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Requirements for the PhD Degree

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All requirements listed for the Master's Degree, plus 24 additional credits to total 62.


Secondary Field Requirements: 9 Credits

All students will choose a secondary field in the fall semester of their third year. For this secondary field, students may choose one of the four main fields (IR, American, Comparative or Political Theory) or may construct a field in consultation with a selected faculty supervisor and upon approval by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Research Seminar: 3 Credits

All students must complete a research seminar in conjunction with the Current Research in the Study of Politics (CRISP – POSC 850) in the spring semester of their third year. This seminar will provide a significant research experience in addition to the speaker series.  Students will to complete and present a draft of their dissertation proposal by the end of CRISP.

Additional Research/Candidacy Credits (varies):

Students will enroll in 6 credits of POSC964 (Pre-candidacy study) comprehensive exams in their sixth semester and 6-9 credits during their seventh semester. Students working on their dissertation will enroll in 6-9 credits of POSC969 (Doctoral Dissertation.) The total number of credits taken for the degree must total 62.

Long Paper Defense

All students who wish to pursue their doctoral degree are required to have a long paper written, revised, and orally defended before March 15th of their second year. This involves students making an oral presentation of the paper they are submitting in fulfillment of the MA writing requirement. They will be examined by a three-person committee consisting of the faculty member for whom the paper was originally written (serving as chair), and two other faculty members best able to comment on the substance of the paper (as approved by the Director of

Graduate Studies). The paper should meet the expectations of the MA writing requirement – i.e. it should be a "major research paper" etc. Students should identify their long paper committees in their third semester and should have an initial draft completed and under review by their committee chair by the start of the winter semester. Students should revise their paper over winter session and schedule their paper defense to take place before March 15th  of their fourth semester. A written assessment of student performances in the defense are transmitted to the Graduate Performance Review Panel, as part of the assessment materials for moving on to the third year. Students who do not pass the Long Paper defense may receive an MA degree upon completion of the requirements for that degree. PhD students who defend their long paper successfully also receive MA degrees. Students will register for POSC 899 (0 credits) in their fourth semester to facilitate completion of this requirement.

Graduate Performance Review Panel

This review panel will review students who wish to pursue a doctoral degree in early April of their second year. The Panel will decide to accept or reject students in their bid to enter the dissertation proposal and field exam phase. This panel is comprised of the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Admissions Committee. Materials used in the review include a student's GPA and course record, faculty evaluations in seminars and as a graduate assistant, and the written assessments of student performances in their Long Paper defenses.  The review panel will send a notice of approval to the Office of Graduate and Professional Education. The Office of Graduate and Professional Education will make recommendations for the dismal of students denied by the Review Panel for dismissal from the graduate program.

Skills Requirement

All candidates for the Master's or PhD degree shall show competency in one language other than English OR expanded competency in research methods. Procedures for certifying language competence are supervised by the Director of Graduate Studies and are completed via a translation exercise assessed by a Department or University faculty member with competency in the language and should be completed before the dissertation proposal defense. Candidates whose first language is other than English have already showed competence in a second language by scores on the TOEFL exam; in such cases, this requirement is already fulfilled. To complete this requirement via further research methods training, students shall take one additional research methods course besides the required courses or take part in an external methods course/workshop.

Third-Year field Exams

While the exact dates are to be determined, students should expect these exams to begin approximately 1st May. In the first week during a 56-hour period beginning 8 a.m. Monday and ending at 4 p.m. Wednesday, students will write responses for Part I–the Primary and Secondary field exam. On the following Monday during an 8-hour period, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. students will write their responses for Part II of the field exam, which tests students on their research specializations.

These exams expect students to show a mastery of the literatures relevant to the two fields they have studied. Students should expect to use at least the summer between the second and third years, and the winter session and spring semester of the third year to prepare for these exams. Reading lists constructed by faculty will be made available to students. The fields are based around the four existing fields (International Relations, Comparative Politics, American Politics, and Political Theory). A Field Exam Committee will be created for each field and will prepare field-reading lists, questions and do the grading. The Director of Graduate Studies administers the field exams.

Part I comprise the primary and secondary field exam questions and is divided into two sections. Section 1 tests students on the Primary field. Students must answer two questions from this section.  Section 2 is the secondary field exam and students must answer one question from this section.

Part II is a section tailored to the individual research specializations of students (e.g. the politics of a particular region, a major sub-field, a variety of theory). Students must submit their own reading list for this section and nominate two appropriate faculty to write and grade questions for them by 30 September of their third year.  Students must answer one question from Part II

Answers are read and graded by the respective Field Exam Committee and, with Part II, by those nominated faculty. Grades are then reported to the Director of Graduate Studies. Grades on the exam are Distinction, Pass, Deficient and Fail. Distinction and Pass are passing grades. Results of the field exams will be made known to students as soon as all exams have been graded, usually within two to three weeks.

