The Political Science Program Guide

Policies and Procedures


  1. Purpose
  2. Guidelines, Rules, and Requirements
  3. Guidelines For Graduate Students and Faculty Advisors in the Political Science Doctoral Program
  4. Graduate Teaching and Research Assistantships
  5. Faculty-Graduate Assistant Guidelines
  6. Funding Guidelines
  7. Professional Development
  8. Communications
  9. Graduate Political Science Association


This guide provides a compendium of rules, guidelines, and useful information pertaining to the Ph.D. program in Political Science at the University of Connecticut. Students should also consult with their Major Advisors, the Graduate Director, other faculty, and their fellow students about courses, requirements, Plans of Study, and the like. Students are urged to become familiar with both the departmental guidelines and university regulations as stipulated in the Graduate School Catalog ( The Graduate School’s website ( and the Registrar’s website ( also contain vital information.

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Guidelines, Rules, and Requirements

Admissions and Program Overview

Applicants who are seeking a Ph.D. in Political Science should apply directly to the Ph.D. Program even if they do not possess a Master’s Degree. Students who are admitted directly into the Ph.D. program in Political Science will automatically receive their M.A. after they pass their first Ph.D. Exam.

The Ph.D. program involves two distinct stages. First, doctoral students prepare for their Ph.D. Exams or comprehensive written exams in two subfields (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, or Public Law) of Political Science. In order to take the Ph.D. Exams, students must fill out a form with signatures of approval from their Major Advisor, the chairs of their two subfields, and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). The Ph.D. Exams cover broad subfields, not just the content of specific, individual courses. Each subfield has its own set of recommended courses; only the subfield committee can waive a subfield requirement or approve substitutes for required courses. Before taking their Ph.D. Exams, students must file a Plan of Study (Forms page) with the Graduate School.

In addition to subfield courses, all doctoral students are required to take the following sequence of methods courses:

  1. POLS 5600, Nature of Political Inquiry (Fall Semester, 1st year)
  2. POLS 5605, Seminar in Quantitative Methods (Spring Semester, 1st year)
  3. POLS 5615, Seminar in Qualitative Methods (Fall Semester, 2nd year)
  4. One Advanced Methods Course (to be determined in consultation with the student’s major advisor and taken Spring Semester, 2nd year)

It is strongly recommended that students take the courses in this order both for intellectual reasons and because going through the track together nurtures students’ sense of themselves as a cohort. If it is absolutely essential that a student do otherwise, he or she should petition the Graduate Affairs Committee with a clear demonstration of their major advisor’s support for a waiver. Even then, all four methods courses must be completed by the end of the student’s second year.

After passing both subfield Ph.D. Exams, students devote themselves to preparing a prospectus and researching and writing a dissertation.

  • Please note that doctoral candidates admitted to the program must also sign up for 15 hours of dissertation research credits before earning their degree; it is best to enroll for these credits (GRAD 6950) while students are funded and thus eligible for tuition waivers.
  • Also be aware of the Graduate School’s residency requirement, which stipulates that all Ph.D. students must be full-time (9 hours, or 6 hours plus an assistantship) for two consecutive semesters, or one semester and a contiguous 12-week summer period, before graduation.

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Guidelines For Graduate Students and Faculty Advisors in the Political Science Doctoral Program

