Program Details

Ph.D. in International Relations

Language Proficiency Requirement

In addition to the required coursework, students also fulfill a language proficiency requirement, either by passing a test administered by a program-designated language department or passing two 200-level (or above) courses with a grade of “B” or better. No graduate credit is awarded for language courses. International students whose native language is not English may use their mother language to fulfill the requirement. The requirement must be completed before taking the comprehensive examination.

Comprehensive Examination

Upon successful completion of the coursework and the language requirement, students are required to pass a comprehensive written examination, which will be administered through teleconference. Students have six hours to answer three questions – one from general knowledge of area studies and two from a focus area of their choice.

The examination requires students to be familiar with related literature and to be analytical, comparative, critical and insightful. Examinations are graded by either high distinction, distinction, pass or fail. Students who fail the exam may be allowed to repeat it one time only.

Dissertation Phase

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, students move to the dissertation writing phase and embark on a systematic, in-depth and detailed study of their preferred focus area.

Students secure a first reader from the list of faculty teaching in the program. The first reader assists in choosing a dissertation topic. Once the topic is decided, the student and the first reader choose a second reader. Both the first and second reader are responsible for supervising the student’s work.

The first task is to prepare and defend a dissertation prospectus that includes a title, abstract with a scope and objectives, the questions to be answered or the hypotheses to be tested, indication of the major sources and methods to be employed, and a tentative outline and bibliography. The prospectus should be a working plan rather than a substantial introduction to the topic. Once the prospectus has been approved by both readers, students defend the prospectus before the dissertation committee.

The dissertation committee includes the two readers, all faculty from the Department of Political Science and International Relations, and at least one faculty member from another academic department. Students defend their prospectus orally before the dissertation committee on campus (in exceptional cases the defense can be online).

A typical dissertation should be at least 200 pages in length and should make an original contribution to the international relations field. The dissertation process ends with the successful defense of the work before the dissertation committee.