Spring 2008

Department of Political Science

The University of Oklahoma

Graduate Studies in Political Science Statement

This statement describes the program of graduate studies in the Political Science Department. It is intended chiefly for those interested in the MA or PhD degrees in political science; a separate statement is available for the Master of Public Administration degree. The Graduate College Bulletin issued by the Graduate College contains important additional information about programs and regulations for graduate students at the University of Oklahoma and should be consulted as well. See www.gradweb.ou.edu.

Fields of Study

American Politics

Comparative Politics

International Relations

Political Theory

Public Administration

Public Policy

Admission to Graduate Study

In order to be considered for admission to the graduate program, students must first meet Graduate College admission requirements as described in the Graduate College Bulletin. Further, the Political Science Department expects that students seeking admittance to graduate work will have successfully completed at least 24 hours of undergraduate study in political science or 15 hours in political science plus nine of another social science field. Students lacking this preparation will be considered for admission, but they may be asked to commence their studies with additional courses in order to be fully prepared for graduate work; additional coursework will be determined in consultation with the the Graduate Program Director at the time of first enrollment.

To seek admission, students must apply directly to the Office of Admissions and Records by submitting the official application form, along with transcripts and the application fee. Students whose native language is not English will be required to submit their scores on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

In addition, the Political Science Department requires further application materials; these should be sent to the Graduate Program Director, Department of Political Science, 455 West Lindsey Street, DAHT, Rm 205, University of Oklahoma, Norman, OK 73019. These items are:

  1. Scores on the general test of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE);

  2. The applicant’s three letters of recommendation from persons in a position to speak knowledgeably about the applicant’s academic ability;

  3. A typed statement of about 1,000 words explaining the applicant’s specific academic background, objectives in pursuing graduate study, career goals, and academic fields of interests.

  4. A writing sample.

Admissions decisions are made by the Department of Political Science and the Graduate College. The deadlines to submit applications for admission is February 1.

When a student is admitted to the graduate program, the Graduate Program Director, in consultation with the student, will appoint a faculty member to serve as advisor. At any time, the student may request a change of the committee chair; such a change, may be advisable when the student determines the specific topic for a research paper or thesis, since it will be useful to have as director of the research a faculty member with expertise on the relevant issues.

The M.A. Degree

The MA degree in Political Science has two formats:

  1. A student may take a 36 hour program in which he/she writes a Master’s thesis, for which six hours credit may be taken. Requires enrollment in P Sc 5980.

  2. A student may take a 36 hour program in which no thesis is required, but in which a research paper is written. The enrollment for P Sc 5950 shall be for three credit hours.

The paper or thesis will be submitted to and evaluated by a committee consisting of the student’s advisor, who serves as director of the research, and two other faculty appointed by the Graduate Program Director after consultation with the student and his/her advisor.

MA Course and Distribution Requirements: All students in the MA degree program must take PSc 5913, Introduction to Analysis of Political Data. Further, MA students must meet certain distribution requirements in selecting their courses. First, the student must determine his/her major field of interest and complete nine hours of coursework in that field. Second, students must take at least one course in each of three other fields. The taking of PSc 5913, which is required, does not count toward meeting this distribution requirement. Third, must take 9-12 hours of electives. The thesis or research paper will not be counted toward the distribution requirement.

Any thesis research that involves human subjects must be approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Online training must be completed before the IRB will approve the research project. The IRB website is available at www.ouhsc.edu/irb-norman . The training course is available at www.citiprogram.org .

Comprehensive Examination: Upon completion of coursework and the thesis or research paper, MA students must pass a Comprehensive Examination. Before the examination will be authorized, the student’s advisor and the Graduate Program Director must sign the Admission to Candidacy form. The Comprehensive Examination is an oral exam and is conducted by a three-member committee, which will include the student’s advisor and two other members approved by the Graduate Program Director. The examination covers the student’s coursework and thesis or research paper. A student preferring a written examination may present a request to the Chairperson of his/her committee. The Chairperson’s decision in the matter will be final. On completion of the examination, appropriate signature sheets and the thesis must be submitted to the Graduate College, following their specified procedures, which include delivery of two copies of the thesis to the Librarian of the University and one electronic copy to the Graduate College. For students in the non-thesis program, one copy of the research paper must be submitted to the Graduate Program Director to be retained in the Department.

Since there is, of course, a juncture between the Master’s degree and the PhD, the following information should be noted:

  1. Students who wish to transfer from the MA or the MPA program,to the PhD program either before or after completing the that degree, must file a formal application for admission to the PhD program by completing the Graduate College Change of Major form. Before such a transfer can be considered, the student must meet all admission requirements imposed on applicants for the PhD, including submission of GRE scores, three letters of recommendation, a written statement of purpose, and a writing sample.

