Doctoral Program


Fourteen courses (42-43 credits) are required for students entering the program with no previous graduate work or a master's degree. Students choose three courses per semester. Of the 14 courses, three may be in independent study and two (not more than one per semester) in non-graduate courses. Generally, graduate students taking non-graduate courses are required to do additional work beyond the requirements.

Students entering the program with the master's degree will take at least ten courses (30 credits), two of which may be in independent study and two at the undergraduate level. The precise number of courses required of master's degree holders will depend mainly on how well their previous work corresponds to our requirements.

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The department's course offerings are organized in four fields: Political Theory, American Politics, International Politics, and Comparative Politics. These fields are organized into sub-fields, as listed below. Students choose one field as their major area of concentration, along with one minor field.  A major consists of eight courses within a particular field, with preparation in at least three sub-fields (four if the major field is Political Theory). A minor consists of four courses. Students are required to take two additional courses; these may be distributed however the student chooses, and may even be taken in another department. These two courses could also be used toward an optional second minor, which consist of only two courses.

In both the major and minor fields, considerable discretion will be left to students as to the choice of courses, but students may be held accountable on comprehensive exams for a core body of knowledge in the field as well as for their own individual coursework.

American Politics

  • National Political Institutions
  • Parties and Elections; Interest Groups; Social Movements
  • Political Economy, Public Policy and Administration
  • American Foreign Policy
  • Constitutional Law
  • American Political Thought
  • State and Urban Politics

International Politics

  • International Relations Theory
  • International Security
  • International Political Economy
  • Foreign Policy

Political Theory

  • Ancient and Medieval Theory
  • Early Modern Theory: Machiavelli to Montesquieu
  • Late Modern Theory: Rousseau to Nietzsche
  • Empirical and Contemporary Theory
  • American Political Thought

Comparative Politics

  • Students may choose to specialize in a particular region or to focus on a thematic approach. They are expected, however, to demonstrate some substantial competence in both approaches to Comparative Politics.

First-Year Review Ph.D.

Students' performance will be reviewed by the graduate committee during the second semester of their first year. The Department requires a minimum GPA of 3.5 for Ph.D. students.

Second-Year Review

Each Ph.D. student, after three semesters of coursework, will submit a "Statement of Academic Interests," which assists in assessing the student's suitability for continued pursuit of the doctorate. Since this assessment involves a comprehensive review of the student's performance in the program, the student will also be asked to meet with the faculty members of the department's graduate committee to review his or her progress in the program.

Graduate Assistantships

The Graduate Program Director will monitor and evaluate a student's teaching/research performance. The Graduate Program Director will forward any cases of sub-standard performance for review by the Graduate Committee. Sub-standard performance may result in the loss of a student's stipend.

Foreign-Language Requirement

All Ph.D. students must demonstrate proficiency in one foreign language. The language requirement must be satisfied prior to the comprehensive examination. The language examination is arranged by the department.

Comprehensive Examination

After completing their course and language requirements, Ph.D. students take written comprehensive examinations in their major and minor fields.

The comprehensive examinations consist of a six to eight hour written examination in the major field and a four to six hour written examination in the minor fields. An oral examination is given approximately 10 days later.

Students who enter the doctoral program with a master's degree must take the comprehensive exams by the end of their fourth semester, and those entering without a master's degree must do so by the end of their sixth semester.

Doctoral Dissertation

Dissertation Committee

After completing the comprehensive examinations, the student is expected to assemble a committee of faculty to direct his or her dissertation, with one of these professors agreeing to chair the committee and thus take on principal responsibility for directing the dissertation. Dissertation committees vary in size. The committee may not consist of fewer than three faculty.

Dissertation Proposal

The doctoral student is expected to submit a dissertation proposal to the committee within six months of passing the comprehensive examinations. Proposals vary in length according to the nature of the study. The proposal should state the purpose of the research, its relation to major work done on the subject, the approach or methods that will be used, sources of information or data, and any hypotheses to be tested. The proposal must be approved by the dissertation committee before a student may proceed with work on the dissertation.

Dissertation Seminar

Students in the writing stage, and in residence, are expected to participate in the Dissertation Seminar. The seminar provides students with an opportunity to present work at various stages of completion.

Dissertation Defense

After the dissertation has been completed and approved by the dissertation committee for presentation, the candidate will present a public defense. This consists of a lecture, not to exceed one half-hour in length, in which the candidate states the chief findings of the dissertation. This is followed by questions from the dissertation committee and from other members of the University community who are present.