  1. Orientation, Advising and Counseling Procedures
    1. Orientation
      1. The Department holds an annual Orientation session for incoming graduate students immediately prior to the start of their first fall semester.
      2. The Orientation will be planned and carried out in close coordination with the Political Science Graduate Students’ Association (PSGSA).
    2. Advisors and Committees
      1. As soon as an applicant is admitted to the Graduate Program, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), taking into account the student’s research interests and the relative advising loads of members of the Graduate faculty, will assign a Major Advisor to the student.
      2. The student may change the Major Advisor that they are initially assigned subject to approval by the Director of Graduate Studies and new Major Advisor.
      3. The student, in consultation with her or his Major Advisor, will select members of a dissertation committee no later than the semester in which they complete their first Ph.D. Exam.
    3. Counseling Procedures
      1. All graduate students should meet with their Major Advisors at least once each semester to discuss matters relevant to their progress in the program.
      2. At the end of each academic year, the DGS elicits feedback from all faculty who have taught graduate seminars in the previous year. If any concerns are raised about the progress of a graduate student, the DGS will convey this to the Major Advisor who will relay the information to his or her student.
    4. Grades of Incomplete
      1. In order to remain eligible for funding, students must complete and submit all work for any grade of I or X by the end of the semester following receipt of such a grade. Students who miss the one-semester deadline may petition the Graduate Affairs Committee to be reconsidered for future funding only after they have successfully completed all courses for which they have maintained a grade of I or X for more than one semester (by submitting all work for the course to the instructor of record by 5:00 PM on the final day of final exams week as designated by the Registrar). Students are not eligible to take Ph.D. Exams until all outstanding I/X’s have been resolved. Students may submit a written petition to the DGS to request an exemption to the funding element of this policy. This petition should include a documented explanation and must be approved by the student’s Major Advisor, the DGS, and the Department Head.
  2. Examinations
    1. Scheduling
      1. Students planning to take August exams must notify the Graduate Coordinator, Christine Lounsbury by mid-March. Those planning to take them in January must notify Christine Lounsbury by mid-October. Students who need special accommodations arranged through the Center for Students with Disabilities should alert the DGS at the beginning of this process. By April and November respectively, Christine Lounsbury will post the list of students taking Ph.D. Exams and the members of the subfield exam committees. (All students taking an exam in a field will have the same subfield exam committee.) Subfields will appoint exam committees for each semester consisting of three of their graduate faculty members. These committees prepare and grade their subfield’s Ph.D. Exam.
      2. Students are encouraged to talk to members of the subfield informally prior to the exam. No examination for the Ph.D. will be scheduled without explicit approval from the Major Advisor and relevant subfield heads. This notice must be received at least one month prior to the date of the examination.
      3. Beginning in August 2015, examinations will be scheduled for the 2nd and 3rd weeks of August and January. Exam committees will observe relevant Graduate School scheduling guidelines. Any exceptions must be approved by the Department Head and DGS.
    2. Ph.D. Exams
      1. The purpose of the Ph.D. Exams is to demonstrate that the student has mastered the basic concepts essential to an understanding of the subfield; understands the major controversies within the subfield and can articulate and defend a position regarding each of these debates; has read and is able to cite the important literature in the field; and is able to write a coherent essays dealing with all of the aforementioned elements.
      2. After satisfactory completion of the Ph.D. Plan of Study, including the requirements for each Examination Field and the required methods sequence, each doctoral candidate will take the Ph.D. Exams.
        1. Examination Fields: A maximum of fifteen required credit hours, including mandated and optional courses, to be established by the subfield committees.
        2. Ph.D. students are also required to complete four Scope/Methods/Skills courses:
          1. POLS 5600, Nature of Political Inquiry (Fall Semester, 1st year)
          2. POLS 5605, Seminar in Quantitative Methods (Spring Semester, 1st year)
          3. POLS 5615, Seminar in Qualitative Methods (Fall Semester, 2nd year)
          4. One Advanced Methods Course (to be determined in consultation with the student’s major advisor and taken Spring Semester, 2nd year)
          5. Waivers for the requirements of POLS 5600, POLS 5605, and POLS 5610 may be granted by the Graduate Affairs Committee in response to a written student request endorsed by the student’s Major Advisor.
        3. All Ph.D. Exams will cover the two subfields selected by the student with the advice of his or her Major Advisor and registered in the Plan of Study. At least one of these subfields is also the dissertation research field. Exams will cover entire subfields, not just specific course content. Students are therefore strongly encouraged to review materials in consultation with relevant subfield faculty when preparing for their examinations.
        4. Ph.D. Exams will be administered twice a year. While students may take their exams over two consecutive semesters, there is a preference for students taking both of their fields in the same semester.
        5. The Exams are take-home: students may write their answers at home, in the library, or in a classroom at the Center for Students with Disabilities using notes and books. Unless a student has been approved for time accommodations, each exam begins at 9:00 a.m. on the first day of the exam period and must be completed by 4:00 p.m. on the following or second day of the exam period.
        6. Subfields may require that an oral exam be a component of the PhD exam. When this is the case, the oral portion of the exam should be administered at most two weeks after the written portion was completed and the student should receive the evaluations of the written portion at least 5 working days prior to the oral exam.
        7. Each exam is to be evaluated by the respective subfield exam committee. Each member of the committee will comment on the strengths and weaknesses of each essay, assigning it a score from 0 (lowest) to 3 (highest). These scores will be averaged across the committee to render a final grade. In cases where an oral exam is required, the results of the oral exam will be factored into the final score.
        8. The Ph.D. Exam evaluations should be compiled by the relevant subfield chair and reported, in writing, to the DGS in a timely manner. The DGS will communicate the evaluation of the written examination to the student, providing him or her with all written comments.
        9. Failed examinations may be repeated once. Further re-examination must be approved by the student’s Major Advisor, the DGS, and the Department Head.
    3. The Prospectus and Dissertation
      1. The development and evaluation of the dissertation prospectus will be separate from the Ph.D. exam process. The prospectus will be developed in conjunction with and approved by the student’s dissertation committee, which must include at least three members of the Political Science Graduate Faculty.
      2. Students must defend their prospectus orally to their dissertation committee. The Graduate School requires that a total of five people must approve the prospectus document, signing off on its acceptability. These five people should be a combination of committee members and/or external reviewers.
      3. Students are expected to defend the prospectus within six months of passing their PhD exams. Students who fail to do this will be notified by the Director Graduate Studies, alerting them that they are in violation of this policy while the Department Head will notify their major advisor. Reason(s) for the student’s non-adherence to the timeline will be identified for the purpose of legitimizing the delay and/or devising and implementing measures to expedite progress. Two-month extensions may be granted in the event that reasonable progress is being made towards completion of the prospectus.
      4. After successfully defending the prospectus, students must consult with Christine Lounsbury to assure that all paperwork required by the Graduate School is submitted.
      5. If a student does not complete the prospectus in a timely manner, his/her standing in the program will have to be considered, which may entail losing his or her funding in the department’s graduate program.
      6. When the Major Advisor and student agree that the dissertation is complete, the Major Advisor will organize a public defense. The full dissertation committee and any external readers must be present.