  2. The Department will not normally grant credit toward the PhD for courses taken beyond 36 credit hours for the MA thesis or non-thesis programs, or 36 credit hours in the MPA program.

  3. The Graduate College does not permit Advanced Programs credit beyond the master’s degree to be applied to a doctoral program.

The Doctor of Philosophy Degree Program

A student should normally expect to spend the equivalent of four full academic years beyond the bachelor’s degree on the PhD. Ninety semester hours of graduate work, including the dissertation, are a minimum requirement for this degree. There are various specific requirements for the distribution of these hours among fields, the satisfaction of research tool requirements, and the taking of specific courses mandated by the Department. Upon completion of coursework, the student must pass a General Examination and write a dissertation under the direction of a committee established for that purpose. Students must adhere to the rules and regulations established by the Graduate College concerning such matters as residence, time limits, credit limitation, and so forth; they will find it useful to study the Graduate College Bulletin closely. The Department’s rules are supplemental to Graduate College policy.

Advising and the Advisory Committee

Students entering the PhD program should meet as soon as possible with the Graduate Program Director to discuss their interests, formulate a plan of coursework, and begin the process of selecting an Advisory Committee. Consultation with the Director will lead to the forming of a five (5) member Advisory Committee no later than the end of the student’s second semester of study. The members of the committee will be faculty members in the fields of study which the student intends to pursue; the chair of the committee should be in the student’s major field of interest. It is a requirement of the Graduate College that one of the members of the Committee be from a department other than Political Science. In choosing an outside representative, the student should seek a faculty member whose field has some relationship to his/her interest in Political Science.

The main task of the Advisory Committee is to assist students in formulating a detailed, specific plan of study. It is put in writing and sent to the Graduate College as the Advisory Conference Report. It will contain a specification of all coursework necessary for the student to be prepared for the General Examinations and to meet research tool requirements. The Advisory Conference Report, however, constitutes only a program of courses; it should not be taken to mean that coursework alone constitutes sufficient preparation for the General Examination, nor does it eliminate the need for further study beyond coursework.

Each semester, PhD student enrollments may be self-advised, which means that they do not require signatures from faculty in order to enroll. However, it is highly recommended that students consult with faculty advisors each semester regarding course selection to avoid delays in completing degree requirements. In the early stages of PhD work, it will usually be advisable to take concentration and/or required courses; in the later stages, the selection of courses will have to follow the program contained in the Advisory Conference Report.

It is possible to alter the composition of the Advisory Committee and the plan of coursework. Special forms are available for this purpose; such changes must be reported to the Graduate College. The Advisory Committee may also be changed for the purpose of dissertation work. The Advisory Committee becomes the Dissertation Committee at the time of prospectus defense. The composition of the Dissertation Committee can be changed following the same procedures as for the Advisory Committee.

The PhD Degree

To achieve an education that combines broad comprehension of the discipline as a whole and a highly developed competence in some of its more specialized fields, the following distribution requirements govern selection of courses among these six fields.

  1. Students must select three fields in which to concentrate their work. Minimum of 9 credit hours

  2. Each field contains a number of required courses, specified below. Students presenting a field for examination must include the requisite number of required courses in that field.

  3. Distribution of courses: At least one required course must be taken from two of the remaining three fields of study in which a concentration has not been established. Students selecting a course to meet the distribution requirement in a field must take a required course or gain special permission from the Field Coordinator and Graduate Program Director.

Mandatory courses for all students: All PhD students must take PSc 5913 (Introduction to Analysis of Political and Administrative Data), PSc 5933 (Intermediate Analysis of Political Data), and PSc 6003 (Political Science: Survey of a Discipline). These courses survey basic methods of research in political science and examine the character of political science as a mode and field of inquiry. PhD students choosing to examine in only tow fields are required to complete 3 credit hours of Directed Research (PSc 5950) prior to taking the general examinations. The topic for research should be drawn from one of the concentration fields, although it is recommended that the field be the same as the field in which the dissertation will be written.

Required Courses: When selecting a field of study, students must take the required courses in the field, and demonstrate a breadth of knowledge. Thus, students who enter the PhD program with a master’s degree may not apply Advanced Programs credit toward the remaining course work required for the PhD (such credit may be used, however, to replace hours in PSc 6980, Dissertation Research).

