General Information

The doctoral program is divided into a core program, the methods requirement, specialized fields, and the research component. Students must complete a minimum of 42 hours of course work (14 courses) plus 12 credit hours for doctoral dissertation work (GVPT 899). In exceptional circumstances, students may petition the Graduate Studies Committee for a reduction in the minimum number of required course credits.

The Graduate Student Mentoring and Degree Timeline provides vital information on the expectations and benchmarks for student progress through the program.  More details on requirements for each field can be found here.

Transfer Credits

Students may petition the Graduate Studies Committee for approval to transfer credit from another institution or graduate program to apply to the doctoral program. In order to count as a part of the 42 hours, the courses transferred may not be taken more than four years prior to the time of entry into the Department graduate program. Doctoral students must complete a minimum of 30 hours at the University of Maryland. In exceptional circumstances, students may petition the Graduate Studies Committee for a waiver of this requirement.

Directed Readings (GVPT 898)

Doctoral students may offer 12 hours of directed readings as a part of the doctoral program. Before registering for such readings, students must obtain the approval of the faculty member who will supervise the readings. A statement of the planned readings program and the graded assignments must be filed with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Advancement to Candidacy

Under Graduate School rules, doctoral students must be admitted to candidacy within five years after admission to the doctoral program. This requires that students complete all course work, successfully pass comprehensive examinations, successfully pass the paper requirement, remove all "Incomplete" grades, and defend a dissertation prospectus.


Core Program

The core program includes the following:

  1. GVPT 700: Scope and Methods of Political Science.
  2. GVPT 622: Quantitative Methods for Political Science (or a substitute).
  3. Either GVPT 741 (Ancient Political Theory), GVPT 742 (Modern Political Theory), or GVPT 743 (Contemporary Political Theory). Except in special circumstances, with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies, the first 7 courses taken in the doctoral program will include: 622, 700, and a required political theory course.


Specialized Fields of Study

Each of the fields of study and examination for doctoral students contains its own body of literature, reflects different theoretical perspectives, and requires different substantive and methodological knowledge. Students must identify two fields in which they will pursue an integrated program of study and take the appropriate comprehensive written examination.

The first field represents a broadly defined body of knowledge, and must be one of the following:

  • American Politics
  • International Relations
  • Comparative Politics
  • Political Economy
  • Formal Political Theory
  • Political Philosophy / Normative Political Theory

The second field may also be taken from the above list, or students may pursue in-depth knowledge in a more narrowly focused field. Students pursuing an in-depth field must submit an appropriate field description endorsed by three faculty members, who serve as the examiners. The second field must be more than just a subfield of student's first field. In recent years students have offered second fields in public law, Soviet-East European studies, national security, East-Asian studies, political development, public policy, political psychology, politics of advanced industrial societies, and international political economy.

Four or five courses constitutes the normal course preparation for a doctoral field. At least two courses in each field must be taken at the University of Maryland.

PhD field comprehensive exams are 32-hour, open-book exams. Students must also participate in an ungraded pre-prospectus meeting with the expected members of their dissertation committee. Students who fail to pass either written examination on the first attempt may take one or both examinations a second time. A second failure will result in termination of the student's doctoral program.


Research Component

The research component consists of a research paper and the doctoral dissertation. The research paper is a paper of a size and quality sufficient to make it publishable as an article in a political science journal. The procedure for the acceptance of the research paper mimics the procedures of refereed journals. The paper can be a rewrite of a seminar paper, or in some way closely related to the student's Ph.D. dissertation. A student will not be admitted to candidacy without completing the research paper requirement.

Once a student's advisor has indicated support for submitting the paper, the student should email the field chair in their primary field with the paper and an indication of who the advisor is (the advisor will be excluded from being considered as a reviewer). Please also cc the Director of Graduate Studies.

The doctoral dissertation is a monograph-length work reflecting original research, which shows the student's ability to generate scholarly knowledge. Although students will probably not begin full-time work on the dissertation until after completion of course work and examinations, they should explore possible research ideas and projects throughout the doctoral program.

In the initial stages of the dissertation the student submits a dissertation prospectus to a faculty committee, chosen by the student. The committee must meet with the student and approve the prospectus. The student must also have a formal oral defense of the dissertation. Students are expected to complete the dissertation within four years after being advanced to doctoral candidacy.