The graduate program in the Department of Politics leads to the doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in politics. There is no separate program for a master’s degree. The program is designed to offer broad professional training in political science and to enable students to specialize in any of the main subfields of political science (American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory), as well as public law and formal and quantitative analysis.
Sample of written work. Applicants are required to select a subplan when applying.
Each student must complete at least six graded seminars by May of the first year, and a total of at least 12 graded seminars by May of the second year. If students take two rather than three of the general examinations, then they must complete 14 graded seminars by May of the third year. The required seminars must include at least one in three of the seven regular fields offered by the department. The director of graduate studies must approve all course selections.
Seminars (500-level courses) may be chosen from the 20 to 30 typically offered in the department each year. Students may also take Ph.D. seminars offered in neighboring departments and in the School of Public and International Affairs. These may be counted toward the seminar requirement if they have political content. All students taking courses outside the department must complete a comparable writing or examination requirement to politics seminars in order for those courses to be counted toward the seminar requirement.
Students participating in the Program in Political Philosophy may compose a special field made up of courses in one of the other cooperating departments in the program (classics, history, philosophy, and religion). Other departments that have been of interest to students include economics, sociology, psychology, East Asian studies, and Near Eastern studies.
In addition to regularly offered seminars, graduate students may create reading courses under the direction of a faculty member to explore more specialized topics. Reading courses typically include one faculty member and one student, although some include several students.
Seminars end on the last regular day of classes (December and April), and students must complete all assigned short essays within one week of that day. Students complete their fall-term research papers by approximately the third week of January, and their spring-term research papers by the third week of May.
Each student is required to write at least three research papers in the first three years, at least two of which must be completed in the second year. With the approval and advice of the instructor, a research paper may be completed in a seminar and counted toward the seminar grade.
In addition, each student is required to take one term of directed research (POL 591) in the spring term of the second year. This project is independent of any seminar. To encourage students to become involved in research and collaboration with faculty as soon as possible, students select their independent work adviser and the general topic of their paper by mid-term in the spring term of the first year. Students convey these choices to the director of graduate studies in writing. This paper often builds on prior work done in a seminar. Students are required to present the POL 591 paper in the appropriate research seminar during the fall or spring term of the second year. The final paper is due by August 30 before the fifth semester.
Students are urged to use these various research and writing experiences to build toward a dissertation. For example, a student with a promising seminar paper might use POL 591 to do more extensive research on the subject and to develop a dissertation proposal based on it.
In order to encourage students to write papers of article length, all research papers are limited to 22,000 words. This applies to papers written for seminars and for POL 591.
Every year the department offers research seminars in each of the four major fields of political science (political theory, comparative politics/systems and culture, American politics, and international relations). Each enrolled student in residence is required to join one of these seminars each year, attend it regularly, and present their research at least once during the year. Research seminars are graded on a pass/fail basis.
Students present forms of work appropriate to their standing in the graduate program. First-year students typically offer seminar papers (sometimes in draft form), usually in the spring. Second-year students usually present their POL 591 paper.
Each student must successfully stand for the general examination and be recommended for continuation in the program before undertaking dissertation research. The purpose of the general examination is to ascertain a student’s knowledge of political science and his or her preparedness for advanced research. The best preparation is extensive seminar work in the department, supplemented as necessary by independent reading and study.
The general examination consists of written examinations in three separate fields and an oral examination. Students may opt to take written examinations in two rather than three fields on the condition that they complete 14 (rather than the required 12) graded seminars, including a coherent three-course 500-level sequence in a third field (but not including SPI 507b, 508b, or 508c). Students must receive an average grade of B or better in these three courses in order for them to be used for the third field. These courses must be chosen from outside the fields covered by the two written exams.
