PhD Degree Requirements

The doctoral program is designed to allow the well-prepared student to complete course requirements for the PhD in two (2) years of full-time study. During their coursework, students complete a research paper in their second year and take comprehensive examinations during their third year, followed by preparation of a dissertation in their fourth and fifth years.

Our program does not offer a terminal Master’s degree, but PhD students typically earn the Master’s in Political Science at the end of their second year of the doctoral program.

PhD Program Requirements

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Fields of Focus

Coursework and examination requirements for the graduate program are organized in five (5) traditional subfields of political science, each with their own designated faculty. Many faculty and graduate students work at the intersections of these fields, as well as other disciplines like anthropology, economics, ethnic studies, history, law, philosophy, or sociology.

Students must take a major and a minor comprehensive examination in two (2) different fields of focus. Each field is guided by a committee, consisting of those faculty members who teach in the area. Each field committee determines committee membership, requirements for comprehensive exams, exam structure, and reading lists in that field.

Comparative Politics

This subfield focuses on the varying dynamics of power, authority and collective decision-making in polities around the world. Recent or current PhDs have written on topics like comparative federalism in the US and the EU, politics of the body in Senegal and the US, Chinese elites, Roma identity in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, Mexican social movements, or Turkish democratization. Our group of comparative politics faculty is especially interested in the social, organizational, and ideational bases of political mobilization and power across a wide variety of contexts.


  • Erin Beck
  • Craig Kauffman
  • Craig Parsons
  • Tuong Vu

Comparative Politics Requirements

International Relations

The subfield of international relations seeks to understand the causes and consequences of conflict and cooperation in international politics. Our four (4) international relations faculty cover a wide range of substantive focuses, from national security affairs to international environmental politics and the politics of international trade and finance. Recent or current PhDs from the department have studied such diverse topics as the emergence of international norms in security affairs, the attack on Iraq in 2003, the spread of nuclear weapons, international agenda setting, and the role of gender in ethnic conflict.


  • Jane Cramer
  • Ronald Mitchell
  • Lars Skalnes

International Relations Requirements

Public Policy

The subfield of public policy explores relationships between political processes and policy outcomes, centering on the notion that procedures and institutions affect how policies are developed, implemented and consumed. Faculty research and coursework in the subfield investigates the processes by which policy agendas are set, actors form policy coalitions, and policies are implemented and evaluated; the influence of history, culture, institutions, organizations, and networks on policy outcomes; and recent efforts to democratize the policy process through participation, decentralization, and collaboration. Students also have the option of pursuing a sub-specialization in law and social policy. Recent or current PhDs have focused on topics like health services, international agenda-setting, national security policy, comparative environmental policy, school desegregation, rangeland management, gender violence, immigration and refugee policy, and social welfare policy.


  • Gerald Berk
  • Alison Gash
  • Craig Kauffman
  • Ronald Mitchell
  • Dan Tichenor

Public Policy Reading List

Political Theory

The subfield of political theory focuses on ideas in politics: their histories, their internal logic, and their connection to fields of power. Our political theory faculty work in complementary areas and teach graduate and undergraduate courses on topics including classical, modern, and contemporary thought, theories of power, liberalism, Marxism, critical theory, just war theory, and comparative political theory. Recent or current PhDs from the department have focused on topics including Indigenous politics, liberalism, historical memory, environmental politics, anarchism, and Southern slavery and oligarchy.


  • Burke Hendrix
  • Anita Chari
  • Joseph Lowndes
  • Gerald Berk

Political Theory Requirements

US Politics

Our US politics subfield is especially strong in American political development, immigration, race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, public law, and elections. Several faculty take a historical perspective on U.S. politics and focus on culture and institutions. Recent or current PhDs have written on topics like the media and third-party presidential candidates, school desegregation, electoral reform in San Francisco, anti-immigrant initiatives in California, wartime presidents and social policy, and cooperative movements during the Great Depression.


  • Gerald Berk
  • Alison Gash
  • Joseph Lowndes
  • Neil O’Brian
  • Priscilla Southwell
  • Dan Tichenor

US Politics Reading List

Graduate Director and Coordinator

Craig Kauffman 
Director of Graduate Studies

Phone: 541-346-4974
Office: 916 Prince Lucien Campbell Hall
Office Hours: Monday 2-5 pm (virtual at
Faculty Profile

Need help? Our graduate coordinator is available to answer your questions.

Contact the Graduate Coordinator