Ph.D. Degree Requirements

The Department of Political Science offers Ph.D. level courses in six fields: American Politics, Public Policy, Comparative Politics, International Politics, Political Theory, and Empirical Theory and Methodology. While students take a wide range of courses they must demonstrate mastery in three fields: the major or first field, the minor or second field, and the third field. Students take comprehensive examinations in their first and second field and demonstrate competence in their third field through course work. A key determinant of student success in the graduate program are the close relationships that students have with members of the faculty. Students are advised to select an advisor by April 1st of their second semester in residence. The advisor serves as counselor and advocate for the student. The advisor advises the student on the selection of a committee for both the qualifying paper and the dissertation.

Degree Requirements
Requirements for the Ph.D. in Political Science fall into four major categories: course work, qualifying paper defense, comprehensive examination, and doctoral dissertation.

Course Work
Students must complete a minimum of 42 credit hours with a “B” average or better. Of these 42 hours, 39 must be at the 7000 level or higher.  Only six hours of independent study can be counted towards the credit requirement. Also, 35 hours must be taken within the political science department. Students must take the core seminar in at least three of six fields: American Politics (7011), Comparative Politics (7012), International Politics (7013), Political Theory (7004), Public Policy (7016), & Methodology (7085).  During a student’s first semester in residence, he/she is required to take two introductory courses: PSCI 7075: Introduction to Professional Political Science and PSCI 7085: Introduction to Political Data Analysis.

Funded students must complete a minimum of nine credit hours per semester for their first five semesters or until they have passed comprehensive exams. As a condition of funding, all students appointed as graduate assistants are required to enroll in two one-credit hour courses during the first year.

Students should select their fields and courses keeping in mind that they must pass comprehensive exams in a first (major) field and a second (minor) field, but not in their third field. Students, with the agreement of their advisor, have the option of constructing a “thematic” or “cross-area” third field that can include courses taken outside the Political Science department. Examples of cross-area fields include, but are not limited to, “globalization,” “democratic governance,” “institutional design,” and “political economy.” It should be noted that courses cannot double count as courses in two separate fields. The requirement for this cross-area concentration is the completion of an appropriate core seminar and two additional seminars with at least a "B" in each. Approval of the cross-field topic, and the required course credit(s), is at the discretion of the Director of Graduate Studies. A cross-field emphasis may be desired by students whose research interests fall within multiple traditional fields and/or by those students who want to demonstrate competence in a unique area of interest. Students choosing this option should, however, consider that there are advantages and disadvantages associated with cross-field specializations.

Research Competency
Students must acquire a “research competence” through their coursework or demonstrate that they have acquired it elsewhere. Research competence is demonstrated through either the completion of at least two methodology courses beyond PSCI 7085: Introduction to Data Analysis with a “B” average or better, or through the completion of a 5th semester college-level foreign language course with a “B” average or better.  Students must complete this research competency requirement by their seventh semester in residence. If required for dissertation work, a student’s prospectus committee may set higher standards for research competence.

Master of Arts: Political Science Degree Requirements
The Department offers a Master of Arts in Political Science (Plan II: non-thesis with final exam) for students enrolled in the Ph.D. program. This degree will be awarded following completion of 30 hours of course work including the core course work requirements for the Ph.D. degree, the two-semester teaching seminar, and successful defense of the Qualifying Research Paper. Specifically, the Plan II degree requirements include:
Required Course work to complete the MA (30 hours):
• PSCI 7008 and 7028 Teaching Political Science
• PSCI 7075 Introduction to Professional Political Science
• PSCI 7085 Introduction to Data Analysis
• Students are required to take three of the core seminars in American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, Public Policy or Methodology
• Two courses each are required in the major field, 2nd and 3rd fields

Qualifying Paper
With the assistance of their advisor, students select a qualifying paper committee of three faculty members (at least two from the Political Science Department). All Ph.D. students must submit a qualifying research paper to their qualifying paper committee by April 1st of their fourth semester in residence. This paper must be defended in an oral examination by the end of that semester. The qualifying paper committee will write a report which will include a recommendation to the Graduate Committee to 1) admit the candidate into the Ph.D. program, 2) award a terminal M.A.,  or 3) fail the student.

