Department of Political Science

Navigation + Search
Home / Graduate Programs / Ph.D. Program

Ph.D. Program

Admission Requirements Financial Aid Program Requirements Ph.D. Examinations Ph.D. Dissertation

Admission Requirements

For graduate studies in the Department of Political Science, each applicant must hold a baccalaureate degree and submit specific credentials, along with the application form and fee, no later than 90 days before the first day of classes of the semester for which admission is being requested (November 1 for Spring semester admission, June 1 for Fall semester admission). Applicants will not be evaluated until they have submitted all required materials.

To be admitted to the Ph.D. program, a student must have an undergraduate degree, ideally with a focus in Political Science or in a related field (e.g. history, economics, sociology, anthropology). Students who have majored in fields not directly related to Political Science should demonstrate in their applications that they are prepared to undertake graduate work in this discipline. Applicants with M.A.s in Political Science from other institutions will be notified at the point of admission whether the department has certified their degrees, allowing them to be used toward Case’s doctoral program requirements. Students entering without M.A.s or with M.A.s not certified by the department are expected to complete their M.A.s in the course of their studies for the Ph.D.

Those interested in applying to the Ph.D. program should determine, prior to applying, whether one or more members of the department faculty are active in the applicant’s field of interest. Faculty members’ fields of research are described on the department web site, and individual faculty members can be contacted prior to submission of an application. Because the department faculty is small, we cannot support Ph.D. work in a number of areas in Political Science. For this reason, Ph.D. applications must specify the applicant’s field(s) of interest, as the Graduate Studies Committee will not recommend the admission of an applicant where the department faculty cannot support the applicant’s proposed course of study.

Applicants to the Ph.D. program must submit:

  • Application Form 
  • Application Fee ($50)
  • Three letters of recommendation from former professors. (Submission of letters from individuals other than professors requires the approval of the Graduate Coordinator.)
  • Statement of Objectives: The Statement of Objectives is required by the Case Western Reserve University School of Graduate Studies. You should create your own document and include “Statement of Objectives” as the heading. The statement should be one or two pages and should include your purpose in undertaking graduate work, and an explanation of your study and research interests as they relate to your undergraduate/graduate study and professional goals.
  • Transcripts of all prior undergraduate and graduate work. The department strongly prefers that applicants without an M.A. in Political Science have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.2 overall and a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.4 in Political Science courses and that applicants with an M.A. degree in Political Science have a minimum GPA of 3.4 overall in their M.A. work.
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE) Results with minimum scores of 153 on Verbal (or 500 if taken before August 1, 2011), 144 on Quantitative (or 500 if taken before August 1, 2011), and 4.5 on Analytical sections.
  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) Scores (for international students only) with a minimum score of at least 577 on the paper version or at least 90 on the computer version of the TOEFL. A score of 7.0 is required on the International English Language Testing System.

Financial Aid

The department has limited funds to help students with up to half of the cost of tuition. Information on financial aid and student loans is available from the Office of University Financial Aid (216-368-4530).

Program Requirements

Doctoral students are expected to acquire and demonstrate specialized knowledge in the field and consult with the Graduate Studies Director prior to enrollment each semester to determine the most appropriate courses to take. The student has five consecutive calendar years from the first semester POSC 701 is taken to complete all requirements for the doctorate. Each Ph.D. student must complete a total of 63 credit hours (45 of which must be at the 400-level or above and 18 of which must be POSC 701) which is broken down as follows:

  • 12 hours in primary subfield (American Politics & Government, Comparative Politics, or International Relations)
  • 9 hours in secondary subfield (one of the remaining two fields)
  • 6 hours in the remaining subfield
  • 6 hours in Research Methods (including 3 hours in POSC 449 Research Methods)
  • 12 hours of electives (can include a maximum of 9 hours of POSC 601 Independent Study)
  • 18 hours POSC 701 Research
  • Comprehensive Examinations (see below for more information)
  • Dissertation Defense and Submission (see below for more information)

