Program Structure and Requirements

The graduate program in the Department of Political Science affords students exceptional opportunities for hands-on experience in research and teaching, and gives them access to financial support and advising to help them achieve their academic goals.

The program begins with a broad introduction to the substantive issues and methodological approaches across political science. The curriculum is structured to allow student to increasingly tailor their coursework and other learning opportunities such as collaborative research projects to complement their interests, and culminates with independent research.

Political science is a diverse and ever-changing field. A lot of contemporary research in the discipline uses advanced statistical techniques and mathematical modeling tools to study various political phenomena. To prepare our students to be both careful readers and active creators of this research, the program is structured to give all students high level training in quantitative methodologies. The Department's coursework in methodology is designed to be accessible for any graduate student in the program, regardless of whether they took any undergraduate-level math or statistics courses. However, since these methodologies require some rudimentary background knowledge of mathematics, the Department also offers an online "math camp" to incoming first-year students every summer in order to ease the transition into these courses. The math camp covers several topics that will help students succeed in our program, including calculus, linear algebra, and the basics of computer programming.

Students whose subfield focus is political theory are required to take introductory quantitative methodology courses, in order to allow them to be literate in a key language of the discipline. However, their training largely focuses on the methodological approaches appropriate to political theory, such as the practice of close reading of texts in light of historical context, including the history of ideas, and the creation of vocabularies and analytic frames to illuminate political questions, problems, and practices.

  • First year

  • The first-year program is designed to (re)introduce students to the main subfields of political science and to train them in the methods necessary for consuming and ultimately producing scholarship in the discipline. Students are therefore required to take at least three of the core seminars in the traditional subfields (American Politics, Comparative Politics, international Relations, and Political Theory) and a sequence of methods courses (Introductory Research Methods, and Intermediate Research Methods I and II). In addition to these required substantive and methodological courses, students take more advanced seminars in areas of their interest.

  • Second year

  • In the second year, students focus their coursework on their major fields and on the remaining required methodological coursework they may not have completed in their first year (Advanced Research Methods and Introductory Game Theory; or, in the case of first-field political theorists, a year of foreign language). Students produce a plan of study in which they designate two fields of study, chosen from among four options: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, or Political Theory. At the end of the second year students should be familiar enough with the literature of their chosen fields to pass a comprehensive examination in their stated fields.

  • Third year

  • Students begin the third year with comprehensive examinations in their first and second fields. During the year, students complete all their required coursework and take a required one-quarter research design seminar in which they undertake a major independent research project, culminating in a paper suitable for submission for publication. This paper may be directly tied to a student's qualifying examination.

  • Fourth and Fifth year

  • After successfully writing and defending a dissertation prospectus, students devote the majority of their time to independent research centering on their doctoral thesis. In addition, students at an advanced stage are given opportunities to do independent teaching.