For Part I, Section 1 (the Primary Field), students who receive a mark of deficient on a single response by 2 out of 3 faculty members who grade the exam must retake that question, regardless of the third faculty member's grade. If a student receives a failure on a single response by 2 out of 3 faculty members who grade the exam, the student must retake this entire part of the exam. The Director of Graduate Studies will administer a new set of questions for the student to answer.

For Part 1, Section 2 (the Secondary Field), students who receive a mark of deficient or failure on a response by 2 out of 3 faculty members who grade the exam must retake that question, regardless of the third faculty member's grade. The Director of Graduate Studies will administer a new set of questions for the student to answer.

For Part II, the Specialization field exam, if a student receives a mark of deficient or a failure on a response by 2 out of 3 faculty members who grade the exam, then that student must retake that question, regardless of the third faculty member's grade. The Director of Graduate Studies will administer a new set of questions for the student to answer.

For any question (s) a student retakes, there will only be a pass/fail option. If, on the second try, the student fails even one question, then the student fails the field exam requirement with a recommendation to the Office of Graduate Studies to be terminated from the program.

Students who wish to sit for the field exams must be in good standing,   have at least a 3.0 GPA, and have no  grades of "Incomplete."

Admission to Candidacy Exam (Dissertation Proposal Defense)

A PhD student shall be officially admitted to candidacy upon successful completion of a candidacy oral examination by a faculty committee (oral defense of the dissertation proposal). Although the precise form of the dissertation proposal will vary from case to case, it is expected to include a clear statement of the problem and an explanation of its significance, a discussion of the methods proposed to investigate the problem, and a full discussion of relevant literature.

The candidacy examination should be held at the end of the spring semester of the student's third year, or the beginning of the fourth year, and not later than October 1 of the student's fourth year. Funding for the spring semester of the fourth year is contingent upon having passed the candidacy examination.

The candidacy examination committee shall be convened and chaired by the student's dissertation chair and shall comprise members of the student's proposed dissertation committee. Normally students are expected to select a dissertation chair from a faculty whose primary appointment is in the Department. In exceptional circumstances, students may petition the Graduate Policy Committee for approval to have someone whose primary appointment is outside the Department chair the dissertation committee. In deciding whether to grant approval, the Graduate Policy Committee shall take into account the needs of the student and the Department.

Other members of the Department are welcome to take part as non-voting members of the candidacy examination committee. The candidacy examination shall be announced and copies of the dissertation proposal shall be made available to all faculty at least one week before the examination. Students should consult with their committee regarding deadlines and expectations.

The candidacy examination committee is charged with determining the student’s fitness for advancement to candidacy. The main question the committee has to answer is, ‘Is this student prepared to write an acceptable PhD dissertation?’ In seeking to answer this question, the committee’s focus shall be on the student’s dissertation proposal, which shall be made available to all members of the Department at least one week before the examination.

If, in the committee's judgment, the student has passed the oral examination, he or she shall be admitted to candidacy, and shall begin work on the dissertation (see Section 9).

If, in the committee's judgment, the student has not passed the candidacy examination, the committee may direct the student to (a) rethink, rewrite, and resubmit the proposal prior to a re-examination by the committee; (b) undertake remedial work in research design and methodology; or (c) any combination or variation of the above that the committee deems necessary. If additional work is required, the committee will discuss with the student a reasonable period for completion of the work. A written statement completed by the student's dissertation adviser should set forth the nature of the work to be undertaken by the student and the period that was agreed upon. This shall be sent to the student, circulated to the faculty members who took part in the oral examination and become part of the student's permanent file. At the end of the agreed upon time, the committee will reconvene to assess the student's progress toward candidacy. The committee may determine that the student cannot advance to candidacy and may be recommended to the Office of Graduate Studies for termination from the program.

The Dissertation

A PhD dissertation is a manuscript that reflects "the results of original and significant research written in a scholarly and literate manner worthy of publication."

Students are expected to consult closely and regularly with members of their dissertation committee, particularly the committee chair.

Upon completion of the manuscript, a final oral examination–or "dissertation defense"–must be passed. Ordinarily, students will be asked to summarize the major findings of their research and test the significance of these findings for the field. The student shall then be called upon to defend the findings in the face of questions from members of the dissertation committee and other members of the academic community who attend. If, after deliberating, the dissertation committee cannot agree on whether the student has successfully defended the dissertation, the committee will adjourn after explaining their objections and providing suggestions on how these might be satisfactorily addressed with guidance from the dissertation chair. It shall be the responsibility of the dissertation chair to reconvene the group to reconsider the revised product.

Detailed guidelines for the preparation and presentation of the dissertation are described in Thesis and Dissertation Manual, which a copy may be obtained from the Office of Graduate and Professional Education

Teaching Experience

Advanced PhD students may be given the opportunity to teach their own classes in the Department, in particular after defending their dissertation proposal and during their fifth or sixth years . Advanced PhD students may also find teaching opportunities at nearby universities. Students are encouraged to use the resources available through the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTAL) to enhance their teaching skills .

Conference Experience

Advanced PhD students are encouraged to present their work at national and international conferences. Funding from the Department and the Office of Graduate Studies may be applied for to help defray the cost of conference participation for those students presenting papers.

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