Programs of Study

Requirements, Options, and Courses for Graduate Students

Programs and Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science

Our doctoral program prepares students to do innovative research and teaching in institutions of higher education. It also prepares them for careers in government and with a range of non-governmental organizations and research foundations.

The 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. Our subfields currently include:

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Political Theory
  • Public Law

See below for more information about these subfields and requirements.

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.

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

View the Graduate Program Guide for current students.

Subfields and Course Requirements

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, and
  • 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.

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

In preparing for the Ph.D. exam in comparative politics, students must successfully complete the following four courses that are offered under either POLS 5240: Research Seminars in Comparative Politics or POLS 5010: Investigation of Special Topics in Political Science:

  • Contentious Politics and Collective Action
  • Institutions
  • Political Economy and Development
  • Regime Types

Students are also strongly encouraged to do an independent study on a topic related to their dissertation research and to work with a faculty member who has expertise in the area. Depending on the thesis topic, students may be encouraged to seek additional research training in quantitative or qualitative methods beyond the minimum methods requirements and also foreign language study. In addition, obtaining field experience, either during the period of graduate study or in the course of dissertation research is strongly encouraged.

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 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.
  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

Fifth-Year Master of Arts in Political Science

The Fifth-Year Master of Arts in Political Science is available to current UConn undergraduate students who wish to get a jump start on their graduate education and complete a master’s degree with one additional year of graduate course work following their senior year.

Undergraduates enrolled in this program can take at least one graduate course per semester of their senior year. Courses can be chosen from the program’s required or elective options. Twelve credits can be counted toward both the student’s BA and MA plans of study.

View a full list of courses and requirements.

Master of Arts in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics

This Master of Arts program offers students the chance to critically explore the historical and structural factors behind race, ethnicity, and politics in ways that can inform their work, their practice, and their worldview. 

The program requires a minimum of 30 credits. At least two, but no more than three, of the REP electives must be taken in POLS.  At least one of the four elective courses must have a U.S. focus while at least one must be global in scope. Students are required to maintain an overall GPA of B or higher.

Students are also required to participate in reading group sessions each year they are enrolled in the program. They also must participate in one state, regional, or national conference, sharing research undertaken in their courses. MA students can elect to undertake a traditional research paper in or projects related to their larger career goals and trajectory.

View the full program requirements and sample plans of study. 

Graduate Certificate in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics

The Graduate Certificate in Race, Ethnicity, and Politics is available to students already admitted to and enrolled in a graduate program at UConn. Students are required to complete a total of four pre-approved 3-credit courses with significant race, ethnicity, and politics (REP) content, earning a grade of B or higher in each.

In addition, all students enrolled in the certificate program are expected to participate in one reading group session each year in which all core POLS faculty and enrolled students will read and discuss one non-course book determined to be of relevance to REP. REP Graduate Certificate students must also participate in one conference each year, sharing research undertaken in one of their REP courses.

View a full list of requirements and courses on the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics Graduate Certificate website.


Course Graduate Options

Fall 2020

5000. Independent Study in Political Science

1.00 - 6.00 credits | May be repeated for a total of 24 credits.

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

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5010. Investigation of Special Topics in Political Science

3.00 credits | May be repeated for a total of 24 credits.

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

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5105. Political Theory

3.00 credits | May be repeated for a total of 12 credits.

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

Historical and conceptual analysis of selected political ideas such as justice, liberty, rights, political obligation, or the state; including an examination of one or more major schools or bodies of political thought from ancient to contemporary times.

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5330. International Organization and Law

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

International cooperation to resolve economic, social, and political transnational problems.

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5600. Nature of Political Inquiry

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

The scope of political science, modes of inquiry, the role of concepts and theory. Graduate students are urged to take the course in their first semester.

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5615. Seminar in Qualitative Methods of Political Science

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: Prerequisites: POLS 5600 and 5605 (RG4858)

Grading Basis: Graded

A survey of qualitative research methods. Training in use of case studies, comparative historical approach, interviewing and focus groups, ethnography and interpretive methods.

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5630. Prospectus and Dissertation Writing Seminar

1.00 credits | May be repeated for a total of 10 credits.

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory

Writing workshop facilitates prospectus and dissertation writing.

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5710. Political Science Fiction

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: Prerequisite: Not open for credit to students who have passed POLS 3710.

Grading Basis: Graded

International relations theory and speculative fiction as interpretations and interrogations of war, peace, politics, knowledge, and imagination.

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Spring 2021

5010. Investigation of Special Topics in Political Science

3.00 credits | May be repeated for a total of 24 credits.

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

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5100. Proseminar in Political Theory

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

Historical survey and analysis of fundamental concepts in political theory.

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5240. Research Seminar in Comparative Politics

3.00 credits | May be repeated for a total of 24 credits.

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

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5340. Politics and Security in the Middle East

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

Examination of security issues in the Middle East and the responses of regional actors and external powers.

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5407. American Political Institutions and Policy

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

The institutions and policy-making process of American government.

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5605. Seminar in Quantitative Methods of Political Science

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

Introduction to the data analysis techniques most often used by political scientists. Requires no previous background in statistics.

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5625. Political Science Professional Development

3.00 credits

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Graded

Exploration of careers that involve researching and thinking about politics. Required for 5th Year M.A. students. Does not fulfill Methods or Subfield course requirements for POLS Ph.D. students.

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5630. Prospectus and Dissertation Writing Seminar

3.00 credits | May be repeated for a total of 10 credits.

Prerequisites: None.

Grading Basis: Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory

Writing workshop facilitates prospectus and dissertation writing.

View Classes »

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