Graduate Student Guide: The Doctoral Program

The doctoral program requires that a student gain competence and complete the coursework in three fields before sitting for the comprehensive examination . The comprehensive exam involves taking a written exam in each of the three fields presented for the degree (with the exception of the Political Methodology field) followed by an oral examination by the Supervisory Committee. Within two quarters of successfully completing the comprehensive exam, the student shall write and orally defend the dissertation prospectus before the full doctoral Supervisory Committee (including the GSR); this constitutes the General Examination that determines advancement to candidacy. Following the General Examination, the PH.C. student focuses on researching and writing the dissertation. Once the student's committee has read and accepted a full draft of the dissertation, a request for final examination is submitted to the Graduate School and a final exam is scheduled for the defense of the dissertation.


A student who received an MA from this department at some point in the past but did not proceed on to the PhD program must re-apply to the department as well as to the Graduate School for admission to the doctoral program. (This applies only to students who received a recommendation of continued study toward the PhD at the Master's Examination.) The student's application must be accompanied by a written recommendation from a member of the department's faculty who agrees to serve as the Chair of the student's doctoral Supervisory Committee. It is the responsibility of the student to contact the prospective Chair. The Admissions Committee, in consultation with the prospective Chair, will act upon the application.  Reinstatement policies of the Graduate school can be found here: 

PhD Residency Requirement

The Graduate School requires a doctoral student to complete a minimum of three academic years of graduate resident study, two of which must be at the UW. Courses must include dissertation credit (27 credits of POL S 800). At least one quarter of dissertation credit must be taken after advancement to candidacy. Graduate School policies can be found here:

Field Requirements

Students must complete the requirements of three fields including minimum of one general field. The two additional fields may be chosen from among the remaining general fields, the list of specialized fields, or a field constructed by the student. Students may have a maximum of one constructed field and must take a minimum of two general field core courses (See “Field Structures” section). A written exam is given for each of the three fields presented (except Political Methodology). An oral examination follows completion of the written exams.

Political Science 600 – Independent Study or Research (1-10 credits)

Pol S 600 is a course used to pursue an independent research project or guided readings in a specific area.

  • Discuss the topic or general area of study with the professor who is the instructor of record for your study. Broadly outline the approved procedures and requirements for the study in the form, Application for Pol S 600 (see below).
  • Discuss how many credits you should earn and if the credits should be graded or if you will register for credit/no credit.
  • 600 A is for graded credit. 600 B is for credit/no credit. Each has a separate SLN – register carefully and for the correct number of credits. 
  • To register:
    • Ask the professor to sign the completed 600 form and then bring it to the Graduate Program Office and receive the instructor code. This is the entry code for registration for the course.
    • Or – submit the completed form to the GPA office and email the GPA asking for the code. CC the professor on this email, and ask her to confirm approval of the independent study. After approval is received the GPA will email the instructor code to you.

Please note: It is departmental policy that 600 courses used to satisfy field course requirements must be approved by the Field Supervisor on your committee or approved by the faculty Field Coordinator if you have not formed a committee.

If counting the credits towards s field requirement the 600 credits must be graded.

Application for Pol S 600 Form 

Course Requirements

Students normally take at least 20 credits of coursework in Political Science or related departments to satisfy requirements for each of the three fields. The exact requirements  are set by the faculty members of each field. Normally, fields may not require more than 20 credit hours of coursework, (exceptions are allowed for necessary language or methodological coursework).

Research/Methodology Requirements for the PhD

All PhD students are required to have completed the full methodology sequence or its equivalent. Refer to the “Research Methods” section of this site.

Doctoral Supervisory Committee and the Comprehensive Written Examination

Establishing the Supervisory Committee

Within two quarters of passing the MA exam, the student should establish his/her doctoral Supervisory Committee. It is the student’s responsibility to obtain the consent of the faculty to serve as committee members and (in consultation with them) to develop a written program of courses representing each field. The committee shall consist of three members and fulfill these requirements:

  • Each member will represent a field as specified above;
  • the Chair and one member must be appointed to the Graduate School’s list of approved graduate faculty;
  • one member (either the Chair or another member) can be adjunct faculty in the Department of Political Science.

