Graduate Program Guide

Policies and Procedures, 2022-2023

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.

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

1. Orientation & Advising

The Department holds an annual orientation session for incoming graduate students immediately prior to the start of their first fall semester.

The orientation will be planned and carried out in close coordination with the Political Science Graduate Students’ Association (PSGSA).

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, assigns a major advisor to the student.

All graduate students should meet with their major advisors at least once each semester to discuss matters relevant to their progress in the program. However, more frequent meetings are encouraged.

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 or well-being of a graduate student, the DGS will convey this to the major advisor who will relay the information to their student.

Student may and regularly do change the major advisor that they are initially assigned. To do so, they only need to complete the Change of Graduate Major Advisor Form on the Registrar's Office website and demonstrate approval by the new major advisor and the DGS.

The student, in consultation with their major advisor, will select members of a dissertation committee no later than the semester in which they complete their first Ph.D. exam.

2. Course Requirements

The Ph.D. program involves two distinct stages. First, doctoral students prepare for their Ph.D. exams in two subfields (American politics, comparative politics, international relations, political theory, or public law) of political science.

All doctoral candidates must take the POLS methods sequence:

  • POLS 5600. Nature of Political Inquiry (Fall Semester, 1st year)
  • POLS 5605. Seminar in Quantitative Methods (Spring Semester, 1st year)
  • POLS 5615. Seminar in Qualitative Methods (Fall Semester, 2nd year)
  • One Advanced Methods Course (to be determined in consultation with the student’s major advisor and often 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, they should petition the Graduate Affairs Committee with a clear demonstration of their major advisor’s support for a waiver. Even then, the first three methods courses must be completed by the end of the student’s second year.

Subfield course requirements vary. Visit the Ph.D. in Political Science page for specific subfield requirements.

For all five subfields, only the subfield committee can waive a subfield requirement or approve substitutes for required courses.

Please note that all UConn doctoral candidates must complete 15 credits of dissertation research in order to earn their degree.  It is best to enroll for these credits (GRAD 6950) while students are funded and thus eligible for tuition waivers. Therefore, we urge you to enroll in GRAD 6950-003 in your first, second, third, fourth, and fifth semesters. The student and major advisor should together determine what the student must do to merit the required grade of “Pass.”

To complete the coursework required for your Ph.D. exams in four semesters, we recommend that each semester you register for one methods course, one course in each of your subfields, and three credits of GRAD 6950. You may continue to take courses after your fourth semester, especially if you are earning one of UConn’s many graduate certificates, but it is not mandatory that you do so. However, to maintain your GA-ship, you must be registered for at least 6-credits.  All six of these may be GRAD 6950.

Grades of Incomplete: In order to remain eligible for funding, students must complete and submit all work for any grade of I by the end of the semester following receipt of that 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 for more than one semester. Students are not eligible to take Ph.D. exams until all outstanding I’s have been resolved.

3. Examinations

Although students earn a MA in POLS from UConn by passing their first Ph.D. exam, they must successfully pass Ph.D. exams in two subfields to continue on in the Ph.D. program. Students are required to take both written subfield exams in the first semester of their third year of study. Any exceptions must be approved by Graduate Affairs.

View a list of subfields and exam requirements.

Students planning to take August exams must notify the Graduate Coordinator, Christine Luberto, by mid-March. Those planning to take them in January must notify Christine Luberto by mid-October. Students who need special accommodations arranged through the Center for Students with Disabilities should alert the DGS at the beginning of the semester prior to taking the exam.

In order to take Ph.D. exams, graduate students must submit a Two Exam Field Option Check List. Once submitted, the form requires approval from your major advisor, the chairs of your two subfields, and the director of graduate studies at least one month prior to the date of the exam. No examination for the Ph.D. will be scheduled without explicit approval from the major advisor and relevant subfield heads. The major advisor and DGS may approve completing the fourth, elective methods course after taking the first Ph.D. exam.

Before taking your Ph.D. exams, you must also file a plan of study with the Graduate School.  You can later make modifications to this plan if you need to.

By April and November respectively, Christine Luberto will post the list of students taking Ph.D. exams. Subfields will appoint exam committees for each semester consisting of three of their graduate faculty members. These committees evaluate their subfield’s Ph.D. exam.

Examinations are scheduled for the 2nd and 3rd weeks of August and January. Any exceptions must be approved by the Department Head and DGS.

