The goal of the Ph.D. program is to prepare students to conduct research, teach, or work in applied settings at the best institutions in the United States and abroad. For more information, take a look at our recent placement record. To achieve this goal, the program specifies the distribution of courses, the substance and timing of requirements, the forms of faculty supervision, and the criteria for advancement within the program. However, students have great flexibility in choice of courses. Since we have an incoming class of fewer than 10 students, courses are small and the interaction between graduate students and faculty this facilitates is one of the strengths of the program.
The typical first year course load is 3 or 4 courses per semester. Two foundational tools sequences are offered: one in positive theory and one in quantitative analysis. Typically students take both sequences in their first year, and in addition choose from the core substantive courses offered in: Comparative Politics, Political Economy, International Relations, American Politics, or Political Theory.
In the second year, students may continue to take courses in positive theory and quantitative methodology (either inside or outside the department), additional core courses, more specialized seminars in the major and second field and relevant courses outside the department. The bulk of formal course work is done during the first two years, though students will typically take additional courses, especially advanced or specialized seminars.
Students present a research paper no later than the beginning of their second year, which should have the format of an article in the field. The topic of the research paper is chosen in consultation with faculty members.
Years Three to Five
During their third year students complete the Ph.D. qualifying examination, which consists of the submission of a 3rd year paper and the oral defense of a syllabus. The 3rd year paper is a research paper of publishable quality, satisfying all formal requirements for an article in a given field. Students also submit an original syllabus for a graduate introduction to a field. This syllabus should attest to the understanding of the structure of the field, as well as to the knowledge of the primary and secondary literature. This syllabus is presented at an oral hearing to two faculty members. Students take relevant courses during the time they are in residence. Typically these would be advanced field seminars and more specialized courses, including appropriate specialized courses in other departments and other Inter-University Consortium Schools.
Students must complete 72 credits. There are no department-wide course requirements. To guard against excessive specialization, students must take at least three courses in each of at least two fields. The fields presently recognized by the department include: American politics; political theory; comparative politics; international relations; political economy; and methodology. In consultation with their adviser, students may petition the director of graduate studies to create a field of their own making, which may be interdisciplinary.
Co-Authoring with Faculty
The intense nature and small class-size of the program provides ample opportunity to collaborate and co-author research papers with faculty.
All incoming PhD students are fully funded. Please visit GSAS' Fellowships and Assistantships page for more information on the Henry M. MacCracken Program for doctoral students.