentor.

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 and the Graduate Coordinator prior to registration. The proposed course of independent study must be clearly articulated (on a form which is available in the Department office).

Students admitted prior to Summer 2019 are also required to complete coursework in a non-exam (aka, “third” or “second minor”) field. For most students, the third field will be one of the Department’s traditional fields (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, or Political Methodology). However, students may construct an alternative third, non-exam field with approval of her or his Supervisory Committee Chair and the Graduate Coordinator. An alternative constructed field may consist of six graduate hours of thematically related coursework that cuts across traditional fields, or thematically related coursework taken outside the Department.


Comprehensive Exams

Each student must pass a comprehensive exam (or “comp”, “qualifying exam”, or “prelim”) in their major and minor fields. Comprehensive exams have both written and oral components, and are offered near the beginning of each fall and spring semester.  Each field (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, and Political Methodology) has specific expectations for satisfactory performance in the comprehensive exam.

Students must have a Supervisory Committee in place prior to taking the first comprehensive examination.

Comprehensive exams normally are taken after four semesters of study. Major and minor examinations are typically taken in successive semesters. However, students may elect to take both exams in the same semester. At least one exam must be successfully completed by the end of the third year in the PhD program to retain a funding commitment.

Each exam will be evaluated by an exam committee. For a major exam, the committee will consist of the Supervisory Committee chair and two other members to be randomly drawn among available faculty in the field (i.e., those not on leave or sabbatical). One of the two other members may be chosen by the field chair to reflect substantive expertise where deemed necessary, and field chairs may also consider recusals of particular faculty on request. For a minor exam, the committee will consist of one member chosen by the field chair to reflect a substantive expertise of the student, and two other members randomly drawn among available faculty in the field.

Prior to the distribution of the written component of an exam, students are allowed and encouraged to work with one another and with faculty to prepare fully for the exam.  There is no Honor Code violation in doing so. After the distribution of the written component and until the completion of the oral component, any consultation about the exam between a student taking the exam and anyone else (faculty members, other examinees, or other students) to aid in the completion of either the written or oral component is a violation of the Honor Code and the Honors Statement. It is permissible to address procedural questions to the field chair or the exam chair.

In a major exam, the written component typically includes three sections, while in a minor exam, the written component typically includes two sections. There will be a targeted maximum of 2,500 words per answer, excluding graphs, tables, bibliography, data and code (in 12 point Times New Roman font with one inch margins), though the exam committee has the discretion to allow (or not allow) students to turn in exams that exceed this targeted maximum. All students taking an exam in a given field in a given semester will receive the same exam, which may include choices of questions in some sections. Major and minor fields may, but are not required to, offer a choice of up to two questions in the first section of the exam. The second section of the exam (and third section in a major exam) may offer students a choice of multiple questions, but students may not significantly replicate either sources or substantive arguments across answers.

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.

The oral component of the exam will follow the written exam, as scheduled by the Graduate Secretary. It will be wide-ranging and will go beyond the limited scope of the questions on the written exam.

Following the oral component of the exam, the exam committee will evaluate the exam as “pass” or “fail.” The chair of the exam committee is responsible for communicating the results of the exam to the student and to the Graduate Coordinator and Graduate Secretary.

Within two working days of the conclusion of the exam, any member of the exam committee (other than the student’s supervisory chair) may propose to the Graduate Coordinator that a passing exam be designated as “Pass with Distinction.” Upon receipt of that nomination, the Graduate Coordinator will individually poll the other members of the exam committee (other than the student’s supervisory chair), and will designate the exam as a “Pass with Distinction” with the unanimous concurrence of the exam committee members (excluding the student’s supervisory chair).  If the Graduate Coordinator is the student’s supervisory chair, the Associate Chair of the Department will act in her/his place for this purpose.

Failure in two comprehensive 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 (major or minor) or at different levels, and in the same field or in different fields.

Dissertation Research

The dissertation process occurs in stages.

