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Washington State University
School of Politics, Philosophy, and Public Affairs Ph.D. Requirements

Ph.D. Course Requirements

There are three different types of course requirements for the Ph.D. program: Research Tools, Core Courses, and Preliminary Examination Fields.

Students should thoroughly familiarize themselves with the overall structure of the program as well as the specific course requirements of each area before discussing their course plans with the graduate advisor their first semester.

Research Tools & Methods Courses

The Research Tools & Methods courses are intended to provide students with a well grounded background in the scope and methods of the social sciences. All Ph.D. candidates are expected take these classes. These courses form the backbone of the Ph.D. matriculation examination, which is taken by all students in the program during the fourth semester of residence in the program.

POL S 501: The Scope of Political Science
Basic issues in social science epistemology, elements of social science theory-building, theoretic frameworks, and intellectual history of political science.

POL S 502: Seminar in Political Theory
Students are required to complete POL S 502, a basic training in normative political theory. However, POL S 511 may substitute with the approval of the student’s advising committee and the director of graduate studies.

POL S 503: Introduction to Political Science Research Methods
Introduction to general topics in the area of social science research design, including: Theories and Concepts, Measurement, Sampling, Data Sources, Experimental and Quasi-Experimental Designs, Field and Historical Designs, and Survey Research.

POL S 504: Quantitative Methods in Political Science
Applied statistical skills and theories of probability, enabling understanding of substantive political and social questions.

POL S 539: Professionalization Practicum
1 credit Pass/Fail

Foundational Training Area Seminars

Doctoral students select one Foundational Training Area in which to test in their preliminary exams from among the following three:

  1. Institutions & Processes
  2. Behavior & Psychology
  3. Theory & Philosophy

The courses making up a student’s Foundational Training Area can be selected from specific ‘baskets’ of class offerings falling within broad areas of political science focusing upon:

  1. Institutional/structural/macro-social approaches to studying politics;
  2. Behavioral/psychological approaches to studying politics; or
  3. On normative/philosophical approaches to studying politics.

It is expected that students have at least four 500-level seminars/courses falling within their chosen Foundational Training Area, with the selection of courses being agreed upon between the student and their committee. The flexibility afforded students in selecting courses falling within these Foundational Training Areas allows them to also build expertise in specialized sub-fields (e.g., political psychology within the Behavior & Psychology area).

Field of Emphasis Courses

Doctoral students will also select one of the following Field of Emphasis Areas in which they will test during preliminary exams:

  1. American Politics
  2. Global Politics
  3. Public Policy/Public Administration

It is expected that students have at least four 500-level seminars/courses falling within their chosen Field of Emphasis Area, with the selection of courses being agreed upon between the student and their committee.

Matriculation Examination

All students must pass the matriculation examination to continue in the Ph.D. program past the second year in residence. For students admitted without a prior M.A. degree, the matriculation examination will be taken in the fourth semester of the program. For students admitted with an M.A., the matriculation examination may be attempted in either the second or fourth semester upon advice and consent of the advising committee and the director of graduate studies. Continuance in the program is dependent upon successful passage of this examination.

The examination will cover epistemology (including the foundations of the discipline, the formation of research paradigms, etc.), theory (including normative theory, and general theoretical approaches), and research methods (including both quantitative and qualitative research tools).All students scheduled for the matriculation examination shall sit the examination at the same time and will face the same questions.

Matriculation examinations are held in March each spring semester.

Ph.D. Preliminary Qualifying Examinations

Students will be scheduled to take their preliminary exams (“prelims”) one year after they take the matriculation exam (this will normally be in the student’s sixth semester). The examinations include both a written and an oral component, both of which must be satisfactorily completed. Students are responsible for working with the members of their advising committee and faculty in the examination fields in preparation for these examinations.

Preliminary examinations are held in March each spring semester.

Students will be expected to master the materials covered in one Foundational Training Area (Institutions & Processes, Behavior & Psychology, or Theory & Philosophy) and one Field of Emphasis Area (American Politics, Global Politics, or Public Policy/Public Administration).

Dissertation Prospectus Defense

The next requirement for the Ph.D. candidate beyond the prelims is preparation, under the guidance of a thesis committee, of a dissertation presenting the results of a thorough and systematic investigation of a significant problem related to one of the exam fields of the candidate. The thesis committee will normally be composed of the chairperson and two other members of the graduate faculty. The Ph.D. dissertation committee is normally, but not always, composed of the same members as the preliminary examination committee.

The prospectus must be submitted to the student’s committee, revised in accordance with committee criticisms, and acceptable to the committee before the final oral exam is scheduled. Further revisions may be required after the successful completion of the oral exam.

Final Oral Examination of Dissertation

The last requirement is the final oral examination, which under existing Graduate School policies cannot be scheduled until the dissertation is ready for presentation to the Graduate School and for deposit in the university library. The final oral usually centers on the dissertation, but, as Graduate School regulations indicate, the student must be prepared to meet questions relating to any of the work he or she has done for the degree.

Teaching and/or Research Requirement

In addition to the course requirements, each student in the Ph.D. program is required to have formal teaching and/or research experience in an institution of higher learning before receiving the Ph.D. degree. Serving as a teaching assistant in the School of Politics, Philosophy, & Public Affairs satisfies this teaching requirement. Collecting original data also fulfills this requirement.

Credit Hour Requirements
  • 72 hours minimum total credits
  • 34 hours minimum from graded courses
  • 20 hours minimum 800-level research credits
  • 9 hours maximum of non-graduate courses (400-level)
  • Note: courses for audit may not be used for the program of study.

Graduate Coordinator:

Diane Scott
Johnson Tower 801
Phone: 509-335-2545

Useful Links:

Graduate School
Schedule of Classes