Normally at least two of a student’s general examination fields are selected from the seven regular examination fields listed below. A student may design a third, “substitute” field to replace the third regular examination field. Substitute fields should cohere with the student’s educational and research interests, and must not substantially overlap with the student’s other fields. A student may propose either a standard exam from another department (for example, political economy in economics) or in unusual circumstances a special examination. Special examinations require the agreement of a sponsoring faculty member in another department and the director of graduate studies. Alternatively, the “substitute” third field may be completed under the two-exam, 14-course option described above.
The politics faculty regularly sets examinations in the following seven fields: political theory, comparative politics, regional studies, American politics, international relations, public law, and formal and quantitative analysis. The Regional Studies exams test for mastery of theoretical and empirical knowledge about one of the following world regions: Africa, Asia (with the possibility to specify East Asia, Southeast Asia, or South Asia), Latin America, the Middle East, Western Europe, or the Former Soviet Union and East Europe. Students must specify in advance the region in which they are specializing.
All written examinations are four hours in length, with an additional hour for preparation. All written examinations are closed-book. An oral examination will be administered in every case in which the candidate’s grade on the overall written examination averages to 1.995 or worse or the candidate’s grade on any individual field exam is 1.995 or worse. For students receiving a grade better than 1.995 on the overall written exam and each field of the written exam, the requirement of an oral examination is waived. The oral examination is conducted by a faculty panel, with one member from each of the fields in which the student is being examined. For students taking only two written exams, the faculty panel for the oral examination will include two members of the primary field. The faculty panels of the oral examination are constituted by the DGS.
Students must stand for the general examination no later than the end of the fourth term of enrollment. They may opt to take the examination sooner. All students must complete at least seven graded seminars at Princeton before taking the general examination.
The Master of Arts (M.A.) degree is normally an incidental degree on the way to full Ph.D. candidacy. To qualify for the award of the M.A., a student must earn an average grade of B- or better in 12 seminars and complete two research papers with a grade of B- or better. The M.A. may also be awarded to students who, for various reasons, leave the Ph.D. program, provided that these requirements have been met.
Each student must lead undergraduate preceptorials during the five years of enrollment. Students typically teach after passing the general examination. A preceptorial is a discussion section of up to 13 undergraduates, which meets once a week as a supplement to a faculty-taught lecture course.
By April of each year, each student must inform the department manager which semesters they are available to teach in the next academic year. Each student is ultimately required to be available to teach for a minimum of four semesters. The student must accept any number of precepts offered in a class during the agreed upon semesters, up to a maximum of three precepts. The requirement that a student be available for teaching is waived once the student has led a minimum of nine preceptorials. Each student is expected to lead preceptorials in at least one undergraduate class as part of satisfying the teaching requirement.
The teaching requirement may be reduced to as few as six preceptorials if a student obtains substantial funding from outside the University or work as a research assistant for a faculty member during an academic year or term. The teaching requirement is reduced to three preceptorials if students graduate within four and a half years or begin a tenure-track job or its equivalent within five years. The teaching requirement is waived entirely if students graduate within three years or begin a tenure-track job or its equivalent within three and a half years.
Certain fellowships for which post-generals students may be eligible do not allow teaching during the tenure of the fellowship. These include University honorific fellowships, Prize Fellowships of the University Center for Human Values, and the Fellowship of the Woodrow Wilson Society. Students who expect to be candidates for these fellowships are advised to accelerate their teaching so that their teaching obligation will not interfere with their eligibility.
Before presenting the prospectus in the student’s subfield research seminar, the student should select three advisers for the prospectus. At least two members of the prospectus committee must be regular members of the politics department. Before the end of the fifth semester, with the approval of the prospectus committee, each student will present a draft prospectus or first dissertation chapter to the student’s subfield research seminar, if possible with the advisers present. The seminar will function as a workshop where advice can be given about the definition of the topic and plan of research. The prospectus or dissertation chapters should be 12,000-25,000 words. Students are required to secure final acceptance of the prospectus from their advisers before the end of the sixth term of enrollment in order to remain in good standing.
