PhD in Political Science

The Graduate Program in Political Science offers an intellectually stimulating and collegial environment for the training of PhD candidates and enrolls roughly six students a year to the program. A richly diverse community of scholars comprise the Graduate Faculty in Political Science at Boston University and students may also take advantage of the broader resources in the Boston area. Entering students must have a BA or an MA. The program trains students in research and teaching methods, and prepares them for positions in academia, research institutions, and government agencies such as the State Department.

Course Requirements

When selecting courses, students must have advance approval of the major professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Political Science.

Graduate students may receive Political Science credit for statistics courses up to a limit of eight credits if it is important to their area of specialization. This decision will be made in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Credit will only be given for courses in which a grade of B– or better is received.

Post-Bachelor’s Requirements

Sixteen semester courses (64 credits) at the graduate level are required. Up to four courses may be taken outside the Political Science department. Course requirements are as follows:

  • A minimum level of competence in three of the five fields by taking three of the following core courses:
    • GRS PO 711: Approaches to the Study of American Politics
    • GRS PO 741: Public Policy Analysis
    • GRS PO 751: Approaches to the Study of Comparative Politics
    • GRS PO 771: Approaches to the Study of International Relations
    • GRS PO 791: Approaches to the Study of Political Theory
  • Methodology Requirements—both courses taken within the first or second semester in the program:
    • GRS PO 840: Political Analysis
    • GRS PO 841: Quantitative Research Methods (or an equivalent course in another department or university)

A high level of competence in one major and one minor field and a mastery of one subfield within the major field in which dissertation work is planned are also required. Students normally fulfill these requirements through courses, seminars, and directed studies, as well as through independent reading. In addition, students are encouraged to take courses offered in related disciplines such as economics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and history. Such course selections vary according to the student’s overall program and must be planned in consultation with the student’s advisory committee.

Post-Master’s Requirements

Eight to 12 semester courses (32–48 credits) are required. The exact number depends on how closely the student’s prior work parallels the courses required for a PhD in political science. Course requirements are as follows:

  • At least three of the following core courses:
    • GRS PO 711: Approaches to the Study of American Politics
    • GRS PO 741: Public Policy Analysis
    • GRS PO 751: Approaches to the Study of Comparative Politics
    • GRS PO 771: Approaches to the Study of International Relations
    • GRS PO 791: Approaches to the Study of Political Theory
  • Methodology Requirements—both courses taken within the first or second semester in the program:
    • GRS PO 840: Political Analysis
    • GRS PO 841: Quantitative Research Methods (or an equivalent course in another department or university)

A high level of competence in one major and one minor field and a mastery of one subfield within the major field in which dissertation work is planned are also required. Students normally fulfill these requirements through courses, seminars, and directed studies, as well as through independent reading. In addition, students are encouraged to take courses offered in related disciplines such as economics, philosophy, psychology, sociology, and history. Such course selections vary according to the student’s overall program and must be planned in consultation with the student’s advisory committee.

Students may request that a comparable course or courses transferred from other institutions serve to satisfy the requirement of one or more of these core courses.

Language Requirement

There is no general foreign language requirement for the PhD. However, all students must achieve competence in any foreign language necessary for their research prior to defending their PhD proposal.

Qualifying Examinations

In their second year, students must submit and have approved an independent research paper of high quality. Typically, this will involve the substantial revision, expansion, and polishing of a graduate seminar paper. The paper must be approved by two sponsoring faculty members and the DGS.

After the second year paper is approved, and students have completed coursework (normally two years of full-time study for post-BA candidates), qualifying examinations are given in the major field, subfield, and minor field. Examinations take three days, one day for each of the three areas. These written examinations may be followed by a joint oral examination by the three examining professors, at their discretion. After passing the qualifying examinations and completing the second year paper requirement, students proceed to their dissertation work.

Any student who has successfully completed all course requirements for the MA and has either passed the qualifying exam or written a formal thesis may request that a master’s degree be granted.

Dissertation and Final Oral Examination

Candidates shall demonstrate their abilities for independent study in a dissertation representing original research or creative scholarship. A prospectus for the dissertation must be completed and approved by the readers, the director of graduate studies, and the department chair/program director within one year of completing qualifying examinations. Candidates must undergo a final oral examination in which they defend their dissertation as valuable contributions to knowledge in their fields and demonstrate a mastery of their fields of specialization in relation to their dissertation. All portions of the dissertation and final oral examination must be completed as outlined in the GRS General Requirements for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree.