PhD in Political Science

Profs. Rachael Hinkle and Harvey Palmer with PhD graduates Liz Tillman and Rebecca Bryan

Left to right: Prof. Rachael Hinkle, PhD graduates Elizabeth Tillman and Rebecca Bryan, and Prof. Harvey Palmer

The PhD in Political Science prepares students for careers in education and research at the university level. We make every effort to ensure our doctoral students receive the breadth and depth of training that will enable them to excel as leaders in the discipline.

Student Testimonials

"My time at the University at Buffalo was a wonderful journey full of exciting learning experiences from dedicated and caring professors and warm friendship with great classmates."
– Guoli Liu, PhD in Political Science

Degree Requirements

Credit Requirement
Doctoral students must complete 72 credit hours, including at least 54 hours of substantive course credit and up to 18 hours of dissertation guidance. No more than 24 hours of transfer credit may be applied toward the doctoral degree. Six hours for teaching or research (PSC 599 or PSC 600) may be applied toward the doctorate, including 599 or 600 credits previously applied toward the Master’s degree. A maximum of 15 credit hours (five courses) may be taken outside the department, subject to prior approval by the Director of Graduate Studies.

Teaching Requirement
Doctoral students are required to teach one undergraduate course in a field in which they are qualified. This requirement applies whether or not the student is funded. Normally, this requirement is fulfilled after the student has taken the comprehensive examinations, but exceptions can be made for qualified students based on his or her wishes and department teaching schedules. In fulfilling the requirement, students will assume full responsibility, under faculty supervision, for all phases of the preparation, instruction and grading of the course. Prior experience in college-level teaching may be taken into account in satisfying this requirement.

Students are required to enroll in the Summer Teaching Assistantship Workshop in the summer prior to fulfilling this teaching requirement. For further information, please visit the Poli-Sci Graduate Office.

SPEAK Test for International Teaching Assistants

To ensure that students are prepared to accept a teaching assignment in a timely fashion, and can contribute to discussions in their graduate seminars, all international students from non-English speaking countries must pass the SPEAK Test no later than the end of their first year of study in our graduate program. Prior to passing the SPEAK Test, all qualifying students must enroll in appropriate courses with the English Language Institute as a condition of continuing registration in political science courses. Hence, students are urged to take the SPEAK Test soon after their arrival at the university. 

Scoring
A passing score on the SPEAK Test is 55 or 60. If the score is 50, the student will be given an opportunity to demonstrate communication skills at a teaching demonstration before the representatives of the English as a Second Language Program and the department.

If the Speak test score is below 45, it must be retaken. Prior to retaking the SPEAK test, all such students must enroll in appropriate courses of the English Language Institute* as a condition of continuing registration in political science courses during their first year of study. 

Funded students who have not passed the test by May 15 of their first year of study will not have their funding renewed.

Any students who have not passed the SPEAK Test prior to the beginning of their second year of graduate study in the department will not be allowed to register for Political Science courses until they pass.

*Courses include ESL 512 or ESL 411/412 depending on the SPEAK Test score; please visit the English Language Institute to learn more. 

Core Course Requirement
Doctoral students are required to take four Department Core Courses:

  • PSC 500 – Introduction to Political Inquiry
  • PSC 508: Basic Statistics for Social Science
  • Two of the following: 
    • PSC 531 – Intermediate Statistics for Social Science
    • PSC 533 – Formal Theory
    • An other advanced methods course approved by the Graduate Committee

In addition, all students are required to take the Core Courses in three of the four core fields of study:

  • American Politics 
  • Comparative Politics 
  • International Politics
  • Public Law

Students then proceed to more advanced study in their specialized fields.

Time Limit

According to Graduate School regulations, a maximum of seven years is permitted for completion of all PhD requirements, unless an extension of time is requested and granted.

Residency Requirement

Doctoral candidates must complete two semesters of continuous full-time residence.

Research Seminars and Qualifying Papers
All PhD students are required to complete two Research Seminars and complete a professional-quality qualifying paper in one of their two major fields. The qualifying paper is evaluated by three faculty in the field. Students who satisfy the above requirements and complete the qualifying paper are then permitted to take the Comprehensive Examinations.

Skill Requirement
The four Department Core Courses (above) will provide students with the basic skills required to conduct research in the discipline. In addition, the language and skill requirements may vary for each student in the PhD program. The student’s dissertation committee is responsible for ensuring that the student possesses the skills necessary for the dissertation research and may require additional research skills (e.g., languages, advanced statistics).

Comprehensive Examinations
Comprehensive examinations are scheduled each semester. Candidates will be examined either on two major fields of specialization, or one major and two minor fields. The exams will test understanding of the major concepts, methodology and literature encompassed by the program, and will consist of written questions and an oral examination. The comprehensive examinations may be taken only after the student has completed the Department Core Course Requirement, fulfilled major/minor field requirements, and submitted one satisfactory qualifying paper.

Doctoral Dissertation Requirement 
After passing the comprehensive examinations, a student will nominate a dissertation committee, subject to the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. The committee will consist of a chairperson and at least two other faculty members from within the department and one from outside. The dissertation proposal must be defended by the middle of the fifth month of the semester immediately following that in which the comprehensive exams are passed. Passage of the oral defense constitutes permission to proceed with the writing of the dissertation. Final approval of the dissertation rests with the dissertation committee, and involves both the approval of a reader drawn from the Graduate School faculty outside the department and an oral defense of the completed work.

Contact Us

513 Park Hall

Phone: (716) 645-8448

mbenson2@buffalo.edu

Associate Professor
Director of Graduate Studies
Department of Political Science
College of Arts and Sciences

513 Park Hall

Phone: (716) 645-8448

mbenson2@buffalo.edu

Mary E. O’Brien

521 Park Hall

Phone: (716) 645-3441

meobrien@buffalo.edu

Graduate Coordinator
Department of Political Science
College of Arts and Sciences

521 Park Hall

Phone: (716) 645-3441

meobrien@buffalo.edu