Advisory Committees may make adjustments in the requirements. Such adjustments should be consistent with the spirit of the overall program and need the approval of the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate College in some cases.

American Politics

Students taking American Government and Politics as an examination field are required to take PSc 6023: Field Seminar in American Politics and a distribution of other courses, approved by their Advisory committee, and the Graduate Program Director that cover institutions, processes and behaviors. PSc 6023 is strongly recommended for distribution credit, but other courses can be approved by the student’s Advisory Committee and the Graduate Program Director.

Comparative Politics

Students taking Comparative Politics as an examination field are required to take PSc 6603: Field Seminar in Comparative Politics and a distribution of other courses approved by their Advisory Committee. PSc 6603 is strongly recommended for distribution credit, but other courses can be approved by the Field Coordinator and the Graduate Program Director.

International Relations

Students taking International Relations as an examination field are required to take PSc 5513: International Relations Theory as well as two of the remaining three courses listed below. PSc 5513 will satisfy the distribution requirement. Other courses require approval of the Field Coordinator and the Graduate Program Director

PSc 5513: International Relations Theory
PSc 5543 International Organizations and Regimes
PSc 5553 International Security
PSc 5563 International Political Economy
Political Theory

Students taking Political Theory as an examination field are advised to take the following three courses. Any one of these courses will satisfy the distribution requirement as well as others approved by Advisory Committee, Field Coordinator and Graduate Program Director.

PSc 5713 Classical Political Theory

PSc 5723 Modern Political Theory

PSc 5733 Contemporary Political Theory

Public Administration

Students taking Public Administration as an examination field are required to take PSc 6103: Field Seminar in Public Administration and a distribution of other courses approved by their Advisory Committee. Any course approved by the student’s Advisory Committee, in consultation with the course instructor and the Graduate Program Director, is acceptable for satisfying the distribution requirement.

Public Policy

Students taking Public Policy as an examination field are required to take PSc 6223: Seminar in Public Policy and a distribution of other courses, approved by their Advisory Committee. Any course approved by the student’s Advisory Committee, in consultation with the course instructor and the Graduate Programs Director, is acceptable for satisfying the distribution credit.

Specialization within a field: Students may choose to develop specialized competence within a field of study, with the approval of their Advisory Committee. In addition, within any field, the Department may recognize formal areas of concentration. An area of concentration is a series of courses (not fewer than three or more than six) dealing with a particular substantive area within the field.

Area concentrations are more narrow in focus than the full field, but are sufficiently broad to encompass several discrete courses. At present, the Department recognizes one area of concentration.

Within the field of American Politics–Congress and Representation

Students in this field may choose to develop an area of concentration as part of their work within that field. Those electing this option will be expected to obtain a general knowledge of the field and, hence, will be required to take the same number of core or required courses as others in the field. Their further work, beyond the core or required courses, will be oriented toward the area of concentration. The Graduate Program Director will refer students to the appropriate faculty for advisement on the requirements for each area of concentration.

The General Examination for those students taking an area of concentration within a field will be divided into two sections for that field. The first section will be devoted to the general coursework in the field; the second part will cover the material of the area of concentration. The area of concentration constitutes a specialization within a field, not a fourth field; the total examination will not exceed eight hours, as in the case of a standard field.

Coursework Outside of Political Science: Excluding transfer credit and methods courses, a student may apply up to 12 hours of graduate-level coursework from other departments at the University of Oklahoma to the requirements of departmental fields with the approval of the student’s Advisory Committee. However, no more than six hours of credit may be applied in a single examination field, and no more than six hours may be applied from any single department. Additional approved graduate coursework may be applied toward the required 90 hours of graduate credit for the PhD but not toward satisfaction of departmental requirements.

Field Coordinators

The Chairperson of the Department will appoint, on a rotating basis, a field coordinator for each of the six fields. The field coordinator will have responsibility for advising on the schedule of courses in each field. Field coordinators will also participate in the examination process.

Research Tools

Doctoral level work in political science requires mastery of appropriate tools of research and scholarship. The minimum requirement for research tools may be met by one of the following options. Note that these options describe a minimum facility in research and scholarly tools. It may be necessary for a student to develop a greater competence in a language or research method. Students should seek Advisory Committee advice on the kinds of languages or research methods most suitable for advanced work in their major fields of interest. Undergraduate courses may be counted toward meeting tool requirements, subject to approval by the Advisory Committee. In all cases, the tool must be justified as relevant to the student’s fields of study, likely dissertation topic, and/or expected area(s) of research upon completing the degree. A written justification for the choice of the tool must accompany the Advisory Conference Report.

