Graduate Student Guide: The Master's Requirements

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MA Requirements Summary

The department requires the successful completion and defense of a Paper of Distinction before advancement to the doctoral program. To fulfill the MA requirements you will:

  • Complete the Master’s designated requirements in two fields.
  • Choose one of the two fields from the list of general fields.  The second field may be chosen from the general fields or from the list of specialized fields.
  • 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 three-course methodology sequence.
  • Complete the Master's Paper of Distinction, and pass an Oral Exam.
  • Your transcript cannot have more than 2 incompletes.  Any incompletes that remain cannot be in the methodology or field course requirements at the time the exam is scheduled

Master’s Paper of Distinction

The Master’s Paper of Distinction may be a revised and expanded seminar paper or an independently developed research paper. The Master’s Paper of Distinction should be article-length (approximately 20-30 pages), professionally documented, and as close as possible to publishable standards. 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.

MA Core Course and Field Requirements
(see general and specialized fields section)

Core Course Requirements

Core Courses in Two (2) General Fields

Field Requirements

Field Requirements in Two (2) General Fields


Field Requirements in One (1) General Field AND One (1) Specialized Field

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 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 

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. You will submit the Notification of Adviser form to the GPA by the date announced at the beginning of spring quarter.

Masters's Supervisory Committee Appointments Form


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;
  • 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. Although POLS 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, submit a signed Program Review Sheet to 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 confer with the Graduate Program Coordinator for final approval. (See checksheet for forms)

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 two 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. Application is via the Graduate School's web site at 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 s/he is 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 shall not be permitted to register for courses in the department any future quarter. At the close of the exam, the committee shall notify the student of the result. As soon as practical, the committee shall file with the Graduate Program Office an evaluation of the student's examination, and if applicable, reasons why continuation in the program was not recommended. This form will be kept in the student's file in the Graduate Program Office.


Complete Core courses in two (2) general fields.

Complete coursework requirements in two (2) fields (see Summary of Field Requirements )

Complete Methods Requirement (500,501 and either a qualifying course from the list or 503).

Complete 40 credits (18 must be completed at the 500-level and above, and 18 must be numerically graded at the 400 or 500-levels) and three quarters of full time residency (10 credits per quarter/ 400 or above).

Cumulative graduate GPA of 3.0 or better

No more than 2 incompletes on your transcript; no incompletes may remain in the methodology or field course requirements at the time the exam is scheduled.


__Establish three-member Master’s supervisory committee
    Complete by your fifth quarter in residence.

__At the beginning of the quarter in which you wish to defend, register your committee. Submit the Notification of Master’s Supervisory Committee Appointments to the Graduate Program Assistant.

♦ In lieu of signatures on this form you can email ALL members of your committee in one email and CC the GPA. List the committee members, their fields, and note who is chair. Ask them to confirm by email that they will serve on your committee.  Then return the unsigned form to grad advising office.

__Submit a completed, but unsigned  Program Requirements Worksheet for Master’s Degree to the Graduate Office at the beginning of the quarter you wish to defend your paper. If necessary the GPA may need to meet with you about course substitutions or other requirements needing faculty approval.
__Apply (on-line) to the Graduate School for the exam warrant. Deadlines and information are found at this website:
          SELECT NON-THESIS OPTION when you register on-line.

__When you final draft is approved schedule the examination with all committee members, and reserve a room at the front office in Gowen 101.

__Email the Graduate Program Assistant the following information: the title of your paper, and the date, time and location of your exam. Send this at least two weeks in advance of your exam.

Note: You must be registered the quarter you plan to take the exam. Pol S 598, Independent Writing (1-5 credits, graded), is an option during your exam quarter. Instructor codes for the 598 course are available from the Graduate Program Assistant.

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.