After the prospectus has been approved, students should designate at least two readers to advise the writing of the dissertation. Students may change this designation as needed. In order to serve as first or second readers, the advisers must be members of the Princeton faculty at the rank of assistant professor or above, and at least one must be a member of the politics department. During the third, fourth, or fifth year, a third reader is identified by the student in consultation with the first two readers. Students must first secure the consent of the third reader and submit the name for approval by the director of graduate studies (DGS). The third reader is normally a Princeton faculty member, but may instead be a faculty member at another university holding the rank of assistant professor or above. Any external readers must be of comparable standing in a relevant branch of the scholarly community. Third readers are less involved in advising than are the first two readers. The DGS appoints a fourth reader. Students should submit the names of three appropriate faculty members, along with the title of the dissertation, to the DGS in order to initiate the process of appointing a fourth reader. The fourth reader is normally a member of the politics department. The fourth reader is expected to read only the final version of the dissertation.
A final public oral examination is scheduled no fewer than fourteen calendar days after the approval of the thesis. At least three examiners, two of whom have not served as first or second readers of the dissertation, and at least two of whom are members of the University faculty, conduct the examination. Normally, therefore, the committee must consist of the first and/or the second reader and the third and fourth readers. After the student successfully defends their thesis, he or she is recommended to the Graduate School for receipt of a doctoral degree.
- Frances E. Lee
- Alan W. Patten
- Frances E. Lee (fall)
- Grigore Pop-Eleches (acting) (spring)
Director of Graduate Studies
- Kristopher W. Ramsay
Director of Undergraduate Studies
- Markus Prior
- Gary J. Bass
- Mark R. Beissinger
- Charles R. Beitz
- Carles Boix
- Charles M. Cameron
- Brandice Canes-Wrone
- Rafaela M. Dancygier
- Aaron L. Friedberg
- Paul Frymer
- Robert P. George
- Matias Iaryczower
- G. John Ikenberry
- Amaney A. Jamal
- Atul Kohli
- Melissa Lane
- Frances E. Lee
- John B. Londregan
- Stephen J. Macedo
- Nolan M. McCarty
- Tali Mendelberg
- Helen V. Milner
- Andrew Moravcsik
- Layna Mosley
- Jan-Werner Müller
- Alan W. Patten
- Grigore Pop-Eleches
- Markus Prior
- Kristopher W. Ramsay
- Jacob N. Shapiro
- Anna B. Stilz
- Rocío Titiunik
- James Raymond Vreeland
- Leonard Wantchekon
- Ismail K. White
- Keith E. Whittington
- Jennifer A. Widner
- Deborah J. Yashar
- John Kastellec
- Faisal Z. Ahmed
- Renee J. Bolinger
- Gregory A. Conti
- German S. Gieczewski
- Andy Guess
- Gleason Judd
- Patricia A. Kirkland
- Melissa M. Lee
- Zhao Li
- Jonathan F. Mummolo
- Rebecca L. Perlman
- Marc Ratkovic
- LaFleur Stephens-Dougan
- Rory Truex
- Guadalupe Tuñón
- Andreas B. Wiedemann
- Xu Xu
- Christopher L. Eisgruber, President
- Daniel Garber, Philosophy
- Elizabeth L. Paluck, Psychology
- Philip N. Pettit, Center for Human Values
- Kim Lane Scheppele, Schl of Public & Int'l Affairs
- Michael Smith, Philosophy
- Brandon M. Stewart, Sociology
Courses listed below are graduate-level courses that have been approved by the program’s faculty as well as the Curriculum Subcommittee of the Faculty Committee on the Graduate School as permanent course offerings. Permanent courses may be offered by the department or program on an ongoing basis, depending on curricular needs, scheduling requirements, and student interest. Not listed below are undergraduate courses and one-time-only graduate courses, which may be found for a specific term through the Registrar’s website. Also not listed are graduate-level independent reading and research courses, which may be approved by the Graduate School for individual students.