1. Proficiency in foreign language. Proficiency in one language may be satisfied in a number of ways: (1) obtain a passing score on a translation exam administered by the Modern Languages Department or equivalent score on a comparable evaluation instrument;

(2) pass with a grade of “B” or better a three-semesterhour fourth-semester course in a foreign language at an accredited institution; or (3) pass with a grade of “B” or better a series of two three-semester-hour reading courses in French, German, Russian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, or Native American languages at the University of Oklahoma. English may not be considered a foreign language for research tool purposes.

  1. Proficiency in research methods. Proficiency in research methods requires at least six hours of research methods beyond PSc 5913 and PSc 5933. This must include one advanced quantitative course.

  2. If a student wishes to satisfy the language and research tool requirement differently, the Advisory Committee will explore such possibilities with the student. Deviations from the options outlined above, or other departmental methods requirements, must have the approval of the Graduate Studies Committee.

NOTE: In many areas of research, the minimum proficiency in either language or other tools will not be sufficient for advanced dissertation research, and the students will need to undertake additional classes to be prepared for their dissertation work. The student and his/her Advisory Committee must ascertain that the student has adequate research tools for the proposed work. The Dissertation Committee must specify, in its evaluation of the dissertation prospectus, whether the student has sufficient competence in the necessary research tools. If he/she does not have sufficient competence, the committee shall specify what additional preparation is required, as a pre-requisite for undertaking the dissertation.

Upon successful completion of the general examination in a PhD program, and completion of all the coursework requirements for the MA, the student may be awarded an MA degree, provided that application is made through the Graduate College and the appropriate fee is paid.

General Examinations

The examination process for the PhD begins with formal application through the Graduate College to take the General Examination. Examinations will be scheduled once in the fall and once in the spring semester. The time allowed for each field examination shall not exceed eight hours. Within the following two weeks, an oral examination will be held if the student passes all of the written exam. The oral examination takes place with all members of the student’s Advisory Committee present and provides an opportunity for a more direct means of evaluating the student’s abilities. The oral examination is of particular importance when the student’s performance on the written portion of the General Examination is marginal or when there is a disagreement among members of the committee concerning the evaluation of all or part of the written work.

The General Examination is the most crucial evaluation stage in the course of a PhD program. The examination should be approached with care, and considerable thought should be given to the period of preparation for it; it will require more careful and extensive study than students will have undertaken earlier in their coursework. Students have the obligation to prepare themselves for the General Examination. A main part of this preparation is coursework. Students should expect to complete about 45 to 48 hours of coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree (including any master’s degree work and excluding tool requirements). Students ordinarily will take three or four courses in a particular field, including required courses designated as special preparatory courses, as a threshold requirement for taking General Examinations in the field.

The General Examination tests the ability to synthesize material in each field, above and beyond what has been presented in prior coursework; it requires the student to demonstrate a detailed and comprehensive knowledge of his/her fields, at a level appropriate to signify capacity for responsible teaching and for advanced research and scholarship. It should be strongly emphasized that the examinations cover a field considered as a substantive body of knowledge; they are not merely surveys of previous coursework. Much of the knowledge appropriate to a field will have been introduced in courses and assigned readings, but some of it may not have been. It is emphatically the responsibility of the student to learn what body of knowledge is fundamental to the field and to master it. Suggested reading lists, advisory committees and individual faculty members are available to assist students in clarifying the issues, literature and problems they must understand in order to be adequately prepared. Students should devote a considerable amount of time specifically to study for the General Examination.

The General Examination must be taken within one year of completion of the coursework specified in the Advisory Conference Report. Exceptions to this time limit may be made only with the approval of the Graduate College Dean. In order to begin the process, the student must file a request with the Graduate College for permission to take the General Examination. Before being granted permission, the student must have satisfactorily completed all the coursework prescribed in the Advisory Conference Report, including the tool requirement and have no incomplete grades. If permission is granted, the Graduate Program Director will appoint an Examination Committee. This committee will ordinarily consist of the members of the student’s Advisory Committee, and the field coordinator for each of the fields in which the student is to be examined. If the field coordinator is a member of the student’s committee, another faculty member from that field will be selected by the Graduate Program Director to assist with the examination. The members of the Advisory Committee, in consultation with the field coordinator or other field faculty, will prepare the questions for the examination and will evaluate the written answers. Examinations in each field will be evaluated by the committee member(s), the field coordinator, and other appropriate faculty members in that field.

