Ph.D. in Political Science

Gain advanced training and experience with a Ph.D. in Political Science from UConn.

The UConn Ph.D. program in political science prepares students to do innovative research and teaching at institutions of higher education. It also prepares them for careers in government, as well as a range of non-governmental organizations and research foundations.

Our Ph.D. students work closely with faculty in their classes and through research collaboration. Many students conduct their own research with guidance from faculty mentors, resulting in publications in some of the top journals in the field.

Ph.D. Subfields

Ph.D. students can specialize in one of several diverse subfields:

  • American politics.
  • Comparative politics.
  • International relations.
  • Political theory.
  • Public law.

Requirements and Options

The Ph.D. program includes two stages. In the first stage, students do course work to develop expertise in two chosen subfields in which they will take Ph.D. exams.

Once the student has completed their scope, method, and elective requirements and successfully passed the Ph.D. exams, they become ABD (or all but dissertation). At this stage, students form a dissertation committee and work with their committee to prepare a dissertation proposal outlining an original research project. When this project is complete, they defend the dissertation.

Students are required to take Ph.D. exams in two of the Department’s five subfields. In order to take the Ph.D. exam in a field, students must have completed the course requirements outlined below.

In addition, all doctoral candidates must take:

  • POLS 5600. Nature of Political Inquiry.
  • POLS 5605. Introduction to Quantitative Methods.
  • POLS 5615. Introduction to Qualitative Methods.
  • One advanced methods elective.

Finally, all Ph.D. students must enroll in GRAD 6950-003 in their first, second, third, and fourth semesters. To receive the grade of “Pass,” they must attend four scholarly presentations in the relevant semester. The student and major advisor should together determine which presentations to attend and what will constitute sufficient evidence of having attended.

Subfield Requirements

American Politics

In preparing for the Ph.D. Exam in American politics, students must successfully complete the following courses:

  • POLS 5406. Seminar in the American Political System
  • POLS 5407. Advanced Topics in American Political Institutions and Policy
  • POLS 5408. Advanced Topics in American Political Behavior
  • POLS 5409. Advanced Topics in American Race, Gender and Ethnic Politics

Comparative Politics

Students should take four courses in POLS 5240:

  • Regime Types
  • Political Institutions
  • Comparative Political Economy
  • Contentious Politics

International Relations

In preparing for the Ph.D. exam in international relations, students must successfully complete POLS 5300: Pro-seminar in International Relations and at least three other courses from the following list:

  • POLS 5115. Theories of Human Rights
  • POLS 5305. Foreign Policy Analysis
  • POLS 5315. International Security
  • POLS 5320. International Conflict and Cooperation
  • POLS 5322. Assessing Human Security
  • POLS 5325. International Political Economy
  • POLS 5330. International Organization and Law
  • POLS 5335. US Foreign Policy in the Middle East
  • POLS 5340. Politics and Security in the Middle East
  • POLS 5345. Foreign Policies of the Russian Federation and the Former USSR
  • POLS 5390. Economic Rights
  • A special topics course approved by the IR Field Committee (some prior examples include Special Topics in Human Rights, Feminist Political Methodologies, East Asian Political Economy, Africana Dialogues, and European Approaches to International Relations)

No more than two of the four required courses may be taken with a single international relations faculty member.

International Relations Subfield Comprehensive Exam Policy

In consultation with their faculty advisor, students who take the Ph.D. exam in international relations will choose one of the following options:

  1. Write a sole-authored research paper that meets at least a “revise and resubmit” peer- review standard. The paper can be a revision of a paper written for a seminar, conference, etc. The length of the paper is to be between 8,000 and 12,000 words, all-inclusive. The paper should build toward the student’s dissertation. The student will identify a journal for which it will be targeted and are required to note this choice on the manuscript’s title page. The format/style of the submission will be determined by the standards of the target journal. No actual submission to a journal is required. A three-member faculty committee will read and grade the paper, with the committee issuing a single rating of “Reject,” “Revise and Resubmit,” or “Accept.” A grade of “pass” for the exam requires a rating of either “Revise and Resubmit” or “Accept.” A grade of “Reject” is considered a failing grade for the exam.  At the discretion of the faculty committee, this option may include an oral defense of the paper with a three-member faculty committee.
  2. Write an annotated graduate-level syllabus for a 13-week course that introduces students to the field of international relations. This option also requires an oral defense of the syllabus with a three-member faculty committee. The syllabus may be theoretical or thematic in the type of overview of the field provided, with the understanding that theory is one of the major themes of international relations. Students will consult with their faculty advisor regarding which of these two types of syllabi to write. The syllabus must contain specified assignments which are justified relative to course goals and content. For each of the course’s 13 weeks, the syllabus must include: (i) a detailed reading list, and (ii) a fully realized description of the week’s pedagogical goals and content (e.g., How do these readings fit together in their address of the week’s theme/goals?” “How are these readings justified, pedagogically?” “How do these readings address the relevant disciplinary terrain?”).

Political theory

Prior to taking the Ph.D. exam in political theory, students must successfully complete at least four graduate courses in political theory, including POLS 5100: Pro-seminar in Political Theory. We strongly encourage students to take additional coursework with a strong theoretical component.

Some recently offered graduate seminars in political theory include:

  • Critical Theory
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Theories of Human Rights
  • Comparative Political Theory
  • Women Political Thinkers
  • Emotions and Politics
  • Public Reason and Deliberation
  • Black Feminist Theory and Politics
Political Theory Subfield Comprehensive Exam Policy

Field Designation and Exam Structure
Students must pass four political theory courses with a grade of B or higher and with a grade point average of 3.5 or higher in those courses before taking the exam.
In consultation with their faculty advisor, and with the approval of the political theory subfield, students will designate if political theory will be a Field of Specialization (FOS) or a Field of Competence (FOC) for their PhD studies.

