There are several requirements that must be fulfilled in the course of study toward a Ph.D. degree. Summarized, these are:
- 8 quarters minimum of full-time coursework (18 courses)
- 2 required courses in statistics (Political Theory majors exempt)
- Successful completion of a Research Paper in either the first or second year
- Successful completion of departmental Qualifying Examination in a first field, taken no later than the fall of the third year
- Successful completion of course requirements for a second field
- Acceptance of dissertation proposal no later than the fall of the fourth year
- Successful defense of dissertation
First and Second Year
All students ordinarily are required to enroll for a full time course load of three courses per quarter. Usually these courses will be selected from among the graduate 400 level offerings of the department. In consultation with their advisor, students may also take courses in Social Sciences and Humanities Departments or programs, the Program of African Studies, Buffett Institute, Ph.D. certificate courses, or relevant courses offered by the Kellogg Graduate School of Management and the Law School. Students may benefit from taking a fourth course, particularly in languages or methods. Such a fourth course may often be taken Pass/No Pass. All other courses must be taken for a grade.
Generally, students will take core courses in their first and second fields.
Required Statistics Courses
All students, except Political Theory students, must take Introduction to Probability and Statistics (PS 403) and Linear Models (PS 405). These required courses are usually completed in the first year of studies. However, students may elect to take some or all during their second year, and should consult with their advisor about the best options for completion of this requirement given their overall program of studies. Students who wish to be exempted from these classes on the basis of equivalent training prior to coming to Northwestern must have written permission from the instructor of the course.
Research Paper Requirement
The Research Paper is expected to be a substantial scholarly paper demonstrating the student's ability to analyze a significant problem in the format of a journal article. It should be 30 to 60 pages in length. Frequently though not always, such papers will be an elaboration or deepening of a paper that a student has written in the context of a seminar.
Students choose a topic in consultation with two faculty members who will then serve as advisors for the paper. Under normal circumstances, the primary advisor will be a member of the Political Science faculty. In exceptional circumstances, the student may petition the chair to have a primary advisor from outside the department, but in any event one of the two advisors must be from the Political Science department.
Third Year Requirements
In the third year, students generally begin to reduce their course load and concentrate on research. Students also prepare a proposal for doctoral research. Typically, students form a dissertation committee and defend the thesis proposal by the end of their third year.
During the third year, students take a qualifying examination in their first field.
The qualifying (preliminary) examination is offered once per year, in the Fall quarter.
Students must have completed all their coursework (18 courses), cleared all incompletes, completes course requirements for their second field, and fulfilled the research paper requirement before taking their qualifying examination.
Students must take a written examination in their first field. The individual subfields, under the direction of the Field Chairs, will be responsible for writing the exams and for establishing the rules governing their administration.
Qualifying exams must be taken in the third year. If students have not passed their exams by the end of the third year they will be considered as not making satisfactory academic progress by the department and risk ineligibility for continuation in the program.
Beyond Third Year
In consultation with their dissertation committee, students are working full-time on their thesis. The goal is to prepare a completed thesis chapter that can be used as a sign of scholarly promise when applying for academic research and teaching positions.