Degree Requirements


Master’s Degree Requirements

Course Requirements

All candidates for the M.A. degree are required to complete, at a satisfactory level, the following:

  • Research Methods through POLS 706 (unless equivalent material has been covered satisfactorily)
  • 30 semester hours of graduate credit (including Political Science research methods courses, but excluding courses taken in fulfillment of an undergraduate major or its equivalent)
  • The requirements for either the thesis or non-thesis option
  • A comprehensive oral examination which is administered by a committee that includes the student’s principal advisor and two other members of the graduate faculty

Other Options

  • Unless otherwise approved by the student’s advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies, no more than nine hours of coursework at the 500 and 600 level will be counted toward the M.A.
  • Students entering the program with full graduate standing may take up to six (6) graduate hours outside the department. These hours include courses taken at another accredited institution.
  • Directed reading courses supplement, but do not replace, the core graduate curriculum. Up to five (5) credit hours of reading courses can be counted toward the 30 credit hours requirement for the master’s degree.

Thesis Option

Upon completion and certification of an acceptable thesis, candidates may count six (6) credit hours of thesis enrollment toward the 30 credit hours required for the M.A. degree. The thesis must be presented to the student’s faculty advisory committee and its completion will qualify the student to proceed to the final oral master’s examination.

A student who wishes to write a thesis should select a thesis advisor and in consultation with the advisor, select two other graduate faculty members for the thesis committee. Students must notify the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of the composition of the thesis committee. Unless special arrangements are made, at least two of the committee members should be Political Science department faculty. Students must meet with the Graduate Academic Advisor to verify that all other requirements have been fulfilled.

Students writing an M.A. thesis should prepare at least three copies of the final draft for submission to their committee (after it has been approved by the advisor) prior to the final oral examination. After the thesis defense is completed, a final copy must be prepared and submitted. The year, title, and last name of the author should be on the spine.

Non-Thesis Option

Instead of a thesis (six credit hours), candidates may substitute a minimum of two 800-900 level research seminars (excluding POLS 706) as part of the 30 required hours for the degree. In addition, students must pass a final master’s written examination that is based on coursework. The student’s principal faculty advisor, who serves as chair of the examining committee, prepares the examination. Each of the three examining committee members should prepare at least two questions, and the student must answer one question from each committee member. Students must notify the Director of Graduate Studies in writing of the composition of the examining committee. Unless special arrangements are made, at least two of the committee members should be Political Science department faculty.

Students select the date for the written exam, keeping in mind availability of testing spaces and deadlines for notification to the Graduate School to ensure graduation. Students must meet with the Graduate Academic Advisor to verify that all other requirements have been fulfilled. The Graduate Academic Advisor will administer the examination. The student will be allowed no more than four (4) hours to complete the written examination. The members of the committee evaluate the written exam and if a majority considers the exam to be of passing quality, then the final oral examination may be scheduled.

A student may attempt the written examination a maximum of two (2) times. Failure on the second attempt results in termination from the program. A second attempt at the written examination must occur during the semester following the first attempt, and the faculty advisor committee administering the first examination should also prepare the second examination. Students may appeal a negative evaluation of the written examination to the Graduate Studies Committee. Once a student has possession of a copy of an examination, it shall constitute one attempt at writing that examination. The student’s principal faculty advisor informs the student, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate Academic Advisor of the outcome of each attempt at the written examination. Satisfactory completion of the written examination is a prerequisite for the final oral master’s examination.

Final Oral Examination for the M.A. Degree

Satisfactory completion of a final oral examination is required of all candidates for the M.A. degree in Political Science. The final master’s examination is a requirement of the Office of Graduate Studies. Students should begin the scheduling process for the oral examination with the Graduate Academic Advisor at least one month before the proposed examination date to ensure that departmental preapproval paperwork is submitted to the College Office of Graduate Affairs in a timely manner. The student’s faculty advisory committee conducts the oral examination.