The primary purpose of the qualifying paper is to demonstrate the student’s ability to independently identify an important question in political science and to bring relevant theory and evidence to bear in evaluating that topic. The genesis of the ideas in this paper may come from a variety of sources. For example, students may rework a seminar paper, condense and elaborate prior M.A. work undertaken at C.U. or elsewhere, or start an entirely new project.

Students in the Ph.D. program earn a M.A. in Political Science after the completion of a successful qualifying paper and defense at the end of the second year in the program. The department does not accept applications for a terminal M.A. in political science.

Ph.D. Candidacy:

Comprehensive Examinations
Students must take rigorous comprehensive examinations by the end of their 6th semester in residence.  The exams have both written and oral components and are designed to demonstrate intellectual maturity and creativity, a command of the literatures relevant to the chosen fields of study, and an ability to articulate and defend a position on the important controversies in those literatures. The comprehensive examinations serve to demonstrate that the student has acquired the skills and knowledge necessary to function as an independent scholar in the field of Political Science generally, and in his or her chosen subfield of specialization. We expect not only broad knowledge, but also a critical understanding of the literatures and the ability to apply that understanding to the central, enduring questions of politics and government. The student’s first two fields, labeled the major field and minor field, are to be the subject of the Ph.D. comprehensive examination. 

Comprehensive examinations will be administered in-house. The exams are “closed book” with no outside materials allowed. Comprehensive examinations are administered once each semester and the written portions are usually held during the last week of the break before the semester begins. The oral portions are held during the first two weeks of the semester. Oral examinations are scheduled individually. The written portion of the major field lasts two days and the minor field lasts one day. The oral component lasts one to two hours for each field.

The written examinations are constructed by faculty members within each designated field. The structure of the exam will be established for the entire academic year by the examination committee and approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. It is the general practice that students have some range of choice in the questions they answer; that range, however, is at the discretion of the examination committee.

The Director of Graduate Studies will select the examination committees for each field. The oral part of the comprehensive examination is conducted by the same committee that graded the written examination. A final grade of pass or fail in each field is determined by the majority vote of the examination committee. Each committee has three members, so a student must receive a vote of “satisfactory” from at least two members of the committee to pass that field’s examination. Students must pass examinations in both their major and minor fields to be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy and proceed in the Ph.D. program. Failing a field involves retaking both the written and oral examination at the next administration of the exam. According to Graduate School policy, students are allowed only one retake attempt. If a student fails the exam, the committee provides a written explanation to the student.

Prospectus Defense
Once students have successfully completed their comprehensive examinations, they should be involved in consultations with their advisor regarding the formation of a dissertation prospectus committee. The dissertation prospectus committee (which often becomes the dissertation committee) is comprised of at least three faculty members (two of which must be from the Political Science Department). This committee guides the student through the writing of a dissertation prospectus: a written document laying out the intended course of doctoral dissertation research.

Students who pass both the first and second field of their comprehensive exam in their first attempt must successfully defend the dissertation prospectus through an oral examination within 8 months of being notified of the passage of their comprehensive exams. Students who fail one or both of their comprehensive exams must successfully defend the dissertation prospectus through an oral examination within 2 months of being notified of the passage of the second attempt of their comprehensive exams.  The specifics of the dissertation prospectus vary from student to student and are worked out between the student and her/his advisor with these deadlines in mind. Approval of selected committee members and date of dissertation prospectus defense must be confirmed with the Director of Graduate Studies and Graduate Program Assistant.

Doctoral Dissertation
A completed dissertation is defended orally before a committee comprised of at least five faculty members, three of which must be in the Political Science department. A fourth member must be from outside the Political Science Department and a Graduate faculty member at the University of Colorado (i.e., a qualified faculty member from another department at CU). The fifth member can be to the student’s choosing, and thus could be a faculty member in any discipline from outside CU. Committees that deviate from these guidelines must receive special approval.

