Program Requirements

General Program Requirements:
Number of Credits Required to Earn the Ph.D.: 46, including 30 credits at the master's level and 16 at the doctoral level

Required Courses:

Core Courses
Select two from the following:6
POLS 8101
Government in American Society
POLS 8201
Comparative Politics
POLS 8301
International Politics
POLS 8401Introduction to Political Theory3
POLS 8601Teaching Methods1
Methods Courses
CLA 8985Teaching in Higher Education: Liberal Arts3
POLS 8001Political Statistics I3
POLS 8002Qualitative Research Methods3
POLS 8003Political Statistics II3
Electives 118
Research Courses
POLS 9994Preliminary Examination Preparation1
POLS 9998Pre-Dissertation Research3
POLS 9999Dissertation Research 22
Total Credit Hours46

Culminating Events:
Qualifying Examinations:
The Qualifying Examinations are given at the end of the Spring term for students in their second year of the Ph.D. program. To be eligible to take the Qualifying Exams, students must have completed all didactic coursework and have no incompletes on their transcript regardless of how many credits they have been completed. In practice, all incompletes must be converted to a letter grade by the date on which the examinations take place.

Students take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations in one of four fields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory. The field in which a student takes their Qualifying Examinations is considered their primary field of study. Examinations include both written and oral parts and are conducted by at least three faculty selected from the subfield by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the Subfield Coordinator. The examiners have joint responsibility for writing and grading the field examination. In this exam, students must demonstrate depth and breadth of knowledge and intellectual sophistication across their primary Ph.D. field of study. They should also be prepared to interpret political phenomena within the context of various theories; use empirical data to illuminate concepts; and identify gaps in knowledge. Students are encouraged to meet with faculty in their field to discuss the general areas of the exam content to ensure that they have accurately identified key theories, concepts, and literature. Professors may make sample questions, previous exams, or special reading lists available as study aids.

The oral exam is scheduled for students soon after they receive notice of having passed their written exam. Except under extraordinary circumstances, students should take the oral exam in the same term as their written exam. Each oral examination committee consists of the written examiners. The oral exam allows candidates to respond to the examiners' comments on the written exam and to demonstrate their ability to connect the specific issues addressed in the exam to other related areas of inquiry within the intended primary field of study. Students are urged to carefully review the examiners’ comments on their written exam in preparation for the oral exam.

In the oral exam (as well as in the oral defense of a dissertation discussed below), the student must be able to converse in English adequately for professional purposes. If, in the judgment of a majority of committee members, the student is not demonstrating this ability, the examination is suspended so that the student can take additional training in the English language.

Students who fail the written or oral portion of the Qualifying Examinations can take a new version of the exams at the end of the summer after their second year in the Ph.D. program. The Graduate School specifies that any student who fails all or part of these examinations twice is automatically dismissed from the program.

Field Paper:
In addition to the Qualifying Examinations in their primary field, students must also submit a field paper in their primary field of study. The field paper is a completed piece of research of publishable quality. It is intended to serve as a significant steppingstone toward the dissertation proposal and may build on papers written in previous courses. In the Spring term of a student's second year, the student enrolls in POLS 9994 and works with the course instructor and a member of the graduate faculty to generate a topic for the field paper. Field papers are due at the start of the Fall term of the student’s third year. Papers are evaluated by the Qualifying Examinations committee in the relevant field. Students whose papers are deemed passing are invited to present their papers orally to the Qualifying Examinations committee within ten days of the date of submission. Papers not approved by the Qualifying Examinations committee must be revised and resubmitted again before the end of the Fall term of the third year. Failure to complete a satisfactory field paper by the end of the exam period in the Fall term of the third year constitutes grounds for dismissal from the program.

Seminar Paper:
In lieu of a Qualifying Exam, students submit a seminar paper in their secondary field of study to the Qualifying Examinations committee in the relevant field. As part of their coursework, students must take the core seminar and two electives in their secondary field. All graduate elective courses give students the option of writing a seminar paper as a central element of the course grading. In one of these electives, students complete a seminar paper, which is graded as usual by the instructor of record, and turned in when students sit for their Qualifying Examinations in their primary field. The instructor of record in the course for which the seminar paper is written may require further revision before the paper is submitted to the Qualifying Examinations committee.

Dissertation Proposal:
In consultation with the Graduate Chair, the candidate secures a principal dissertation advisor. This person must be a member of the Political Science Graduate Faculty and specialize in the area of the dissertation topic. Preferably in the term immediately after passing the Ph.D. Qualifying Exam, and no more than two terms thereafter, the candidate takes POLS 9998, the dissertation proposal preparation course. The course is offered every Spring under the guidance of the Graduate Chair. The purpose of the course is to launch students on writing their dissertation proposals and prepare them for writing the dissertation. Regardless of whichever term the student registers, students are required to do the following: 

  1. Under the guidance of their advisor (or if different from the advisor, the faculty member most likely to supervise their dissertation) and Graduate Chair, begin exploring possible dissertation topics through research and reading. 
  2. Attend seminar meetings in the Spring term under the supervision of the Graduate Chair. At these sessions, the Graduate Chair presents information relevant to the development and preparation of dissertation proposals and chapters. Students are required to make presentations that address problems encountered in the proposal and dissertation writing process and strategies for overcoming them. Students who already have taken POLS 9998 are invited back to attend and participate in subsequent seminars and report on their progress and share their experiences with the students enrolled in the course. 