Students taking the thesis option qualify for the oral examination with the submission of an acceptable draft of the thesis. For students taking the non-thesis option, the oral examination should be scheduled within two weeks of satisfactory completion of the written examination. A student may attempt the oral examination for the M.A. degree a maximum of two (2) times. Failure on the second attempt results in termination from the program. A second attempt at the oral examination should occur within one month following the first attempt. The faculty committee for the first oral examination also administers the second oral examination. Students may appeal a negative decision on the oral examination for the Graduate Studies Committee. Beginning an oral examination constitutes an attempt at the examination, even if the student chooses not to complete the examination. The student’s principal advisor shall inform the student, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate Academic Advisor of the outcome of each attempt at the oral examination.

PhD Degree Requirements

Course Requirements

All students pursuing a Ph.D. in Political Science must have a Master of Arts degree in Political Science (or a closely related field) from an accredited U.S. institution.

For Ph.D. study, courses in the Political Science Department are divided into the following subfields:

  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Public Policy
  • American Politics

Students must choose two major subfields and one minor field for intensive study.

Major Fields

The major fields must be drawn from the subfields offered by the Department of Political Science (above). Prior to their first attempt at the written preliminary examination in any subfield, all Ph.D. students must complete at least four courses/seminars in that subfield with a grade of B or better; all must be at the 600-level or above and three must be at the 700-level or above. At least two of these courses/seminars in each major field must be taken at KU, not including directed readings. The remainder of the coursework may be taken at a comparable university. To be applicable, all coursework must be taken within five years of the date of the comprehensive examinations. At most one directed readings course in each major field will be counted toward the field coursework requirement. Students should understand that the four-course requirement is the minimum number of courses and that additional work may be required in preparation for the Ph.D.

Course Requirements for Major Subfields

The course requirements listed below are applicable for students admitted in Fall 2020 or later. Students admitted prior to Fall 2020 may opt in to the required course sequences below and/or may consult their faculty advisor about other options.

American Politics

  • POLS 810 American Politics (3)
  • Three elective courses selected in consultation with faculty advisor

Comparative Politics

  • POLS 850 Introduction to Comparative Politics (3)
  • POLS 851 Comparative Institutions and Government (3)
  • POLS 957 Comparative Political Behavior (3)
  • One elective course selected in consultation with faculty advisor

International Relations

  • POLS 870 International Relations (3)
  • POLS 972 Theories of International Conflict (3)
  • POLS 973 International Political Economy (3)
  • One elective course selected in consultation with faculty advisor

Public Policy

  • POLS 720 The Scope of Public Policy (3)
  • POLS 820 Policy Formulation and Adoption (3)
  • Two elective courses selected in consultation with faculty advisor

Minor Field

The minor field may be another of the five subfields in the Political Science Department, a related field from an outside department, or an interdisciplinary program. The courses for the minor field must follow the same structure, number, and requirements as outlined above for the major fields. Courses for the minor field may only apply to that field.

Work in a related field from either an outside department or an interdisciplinary program will herein be referred to as a special field. A special field is not to be treated as a simple extension or elaboration of topics treated in courses taken in one of the major fields. Instead, it should represent a significant academic departure, which cannot be pursued within the confines of the five existing fields. If the choice is a special field, approval in writing of the student's advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies must be obtained. The special field must consist of a program of four or more courses.

Research Skills & Responsible Scholarship

All doctoral students are required to obtain research skills and responsible scholarship practices relevant to their field.

This requirement is designed to enhance the research and analytical competence of Ph.D. candidates. Each student must satisfy the requirements of one of the following options before attempting a preliminary examination.

 

Option 1: Research Methods

POLS 706 and 707 plus one additional research methods course approved by the major advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. Please note that POLS 705 is a prerequisite for POLS 706 but is not considered an "additional research methods course" to meet this requirement.

