Univ of Southern California
University of Southern California
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Political Science

Graduate Degrees

Degree Requirements

These degrees are under the jurisdiction of the Graduate School. Refer to the Requirements for Graduation and the Graduate School section for general regulations. All courses applied toward the degrees must be courses accepted by the Graduate School.

All graduate students are required to maintain regular contact with the graduate coordinator to assure compliance with departmental regulations.

Master of Arts in Political Science and International Relations

Only students who have a degree objective of obtaining the Ph.D. will be admitted into the Political Science and International Relations program. However, interested students can obtain a M.A. degree while pursuing the Ph.D. The degree is awarded upon successful completion of (a) 28 units, including three of the five courses in the program’s core theory and methodology sequence, a master’s thesis and registration in POSC 594ab or IR 594ab; and (b) the approval of the master’s thesis by the thesis committee.

Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science and International Relations

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 degree requirements are fulfilled by successfully completing a minimum of 60 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 examination.

Screening Process
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.

Course Requirements
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. Each field of concentration requires completion of at least three graduate level courses, including the core course in standard fields, with an average grade consistent with university and program requirements. Additional courses necessary to complete the 60 units required by the Graduate School should be taken in consultation with faculty advisors and the Guidelines for Graduate Study in Political Science and International Relations.

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 three 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.

Foreign Language
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.

Substantive Paper
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, in consultation with the chair of his or her guidance committee, will distribute the substantive paper to all members of the guidance committee at least 14 days prior to the oral defense of the qualifying examinations. 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 advisor within one year of the defense.

Qualifying Examinations
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 three courses and passing them with an average grade consistent with university and program requirements. The guidance 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 guidance committee. The oral examination will be based on the student’s two written field exams and the substantive paper. The guidance committee will be made up of five members. Two members, one from each standing field, will be designated by the director of the Ph.D. program in consultation with the student’s principal advisor. In consultation with his or her principal advisor, the student will select the other two field examiners and the outside member of the guidance committee. Final approval of the guidance committee requires the signature of the program director.

Students will pass the qualifying examinations if no more than one member of the 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 examination 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 and passed the written and oral portions of the Ph.D. qualifying examinations.

Upon completion of the qualifying examinations, the student, in consultation with the principal advisor, 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.

Consult the Requirements for Graduation and the Graduate School section of this catalogue regarding time limitations for completion of the degree and other Graduate School requirements.

All graduate students considering an academic career should generally have research, teaching and advisement experiences as part of their program of study.

Juris Doctor/Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science and International Relations

Application deadline (for Ph.D.): December 1

The Political Science and International Relations program and the USC Gould School of Law jointly offer a dual degree program leading to the J.D./Ph.D. degree. Applicants must apply to the Political Science and International Relations program and the law school and meet the requirements for admission to both. In addition to the LSAT, students interested in this program are required to take the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE).

In the first year students take their course work in the law school exclusively. To earn the J.D., all students (including dual degree students) must complete 35 numerically graded law units at USC after the first year. The associate dean may make exceptions to this rule for students enrolled in law honors programs. The second and third years include a total of 40 units of courses in political science and international relations and 40 units of law. Students must complete a five-course core theory and methodology sequence. They must include a classics-oriented, two-semester political, social, comparative and international theory sequence (currently POSC 530 and IR 500), a multivariate statistics course (such as IR 514 or POSC 600) and a philosophies/methodologies in social inquiry course (IR 513 or POSC 500). Finally in their second, third or fourth year, they must take an approved advanced research methods course.

To obtain a Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations, students must pass the screening process. After the completion of required field course work with a grade of B or better, a substantive paper or USC M.A. thesis relevant to the program, students must take a Ph.D. qualifying examination in two of their three fields of concentration. The third field will be completed by taking at least three courses and passing each with a grade of B or better. The final requirement, following successful completion of the qualifying examination, is a doctoral dissertation.

Doctor of Philosophy in Political Economy and Public Policy

The Department of Political Science, the Department of Economics and the School of International Relations jointly offer a program of study leading to the Ph.D. degree and to the M.A. degree in the process of work toward the Ph.D. degree. Applicants must apply to the Graduate School and meet the admission requirements of all three departments.

Required courses include both core requirements and area requirements. Core requirements include courses in economic theory and history of economic theory; history of political thought; scope, methodology and research methods; and political economy and public policy. Area requirements include courses drawn from one of the following three areas of concentration: comparative and developmental political economy; politics, economics and the policy process; and international political economy.

For a detailed description of this program, see Political Economy and Public Policy .