Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences
Political Science and International Relations
FAX: (213) 740-0281
Director: Saori N. Katada, Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science and International Relations
USC Graduate School Requirements
The Ph.D. degree is awarded to students who have demonstrated in-depth knowledge of the disciplines of political science and international relations and the ability to make an original research contribution. The Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations requirements are fulfilled by successfully completing a minimum of 70 units beyond the B.A., the Ph.D. screening process, three fields of concentration, a substantive paper, a foreign language requirement (if applicable), qualifying examinations, a dissertation proposal, and a written dissertation and its oral defense.
The faculty of the Department of Political Science and the School of International Relations welcome talented candidates from a variety of backgrounds. Although a prior degree in political science or international relations is not necessary, it is strongly recommended that applicants have completed at least some course work in related fields, including political theory, statistics and social science research methods.
Admission decisions are based on consideration of applicants’ prior academic performance, as reflected in course grades, the results of the Graduate Record Examination, letters of recommendation, and a statement of intent that demonstrates a seriousness of purpose, a high level of motivation and a desire to benefit from our faculty’s areas of expertise or interest. Applicants also are required to submit a sample of their written work in English, preferably a research-oriented paper. Business, government and other practical experiences may also be taken into account. Applicants whose native language is not English must take the TOEFL or IELTS examination.
Before completion of 24 units, students will be reviewed by a screening committee made up of the program director, one teacher of one of the core courses and one professor nominated by the student. This committee will review the student’s progress, including grades and written faculty evaluations of course work.
The committee will be responsible for deciding, at an early stage in the student’s career, if the student is likely to finish the Ph.D. program. After reviewing the student’s record, the committee may decide to (1) continue the student, (2) not continue the student and admit the student into a terminal M.A. degree program, or (3) fail the student’s performance in the screening process, i.e., not continue the student in either the M.A. or Ph.D. programs.
All doctoral candidates must complete an approved sequence of four courses in core theory and methodology, including a classics-oriented course in political theory, a multivariate statistics course, a philosophies/methodologies of social inquiry course, and a course in advanced research methods.
The selection of additional courses should be guided by the distribution requirements of the Ph.D. program. The student will choose three fields of concentration, of which two will be examined fields. Each examined field of concentration requires completion of four graduate-level courses, including the core course in standard fields, with an average grade consistent with university and program requirements. The third non-examined field of concentration requires completion of three graduate-level courses with an average grade consistent with university and program requirements. Students are also advised to take an independent study course to work toward their substantive paper requirement. Additional courses necessary to complete the 70 units required by the Guidelines for Graduate Study in Political Science and International Relations should be taken in consultation with faculty advisers.
Fields of Concentration
The standing fields of concentration include: American politics; comparative politics; international political economy; and international security and foreign policy. The candidate must satisfy two of these four standing fields by passing a written field qualifying examination. The student may satisfy the third field by completing four courses in one of these four, or may propose another customized field of study to be approved by relevant faculty and the Ph.D. program director and steering committee. For example, students can design a third field that cuts across disciplinary boundaries or focuses on specific areas of political science and international relations beyond the standing fields. The guidelines and program director can provide illustrations of this type of third field.
The student is required to demonstrate intermediate proficiency in a language other than English if the student’s primary field requires it. Students should consult the guidelines and the program director.
To show evidence of the capacity to conduct original research and before taking the qualifying exam, each student will submit a substantive paper. The student will submit the draft of his or her substantive paper to the chair of the qualifying exam committee one month prior to the qualifying examinations. After consultation with the chair and necessary revisions, the student is to distribute the paper to all members of the qualifying exam committee at least 14 days prior to the oral defense. The substantive paper should be presented and defended in the oral component of the qualifying examination as a viable journal submission to a peer-reviewed professional journal. It is strongly encouraged that the paper should be submitted to a professional journal approved by the student’s adviser within one year of the defense.
Ordinarily, students will take the qualifying exams no later than the fifth semester in the Ph.D. program. Students will be examined in two of their three fields of concentration. The third field will be completed by taking at least four courses and passing them with an average grade consistent with university and program requirements. The qualifying exam committee will evaluate the quality of these two written exams as evidence of the capacity to define and complete a Ph.D. dissertation.