The written dissertation must conform to the style guidelines of the Graduate School. The oral examination will be open to the public. More than one dissenting vote by the examining committee will constitute disqualification of the candidate. Only one re-examination is permitted.

Timely completion of the dissertation is an important part of the consideration to provide financial support. The department’s rule denies funding for students who have received this support for ten semesters, unless there is sufficient funding available to fund students for longer periods. The department takes into account this factor as well as other criteria for funding timely and adequate academic progress in allocating the limited funds for financial support.

Two other important requirements at the doctoral dissertation stage are the following:
• Students must enroll for at least 30 hours of doctoral dissertation credit with no more than 10 credits in any one semester.
• Students must be continuously enrolled in at least three (part-time status) or five (full-time status) dissertation hours each fall and spring semester after passing the comprehensive exams. Students who fail to enroll continuously at this stage can only re-enroll and finish their Ph.D. after (1) applying for admissions and being accepted again into the program and (2) retaking and passing comprehensive examinations. Students who leave and re-enter must take comprehensive exams on the prevailing schedule and under prevailing rules within their first three semesters of re-entry.

Other Requirements
A number of other important requirements bear mentioning:
• Students must be able to use the English language with precision and distinction.
• 15 to 21 hours of transfer credit for graduate work of high quality earned at another institution may be allowed once a student has been successfully enrolled for one semester as a full-time graduate student. The Graduate School will permit only 10 such hours to appear on the final transcript; the remaining 5 may be listed on the student’s departmental degree plan.
• Students must remain in good standing. A GPA of at least 3.0 (“B” average) is required; students falling below may be suspended by the graduate school. Students are also expected to make satisfactory progress toward their degree in each semester or face suspension. Timely and successful completion of course work, comprehensive examinations, prospectus defense, and dissertation defense as specified in various parts of this document is indicative of satisfactory academic progress.
• Ph.D. candidates must have successfully defended their dissertation in order to “walk,” be hooded by advisor, and participate in the commencement ceremonies the semester in which the ceremony is to take place.

Ph.D. Requirement Table

Coursework Requirements Deadline for Completion Requirements Evaluation
Minimum Number of Credit Hours Continual for duration of enrollment 42 credits of coursework
35 credits  must be in Political Science
39 credits must be at 7000 level or above
30 credits under dissertation hours
Maintain a "B" average or better
Independent Study Maximum of 6 credit hours  Contract between faculty member and student is required

3 Fields: Major, Minor, and Third 

In addition to the core seminars, students must complete at least two seminars in each of their three fields.

Course Requirements

Introduction to Professional Political Science (PSCI 7075)

Introduction to Political Data Analysis (PSCI 7085)

The core seminar in each three fields.

Research Competence
(Methodology or Language)

Completion of at least two advanced methodology courses beyond PCSI 7085 with a “B” average or better

If student chooses Empirical Theory and Research Methodology as a major or minor field, then the student must take at least three additional courses beyond PSCI 7085

Completion of a 5th semester college level course with “B” average or better. Can also be satisfied by GSFLT or standarized examination recognized by CU.

March 15th of 4th semester Written paper and oral defense. Written paper and oral defense evaluated by committee comprised of 3 faculty (at least 2 from PSCI)
Comprehensive Exams January of 6th semester Written and oral examination in Major (two days for written exam) and Minor (one day for written exam) fields. Two committees comprised of 3 faculty each. Grade of Pass/Fail assigned for each after oral.
Dissertation Prospectus  Within 8 months of being notified of the passage of the comprehensive exam.  Determined on an individual basis by candidate and committee. Committee comprised of at least 3 faculty (at least 2 from PSCI)
Dissertation Defense   Determined on an individual basis by candidate and committee.

Committee comprised of at least 5 faculty (at least 3 from PSCI, 1 from CU-but outside of the PSCI department, and the fifth member can be anyone of choosing-but preference is outside of CU)