Option 2: Research Methods and Foreign Language

POLS 705, 706 and 707 (with POLS 705 as a prerequisite for POLS 706) plus one of the following choices in a language that is approved by the student's major advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies:

Please note that the requirements listed above constitute minimum expectations. Students may need more than one year of language study, particularly those who intend to conduct field research abroad. Similarly, students might need further training in statistical analysis, modeling, or programming to meet the research needs of the dissertation. Each student's major advisor should determine what, if any, additional training is necessary.

Written Preliminary Examinations

Each student must pass written preliminary examinations in the two major subfields of the student's specialization and intensive study prior to completing the comprehensive oral examination.

Time of the Examinations

Both examinations are taken during the three-week examination periods in the Fall and Spring semesters (e.g., the second and third full weeks of September and the second and third full weeks of February). The examinations will be offered on consecutive Mondays. The scheduled dates for the examinations will be announced after the exam registration deadline.

Admission to the Examinations

Students attempting the preliminary examinations for the Ph.D. degree must meet the following conditions prior to the examinations:

Application for the Examinations

Students planning to take the examinations should notify the Director of Graduate Studies of their intentions, in writing. The deadlines for applications are August 1 for the fall examinations and December 15 for the examinations in the following spring. This notification must include a completed form (obtainable from the Graduate Academic Advisor) specifying:

Failure to notify the Director of Graduate Studies precludes a student from taking the examinations. Notification does not, however, obligate a student to attempt the examination.

The following comments pertain to the content and procedures of these examinations.

Content of the Examinations

The student is expected to demonstrate a thorough understanding of the institutional systems, political processes, bibliographical materials, pertinent theories, and leading research ideas in each examination subfield. In addition, both Ph.D. students and faculty members should keep in mind that subfield examinations are not confined to the content of particular courses. The prime purpose of a subfield examination is to test a student's broad knowledge in that subfield. Copies of examination frameworks and past examination questions are available online. The subfield committees will have the right to specify changes in the formats of their examinations. In particular, they may introduce limitations on the lengths of answers to questions. Such changes must be widely promulgated at least six weeks before the date of the examinations. Students are encouraged to consult widely with Departmental faculty in their subfields about the structure and expectations for exams.

Faculty Participation

Examinations in each subfield are to be collegially prepared. No regular faculty member in the subfield of the examination is precluded either from the writing or the reading and grading of the examinations. Both faculty and students should recognize that it is the responsibility of all faculty members to participate fully in preliminary examinations for at least one subfield.

Procedures for Preparing the Examinations

Allowing sufficient time for examination preparation, the examination directors are appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. The examination directors are responsible for soliciting questions from all the members of the subfield, calling a meeting of the subfield at least two weeks before the date of the examination, and submitting the final questions to the Graduate Academic Advisor one week before the examination. The examination director is responsible for proofreading the examination and delivering it to the Graduate Academic Advisor at least one week before the first examination.

Administering the Examinations

Registered students may obtain the appropriate subfield examination via email from the Graduate Academic Advisor at 8:00 a.m. on the scheduled date. Any student who accepts a copy of an examination will be deemed to have made an attempt to write it. Students should email completed answers to the Graduate Academic Advisor by 5:00 p.m. the next day. If students choose not to type their answers as they prepare them, they may submit a hand-written copy by the deadline and then provide a double-spaced typed copy within two office days. Answers submitted in this way will be crosschecked; deviations will result in a failure on the examination. All submitted answers should be typed or letter-quality, printed, double-spaced, one-inch margins minimum, with pages numbered.

In submitting a completed test, the student promises that the work is their own. Students must not consult with faculty members, students, or other people about the content of the test while they are taking it. Students are free to make use of any reference materials during their work on the examination and appropriate references (in-text citation including the author's name, date, and name of book or journal will suffice) to the literature must be included in the answers. If the subfield examining committee finds that the examinee has plagiarized on the exam, the exam will be considered a failure and the Director of Graduate Studies will institute dismissal procedures.

