Skip to main content

Advance Degree Requirements


The Ph.D. Program

The purpose of the Ph.D. degree is to provide students with advanced knowledge in the philosophy, methodology, and practice of Political Science. Emphasis is placed on providing the theoretical capacity and the methodological skills enabling the student to make significant and original research contributiuons. 

Students may be admitted directly to the Ph.D. program. It is not necessary to pursue the M.A. degree first.

The information below is meant to provide a general overview of the graduate program in the department of Political Science.  For details, see the Political Science Graduate Student Handbook.

The General Phase

The purposes of the general phase are (1) to familiarize students with a specific approach to inquiry and research, and expose them to other important approaches that have been taken to the study of Political Science; (2) to introduce students to some of the techniques of Political Science research, particularly quantitative techniques; and (3) to familiarize students with conceptual approaches, substantive information, and research techniques in as many of the major fields of Political Science as possible, while helping to develop critical skills in the study of such fields.

The Specialized Phase

The purposes of the specialized phase of the Ph.D. program are to provide the student with (1) in-depth familiarity with his or her major and minor fields of specialization, (2) experience and training in research through research papers and Independent reading courses, and (3) sufficient preparation and oversight of the doctoral Dissertation. During the specialized phase, the student will devote her or his time primarily to 700 level courses, which are seminars placing emphasis on research.

Field Examinations

Students entering the PhD program in fall 2015 and afterwards must complete two Field Exams prior to defending the prospectus. The prospectus defense, which should take place following the second Field Exam, serves as the official “qualifying exam” for these students.

Students are eligible to take Field Exams once they have successfully completed 4 major field courses and 3 minor field courses. Students must pass a Field Examination in both their major and minor fields. Students may take Field Exams in any order they wish, and both Field Exams may be taken during the same semester. Under normal conditions, fall Field Exams will take place in the first week of October, and spring Field Exams will take place in the first week of March. All Field Exams must be taken in the computer lab where Internet capabilities will be removed from computers before the exam begins. All Field Exams will be 8 hour, closed book exams. Students taking major Field exams must also sit for an oral defense. The Field Exams cover any material that the Field Committee deems relevant to the field. This material need not be specific to the student’s research interest s or program of study. Students taking Field Exams must answer 3 questions among 6 options.

Qualifying Examination

Students are eligible to sit for their Prospectus Defense provided that they (1) have passed the Field Exams (for their major and minor field), (2) have the equivalent of 2 years of residency (36 hours), (3) have letter grades assigned for all courses previously graded as “I” or “S,” and (4) have a GPA of 3.00 or higher. The Prospectus Defense is given by the student’s Dissertation Advisory Committee. To sit for the Defense, the student must prepare a written Prospectus for his/her Dissertation, and be examined orally on it by the Advisory Committee. The Prospectus should include a review of the relevant literature and a statement of the Dissertation proposal, its theoretical importance, and the contemplated research design, methods and procedures. The Prospectus is a test of the students writing ability, creativity, grasp of the literature, and methodological competence.

The Dissertation

The Dissertation is expected to be a work of original scholarship which adds to the store of knowledge and demonstrates maturity in research. It is written under the direction of the Chair of the Advisory Committee. Procedures for undertaking and writing the Dissertation are outlined in the Graduate School's Manual for Theses and Dissertations, which is available here.

The M.A. Program

The Graduate Program at UK is designed primarily for Ph.D. students. Students seeking admission for the Master’s degree only will be accepted only under unusual circumstances and are very unlikely to receive funding. For details on the M.A. degree, see Section II in the Political Science Graduate Student Handbook.