In consultation with the dissertation advisor, the student assembles a Doctoral Advisory Committee. The Doctoral Advisory Committee is to be composed of at least three Temple Graduate Faculty, at least two of whom have their primary presidential appointment in Political Science. The composition of the Doctoral Advisory Committee must be formally approved by the Graduate Chair. A student wishing to pursue a dissertation on a topic that requires supplementing the expertise of the department's faculty may have to seek a committee member from another department. The student has the burden of convincing the Graduate Chair that a committee with adequate expertise can be established with faculty willing to serve.

Students are required to submit a preliminary proposal not to exceed five double-spaced pages. The preliminary proposal should address both the question(s) to be examined and a justification for why those questions warrant a major study. Students are expected to show why these questions are or should be important to political scientists as well as to citizens. Only after the Doctoral Advisory Committee is satisfied that the student has written a persuasive preliminary proposal will the student be permitted to write a longer proposal, if the committee believes a longer proposal is warranted.

Successful completion of POLS 9998 culminates in the defense of the dissertation prospectus before the Doctoral Advisory Committee. The dissertation prospectus, consisting of a research design and literature review, should be defended and accepted by the full membership of the committee within two terms after completion of Ph.D. coursework. No student is awarded financial assistance who has not successfully defended a prospectus within a year of completion of coursework. Students who fail to submit an approved dissertation proposal within two years of completing their Ph.D. coursework are subject to dismissal from the program. An approved proposal is a contract between the student and the Doctoral Advisory Committee. After approval, any significant theoretical or methodological change in the substantive direction of the project must be approved by the committee.

Once the prospectus is successfully defended, the student is advanced to candidacy. The Doctoral Advisory Committee must confer at least once a year with the student to review progress and provide advice. Students should take the initiative to schedule these exchanges and ensure that written faculty comments on the exchange be placed in their graduate file.

A doctoral dissertation should demonstrate that the candidate can conduct scholarly research with a high level of professional competence. The dissertation should constitute a distinctive contribution to knowledge in Political Science. Normally, it should outline theoretical knowledge in some field of Political Science; propose a question or hypothesis that is linked to the theory; and provide empirical data to illuminate the theoretical issues in a convincing manner.

The Graduate School requires that students working on a dissertation register for POLS 9999 in order to maintain status as an active graduate student.

Students must submit final drafts of dissertations in an approved style and format. Not doing so may result in significant reformatting at the end. Information on the desired format can be found in the Dissertation and Thesis Handbook on the Graduate School’s website at

After the principal dissertation advisor and the Doctoral Advisory Committee have reviewed the completed dissertation draft, a fourth reader from outside the department who has not been involved with the dissertation previously must be selected by the dissertation committee chair and the Graduate Chair. (Students may suggest a reader.) This reader must be a Graduate Faculty member from another department at Temple or from another university who has the qualifications necessary to act as a fair judge of the dissertation's scholarly merit. As a member of the newly formed Dissertation Examining Committee, this reader should receive a completed draft of the dissertation one month before the anticipated dissertation defense date. Readers who are from outside of Temple University must submit a curriculum vitae and be approved by the Graduate School at least two weeks prior to the oral defense.

When a majority of the Dissertation Examining Committee has judged in writing that the dissertation is ready to be defended, a defense date can be scheduled. A defense is open to the university community and to the student's family; others who wish to attend must obtain the written permission of the student and the Dissertation Examining Committee. The defense must be announced publicly at least 10 working days in advance. Notice must be sent to all faculty members in the department and to the Graduate School. The public announcement of the defense should include an abstract of the dissertation.

The oral defense must be chaired by a member of the committee other than the dissertation advisor. The oral defense should demonstrate that:

  • the dissertation is commensurate with the standards for original research in Political Science;
  • the ethics and standards governing Political Science research have been followed;
  • the research and appropriate methodology have been mastered; and
  • the candidate has an understanding of the relationship of this work to the broader field in which it is lodged.

Passing the examination requires a vote of approval by more than half of the full membership of the Dissertation Examining Committee. If a dissertation is approved but revisions are required, the revisions must be submitted to the Graduate School in final form within 30 days of the defense. Otherwise, the defense is nullified and a new oral defense must be scheduled. After the final draft of the dissertation has been approved by the dissertation chair, it must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator and to the Graduate School by uploading the final document to