The purpose of the Ph.D. exams is to demonstrate literacy in broad subfields, not just the content of specific, individual courses. Many students, therefore, consult with subfield faculty when preparing for their examinations. Examiners seek evidence 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 essay dealing with all of the aforementioned elements. All external sources must be carefully cited.

Exams given by the American politics, comparative politics, and public law subfields 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.

Each exam in the areas of American Politics, comparative politics, and public law is evaluated by the respective subfield exam committee. Each member of the committee comments on the strengths and weaknesses of each essay, assigning it a score from 0 (lowest) to 3 (highest). These scores are 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.

The exams administered by the international relations and political theory subfields require preparation and submission of a sole-authored research article and/or an annotated graduate-level syllabus. The deadline for submission in August and in January will be determined and announced by the Graduate Coordinator.

Ph.D. exam evaluations are compiled by the relevant subfield chair and reported, in writing, to the DGS in the third or fourth weeks of the semester. The DGS communicates the evaluation of the written examination to the student, providing them with all written comments.

Most subfields require that an oral exam be a component of the Ph.D. exam. When this is the case, the oral portion of the exam will be administered in the fourth or fifth week of the semester. Students may bring notes to the oral exam; printed notes (rather than those stored on a computer) are acceptable. When a student has clearly failed the written portion of the exam, an oral exam is not required.

Failed examinations in each subfield may be repeated once.

When students are found to have engaged in academic misconduct, Graduate Affairs (in consultation with the student’s major advisor) will determine whether the student will be expelled from the Ph.D. program in POLS. Graduate Affairs will also determine whether the consequence will take effect immediately or at the end of the semester.  

When students are found to have engaged in academic misconduct on their second attempt at a Ph.D. exam, they receive an automatic grade of fail and will be dismissed from the Ph.D. program.

4. Prospectus and Dissertation

After passing both subfield Ph.D. exams, students devote themselves to preparing a prospectus. Students should aim to defend their prospectus within six months of passing their second exam. In order to remain eligible for funding, students must defend their prospectus no later than the end of the 3rd year of study (end of the 6th semester in the program). Students who miss the deadline due to some extraordinary circumstance may petition the Graduate Affairs Committee to be reconsidered for future funding.

Upon the successful defense of the prospectus, the student focuses on their dissertation research and writing. When the student, major advisor, and dissertation committee have determined that the dissertation is ready to be passed, they schedule a public defense. The defense must be announced two weeks before it takes place.

POLS 5630 is a required writing course for students working on their prospectus and an elective course for those working on their dissertation.

5. Course Sequence and a Suggested Plan of Study
Year of Study Fall Spring
1st Year 1st Semester

1)     POLS 5600. Nature of Political Inquiry

2)     Primary Major field (e.g. theory)

3)     Secondary field (e.g. comparative)

4)     GRAD 6950

2nd Semester

1)     POLS 5605. Intro to Quantitative Methods

2)     Primary Major field (e.g. theory)

3)     Secondary field (e.g. comparative)

4)     GRAD 6950

2nd Year 3rd  Semester

1)     POLS 5615. Intro to Qualitative Methods

2)     Primary Major field (e.g. theory)

3)     Secondary field (e.g. comparative)

4)     GRAD 6950

4th  Semester

1)     Methods course (in consultation w/ advisor)

2)     Primary Major field (e.g. theory)

3)     Secondary field (e.g. comparative)

4)     GRAD 6950

3rd Year Both Comprehensive Exams

1)     Independent study on the dissertation topic

2)     GRAD 6950

Prepare and Defend Dissertation Prospectus

1)     POLS 5630. Prospectus/Dissertation Writing Class

2)     GRAD 6950

4th Year Dissertation

1)     POLS 5630. Prospectus/Dissertation Writing Class

2)     GRAD 6950


1)     POLS 5630. Prospectus/Dissertation Writing Class

2)     GRAD 6950

5th Year Dissertation

1)     POLS 5630. Prospectus/Dissertation Writing Class

2)     GRAD 6950

Defend Dissertation by May

1)     POLS 5630. Prospectus/Dissertation Writing Class

2)     GRAD 6950


6. Methods Sequence
  • Semester 1: Nature of Political Inquiry
  • Semester 2: Quantitative Methods
  • Semester 3: Qualitative Methods
  • Semester 4: Additional Methods course chosen in consultation with your advisor

Graduate Teaching and Research Assistantships

The majority of POLS Ph.D. students work as Graduate Assistantships (GAs) for the department. While GA duties may involve teaching discussion sections once a week for the large introductory lecture courses, most GAs work with faculty by helping to grade, keeping attendance, and assisting with audio-visual, library, and other course-related matters. Once students have completed their first Ph.D. exam, they usually teach their own courses at one of UConn regional campuses and occasionally in Storrs. These courses usually occur during the regular semesters and occasionally during the summer.

