The principal goal of the Stanford Ph.D. program in political science is the training of scholars. Most students who receive doctorates in the program do research and teach at colleges or universities. We offer courses and research opportunities in a wide variety of fields in the discipline, including American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, and Political Methodology. The program is built around small seminars that analyze critically the literature of a field or focus on a research problem. These courses prepare students for the Ph.D. comprehensive exam requirement within a two-year period and for work on the doctoral dissertation.
Doctoral Program Requirements
Programs of study leading to the Ph.D. degree in Political Science are designed by the student, in consultation with advisors and the Director of Graduate Studies, to serve his or her particular interests as well as to achieve the program requirements. The most current and complete information about degree requirements can be found in the Ph.D. Program Guide. Students should also familiarize themselves with University requirements outlined in the Graduate Degrees section of the Stanford Bulletin.
Knowledge of Two Fields
Find additional information on field requirements
Each student chooses two fields from American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, and Political Methodology. In the primary field, students must demonstrate comprehensive knowledge by passing a written field examination. Field Examinations are offered once in the Spring. In order to prepare for the field exam, each field offers a series of courses designed to familiarize the student with the literature of that field. In the secondary field, students must demonstrate comprehensive knowledge by satisfactory grades in the required classes.
Exposure to a Third Field
Since students will often be exposed to work in other fields of Political Science, the Stanford program asks that students become familiar with a third field. To do this, students take at least two courses for at least three units each from among the formal graduate-level courses in the five divisions of the department. The third concentration cannot be satisfied by courses taken as a requirement for a first or second concentration. A third concentration in theory requires two courses in addition to the five units necessary to fulfill the program requirement. A third concentration in methodology requires PS 450C and PS 450D in addition to the classes necessary to fulfill the methodology program requirement.
All students must complete one course of graduate instruction in political theory. The Political Theory Field Statement lists the courses that count toward the requirements in a particular year.
All students are required to take, at a minimum, PS 450A and PS 450B, which cover basic probability and statistics and the linear regression model.
In the second year each student produces a scholarly research paper aimed at exposing the Ph.D. candidate to the research techniques used by political scientists. Second year research papers are assessed by two readers from among the regular Department faculty. These readers are usually in one of the student’s major fields.
All students are required to take a research design class.
Since teaching is an important component of the political science profession, all students will serve as teaching assistants in undergraduate courses in order to hone their teaching skills. A candidate for the Ph.D. in Political Science is required to serve as a teaching assistant (TA) in the department for a minimum of three quarters, but should expect to TA for five quarters between years 2-5.