Approval by the Graduate Program Coordinator is required if an adjunct faculty member is to be Chair of the committee.
See the Exam checklist below or the Graduate Program Assistant for forms related to establishing the doctoral Supervisory Committee and Exam Reading Fields.

Statement of Exam Responsibilities

The student must meet with his/her faculty field examiners to discuss the content of the written exams for the comprehensive examination . These meetings will include a) discussion of general expectations for exam preparation and performance, and b) provision of Field Reading Lists . At the conclusion of these meetings, the student and faculty examiners will sign a statement, the Written Exam Reading Lists Agreement , indicating their shared understanding regarding the reading lists. This agreement will be given to the Graduate Program Assistant to be placed in the student's academic file. Subsequent alterations or additions to the reading lists by faculty are allowed, but they should be limited in number and specified well in advance ( no later than one quarter prior to the written exam ).

Scheduling the Comprehensive Examination

The department expects graduate students to sit for their comprehensive exams by the end of the tenth (10th) quarter in residence (beginning of the 4th year). Delaying the comprehensive examination beyond that time may be construed as lack of satisfactory progress by the department for financial aid and other purposes. Prior to scheduling the comprehensive examination , all graduate students must request a review of their record to ensure that all department and Graduate School requirements have been fulfilled. The review request is made through the Graduate Program Assistant , no less than four (4) weeks prior to the first written exam. If appropriate the GPA will request that the Graduate Program Coordinator review a student’s record and exam plans so the four weeks lead time is crucial to maintaining the proposed exam schedule.

A student can have no more than three incompletes on his or her transcript at the time of exams. No incompletes are allowed for the courses necessary to fulfill requirements. The student is responsible for coordinating the dates and times of the written exams and oral examination with his/her doctoral Supervisory Committee and submitting the dates and times in writing to the Graduate Program Assistant. The exam schedule and the individual Written Exam Format Agreement forms are due to the Program Assistant at least two weeks prior to the first exam.

Written Exam Format

It is the student's responsibility to schedule meetings with each of his/her field examiners to discuss the written exam format. At this time, the student and field examiners will be asked to sign the Written Exam Format Agreement which specifies the following format variables: location of exam, permitted reference material, exam medium, minimum/maximum page length, number of exam questions and other issues relevant to the exam. Written exams shall last no longer than nine (9) hours over a one day period (approximately 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. or 9:00a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ) There shall be no extra time allowed for “cleaning up” exams. An oral examination covering the written exams, as well as any other topics relevant to the examination fields shall be scheduled no later than eight (8) weeks from the date of the first written exam and normally within the same academic quarter. The student is responsible for scheduling the oral exam with his/her field examiners at the time the written exams are scheduled.


____ You may register for 1-10 credits of POL S 597, Directed Readings, the quarter you sit for your exams.

____ Review the information on Department Comprehensive Exams in the Graduate Student Guide.

____ Complete the Program Worksheet for the PhD Requirements form. Submit to the Graduate Program Assistant at the beginning of the quarter of the exams (see below). 

____ Establish your Doctoral Committee/faculty field examiners. Discuss and finalize the Reading Lists for your exams with each examiner and ask your committee examiners to review and sign the Exam Reading Lists Agreement form.

  • You can email ALL members of your comittee in one email, CC Susanne, and ask them to confim by email that they will serve as your field examiner and that you have agreed on the reading list. Then return the completed form to grad advising office
  • Please remember that if you take the “collective” IR and/or CP and/or PE exams, you must select a committee member or members who will sign-off on each field’s course requirements and represent you at your Oral Exam. The dates of collective exams will be established at the beginning of the quarter.

____ Establish the date and time (8:30 or 9:00am) for any non-collective exam and with the examiner complete the Ph.C. Written Exam Format Agreement form.