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examinations

The Ph.D. comprehensive examination requires the student to explain, critique, integrate, and apply the arguments of the leading works in the subfield of focus, to fully describe the evolution of the subfield, and to propose new directions for research in that subfield. The purpose of this examination is to ensure that doctoral students have specialized knowledge in the field of Political Science. Upon completion of 45 hours of course work, the student must pass the Ph.D. comprehensive examinations in his or her primary and secondary subfields. In preparation, the student shall design reading lists for each examination. The student’s reading lists should draw on suggestions from department faculty, course syllabi, and the M.A. Reading Lists, available on the department’s web site. The student’s advisor, in conjunction with faculty in the secondary subfield, must approve the lists. Test questions will be based upon an expectation that the student has thoroughly studied the works designated on his or her reading lists. Faculty members in the appropriate subfields write the test questions, which are then assembled by the Graduate Studies Director, who is responsible for scheduling the exam. The student must notify the faculty advisor and the Graduate Studies Director of intent to take the exams at least 6 weeks before he or she wishes to take them. To assist in preparation for the examination, students may opt to design a relevant course of study and register for POSC 601. (See Suggestions for Preparing for the M.A. and the Ph.D. Examinations, for further guidance.)

Each of the two comprehensive exams will be closed-book and have a time limit of 6 hours. Both must be taken within a one-week period. After review of the written exams, the department may ask the student to submit to an oral examination to clarify his/her answer essays. Grading is Honors, Pass, or Fail, determined upon completion of the entire exam. If failed, the student will have one calendar year in which to retake the exam(s) failed. It is expected that the student will require at least one semester to prepare for retaking the exam. During the interim, the Political Science faculty may require the student to take additional courses to aid in alleviating academic deficiencies as reflected by the failed exam(s). Failure to pass the exam upon the second attempt will result in the student being separated from further study in the department.

University regulations require students to be registered for course work, whether full-time or part-time, during the semester in which the Ph.D. comprehensive exams are taken. If not enrolled for other courses, students are required to register for one hour of EXAM 700, “General Exam” (noncredit), prior to taking the exams.

Ph.D. Dissertation

The dissertation must be submitted as evidence of the student’s ability to conduct independent research at an advanced level. A dissertation is a written study, typically 150-400 pages in length, which draws on the student’s original research to make a contribution to the field of Political Science. The entire dissertation, or a portion of it, should be suitable for publication in a respected academic journal or as a monograph.

To begin the dissertation phase of the doctoral program, each student should identify a research advisor in the department and notify the Dean of Graduate Studies of this decision. The student should also establish a dissertation committee consisting of the advisor, two other faculty members in the department, and a Case faculty member from outside of the department. Each member of the dissertation committee must be either a full, associate, or assistant professor. Throughout the planning, research, and writing stages, doctoral students should be in frequent contact with their advisors and regular contact with all their committee members. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the committee members support the student’s work.

Within six months of passing the comprehensive examinations, the student is required to present and defend a dissertation proposal to his or her four-member dissertation committee. If no more than one member of the dissertation committee dissents, the student will be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy and register for dissertation credit (POSC 701).

Upon completion of no less than 18 hours of 701, the student must sit for the final defense of the dissertation. The student must submit the final version of the dissertation to the committee members no later than 10 days prior to the defense. The student will be certified as passing the final defense if not more than one of the four committee member’s dissents. If academic standing has also been maintained (GPA of 3.0), the Ph.D. will be awarded at the next scheduled graduation. Failure to pass the defense upon this first attempt will result in termination of study, and the degree will not be awarded. To decrease the chances of failure, students should work closely with their committee members and have each member’s backing before scheduling the defense. (Note that students must be registered for POSC 701 during the semester in which the defense occurs.)

Upon passage of the defense, the student must submit two copies of the final, approved dissertation to the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies. These copies must meet University specifications for typing and reproduction. They will be bound (including the official approval sheets, signed by the examining committee) and deposited in the Case libraries. In addition, the student must guarantee the reproduction of the dissertation through University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, Michigan, before certification for the doctorate.

Page last modified: October 20, 2015