Notification of the Outcome of the Examinations

As soon as practicable after the completion of the examination, and in no case later than four weeks after the examination, the examination director shall notify the student and the Director of Graduate Studies, in writing, of the results of the examination. The subfield faculty shall provide the student with a written explanation of the committee’s specific judgments on each examination question. An electronic copy of this written explanation should be given to the Graduate Academic Advisor for deposit in the student's departmental file. A copy should be made of the examination for each member of the preliminary examination committee to facilitate and expedite evaluation.

Constraints Regarding the Taking and Outcome of the Examinations

Students may attempt the written preliminary examination in each subfield a maximum of two times. A student may not drop a subfield after failing its preliminary examination. A second examination in the same subfield must be attempted at, or before, the next regularly scheduled examinations. Failure on the second attempt at the preliminary examination in any subfield shall result in a student's termination from the graduate program. A student must pass the written preliminary examinations before taking the comprehensive oral examination.

Oral Comprehensive Exam Procedures

Satisfactory completion of a comprehensive oral examination is required of all Ph.D. aspirants. No student may attempt the comprehensive oral examination until the written preliminary examinations have been passed.

Permission to Schedule the Examination

The Graduate Academic Advisor must verify a student’s eligibility for the examination. The student must begin the scheduling process with the Graduate Academic Advisor at least one month before the desired examination date to ensure departmental preapproval paperwork is submitted to the College Office of Graduate Affairs in a timely manner.

Composition of the Oral Examination Committee

The members of the comprehensive oral examination committee are appointed by the Office of Graduate Studies on the basis of nominations submitted by the department. The committee shall consist of at least five members, at least four of whom are members of the Political Science Department. The committee must include at least one faculty member from each of the two subfield examining committees that evaluated the student's written exams. All of the members of the committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty. At least one of the members of the committee must be from outside the Political Science Department; this member represents the Office of Graduate Studies. The Graduate Studies Representative is a voting member of the committee who shall report to the Office of Graduate Studies any unsatisfactory or irregular aspects of the examination.

Notification of Departmental Faculty

The Graduate Academic Advisor will notify all members of the faculty of the time and place of the scheduled oral examination. All interested members of the faculty are encouraged to participate in the examination.

Content of the Comprehensive Oral Examination

The comprehensive oral examination covers the entire field of Political Science, with emphasis in the subfields of the student's intensive study. In addition, students may be held accountable in the areas selected for the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement and the minor field requirement. The student's dissertation proposal is the subject of the defense of the dissertation prospectus, not the comprehensive oral exam.

Constraints Affecting the Comprehensive Oral Examination

Students must attempt the comprehensive oral examination in the same semester in which the final written preliminary examination is passed. Under extraordinary circumstances, the examining committee may call an intermission during the administration of the oral examination, but such an intermission may not be longer than forty-eight hours. Students who fail the comprehensive oral examination will be allowed only one further attempt. The second oral examination may not be held sooner than 90 days after the first failure and must be held before the end of the semester following the semester during which the failure occurred. Failure on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the graduate program.

Post-Comprehensive Enrollment

After passing the comprehensive oral examination, the Office of Graduate Studies requires that doctoral candidates must be continuously enrolled in at least six hours each fall or spring semester, including at least one dissertation hour, until 18 hours have been completed or until graduation, whichever comes first. After the 18 hours are completed, the student must enroll in at least one dissertation hour per semester until all requirements for the degree are met. Post-comprehensive enrollment may include enrollment during the semester or summer session in which the comprehensive oral examination has been passed provided that the exam is taken before the first day of the term’s final exam period.

Post-comprehensive students are not required by the Office of Graduate Studies to enroll during summer session. Doctoral students should consult with their advisors and departmental graduate staff to determine whether any other policies require them to enroll during the summer.

Dissertation Prospectus

All Ph.D. students successfully completing their comprehensive examinations must, within six months of such completion, successfully defend a prospectus of the dissertation. Successful defense of the prospectus is required to retain a status of "reasonable progress toward the Ph.D." and to be eligible for further departmental funding. The defense will be conducted before the dissertation committee.