____ Establish the date and time of your Oral Exam with your Chair and with other Doctoral Committee members. Discuss the Oral exam with your chair.

  • Reserve a room for the exam at the front office in Gowen 101.

____ Submit any Exam Format Agreement forms, and the date and time of your Oral Exam to the Graduate Program Assistant at least two weeks before the first exam. 

____ The morning of each exam the GPA will email you the questions. You will have nine hours (including an hour break) to complete the exam and return it to both the GPA and your field examiner and others if directed to do so.

____ You do not need to prepare any forms or materials for your Oral Exam unless instructed to do so by your chair.

Grading the Comprehensive Examination

The decision to pass or fail a student depends upon his/her performance in both the written and oral examinations. Each of the three fields will be graded (distinction, pass or fail) by the field supervisor, and the exam (including the oral component) will be assigned an overall grade (distinction, pass, fail) by the entire committee; an overall grade of distinction will require the unanimous approval of the committee. At the close of the exam, the committee shall notify the student of the result. In the event that the student fails in one or more of the three field exams, the committee shall decide whether or not the student will be allowed to take the examination(s) again, and when they will be given. As soon as practical, the committee shall file with the Graduate Program Office an evaluation of the student's written and oral performance for the comprehensive examination . This form will be kept in the student's file in the Graduate Program Office.

Written Exams in International Relations

Written or Field exams in International Relations are given in a different format (check with your field supervisor to learn if they participate).

A student's IR field supervisor organizes the exam (if two or more students with different faculty examiners are scheduled to take the exam, the IR field supervisors will coordinate the organization of the exam). IR faculty submit draft questions and cooperatively write the exams.

The IR exam contains three sections: World Politics/International Organization, International Security, and International Political Economy. There is a choice within each subsection (minimum of two questions). The exam is closed book and closed notes. To see past exams:

Participating IR faculty will read and discuss each exam. The student's IR supervisor determines whether the student has passed the exam.

Written Exams in Comparative Politics

Exams will be administered on dates chosen by the Comparative Field Coordinator (CPC) in consultation with members of the field.

Exams will consist of a series of questions that have been submitted to the CPC by members of the Comparative Politics field.

The exam will be read by a committee of three individuals, one of which is the student's Comparative Politics Supervisor. The faculty supervisor will be the representative during the oral exam. Participating CP faculty will read and discuss each exam. The student's chosen supervisor determines whether the student has passed the exam.

Written Exams in Political Economy

The Political Economy Field Coordinator should be contacted for the PE Exam Reading list. Exams will be administered on a date set by the Field Coordinator and a set of questions will be chosen in consultation with faculty members of the Political Economy field. The student's PE faculty field supervisor will represent the student at the Oral examination at the conclusion of his or her exams.

General Examination (Dissertation Prospectus Defense)

General Examination/Advancement to Candidacy (Ph.C.)

Successful completion of both the comprehensive examination and defense of the dissertation prospectus constitute advancement to candidacy (Ph.C.) for the doctoral student.

Establishing the Doctoral Supervisory Committee and Graduate Student Representative Prior to the General Examination

The Graduate Program Assistant will input the names of the doctoral Supervisory Committee members into the Graduate School mygrad program. The department recommends that the doctoral Supervisory Committee be established within two (2) quarters of completing requirements for the MA. The Graduate School certifies that the faculty named to the student’s supervisory committee are Graduate Faculty. Students are officially admitted to the doctoral program by the Graduate School only after they have officially established their doctoral Supervisory Committee.

Graduate School Representative (GSR)

GSRs are selected by the student in consultation with the committee chair and/or the Graduate Program Coordinator.  All endorsed Graduate Faculty, with the exception of affiliates, are eligible to serve as GSRs.  GSR assignments are unlimited with the exception that faculty are limited to no more than four concurrent appointments within a specific department.

