Course Requirements

The Ph.D. program in Political Science requires 60 credits of approved graduate work, of which at least 20 credits (5 courses) should be earned through 800-level doctoral research courses. These courses may be in any areas of political science and may include independent study, so long as the independent study includes a major research paper.

Students are required to develop a major and minor area of concentration from among the five subfields (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory and Public Policy). Special competence in these two fields is the basis of the student’s doctoral specialization and is also the basis of his or her First and Second Examinations.

In each of the two chosen fields, students must take at least one course at the 700-level.

Each student is required to complete a total of three courses in at least two fields other than their major or minor with a grade of B or better. Courses which are cross-listed are counted only once in meeting any requirement.

Tools of Research

Before the completion of 45 credits, every student must demonstrate proficiency in two of the following research tools/methods:

1. quantitative research methods

2. qualitative research methods

3. other methods of inquiry

4. a foreign language. 

Students should consult with the Executive Officer for courses which are approved to fulfill this requirement.

Proficiency in qualitative, quantitative, or other research methods (options 1-3) may be demonstrated by passing a graduate course on that method with a grade of B or higher.

Foreign language proficiency (option 4) may be demonstrated by achieving a B grade or better in an approved foreign language course or by passing the program’s foreign language proficiency exam.

Depending upon the research tools appropriate to their subfield, students may seek approval from the Executive Officer to fulfill their second research tool requirement within the same category used to fulfill their first research tool requirement.

For example, a student majoring in Political Theory may be permitted to demonstrate proficiency in a second foreign language; a student majoring in American Politics may be permitted to demonstrate proficiency in a second course in quantitative methods. In practice, this principle may be applied to all subfields.

Exams and Dissertation

The First Examination tests the student’s ability to explicate, examine, and assess the major theories, applications, and controversies within his or her chosen areas. It must be taken after the completion of 27 credits and before the completion of 45 credits.

The First Examination examines students in two of the Program’s five fields. Students are examined in one major field and one minor field. The examination consists of a six-hour written examination in the major field and a four-hour written examination in the minor field. Students may take their major and minor examination in the same semester or in consecutive semesters.

Students may select questions in sub-fields that they designate when they register for the examination. (Majors must answer questions in three sub-fields, minors in two sub-fields). In the American Politics Examination, students must answer one question on national institutions or one on political processes. In the International Relations Examination, the “International Relations Theory and Foreign Policy” sub-field is considered the foundation of the field and will be required for all students taking the First Examination. That is, whether you are taking international relations as a major or a minor field, you must answer one of the questions for “International Relations Theory and Foreign Policy” as one of your three or two questions, respectively.

Each major and minor field is subdivided into standard specialized concentrations or subfields. Any student wishing to broaden the focus of his/her major or minor field can request an additional concentration. The First Examination Committee must receive these requests at least one semester prior to the examination.

Exam preparation materials can be found on Blackboard.

The Second Examination tests the doctoral candidate’s ability to explicate, examine and assess the major theories, applications, and controversies within his/her chosen areas, and place his/her ideas in the range of views in those areas, with a focus on his/her intended dissertation research.

Between the semester in which the student completes 60 credits and two semesters after the completion of 60 credits, the student completes a dissertation proposal under the supervision of a faculty adviser and faculty reader. The dissertation proposal is considered satisfactory for the purpose of registering for the Second Examination when the faculty sponsor and reader so indicate in a written communication to the Executive Officer.

The examining committee consists of three faculty members, including the sponsor and the reader. No more than three members of the examining committee can come from the student’s major field. Upon completion of a satisfactory dissertation proposal, the student consults with his or her sponsor about the composition of the examining committee, which is then selected in consultation with the Executive Officer.

A faculty member from another Ph.D. program may be invited to participate in the supervision of a political science dissertation as a reader, provided:

  1. the Dissertation Committee is satisfied that the dissertation proposal fully meets applicable standards, and
  2. a member of the Ph.D. Program in Political Science takes full responsibility as sponsor or co-sponsor of the dissertation.

The student circulates his or her dissertation proposal to the members of the examining committee, who should submit written comments to the faculty sponsor at least two weeks  before the examination. The faculty sponsor then conveys the comments to the student.

The Second Examination itself is a two-hour oral examination in which the student is expected to place his or her research project within broader areas of the discipline. A satisfactory written proposal is a prerequisite for the oral examination, not part of the examination itself. The student is encouraged to consult with the individual members of the examining committee prior to the examination to identify the issues that will be addressed during the exam. These issues should be primarily determined by the student’s research interests as expressed in the dissertation proposal.

Students have eight years maximum to complete all of the requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Students should keep in mind that a dissertation has the purpose of continuing their training in theory and research. It is not intended to become a lifelong undertaking. Doctoral candidates should also note that the probability for finding teaching, research and other positions is significantly higher for Ph.D. holders than for ABDs (all-but-dissertation).

Once the dissertation proposal has been approved, the student is expected to work closely with his or her sponsor and reader in researching, organizing and writing the dissertation. In addition, the student is encouraged to consult with other faculty members, as it may be desirable, in pursuing his or her research.

The Examination Committee for a Final Oral Examination represents the Ph.D. Program and through the Graduate Council of the Graduate Center. It is therefore responsible for the standard of the Ph.D. Degree at the University.  The committee must decide whether all academic requirements for the degree have been fulfilled.

The Dissertation Defense Committee is composed of the sponsor and reader of the candidate, as well as the three other members from appropriate disciplines chosen by the Executive Officer with the advice of the candidate.
The Dissertation Defense takes place no less than 30 days after the student has made complete copies of the dissertation available to all members of the Defense Committee.

The Dissertation Defense is a two-hour examination.  Each examiner has approximately 20 minutes to examine the candidate.

Dissertation Guidelines and Deposit Procedures