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Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

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All requirements listed for the MA degree, plus 24 additional credits to total 63.


For this secondary field students may choose one of the four main fields (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations or Political Theory) or may construct a field in consultation with a selected faculty supervisor and upon approval by the Director of Graduate Studies. Students take the proseminar and two electives in their secondary field.

      CRISP Seminar: (3 credits)

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


  • Students will enroll in POSC964 – Pre-Candidacy Study while preparing for their field exams in their sixth and seventh semesters; the number of credits will depend on other classes taken.
  • Students working on their dissertation will enroll in POSC969 – Doctoral Dissertation while completing their dissertation. 
  • The total number of credits taken for the degree must total at least 63.

         LONG PAPER:

  • All students who wish to pursue their PhD degree are required to have a Long Paper written, revised, and orally defended before March 15 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 a faculty 'chair' and two other faculty members as selected by the student and in agreement with the faculty and as approved by the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Students are responsible for creating their long paper committees. The paper should meet the expectations of the MA writing requirement – 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 15 of their fourth semester.
  • A written assessment of student's performance in the defense is communicated to the Director of Graduate Studies, 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. 


This review panel will review all students who wish to pursue a doctoral degree in spring 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 and Funding Committee. Materials to be used in the review include a student's GPA and course record, faculty evaluations of students in seminars and as graduate assistants, and the written assessments of student performances in their Long Paper defenses. Students who are not recommended for further study will still receive their MA degree, assuming they have met the requirements.


Students will take a "take home" written field exam late in the spring semester of the third year. While the exact dates are to be determined, students should expect these exams to take place late April or early May. The exam takes place during a 56-hour period commencing 8 a.m. Monday and ending at 4 p.m. Wednesday. During this time students will complete responses to three questions - two in their Primary Field and one in their Secondary Field.

Through these exams students should demonstrate 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 early spring semester of the third year to prepare for these exams. The field exams are based around the four existing fields (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory). Field reading lists constructed by faculty from each field are available to students. A Field Exam Committee of three faculty will prepare the questions and do the grading for each set of exams. The Director of Graduate Studies administers the field exams.

  • The Field Exam consists of two sections. Section 1 tests students on the Primary Field. Section 2 tests students on the Secondary Field.
  • Exams are graded by Field Exam Committees. Grades are reported to the Director of Graduate Studies. Possible grades on the exam are Distinction, Pass, Deficient and Fail. Distinction and Pass are considered 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.
  • Grading for Field Exams proceeds as follows: For 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 Fail on a single response by 2 out of 3 faculty members who grade the exam, the student must retake this entire section of the exam. The Director of Graduate Studies will administer a new set of questions for the student to answer. For the Secondary Field, students who receive a mark of Deficient or Fail 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 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 and will be recommended to the Graduate College 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 "Incompletes."


  •  A faculty committee that conducts the defense of the dissertation proposal shall officially admit a PhD student to candidacy upon successful completion of the dissertation defense. Although the precise form of the dissertation proposal will vary from case to case, it is expected to include a clear statement of the research question(s), an explanation of the significance of the research, a discussion of the research methods proposed to investigate the problem, and a full discussion of relevant literature.
  • The dissertation proposal defense should be held at the beginning of the student's fourth year, not later than October 1. Funding for the spring semester of the fourth year is contingent upon having passed the candidacy examination.
  • The dissertation proposal defense committee shall be convened and chaired by the student's dissertation chair and shall consist of members of the student's proposed dissertation committee (minus the external member). Normally students are expected to select a dissertation chair from 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 to 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.
  • The dissertation proposal defense committee determines the student's capability 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.
  •  If, the committee decides, the student has not passed the proposal defense, 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. In the event that additional work is required, the committee will discuss with the student a reasonable period for completion of the necessary 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 participated in the proposal defense and become part of the student's permanent file. At the conclusion of the agreed upon time, the committee will reconvene to assess the student's progress toward candidacy. The committee may determine that the student is unable to advance to candidacy and may be recommended to the Graduate College for termination from the program.


  •  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 dissertation 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 evaluate the significance of these findings for the field more generally. 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 choose to attend. If, after deliberating, the dissertation committee is unable to reach agreement on whether the student has successfully defended the dissertation, the committee will adjourn after explaining the nature of 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 Regulations Governing Theses and Dissertations, which may be obtained from the Graduate College or online






























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