The GSR is a voting member on a doctoral committee whose responsibilities are to:

  • hold an Endorsement to Chair a doctoral supervisory committee;
  • represent the broad concerns of the University with respect to high standards of scholarly performance;
  • provide for The Graduate School, a non-specialist’s view of the quality of the student’s work, ensuring that the student’s mastery of the subject matter is broad and comprehensive;
  • assure that all procedures are carried out fairly and according to the guidelines of The Graduate School;
  • present no conflict of interest with the departments of either the student or the supervisory committee chair (dissertation advisor).  Such conflicts could include budgetary relationships, primary or joint appointments in common with primary or adjunct appointments.  Shared adjunct appointments are permissible;
  • participate in conducting both the General and Final examinations;
  • provide a report to the Graduate School immediately following the examinations (this form is sent to the GSR one week prior to the examination along with an explanation of examination responsibilities).

To insure that your chosen GSR is a member of the Graduate Faculty and does not hold an appointment that would be considered a conflict of interest with your chair, check the faculty name in the Graduate School faculty locator at this address:


Dissertation Prospectus Writing (POLS 800)

Following the comprehensive examination, students are allowed up to two quarters to write their dissertation prospectus (summer quarter excluded.) During this time students may register for (up to 10 credits per quarter) POL S 800 . In reviewing the student's dissertation prospectus , the doctoral Supervisory Committee assesses the feasibility of the proposed research, its theoretical and methodological soundness, and attempts to anticipate problems the student may encounter in completing the research. Students may need to prepare several drafts of their prospectus before their faculty supervisor approves it.

Scheduling the General Examination

Once the supervising faculty has approved the prospectus, it must be defended before the full doctoral Supervisory Committee, including the Graduate School Representative (GSR ) (within two academic quarters of the comprehensive examination ). At this time the student must apply on-line for the Warrant for the General Examination from the Graduate School 's web site. Students are responsible for scheduling the defense with their committee members. The student can not apply on-line until all committee members agree to the date, time, and place of the exam. It is recommended that students seek the agreement of the GSR after discussing an exam date with the student's committee Chair . Students are expected to provide a copy of their prospectus to all members of their committee prior to the defense. The GSR should receive an examination format description and any general materials, i.e., an outline of the research presentation. At the conclusion of a successful defense, the full committee will indicate acceptance of the prospectus and recommendation for advancement to candidacy. In cases where the prospectus is not accepted and advancement is not recommended, students will be informed of the reasons and if appropriate given provisions for re-writing the prospectus and re-scheduling the defense.


____ Review the information on the General Examination in the Graduate Student Guide.

____ If your Doctoral Supervisory committee has changed since your written exams, forward the names of your Supervisory Committee to the Graduate Program Assistant.

____ Establish your Graduate Student Representative (see Graduate Student Guide) for your committee.  If you do not know if your preferred representative is a member of the Graduate Faculty as required by the Graduate School, you can check this on this Graduate School site. Just enter the name.  It is recommended that you seek a GSR after you have discussed an exam date with your Chair. If you have questions talk to the GPA.

       Forward the name of the GSR to the GPA who will establish your full committee in the Graduate School mygrad system.

      You must be registered for at least two credits when you take the General exam. You should register for POL S 800 credits.

      Schedule the examination with all committee members and reserve a room at the front office in Gowen 101. You are responsible for assuring committee agreement on the date, time, and place of the exam.

      After you have the exam information, apply for the Warrant for the General Exam on-line in the Graduate School on-line mygrad program.

The GPA will download the form and send it to your exam. After the exam the signed warrant is returned to the GPA.

The Doctoral Dissertation/Final Examination

Course Credit (POLS 800)

The doctoral Supervisory Committee Chair normally takes responsibility for the reasonable progress of the dissertation, although other members of the Committee can, at any time, participate in its preparation. Candidates will register for POL S 800 until s/he successfully defends the dissertation. A candidate must have a minimum of 27 credits of 800-dissertation writing prior to scheduling the Final Examination .

Dissertation Content/Format

The dissertation should demonstrate original research and reflect mastery of research techniques as well as selection of an important problem/topic for investigation.

