Students undergo several evaluations at different points in the PhD program: the second-year review, qualifying examinations, the defense of the dissertation proposal, and the final defense of the dissertation. They also require advice and counseling on curricular, research, and professional matters throughout their graduate careers. These functions are performed by a set of committees that operate at different points in the program. Committee membership is solely dependent on the consent of the individual faculty members. These committees are automatically dissolved at the completion of their duties advising the student or making recommendations about the student's progress at a particular stage in the program.
The First-Year Committee
A two-person committee composed of members of the Department graduate faculty will be appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) at the beginning of each student's first year of graduate work. The function of this committee is to advise the student on matters concerning coursework and professional development and, when necessary, to approve course selection, including the student's research tool sequence. Responsibility for the development of a course of study in the PhD program lies solely with the student.
The Second Year Review Process
During the fourth semester of the graduate program, each student will undergo a second year review. The second year review process is designed to (1) evaluate the student's progress to that point, and (2) provide feedback and guidance to the student on coursework and research. Students are to provide the following materials for the second year review: transcripts, a worksheet outlining progress toward the degree requirements, one or two research papers, and a 3–5 page statement of purpose outlining research interests.
A Departmental committee evaluates student performance and makes a recommendation whether each student should (1) continue in the program with funding, (2) continue without funding, or (3) be asked to leave the program. The Departmental review committee includes the heads of the area committees (American, Comparative, International Relations, Methods, and Political Theory) and the DGS as an ex officio member. The Departmental committee will meet in February or March to evaluate the progress of second year students. The Departmental committee's recommendation about each student must be approved by the faculty in the appropriate area. The final decision on whether the student should continue with the program rests with the appropriate area committee.
In addition, a separate three-person review committee will be appointed for each student to provide advice and feedback on the student's planned coursework and research strategy. This committee will be selected by the Director of Graduate Studies after consultation with each student. This committee's recommendations are to be in the form of a short written report, a copy of which is to be given to both the Director of Graduate Studies and the student. The report should detail the student's strengths and weaknesses, as well as specify when the student is likely to take qualifying examinations and how various degree requirements (e.g., tools of inquiry) will be met. Failure to have a second year review by the beginning of a student's fifth semester will result in a student's immediate termination from the graduate program.
Qualifying Examinations and the Examination Committees
Prior to admission to candidacy for the PhD, students must demonstrate expertise in one of the following fields: American Politics, Comparative Politics, or International Relations. This requirement is fulfilled by successful completion of the required coursework in a major field and by passing two qualifying examinations in that field. One is a "general" examination in the relevant field, and the other is a subfield examination. The array of subfield examinations available within a field is within the discretion of the corresponding area committee. In unusual circumstances, a student may petition the Advisory Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies for permission to write an exam in an area outside those normally authorized by the Area Committee.
Qualifying examinations are designed to test each student's ability to utilize the insights and analytic abilities developed during his or her training. The examinations are normally to be taken at some point after the student's fourth semester and prior to the seventh semester. For the student who fails to meet these expectations without due cause, this failure will be a consideration in the department's decision about whether to grant financial assistance.
Qualifying examinations will be offered at three times each year: the week before the fall semester begins, the week before the spring semester begins, and the week following the end of the spring semester. Students are to notify the Director of Graduate Studies of the qualifying examinations that they propose to write no later than two months before the examination is to be scheduled. Students are required to notify the graduate office in writing of their wish to cancel an exam. Those who do not notify the graduate office or do so after the deadline (which is approximately two weeks prior to the date of the exams) will be considered to have failed their exams.
The qualifying examination process proceeds as follows: Examinations are drafted by a three-person committee appointed by the head of the appropriate area committee; the same committee grades the written portion of the examination and holds the oral examination. Students receive three questions drafted by the examination committee. Students are to respond to two of these questions. The response is to be prepared in a forty-eight hour period. All examinations must be typed and properly documented. The exams allow the use of notes, articles, and books. Nevertheless, "cutting and pasting" answers from pre-existing computer files is prohibited.
The student must also undergo an oral examination by the examination committee. The oral examination will be held within four weeks of the conclusion of the written examination period.
Examinations are to be graded "Pass with Distinction," "Pass," or "Fail". The result must be reported to the Director of Graduate Studies and to the student immediately after the oral examination. If a student fails a qualifying examination, he/she will be permitted to retake it one time, normally during the next regularly scheduled examination period. Failure to pass the examination at that time will result in the student's dismissal from the program.