Ph.D. Program Requirements

Residence and Course Loads

The graduate program will require a minimum of six quarters in residence at UCSC preceding the qualifying examination. Before taking the qualifying examination, students will be expected to enroll for 10 course credits per quarter.

Language and Research Methods

Each candidate shall develop with his or her adviser language and method requirements appropriate to the student's project, graduate education, and career goals. These specific requirements are subject to approval by the student's adviser. As an example, if a student's research were to employ ethnographic methods, training in languages as well as course work in qualitative and/or quantitative methodology would be expected. For a different kind of project, quantitative methods might appear more salient, mandating course work in statistical analysis, survey research techniques, and related subjects.

Progress Towards the Degree

Our program is intended to lead to a Ph.D. in politics. All curricular requirements are aimed at preparing students for timely and successful completion of a doctoral dissertation. The graduate curriculum in politics includes six stages: (1) three 'Core Seminars' and the 'Logics of Inquiry' seminar; (2) eight other graduate-level courses, at least five of which must be politics courses, along with further training (as appropriate, in languages and methodology); (3) teaching assistant (TA) seminars and graduate colloquia; (4) a qualifying examination consisting of written and oral parts; (5) the research and writing of the dissertation; and (6) its oral defense. Each of these is explained in turn in what follows.


Required Core Seminars: Over the course of their first two years in residence, students are required to take three core seminars that correspond to the areas of emphasis outlined in the Program Description. These required seminars are offered in alternating years. The core seminars provide a broad foundation for research in politics and offer structured opportunities to foster a community of scholarship within the program.

Logics of Inquiry: The department also recognizes the importance of informed and critically engaged methodology. Logics of inquiry, a required course, investigates approaches to the study of politics and to the enterprise of social science in general. In the course, positivist, interpretive, historical, and critical approaches provide examples that are held up to critical and epistemological reflection

Additional Courses: Prior to the qualifying exam (normally taken between the seventh and ninth quarters of residence), a minimum of five additional politics graduate courses taught by politics department or affiliated graduate faculty must be completed. Three other graduate-level courses are also required -- some of which may be offered by faculty outside politics. In consultation with a student's committee, other courses or independent studies will be added to the list of courses required for the student in question (language courses, courses in statistics or research techniques, study in extradisciplinary historical and cultural fields, and others). Graduate seminars are open to all politics graduate students and to qualified graduate students form other disciplines.

TA Seminar and Graduate Colloquium: All students who are teaching assistants will be required to attend a TA seminar in which pedagogic and substantive issues will be considered. All graduate students will be expected to attend graduate colloquia with notable visitors brought to campus for public lectures and presentations. Students not engaged as teaching assistants will be asked to play a significant intellectual role in these occasions by acting as respondents to talks given by visitors as well as by organizing and leading special meetings of these visitors with fellow graduate students.

Politics Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination (QE) is required of all PhD students and is intended to demonstrate a student’s knowledge and competence in at least two of the program’s four areas of emphasis. The timeline for the QE process provides the student with a full year of research and writing without the obligation of teaching outside the university, thus motivating completion of the dissertation in a timely and reasonable manner. It also ensures that students will be in excellent shape to apply for intra- and extramural funding for fieldwork and other types of research support the fourth and fifth years. Under this arrangement, students are expected to complete the dissertation in five to six years.


The dissertation committee must be composed of at least three professors, two of whom (including the chair) must be members of the Politics faculty. The dissertation committee is selected by the student and approved by the graduate assistant and the Graduate Council. The dissertation committee need not be the same as the QE committee. The Chair of the two committees can be the same professor.

Progress on the dissertation: Upon completion and approval of the prospectus, the student may begin formal work on the dissertation, with the assistance and oversight of the dissertation committee. At the end of each academic year (by May 15), whether the student is in residence at UCSC or not, she/he will file a statement of progress with the dissertation committee (but see the Graduate Student Handbook on "leave of absence"). The completed dissertation must receive the signed approval of the dissertation committee and must be filed with the Graduate Division. You must either be a registered student or on Filing Fee the quarter in which your degree is to be conferred. In order to be eligible for filing fee, a student must have been either on an approved leave of absence or registered in the previous quarter. If the Ph.D. degree is not awarded within seven years from the date of Advancement to Candidacy, the student's candidacy shall lapse and the student will be required to pass a new qualifying exam prior to submitting the dissertation or undergo such other formal review as the student's department shall direct, and the result of this examination or review shall be transmitted in writing to the Graduate Council.

Dissertation defense: Upon completion, the student will be asked to defend her/his dissertation before the dissertation committee.