For the first stage, a Statement of Direction must be submitted to and discussed by the Supervisory Committee by the end of the semester in which the student successfully completes her or his final comprehensive exam. The Statement of Direction should reflect the student’s state of thinking about a direction for dissertation research at that point in time. The Supervisory 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, which is an outline of the theory, literature, research question, and methodological approach(es) to be taken in the dissertation. The prospectus must follow the guidelines set out by the Supervisory Committee in the meeting at the first stage of the process, and should be supplied to the Supervisory Committee at least one week prior to the scheduled defense. All members of the Supervisory Committee must participate in the oral defense of the dissertation prospectus (either electronically or in person), and the defense must happen within nine months of the student’s defense of her or his final comprehensive exam. Students can formally petition for an extra three months if, in conjunction with the Supervisory Committee Chair, they feel this is necessary.

The Supervisory Committee may, at its discretion, determine that the Statement of Direction fulfills the requirements of a Dissertation 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.

Admission to candidacy is awarded to the PhD student upon successful completion of both comprehensive examinations and of the dissertation prospectus, and all other course requirements.

A student’s Doctoral 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.

The oral Dissertation Defense is open to the public, and 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 candidate and the Supervisory Chair must be in the same location, while other members of Supervisory Committee may participate in the defense at the same location or by electronic communication.

The student must be registered for a minimum of three hours in the semester (or two hours in a summer semester) in which the Dissertation Defense 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.


Faculty Mentor

Upon enrollment, each Ph.D. student will be assigned a faculty mentor who will be available to advise the student on course selection, curriculum planning, and generally staying on track. The mentor is not intended to be a permanent assignment, and either the student or the mentor can request a change by the Graduate Coordinator at any point. The Graduate Coordinator and other faculty members in the student’s areas of interest are also available for advice. But, your mentor is the faculty member to whom the student can turn to for guidance in the first year and up until the time that the student has a Supervisory Chair.

Supervisory Chair and Supervisory Committee

As early as the student’s fields of interests are well-defined and no later than the beginning of the semester in which the student attempts the first comprehensive exam, the student will select a Supervisory Committee. The Supervisory Committee and/or the Supervisory Chair are primarily responsible for advising students, planning programs, assisting in the selection of courses, and assessing student progress.

The Supervisory Committee consists of

  1. A Supervisory Chair (a Graduate faculty member in Political Science)
  2. A faculty member from Political Science not in the student’s major field
  3. Another Graduate Faculty member from Political Science
  4. Another faculty member, usually from Political Science, but can be from another department
  5. An external member (who is a member of the UF Graduate Faculty, but is not in the Department of Political Science)

UF faculty who are not members of the Graduate Faculty and faculty from outside UF may be appointed as Special Members (filling the fourth seat), with the approval of the Supervisory Chair, Graduate Coordinator, and Graduate School. Membership on Supervisory Committees may be altered at the request of the faculty or the student.

While the Mentor or Supervisory Chair have an important advisory role, each student is responsible for meeting the degree requirements and for taking note of registration periods, meeting deadlines for the submission of thesis and dissertation, and for organizing and communicating with his/her Supervisory Committee.

Individual Development Plan

To assist in planning and monitoring progress within the program, each PhD student is required to complete an Individual Development Plan (formerly the Graduate Annual Activity Report)  at the end of each spring semester (specific dates are announced each year). The IDP is designed to help students and their mentor or supervisory chair develop a program of study and assess progress, as well as provide an opportunity to reflect on the student’s short and long-term goals. It is a good idea for new students to immediately familiarize themselves with the IDP form and make note of the types of information they will be responsible for collecting and updating annually. IDPs are also used in evaluating current students for available departmentally funded graduate assistantships, as well as other internal ranking decisions (for externally controlled awards and/or assignments). Thus, it is critical that students keep IDPs up-to-date and include all appropriate/requested information. Activities and achievements not noted within the IDP will not be taken into consideration when evaluating students.

Professional Development

Research Seminar in Politics

From time to time, faculty, graduate students, and guest speakers present their research to the Department. These are important opportunities for PhD students and faculty to learn about their colleagues’ new research interests, and for PhD students to observe different presentation styles.


Contingent on available resources, the Department will support PhD students who are presenting original research at academic conferences. In recent years, our PhD students have presented at meetings of the American Political Science Association, Southern Political Science Association, Midwest Political Science Association, Western Political Science Association, International Studies Association, ISA regional meetings, National Conference of Black Political Scientists, African Studies Association, Latin American Studies Association, and the State Politics and Policy Association.

