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    Nov 28, 2022  
American University Catalog 2022-2023 
    
American University Catalog 2022-2023

Political Science (PhD)


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Offered by the Department of Government , School of Public Affairs .

Admission to the Program


Applicants are considered and admitted for the fall semester only. January 1 is the deadline for application for admission. All applicants must submit scores from the verbal and quantitative sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). The normal minimum for consideration is a grade point average of 3.20 (on a 4.00 scale) in all previous academic work. Applicants are admitted for full-time study only.

Degree Requirements


  • 36 credit hours of approved graduate work, exclusive of  /  
  • Minimum 3.20 cumulative GPA is required to remain in good standing and to earn the degree
  • Major Fields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, Political Methodology
  • Advancement to candidacy is accomplished by successfully defending a qualifier paper after the first year, passing written comprehensive examinations in major and secondary fields, and by successfully defending a dissertation prospectus
  • Comprehensive Examination in Major Field: Students, following completion of relevant graduate work, must pass a written comprehensive examination in American politics, comparative politics, or political methodology
  • Comprehensive Examination in Secondary Field:
    • Students in the American politics or comparative politics major fields, following completion of relevant graduate work, must pass a secondary field comprehensive examination from another Department of Government  field, or with written approval from the faculty advisor and department chair, may take a secondary field elsewhere in the School of Public Affairs (SPA) , the School of International Service (SIS) , or in another doctoral degree-granting teaching unit. Under special circumstances, students may take a secondary field outside American University, subject to the approval of the SPA graduate director, in consultation with the department’s faculty advisor for the PhD program. For a secondary field outside of Government, a minimum of 6 credit hours of approved graduate work is required
    • Students in the political methodology major field, following completion of relevant graduate work, must pass a secondary field comprehensive examination in American politics or comparative politics
  • The PhD is fundamentally a degree in preparation for an academic career of research and teaching. Understanding scientific inquiry and correctly using research techniques require extensive preparation. All students in the program take four courses in research methods designed to help doctoral students comprehend the nature of science and master tools of research
  • Each student selects a specialization in which to complete an original research project under the direction of program faculty and write a dissertation. Students may choose research projects within one of the three major fields
    • It is the responsibility of the student to secure the agreement of a Department of Government  full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member to serve as the chair of the dissertation committee. One of the other two members of the committee may be from outside SPA. As part of this process, each student must publicly defend the research proposal before the dissertation committee and other interested faculty
    • The committee and the chair of the department, in consultation with the SPA director of doctoral programs, must approve the research proposal in order for the candidate to advance to candidacy
    • As work on the dissertation project progresses, students register for dissertation credit. Substantive graduate work may be used as part of this requirement where it contributes directly to the research specialization and is specifically recommended by the dissertation committee chair
    • Upon writing the dissertation, the candidate submits the manuscript to the dissertation committee for review. If the committee members approve the dissertation, the candidate must complete an oral defense of it, including demonstrable mastery of related literature on the general field in which it lies before the committee and other interested faculty. After hearing the candidate’s defense, the committee decides whether the dissertation is acceptable as the culminating work of the student’s doctoral career
    • The dissertation must consist of high quality original research directly relevant to the student’s doctoral program. A dissertation proposal may be rejected if the topic does not address a major research issue in political science, the research design is inadequate, the methodology is inappropriate, or because no full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty member in the Department of Government  is academically competent or available to supervise the project. If the candidate fails to maintain satisfactory progress toward completion of the dissertation, his or her candidacy may be terminated

Course Requirements


Methodology (12 credit hours)


Additional Methodology


Complete 6 credit hours from the following, or other approved methodology coursework, including graduate-level foreign language coursework:

Major Field (12 credit hours)


Complete one of the following major fields:

American Politics


Comparative Politics


Political Methodology


Electives (6 credit hours)


  • 6 credit hours of coursework selected in consultation with the department

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