Every doctoral candidate must assemble a dissertation committee no less than two weeks before the prospectus defense. Committee membership is expected to be the same as the final dissertation committee. The composition of the dissertation committee must be formally submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies for approval. Membership can be changed only by written appeal to the Director of Graduate Studies or the Chair of the Department of Political Science. Such change in dissertation committee membership cannot be altered less than one month before the scheduled date of the dissertation defense.

Dissertation

The candidate must present a dissertation showing the planning, conduct and results of original research and scholarship. Material previously published by the candidate may be incorporated in the dissertation. See the University Policies & Degree Requirement section of this handbook for additional formatting requirements. Candidates and faculty members are reminded that the dissertation is to be a coherent, logically organized, scholarly document.

Completion of the dissertation normally is the final phase of a doctoral program, climaxed by the final oral examination or defense of the dissertation. Therefore, approval of the dissertation by the dissertation advisory committee is followed promptly by the final oral examination and submission of the signed dissertation.

Final Oral Examination

When the student and the members of the dissertation advisory committee believe that the dissertation is in final form (i.e., ready for defense) and all other degree requirements have been satisfied, the chair of the dissertation committee asks the Graduate Academic Advisor to schedule a final oral examination. The Graduate Academic Advisor will then work with the student to begin the scheduling process at least one month prior to the earliest proposed defense date. The Office of Graduate Studies requires that the announcement of the final oral examination be submitted to the graduate school for publication on the Office of Graduate Studies website listing upcoming defenses. Interested members of the University community are encouraged to attend.

The committee for the final oral examination shall consist of at least five members, including the members of the dissertation advisory committee and two other members that serve as "readers”. Both readers must be members of the Graduate Faculty and one must be from outside the Department of Political Science (Graduate Studies Representative). The Office of Graduate Studies formally appoints all members of the final oral examination committee at the request of the department.

The Graduate Academic Advisor will report the outcome of the defense to the College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA). If a grade of “Unsatisfactory" is reported, the candidate may be allowed to repeat the examination a second time. Failure on the second attempt at the final oral examination shall result in dismissal from the graduate program.

See the University Policies & Degree Requirements section of this handbook for a comprehensive list of tasks to complete in order to graduate.

Final Submission of the Dissertation

When the final oral examination has been passed and the dissertation has been signed by the members of the dissertation advisory committee, the dissertation must be submitted electronically so that completion of degree requirements may be officially certified. See the University Policies & Degree Requirements section of this handbook for more information.

A paper copy of the signed dissertation must be bound and be given to the Director of Graduate Studies for deposit in the Political Science Department within one semester of graduation. The Department's copy must be bound in cloth with the title and author's name on the front cover. The year, title and last name of author should be on the spine. If the student is unable to provide a copy of the dissertation within one semester, an extension can be granted by the Director of Graduate Studies. Some students also prepare a bound copy for the dissertation advisor, but this is not required.

The form of the table of contents, the organization of the bibliography, the stylistic practices represented in the footnotes, and the placement of the footnotes -- these are matters that are ordinarily decided by doctoral candidates in conference with their committees, particularly the director of the dissertation.

See the University Policies & Degree Requirements section of this handbook for the exact formatting requirements for the electronic copy of the dissertation.

  • completion of two semesters of a language other than English, no more than five years old at the time of certification;
  • native speaker of a language other than English.
    • Complete all outstanding grades of Incomplete
    • Complete the Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement
    • Complete the curricular requirements for the Ph.D. examinations (above) and maintain an overall grade-point average of 3.5 or better in all graduate-level courses taken at the University of Kansas after admission to the Department of Political Science graduate program
    • Meet the residency requirement of the Office of Graduate Studies
    • The courses used to fulfill requirements and overall GPA
    • Semesters and courses (or course/teaching combination) used to meet the residency requirement;
    • That all grades of incomplete have been removed.