Students who are presenting a paper or a poster at a professional conference may apply for up to $350 in support from the Department, provided that they also apply for funding from another source.  Most students also apply to the UF Graduate Student Council, which awards travel grants up to $350. In addition, the Department nominates up to four students per semester (fall, spring, and summer) for conference travel support from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Due to the level of competition for those awards at the Department and College levels, CLAS travel awards have usually gone to students who are in or near the dissertation stages.  The UF Graduate School also offers support for students in their dissertation stages or have been invited to give major talks. Some associations also provide travel support for graduate students.


The Department offers professionalization workshops to help PhD students develop and build their professional profiles.  In recent years, workshops have featured discussions of IRB and research ethics, conferences, publications, getting grants, and the academic job market.


The Placement Coordinator will work with advanced PhD students to assist in the development of their academic job packet, arrange for practice job talks, and discuss placement strategies and opportunities. Recent UF PhD placements are highlighted here.


Completing M.A. Requirements

Ph.D. students who successfully complete 36 credit hours and pass both comprehensive exams may be awarded the M.A. in Political Science degree.

Students who fail to complete the Ph.D. requirements or who are dismissed may be given the opportunity to complete the requirements for the M.A. degree.

Language Requirement

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 necessary for the 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.

The Center for African Studies, the Center for Latin American Studies, and the Center for European Studies award FLAS Fellowships to outstanding graduate students seeking to combine language training with their substantive training.

Satisfactory Progress in the Ph.D. Program

The Department will dismiss from the program students not making satisfactory progress toward the degree. The legitimate grounds for dismissal include:

1.A graduate GPA of less than 3.25 for more than one semester.

2. Two grades less than “B-” (either in the same semester or in different semesters)

3. Failure to pass at least one qualifying exam in the third year of enrollment or failure in two comprehensive exams. For the latter this can be failure in two major exams, two minor exams or one major and one minor exam.

For students admitted prior to Summer 2019, this provision is “Failure in two comprehensive exams. For the latter this can be failure in two major exams, two minor exams or one major and one minor exam.”

4. Failure to defend the prospectus within nine months of the student’s completion of his or her last comprehensive exam. The student and Supervisory Chair may request a three month extension.

5. A recommendation supported by a majority of the Supervisory Committee members, including the Supervisory Chair, that satisfactory progress on the dissertation is not being made.

6. A judgment supported by a majority of the Supervisory Committee members, including the Supervisory Chair, that the final examination that the dissertation is unacceptable.

7. The passage of five years from the date of admission to candidacy without the submission of an acceptable dissertation. (See Graduate School Catalog.)

Dismissal is the decision of the Graduate Coordinator. Appeals are to be governed by Graduate School rules.

Retention of Financial Awards

Funding commitments are offered with the expectation that the student will maintain a high level of performance in both the curriculum and in assigned responsibilities. Students will lose funding commitments from the Department for the following reasons:

1. Failure to maintain a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of at least 3.50 in the first year of study and 3.67 thereafter.  A student who falls below that expectation will be put on funding probation, and will have one semester to raise their cumulative GPA back up to 3.50 (in the first year) or 3.67 (thereafter). Students who fail to do so will lose their funding commitment.

After any semester when a graduate student fails to meet this requirement, the Department’s Graduate Coordinator must inform the graduate student of their probationary status and the ramifications of failing to correct that situation.

During the first faculty meeting of the semester, the Graduate Coordinator will deliver a report on funding and program retention which will specify: 1) students dismissed from the program for a failure to maintain minimal standards for retention, 2) students who have been put on funding probation, and 3) students who have lost funding after a semester of funding probation.

Failure to meet the standards for the funding commitment does not preclude the student from being funded on an ad hoc basis by the department or by other means in subsequent semesters.  It only entails the loss of the funding commitment.

For students admitted prior to Summer 2019, this provision is “If academic progress is not being made or assigned tasks are not being carried out in a satisfactory manner, the Department can and will withdraw an award. Students who earn less than a 3.25 GPA in two consecutive semesters may be terminated from department support. The Department does not guarantee continuous funding for graduate students, nor any minimum number of semesters of aid.”

2. A student carrying two or more incompletes at the beginning of the semester will lose funding for that semester. Students who carry one or more incompletes past one semester will be ineligible for an assistantship until the incompletes are removed.

3. Two unsatisfactory evaluations on assistantship assignments.