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Graduate Teaching and Research Assistantships

The majority of Ph.D. students are awarded Graduate Assistantships (GAs) and thereby become GAs or TAs for the department. (See “Faculty-Teaching Assistant Guidelines” below.) Research Assistantships (RAs) are typically awarded when faculty members receive grants that include such research funds. The duties of RAs are then determined by the faculty member, the research, and the grant. While TA duties may involve teaching discussion sections once a week for the large introductory lecture courses, most TAs work with faculty by helping to grade, keeping attendance, and assisting with audio-visual, library, and other course-related matters. Most graduate assistantships are awarded to graduate students still completing their coursework. Veteran TAs occasionally have the opportunity to teach their own courses as a lecturer at Storrs or at the other University of Connecticut branch campuses. These may occur during the regular semesters, intercessions, and/or during the summer. The Department Head will announce such opportunities via the departmental website ( or by email. Political Science TAs are strongly encouraged to participate in teaching programs sponsored by the University’s Institute for Teaching and Learning. All international teaching assistants must pass SPEAK and TEACH tests, administered by the University’s ITAP program, before they can become classroom instructors.

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Faculty-Graduate Assistant Guidelines

  1. Teaching Assistant’s (TA’s) responsibilities should be related to instructional purposes only; that is, teaching, advising, keeping attendance, helping with audiovisual aids, monitoring regular and make-up exams, grading students and, in some cases, securing library materials for the course and putting readings on reserve.
  2. TAs should not have to buy books; the faculty/instructor should obtain desk copies of all required reading for the TA.
  3. TAs who are teaching their own sections are expected to attend all lectures and keep abreast of all required readings. In classes without sections, the faculty/instructor should clearly delineate expectations regarding attendance and/or reading requirements for the TA. If he/she decides that the TA must attend lectures and complete readings, the time required to do so must be included in the tally of number of hours worked each week.
  4. Except possibly in cases of TAs teaching their own sections, the faculty/ instructor has responsibility for preparing exam questions and working with the TAs to ensure proper grading. If the faculty instructor reserves the right to change grades in the event of student complaints, the instructor should communicate this clearly to the TA and accept blame for any grading errors.
  5. TAs teaching their own sections are expected to hold office hours for 2 to 3 hours per week. In classes without sections, office hour expectations for teaching assistants should be determined by the faculty/instructor. If he/she decides that the TA must hold regular office hours, the time required to do so must be included in the total number of hours worked each week.
  6. TAs who seek to develop experience lecturing to a large class should consult with the faculty/instructor early in the course; ordinarily TAs are not expected to lecture.
  7. Faculty should be professional mentors to their TAs: Those faculty who have TAs teaching sections should spend sufficient time advising them about the materials to be covered in sections, effective teaching techniques, grading, etc.
  8. Faculty who have TAs teaching sections are responsible for ensuring that the teaching performance of their TAs is evaluated.
  9. TAs are not permitted to date students in their classes nor are faculty permitted to date students they are supervising (see:
  10. TAs are responsible for reporting violations of the Student Code of Conduct to the instructor of record. Student Code of Conduct violations include, but are not limited to cheating, plagiarism, grade pressuring, sexual harassment, and discrimination (see:
  11. If issues or conflicts arise regarding these guidelines, TAs and faculty should attempt to resolve them. The DGS is available for consultation, if necessary.