Reading Committee

Prior to scheduling a Final Examination, you must designate a reading committee consisting of at least three voting members of a supervisory committee.  It is the responsibility of a reading committee to (a) ensure that the dissertation is a significant contribution to knowledge and is an acceptable piece of scholarly writing; (b) determine the appropriateness of a candidate's dissertation as a basis for issuing a warrant for a Final Examination; (c) approve a candidate's dissertation and; (d) sign the Doctoral Dissertation Reading Committee Approval Form which is downloaded from the Graduate School site. The GPA must submit the names of your Reading Committee to the Graduate School prior to your application for the exam warrant.

The Final Examination (Dissertation Defense)

When the doctoral Supervisory Committee agrees that the student should schedule the final examination, the student must coordinate the date, time and place with all committee members. Then the student applies for the Warrant for the Final Exam on-line at the Graduate School 's web site. If the candidate has met all other requirements, the Graduate School issues a warrant authorizing the Final Examination. Following a successful defense of the dissertation, the Supervisory Committee signs the Final Examination warrant. The signed warrant must be submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant and conveyed to the Graduate School by the end of the quarter in which the Final Examination took place. . The signed Reading Committee Approval form must be submitted to the Graduate school by the candidate before s/he submits the dissertation.

If the Final Examination is unsatisfactory, the Committee may recommend that the Dean of the Graduate School permit a second examination after a period of additional preparation. Students must be registered the quarter they take their Final Examination .

Submitting the Dissertation

The doctoral candidate must electronically submit the dissertation before the Graduate School deadline on the last day of the quarter. A candidate has up to sixty (60) days after the Final Examination or the last day of the quarter (whichever comes first) to submit on-line. The Reading Approval form must be submitted to the Graduate School before s/he can electronically submit the dissertation. Carefully review all Graduate School requirements for submission and graduation well before your defense date. and

If the end of quarter deadline is missed a student must register as a graduate student or pay the Graduate School Registration Waiver Fee the quarter the dissertation is submitted and the degree conferred. If a student elects to pay the fee they have two weeks to submit the completed dissertation. See for information about the Graduate School policy.


Prior to Final Examination/PhD:

___You must be registered for at least two credits the quarter you take the Final Exam.  Register for POL S 800 credits (you need 27 credits of 800 to graduate).

____Review the Graduate School information on the Final Examination and the submission of the dissertation here: 
You must review this information to insure that you can submit the dissertation within the GS deadlines and graduate on time without incurring fees.

         Forward the names of your Reading Committee and any committee changes to the Graduate Program Assistant.

         If your Graduate Student Representative has changed please forward the name to the GPA.  If you are looking for a new GSR and your exam date is not set, it is recommended that you seek a GSR after you have discussed an exam date with your Chair.

          NOTE: If you do not know that your new committee member or new GSR is a member of the Graduate Faculty as required by the Graduate School, you can check this on this Graduate School site. Just enter the name.
      Schedule the examination with all committee members and reserve a room at the front office in Gowen 101. You are responsible for confirming committee agreement on the date, time, and place of the exam.

      After you have all the exam information, apply for the Warrant for the Final Exam on-line in the Graduate School mygrad program.

___Review the process for electric submission (ETD) of your dissertation on this GS site: It is important that you confirm that you are able to register with this program and understand the procedures.

___When you review the ETD process you should down load:

  1. Reading Approval Form. This must be taken to your exam and signed by your committee (original signatures only). If someone is on audio or Skype, you will need the committee member’s original signature before you submit your dissertation to the Graduate School and by the GS’s deadline. You must submit the form to the Graduate School before the last day of the quarter.
  2. Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED). You complete this form on-line as part of the ETD process and then forward a copy of the emailed certificate to the Graduate School. 

Exam Day

     The GPA will download the Exam Warrant and send it to your Chair. After the exam the signed warrant is returned to the GPA.
__ Do not forget to bring your Reading Committee Approval Form to your defense if you have not collected committee signatures before the defense date. Please be sure that you have signed the form. It is your responsibility to see that the form is completed properly and submitted to the Graduate School on time.