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Graduate Student Guide: The Master's Requirements

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MA Requirements Summary

To advance to the doctorate, Political Science requires the successful completion of M.A. requirements, successful defense of the  Paper of Distinction, and a recommendation by the M.A. committee to continue in the program. A terminal M.A. degree may be awarded if there is no recommendation to continue.

  • Choose a General Field and complete the listed MA requirements. 
  • Choose a second field, either another General Field or a Specialized Field, and complete MA requirements. 
  • Complete two core courses. If you choose a Specialized Field as your second field, you are required to take a core course in a second General Field.
  • Complete the methods requirement.
  • Satisfy the Graduate School’s credit hour and GPA requirements.
  • Establish your MA Committee, and complete the MA Committee form (request from GPA)
  • Schedule your MA exam with your committee and submit your Degree Request via MyGrad. NOTE: At the time the exam is scheduled, your transcript cannot have more than 2 incompletes. Incompletes cannot be in the methodology or MA course requirements for your two fields. 
  • Complete the Master's Paper of Distinction, and pass your Oral Exam.
  • Complete the MA Exam Results form (request form from GPA)

Core Courses
Complete two core courses chosen from:
Pol S 505, Comparative Politics Core
Pol S 509, Political Theory Core
Pol S 521, International Relations Core
Pol S 550, American Politics Core

Methods Requirement

For students entering on or after September 2024, see the following Methods Requirements.

For students entering in September 2023, see the following Methods Requirements.

For students who entered prior to September 2022, see the following Methods Requirements.

Master’s Paper of Distinction

The Master’s Paper of Distinction should be the student’s original research, article-length (approximately 20-30 pages), professionally documented, and as close as possible to publishable standards. It may be a revised and expanded seminar paper or an independently developed research paper. The intent of this requirement is to provide the committee with a basis for assessing the student’s capacity to do original and self-directed research and to write up the results of that research in a literate and informative fashion, as will be required for the dissertation.

Credit Hour Requirement

A minimum of 40 credit hours, taken while in full graduate standing, is required for the Master’s degree. Courses taken prior to being admitted to the MA program or while in non-matriculated status cannot be counted. At least 18 of these credits must be taken at the 500 level, and at least 18 credits must be numerically graded.

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 on the application for Pol S 600, which you must request from the GPA.
  • 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 GPA for the application form for POL S 600. The form will then be sent to your supervisor and the GPC for their approval. Once the form has been completed, you will receive the code to register for the course OR the GPA will complete your registration on your behalf.

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.

Interim Advisor/Master's Committee

The Master's Committee should be established early in your graduate career. You are required to establish your Committee Chair OR an interim advisor by the end of your 3rd quarter (the end of your first academic year). You also are required to choose two fields of study for the M.A. requirements. 

The GPA will provide you with the Master’s Supervisory Committee Appointments DocuSign Form upon request.

Master's Supervisory Committee. It is the student's responsibility to obtain the consent of faculty to serve as committee members, and (in consultation with them) to develop a written program of courses within each field. The Master's Committee shall consist of three members:

  • Two members will represent the fields as specified above;
  • An additional member

Please note that:

  • 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) may be adjunct faculty in the Department of Political Science.
  • Approval by the Graduate Program Coordinator is required if an adjunct member of the committee will serve as the Chair of the committee.

POLS 598 Independent Writing

Students preparing for the Master's Examination are eligible to enroll in POL S 598. This is a contract course; forms are available from the Graduate Program Assistant and must be signed by the Committee Chair, and GPC. Although POL S 598 is not required, students are encouraged to use this course to facilitate producing a first-rate Master's Paper of Distinction typically by rewriting and polishing a promising paper. Pol S 598 is a variable credit course, 1-5 credits, with decimal grading. Graduate students are eligible to enroll in POL S 598 for one quarter (this course may not be repeated). The course can be completed only by submission of an article-length (20-30 pages) paper approved and evaluated by the Committee Chair.

Master's Paper Evaluation and Master’s Examination

The Master's Paper of Distinction must be formally evaluated by your chair and members of your committee. When you are ready to defend, contact the GPA prior to or at the beginning of the quarter in which you wish to defend. The GPA will review and check for fulfilled course requirements and send you the MA Committee Form, which will be signed by all members of  your committee. 

When your Chair confirms that the Paper is ready to defend, the student schedules the Master's Examination with the committee. Students must then notify the GPA of the date at least four weeks prior to the MA Exam. After the exam, a signed evaluation form will be kept in the student's file and will be available for the student to review.

Scheduling the Examination with the Graduate School and in the Department

Graduate students must apply with the Graduate School to take the Master's Examination during the quarter in which they wish to have their degree conferred. Apply via the Graduate School’s website using the Submit Degree Request link toward the bottom of the page. The student must schedule a room for the exam, notify the GPA of the paper title, the date, time and location of the exam, and send reminders to the committee prior to the exam date.

Master's Examination/Admission to the Doctoral Program

The purpose of the Master's Examination is to aid in determining whether the student has succeeded in demonstrating to the committee that they are capable of conducting original research and conveying that research in a literate and informative manner. Students should display adequate substantive knowledge in their fields of coursework, and demonstrate a capacity to synthesize, interpret, and apply such knowledge to new problems. Students will defend the Master's Paper before their Master's Committee. The committee shall decide, by majority vote, whether to recommend awarding the Master's degree, AND whether to recommend (a) admission to the doctoral program, or (b) termination of the student's continuation in the department. In the former case, the committee may attach specific requirements or conditions to the student's continuance, or it may simply encourage the student to go on, and discuss the next stage in the student's academic career. In the latter case, the student may choose to form a new committee and defend a second Masters Thesis. Note that students in this case are still subject to Academic Performance and Progress deadlines. Once the exam is complete, the student requests the MA exam results form from the GPA, which is then filled out by each committee member and the exam results are recorded by the GPA in MyGrad. This form will be kept in the student's file.

Overlap between MA committees and PhD committees

MA Committee members do not necessarily or automatically continue as members of the student's doctoral Supervisory Committee. Within two (2) quarters of successfully completing the Master's Examination, students shall constitute the doctoral Supervisory Committee.