The written examinations are closed book and will be administered over two days at least once per academic year. Examination questions will be written by a committee of the tenure track faculty in each field. The director of POIR graduate studies (program director), in consultation with the chair of the Department of Political Science and the director of the School of International Relations, will appoint one faculty member from each field to coordinate the writing of the relevant field exam. The field exam coordinators will then seek assistance from other faculty in their field, including those with whom the student has studied, to compose the written examination questions.
The oral portion of the student’s qualifying examination will be administered by his or her qualifying exam committee. The oral examination will be based on the student’s two written field exams and the substantive paper. The qualifying exam committee will be made up of five members. In consultation with his or her principal adviser, the student will select two members, one from each standing field in which he or she will be examined, and the other two field examiners and the outside member of the qualifying exam committee. Final approval of the qualifying exam committee requires the signature of the program director.
Students will pass the qualifying examinations if no more than one member of the qualifying exam committee dissents after reviewing the student’s record at USC and performance on the written and oral parts of the qualifying exams. At the discretion of the qualifying exam committee, students who do not pass the exams may be allowed to retake the qualifying exams the next time they are offered. Students are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. when they have completed the university residency requirement, passed the written and oral portions of the Ph.D. qualifying examinations, and defended their dissertation proposal.
Upon completion of the qualifying examinations, the student, in consultation with the principal adviser, selects a dissertation committee in accordance with university rules. Within six months of completing the qualifying examinations, students should have a formal defense of the dissertation proposal before their dissertation committee. The Ph.D. is earned upon the submission of the written dissertation and its successful defense before the dissertation committee.
All graduate students considering an academic career should generally have research, teaching and advisement experiences as part of their program of study.
Courses of Instruction
Political Science and International Relations (POIR)
The terms indicated are expected but are not guaranteed. For the courses offered during any given term, consult the Schedule of Classes.
POIR 590 Directed Research (1-12) Research leading to the master’s degree. Maximum units which may be applied to the degree to be determined by the department. Graded CR/NC.
POIR 593 Practicum in Teaching Politics and International Relations (2, Fa) Practical principles for the long-term development of effective teaching within political science and international relations disciplines. Intended for teaching assistants in Dornsife College. Graded CR/NC. Open only to doctoral students.
POIR 599 Special Topics (2–8, max 8) Subjects in one or more fields in political science.
POIR 600 Political Theory (4) Survey of literature; examination of approaches, concepts, and issues in the field of political theory. Open only to doctoral students. (Duplicates credit in former POSC 530.)
POIR 610 Research Design (4) The course will cover the design of experimental and observational research. We will examine both quantitative and qualitative approaches to social science research. Open only to doctoral students.
POIR 611 Introduction to Regression Analysis (4) The course will introduce students to regression analysis and its application to social science research. Open only to doctoral students.
POIR 613 Topics in Quantitative Analysis (4) Introduces statistical models beyond the standard linear regression model. Topics include maximum likelihood estimation, generalized linear models, and advanced methods. Open only to doctoral students.
POIR 620 American Politics and Policy Processes (4) Survey of literature; examination of approaches, concepts, and issues in the field of American politics and policy processes. Open only to doctoral students. (Duplicates credit in former POSC 510.)
POIR 640 Comparative Politics (4) Survey of literature; examination of approaches, concepts, and issues in the field of comparative politics. Open only to doctoral students. (Duplicates credit in former POSC 520.)
POIR 660 Introduction to International Relations Theory (4) The primary objective of this course is to introduce Ph.D. students to theoretical and empirical issues related to the study of international relations. Open only to doctoral students.
POIR 661 International Relations Theory: Advanced (4) Examines the specialized nomenclature of international relations and the varied interpretations of basic concepts of international theory; conceptual analysis and criticism. Open only to doctoral students. (Duplicates credit in former IR 501.)
POIR 662 Norms in International Relations (4) Norms structure international relations in political, security, and economic domains. This seminar assesses major theoretical perspectives and empirical research on international norms. Open only to doctoral students.
POIR 670 International Political Economy (4) Survey of approaches to international political economy. Intellectual roots; the management of collective goods; North-South relations are examined. Open only to doctoral students.
POIR 680 International Security and Foreign Policy (4) Examination of the interconnected fields of international security and foreign policy, including decision making and patterns of interaction regarding international conflict. Open only to doctoral students.
POIR 790 Research (1–12) Research leading to the doctorate. Maximum units which may be applied to the degree to be determined by the department. Graded CR/NC.
POIR 794abcdz Doctoral Dissertation (2-2-2-2-0) Credit on acceptance of dissertation. Graded CR/NC.