All GAs are strongly encouraged to participate in programs sponsored by the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL) that focus on developing their teaching skills.

International graduate assistants who did not pass the TOEFL with a score of 27 or higher in all four sections must pass SPEAK and TEACH tests administered by International Student and Scholar Services, before they can become classroom instructors.

Faculty-Graduate Assistant Guidelines

Graduate Assistants’ (GA’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.

GAs should not have to buy books; the faculty/instructor should obtain desk copies of all required reading for the GA.

GAs 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 GA. If they decide that the GA must attend lectures and complete readings, the time required to do so must be included in the tally of the number of hours worked each week.

Except possibly in cases of GAs teaching their own sections, the faculty/instructor has responsibility for preparing exam questions and working with the GAs 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 GA and accept blame for any grading errors.

GAs 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 they decide that the GA must hold regular office hours, the time required to do so must be included in the total number of hours worked each week.

GAs who seek to develop experience lecturing to a large class should consult with the faculty/instructor early in the course; ordinarily, GAs are not expected to lecture.

Faculty should be professional mentors to their GAs: those faculty who have GAs teaching sections should spend sufficient time advising them about the materials to be covered in sections, effective teaching techniques, grading, etc.

Faculty who have GAs teaching sections are responsible for ensuring that the teaching performance of their GAs is evaluated.

GAs are not permitted to date students in their classes nor are faculty permitted to date students they are supervising.

GAs 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 the Office of Community Standards website for more information).

If issues or conflicts arise regarding these guidelines, GAs and faculty should attempt to resolve them. The DGS is available for consultation, if necessary.

Funding Guidelines

Graduate students are awarded funding on a yearly basis. Funded students making good progress in the program will be funded by POLS for up to five years, pending state funding.

During the spring semester, continuing students who wish to be considered for merit-based financial aid (GA-ships) for the following academic year must fill out an Application for Support of Graduate Study.

If a student receives an external fellowship /grant award (e.g., NSF, AAUW, Fulbright) during their five years of funded study, that student is entitled to up to one year of credit toward the five-year funding maximum. This rule does not apply to students admitted with an external fellowship/grant award.

If a student accepts a GA-ship outside of POLS but still at UConn (e.g., at Dodd or the Human Rights Institute, in WGSS, at the ITL, or at one of the Learning Centers), 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 they intend to re-enter the program.

Students are also encouraged to seek external sources of funding, especially in the dissertation phase.

Professional Development

For MA and Ph.D. students who are seeking employment as professors, the Graduate Placement Officer is available as a resource to graduate students who are preparing for or are actively on the job market. The Placement Officer will work with PSGSA to offer professionalization mentoring focused on preparing CVs, research and teaching statements and cover letters, as well as organizing practice job talks.

For students seeking to explore career options outside of the academy, the department offers POLS 5625 every two years.  It explores the range of employment trajectories of the department’s alumni, enabling you to consider the potential fit of each for you.

Whether you are seeking work in or beyond the academy, the Center for Career Development is a tremendous resource for helping you to develop and enhance necessary qualifications during your academic program.

If you are pursuing employment as a professor, you may seek out the help of the Graduate Placement Officer. The Graduate Placement Officer is available as a resource to graduate students who are preparing for or are active on the job market. The Placement Officer will work with PSGSA to offer professionalization mentoring focused on preparing CVs, research and teaching statements and cover letters, as well as organizing practice job talks.

Because the presentation of papers at professional meetings and publications 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 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.

We have also collected a large sample of job application materials, including cover letters, CVs, and statements of research, teaching, and diversity, from faculty members in our department and recent graduates.  These are stored in a Google Drive file.  Please let the DGS know if you would like access to them.


The department maintains an email listserv for POLS graduate students. All students should be sure that Christine Luberto 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.

Political Science Graduate Student Association (PSGSA)

Graduate students in political science have their own organization. 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. One PSGSA officer serves on the Ph.D. Admissions committee and another participates on the Graduate Affairs Committee. Graduate students may also serve on the university-wide Graduate Student Senate.