The requirements for the PhD in political science are divided between those that must be satisfied by all candidates for that degree and those particular to the student’s major and minor fields.
All candidates for the PhD must satisfy the following requirements:
A minimum of 12 semester courses at the 600-level with a grade of B or better.
Foreign Language Requirement
All students must demonstrate successful completion of four semesters of college-level foreign language instruction or its equivalent, or pass a translation test administered by an appropriate faculty member. This requirement is waived for foreign students who are native speakers of a language other than English.
Comprehensive Examination Requirement
Students are required, at a minimum, to take comprehensive exams in one major field and one minor field. Students may also elect to take two major exams or a major exam and two minor exams (one of which may be outside the Department of Political Science). Faculty members in the field write and evaluate the exams and determine the format. Major field comprehensive exams take place over two days (8 hours per day); minor field exams take place over one day. The fields within the department are: American politics, law and politics, political theory, comparative politics, and international relations.
Students choosing a second minor outside the department must devise a coherent program of study in that discipline, in consultation with their political science faculty adviser and with faculty from the other department. Students choosing an external minor must complete a minimum of three courses at the 600 level in the external minor’s discipline, earning a grade of B or better. They must also pass a comprehensive examination prepared and evaluated by faculty from that department in consultation with faculty of the Department of Political Science.
The dissertation is the capstone of doctoral education, and it must be a substantial work of independent scholarship that contributes to knowledge in the student’s field of study. Preparation of the dissertation will be supervised and must be approved by two members of the faculty, at least one of whom (the dissertation director) must be a member of the Department of Political Science.
The final examination of the dissertation will take the form of a defense conducted under the rules of the Graduate Board of the Johns Hopkins University.
Field-specific basic expectations, procedures, and requirements are stated below. These are implemented, interpreted, and adjusted in the light of the intellectual orientations and objectives of individual students. It is important that students work closely with their advisers and with the faculty in their major and minor fields in constructing and pursuing their programs of study.
Students majoring and minoring in American Politics will work with at least two faculty members to develop a plan of study that includes recommended course work and other preparation needed to pass a comprehensive exam. Students completing a major are expected to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge sufficient for framing a dissertation in the relevant disciplinary literature and teaching undergraduate courses in the field; students who pursue a minor may focus more narrowly on an area of study in which they demonstrate fluency. These may include, but are not limited to, the following areas of faculty interest:
- American Political Institutions (Congress, Courts, and the Executive)
- Urban Politics
- American Political Development
- Race and Politics
- Political Behavior and Public Opinion
- Public Policy
- American Political Thought
- Political Parties and Elections
In addition, students majoring in the field are strongly encouraged to take AS.190.602 Introduction to Quantitative Political Science as part of their course of study.
All students majoring and minoring in comparative politics will become conversant with major substantive and methodological debates in the field, and be able to comment on the key theoretical literature in several of those debates. They will typically also develop knowledge of at least one world region. Students majoring or minoring in comparative politics are required to take AS.190.625 Theories of Comparative Politics and at least one seminar in quantitative or qualitative methods. Students are expected to master the material covered in these courses, as well as others with more specialized topics.
Students will take a comprehensive exam that will test their ability to engage with several areas of theoretical debate in comparative politics, and their ability to use comparative examples to support their arguments. Students may focus on (but are not limited to):
- Civil Society
- Institutional Theories
- Transnational Relations, Social Movements, and Contentious Politics
- Political Parties, Interest Groups, Representation, and Political Behavior
- Comparative Political Economy
- Comparative Racial Politics, Nationalism, and Migration and Citizenship
- The Political Economy of Development
- Economic and Political Transitions
- Ideas and Politics
Within the spirit of this division of the overall field, students may propose alternative delineations of thematic subfields.
Students working in specific thematic and substantive subfields within comparative politics will be required to demonstrate competence in methodologies and bodies of theory judged by the faculty to be necessary for quality research and teaching in those subfields.
Requirements for the major exam:
Students taking the major exam are expected to compile a reading list that includes at least six fields, including a general “Theories of Comparative Politics” field. The reading list must be approved by the student’s advisor at least six weeks before the exam. We strongly advise students to submit their reading lists to all of the CP faculty for feedback at least a few months before the exam. A minimum of three CP faculty members will read each major exam.
Requirements for the minor exam:
Students taking the minor exam should seek two readers among the CP faculty for their exams. Students are expected to compile a reading lists that includes at least four fields, including a general “Theories of Comparative Politics” field. The reading list must be approved by the two readers at least six weeks before the exam. We strongly advise students to submit their reading lists to all of the CP faculty for feedback at least a few months before the exam.
All students majoring or minoring in international relations will be required to have deep knowledge of the scholarship relevant to their area of research and to be conversant with the major theoretical, substantive, and methodological themes and debates of the field. It is strongly recommended that students take AS 190.676 Field Survey of International Relations (or a similar course) and a methods/epistemology course chosen in consultation with their faculty advisers.
Students majoring in international relations will take an examination covering two subfields. The first subfield must be international politics. The other subfield is to be determined in consultation with faculty teaching international relations. Choices include but are not restricted to:
- International Law and Diplomacy
- International Relations Theory
- International Security Studies
- Science, Technology, and Art and International Relations
- Global Political Economy
Students minoring in international relations will take a comprehensive examination in international politics.
Students majoring in political theory will take a comprehensive examination covering the following two subfields:
- Contemporary Political Theory
- History of Political Thought
Each student preparing for a major comprehensive exam will propose six or seven thinkers in the history of thought, six or seven recent or contemporary thinkers, and three or four issue areas. Examination questions are composed in light of the theorists and issues articulated in the exam prospectus.
The minor comprehensive exam in political theory asks the student to select half the number of thinkers required for the major exam and three issue areas.
Preparation for these examinations will be arranged in consultation with relevant faculty.
Students majoring in political theory will also take at least one minor field from American politics, law and politics, comparative politics, or international relations.
Law and Politics
Law and politics focuses on American constitutional thought, judicial politics, law and society, and philosophy of law. Students learn not only about the history and context of American constitutional developments, but also about the operation of the judicial branch of government in the past and the present. Studying how courts and judges do their work, students also consider how that work has changed over time. Students explore how legislation as well as court decisions reflect and influence a society’s policies, politics, and moral commitments. In addition, they examine how social movements, interest groups, and professional networks help to shape law’s content and implementation.
Students may major or minor in law and politics. In either case, students work closely with at least two members of the faculty to develop a plan of study regarding coursework and additional reading to prepare them for comprehensive exams. Majors are expected to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge in the field sufficient for framing a dissertation and for teaching undergraduate courses; minors may focus more narrowly on a particular area of study.
Certificate in Comparative Racial Politics
The graduate certificate program in comparative racial politics is designed to help train graduate students who are developing empirically based and/or theoretically informed scholarship on citizenship, racism, and immigration in contemporary societies, whether in a single national society or cross-spatially. There are two required courses: Comparative Racial Politics and Qualitative Methods. In addition, the student must take two electives from this (preliminary) list:
- Comparative Citizenship and Immigration
- Topics in Black Political Thought
- Race and Political Theory
- Civil Society
- States, Regimes and Governmentality
- American Political Development
- Political Economy of Development