Students must satisfactorily complete written examinations in all fields before they may proceed to their oral examination. The oral examination will be conducted by the Advisory Committee, which shall have the final decision in evaluating the student’s performance. The result of the Examination is reported to the Graduate College. Examinations shall be evaluated on the following scale:


The result of the General Examination will be made part of the student’s departmental records. Exam results are reported to the Graduate College.

If the student fails any portion of the examination (written or oral), the report must indicate a failure of the entire exam. If a student fails only one field of the examination, the examination in that field may be repeated at the next administration of the General Examination. The General Examination may not be given a third time. If a student who has failed is permitted by his/her Advisory Committee to retake the General Examination, the next attempt must occur within no more than a year.


The dissertation is that stage in the course of earning a PhD that follows the successful completion of the General Examinations. Approximately thirty hours of the program are devoted to research hours to be used in the writing of an original and worthwhile contribution to our knowledge of politics. A Dissertation Committee of five persons, one of whom is a faculty member in a department other than Political Science, is constituted for the purpose of advising on and evaluating the dissertation.

The initial step in the dissertation process is to develop a prospectus, to be examined and accepted by the Dissertation Committee. It is to be prepared with the advice and direction of the professor who shall have primary responsibility in working with the student in the full preparation of the dissertation. The prospectus must be submitted and approved within one year after the student has passed General Exams Students receive an unsatisfactory grade for dissertation enrollment (PSc 6980) if the prospectus has not been approved by the end of the third regular semester in which the student has enrolled for dissertation credit. The student will continue to receive an unsatisfactory grade until the prospectus has been approved. Exceptions to this rule are permitted in those unusual instances when students enroll in dissertation research before they have completed all their required courses. Four or more hours of “U” grades received in one academic year are grounds for academic probation and dismissal from the doctoral program.

The Dissertation Committee shall ascertain whether the student is sufficiently prepared with language or other research tools to carry out the project; if he/she is not, additional work on language or other tools must be required as a condition for accepting the prospectus. In evaluating the prospectus, the committee will require a meeting with the student. In the event that, in the judgment of the committee, such a meeting should place undue hardship on the student (e.g., difficulty and expense of travel), the meeting may be waived by the committee.

IRB online training and approval must be obtained after prospectus approval and before beginning data collection. Upon completion of the dissertation, the entire Dissertation Committee shall meet and examine the student on the basis of the dissertation.

After completion of the General Exams, the student shall have four years to complete the dissertation. At the end of the four-year period, the student may request an extension. This request is directed to the Graduate College Dean from the student’s Dissertation Committee signed by all committee members and approved by the Graduate Program Director. If the dissertation is not completed at the end of the time prescribed by the Department, the student must take the General Examinations once again and satisfactorily pass them in order to remain a candidate for the PhD.

Students are strongly encouraged to use the American Political Science Association Style Manual for Political Science, rev. ed. (2001), as the style guide for preparing the dissertation. This document is available on-line at www. apsanet.org.

Some general advice: The problem of designing an intelligent program of study is one to which each student should devote considerable thought. It is a task not to be undertaken lightly. Before making firm commitments, each student will want to evaluate his/her background, interests and abilities; he/she will wish to explore some courses, meet as many of the faculty as possible and understand the strengths of various elements of the program; and, finally, each student should seek advice from a number of different members of the faculty. While a student may be assigned a faculty advisor on entering the program, it is the responsibility of the student to take the initiative in (1) familiarizing himself or herself with other members of the faculty, (2) making a choice of faculty to serve on his/her Advisory Committee, and (3) stating a sufficiently clear account of his/her interests so that the Advisory Committee can help in formulating a plan of coursework.

Students should beware of the dangers of overspecialization at an early stage of their studies. It is easy to think too exclusively of the need to establish a niche for oneself in some corner of the discipline while overlooking the larger intellectual content which graduate study requires. It is helpful to remember that a political scientist needs not only a corner of the discipline in which to make his/her contribution, but needs as well to be able to converse in an informed way with others in the discipline. Capable political scientists must teach, cooperate with, and advise students and colleagues whose interests are different from their own; and they will have the obligation to grasp and represent the discipline as a whole in many different contexts. For these and other reasons, a student should try to master as much of political science as possible, while developing as well an aspect of it in which he/she can contribute to advancing the understanding of politics.

For a thoughtful attempt to explain the discipline of political science, the essay by Dwight Waldo in the Handbook of Political Science is a good place to start. See Waldo, “Political Science: Tradition, Discipline, Profession, Science, Enterprise,” in the Handbook of Political Science, vol. 1, ed. Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W. Polsby (Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1975), pp. 1-130. Waldo also provides an extensive bibliography.