Field of Specialization (FOS)

  • The exam for those who designate political theory as an FOS will comprise both the research paper and the annotated syllabus. They must pass both components to pass the Ph.D. exam. If they do not pass a single component at their first attempt, they will only retake that component during their second attempt. If they fail either component twice, they fail the exam.
  • Those who designate political theory as an FOS must take a fifth course with significant political theory content, either graded or as an audit, prior to defending their dissertation.

Field of Competence (FOC)
The exam for those who designate political theory as an FOC will comprise the annotated syllabus. If they do not pass at their first attempt, they may only attempt the exam a second time. If they fail at their second attempt, they fail the exam.
Research Paper:

  • The student will submit a single-authored research paper of between 8,000 and 12,000 words all-inclusive, which may be based upon a previously written, unpublished paper.
  • They will identify a target journal for the paper and must note this choice on the manuscript’s title page. The format and style of the submission must meet the standards of the target journal, with the possible exception of the previously-stated word-length requirement. The student does not need to submit the paper to any journal.
  • A three-member faculty committee will read the paper and each member will issue a single rating of “Accept,” “Revise and Resubmit,” or “Reject.” Two or more ratings of “Accept” will result in a grade of “pass with distinction” for the exam. Two or more ratings of “Revise and Resubmit” or better will result in a grade of “pass” for the exam. Two or more ratings of “Reject” will result in a grade of “fail” for the exam. Each committee member will provide written feedback to the student.

Annotated Syllabus:

  • The student will submit an annotated syllabus for a 14-week, first-year, graduate-level course that introduces students to the field of political theory.
  • This should cover a broad range of historical political thinkers and a variety of different approaches to and themes in political theory. The student must include a clear, written defense of their choices regarding the overall structure of the syllabus, including why figures, texts, and themes covered are indispensable to orienting students to the field of political theory. Students should consult the Highly Recommended and Recommended sources from the Political Theory subfield Ph.D. reading list in constructing their syllabus.
  • The syllabus must contain a statement of the overall pedagogical goals of the course and a list of specific assignments with clear justifications for how they help achieve those goals.
  • For each week, the syllabus must include:
    • a complete description of that week’s topics or themes, connecting them, as appropriate, with themes from weeks that precede and follow it, and specific pedagogical goals,
    • a detailed reading list, including annotations, for each reading; the annotations should be between 100 and 150 words for each article or group of two or fewer chapters from a book and 200 to 250 words for each book or group of three or more chapters from a book.
  • A three-member faculty committee will read the syllabus and provide written feedback to the student. If the committee deems the syllabus as not possibly passing based upon the overall quality of the written syllabus, it will assign the student a grade of “fail” for the exam. If the committee deems the syllabus as possibly passing, the student must subsequently participate in an oral defense of the syllabus with the committee. At the end of the oral defense, the committee will assign the student a grade of “pass with distinction,” “pass,” or “fail” based upon the overall quality of the written syllabus and the oral defense.

Public Law

In preparing for the Ph.D. Exam in public law, students must successfully complete all three of the following courses:

  • POLS 5505. Law and Society
  • POLS 5510. Judicial Decision-making
  • POLS 5515. Constitutional Interpretation

And at least one of the following:

  • POLS 5010. Law and Social Change
  • POLS 5010. Seminar in Legal Theory/Jurisprudence

View the full requirements on the UConn Graduate Catalog's website.


Applicants for the Ph.D. program in political science must apply to and be accepted by both the UConn Graduate School and the Department of Political Science. Applicants must apply online via the UConn Graduate School website.

All application materials, including supporting documents, must be received by January 15. Applications will not be processed until the application fee is paid. The Graduate School can, when a genuine need is demonstrated, extend fee waivers. Applicants must meet a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Required Application Materials

The Department of Political Science is unable to consider applications until the requirements of the Graduate School have been fulfilled. In addition to the Graduate School materials:

  • The Department of Political Science requires a personal statement, writing sample, and three letters of recommendation. The Department also recommends (but does not require) students submit the test scores from the verbal and quantitative sections of the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).
  • The personal statement should indicate that you understand what undertaking a Ph.D. in political science involves, that you have relevant preparation for it, and that UConn’s program will enable you to work effectively toward your aims.
  • Applicants without a master’s degree should apply directly to the Ph.D. program.
  • Your writing sample should be a substantial piece of written work that demonstrates your ability to communicate effectively and to engage in sophisticated critical reasoning with materials and on themes related to the study of politics.
  • Your letter writers should be sure that they will be able to submit their recommendations for you by the January 15th deadline and that they can write with considerable detail about your intellectual experience and talent and suitability to a doctoral program. There is no form for letters of recommendation, but they should appear on letterhead with complete contact information for the person writing the letter.
  • Letter writers will receive an email asking them to upload your letter to the graduate application website.

International applicants must submit transcripts and degree statements both in the original language and an official English translation. Additionally, international applicants from countries where the official language is not English, or who have not received a degree from an institution where the language of instruction is English, must submit the results of the TOEFL examination to the Graduate Admissions Office:

Graduate School, University of Connecticut
438 Whitney Road Ext., Unit 1152
Storrs, CT 06269-1152
Phone: (860) 486-3617

Application Deadline:

January 15

Learn more about financial aid for Ph.D. students.

Contact Us

For questions about the Ph.D. in Political Science, please contact:

Christine Luberto

Graduate Coordinator, Department of Political Science