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Learning the field of American Politics requires successful completion of a number of substantive courses as well as significant additional reading outside of these courses. Under ordinary circumstances, students majoring in American Politics should complete at least four courses in the field during their first four semesters and students minoring in American Politics should complete at least three such courses during this time. Students will then sit for their Qualifying Exams in the August following their second year in the program. Deviations from this schedule require the approval of the Graduate Director.

Course Work

Students majoring in American politics are required to take four of the following courses; students minoring in the field are required to take three. PSC 621, Theories of American Politics, is the required core course. Additional courses include:

  • PSC 602: Public Policy Analysis
  • PSC 611: American Parties and Elections
  • PSC 612: Development of the American Administrative States
  • PSC 706: United States National Security: Defense and Foreign Policy
  • PSC 711: American Constitutional Development
  • PSC 712: Public Opinion and Communication
  • PSC 713: Congress and the Presidency
  • PSC 715: Judicial Politics
  • PSC 716: Foundations of American Political Thought
  • PSC 718: Politics and the Environment

Qualifying Examinations

Two faculty members in each field coordinate the written examination by contributing questions themselves and soliciting questions from other faculty. Faculty in other departments may be asked for questions if a student has listed their course(s) as relevant to either of their major or minor field concentrations. All relevant faculty will receive a copy of students’ answers and are encouraged to submit written comments.

Students take the written exams over two days in one week. The exams are taken in a department-specified computer lab and is closed note/book (no books, computer files, internet, etc.) except for one note sheet. The major field exam asks three questions in 9 hours, while the minor field exam asks two questions in 6 hours.

For American Politics, major students will answer one general question that crosses subfields and two subfield questions (1. Behavior; 2. Institutions; 3. Policy). Minor students will answer one general and one subfield question. Students will use the syllabus for PSC 621 as the starting point for the exam (there is not a separate reading list). Students who are taking policy as a minor are not able to choose policy as one of their subfields.

Following the written exam is the oral exam – which includes field coordinators from students’ major and minor fields as well as a student-selected chair. Oral exams are generally scheduled within 30 days of students’ completion of both written exams and typically last 2 hours. Upon completion of the oral exam, the advisor will notify the Graduate Director in writing that the student has passed with distinction, passed, or failed. In the latter case, the student may retake the exam during the following semester. This option may only be exercised once. Students attain ABD (All But Dissertation) status after passing their qualifying exams, completing all coursework, and defending their dissertation proposal.

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