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Funding Guidelines

Graduate students are awarded funding on a yearly basis. Funded students making good progress in the program will be funded by the Department of Political Science for up to five years.

During the spring semester, continuing students who wish to be considered for merit-based financial aid (TA-ships/GA-ships) for the following academic year must fill out an “Application for Support” form (Forms page). Because funding offers are made on a yearly basis, all students (including those who are already funded and those who are not yet funded) must fill out an “Application for Support” form.

When funded students within five years of entry in the Ph.D. program partially or completely exit and then seek to re-enter the graduate funding pool, the following rules will apply:

  • If a student has received an external fellowship /grant award (e.g., NSF, AAUW, Fulbright), that student will be entitled to up to one year of credit toward the five-year funding maximum.
  • If the student has accepted a position/award at the University of Connecticut (e.g., Human Rights, Women’s Studies, ITL, FYE, Journals, UCHI/CLAS Fellowships, GAships within and outside of POLS, serving as the instructor of record at a branch campus), those UCONN-funded years will count toward the five-year funding maximum.
  • If a student takes a leave of absence other than FMLA, that student will need to reapply for funding by submitting an “Application for Support” form during the spring semester before he or she intends to re-enter the program.
  • Newly admitted students are entitled to defer their admission for one year. Deferring admission does not apply to funding offers, however. Students who are admitted with funding but decide to defer will therefore need to reapply to the program by the December 15 application deadline in order to be reconsidered for funding.

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Professional Development

  • The bookcase in OAK 438 offers eloquent testimony to the accomplishments and professional standing of many of our alumni and alumnae. Our job placements in the past few years have included positions at Baylor University, Centre College, Clark University, Georgia College & State University, Harvard University, Kennesaw State University, North Carolina State University, Northern Iowa University, University of Dayton, University of Hartford, University of Massachusetts, University of South Dakota, and Wittenberg University among others. (See the departmental website ( for a full listing of where our Ph.D.’s are now.)
  • Because presentation of papers at professional meetings and publications in top journals are the best way to gain credentials in the academic marketplace, we value and encourage research of our graduate students, many of whom present papers and publish even before they take their Ph.D. Exams. The department and Graduate School often have modest funds available to defray student expenses in connection with travel to conferences. Graduate students are also strongly encouraged to attend University and departmental colloquia as an essential part of their professional development.
  • Students should also note that the department awards several named fellowships to outstanding graduate students in specialized areas. See the Graduate School Catalog for a list of these awards ( Once Ph.D. students have passed their general exams and have a dissertation proposal accepted by the Graduate School, they are eligible to apply for the University’s Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship of $2,000, as well as $500 for non-routine expenses. In addition, students researching their dissertations are encouraged to apply for outside financial assistance. Several Political Science students have won Fulbright, NEH, NSF, and other fellowships in national and international competitions. The department also awards merit-based financial aid in the form of assistantships and pre-doctoral fellowships for which students must apply each year.

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The department maintains an email listserv for Political Science graduate students. All students should assure that Christine Lounsbury (, the Graduate Coordinator, has their current email addresses (as well as phone numbers and home addresses) since most general notices to graduate students will be distributed this way. Graduate student information will also be posted on the department website ( Students should check the website regularly to remain aware of requirements and departmental activities and news, such as brown bag talks, visiting scholar lectures, alumni news, and other matters.

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Graduate Political Science Association

Graduate students in Political Science have their own organization, the PSGSA. Its goals include providing a forum for graduate students to discuss their mutual interests and concerns; sustaining an official structure to represent and advocate for Political Science graduate student interests; and conducting activities that promote the scholarly, professional, and social development of Political Science graduate students. Graduate students may also serve on departmental committees, job search committees, and the university-wide Graduate Student Senate.

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