University General Course Catalog 2015-2016 
    Oct 20, 2020  

Political Science, Ph.D

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I. Contact Information

Robert Ostergard, PhD, Director of Graduate Studies
Mack Social Science Building 218
(775) 682-7767

II. Brief Introduction

The Doctoral (PhD) program’s, accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, primary objective is to provide dedicated students with an in-depth understanding and appreciation of scholarship within the context of the political science discipline.

PhD program rigorous guidelines aim to serve the University and research community by:

  1. preparing candidates with opportunities for advanced, specialized careers in the discipline of political science (e.g., academics, research, private or public sector),
  2. advancing doctoral degree work/research, and
  3. developing professional scholars of interdisciplinary expertise and leadership.

Activities of the Department focus upon both undergraduate and graduate education, research, and public service, and research and graduate assistantships. The PhD program offers graduate students opportunity to develop academically and professionally among leading scholars within the political science discipline, locally and internationally.

III. Program Focus and Objectives

The university confers the PhD degree only for work of distinction in which the student displays decided contributions of original scholarship, and only in recognition of marked ability and achievement. The specific goals of the Political Science PhD program include:

  • to develop research skills through the advanced study of research design and methodology, political processes and problems, and policy issues
  • to prepare individuals for careers in research and teaching institutions of higher education, public administration, and public policy
  • to support university‐based research involving issues of politics and public policy.

Students accepted into the PhD program are expected to have a major and minor field in the areas the department offers as specializations:

  • American Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Relations
  • Public Administration
  • Public Policy

The PhD program’s general focus is to provide students with a curriculum rich in knowledge of the discipline and methodology.  PhD students may choose an emphasis in American Politics, Political Theory, International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Public Policy. The activities of the Department concentrate upon both undergraduate and graduate education, research, and public service. In addition to the PhD, the Department offers the Bachelor’s (BA), a Master’s of Public Administration (MPA), and a BA in International Affairs.  As a smaller program, our students are able to work more closely with faculty members. Our graduate students routinely present research at major conferences and publish on their own or with faculty members.

IV. Admission Requirements

Admission to the PhD program is competitive; a limited number of applicants are accepted into the program each year. For the Graduate Committee to consider any application, the applications and supporting documentation must be complete. Please note that the Graduate School, which has to approve all applicants, has its own deadlines and regulations. Students are expected to know these and meet and follow them.

The Graduate Committee reviews admission applications in three cycles:

  • Priority Fall Admission with application for assistantships: February 15; this deadline is for students seeking admission for the following Fall semester with an application for a departmental research and teaching assistantship
  • Regular Fall Admission: April 15; this deadline is for students seeking admission for the following fall semester without a departmental assistantship application
  • Regular Spring Admission: November 1; this deadline is for those seeking admission for the Spring semester. Assistantship offers are generally not made for the spring admission cycle.


  • Undergraduate Degree (B.A./B.S.)
  • Minimum overall GPA of 3.25 or higher (on a four‐point scale) for all prior coursework (graduate and undergraduate)
  • GRE Tests: Verbal and Quantitative scores should be a minimum or 160 or in the 70th percentile range or higher, though some exceptions are made for students based on upon their skill set and other qualifications
  • 18 credit hours (6 courses) in Political Science or Social Science classes.

Please note that these are minimum requirements; meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission to the program. We take into consideration a student’s overall record, as well as fit with departmental faculty areas of expertise and research/teaching interests.


  • Undergraduate and Graduate School transcripts (if applicable)
  • Test Scores:
    • GRE/GMAT/LSAT scores are required of all students and cannot be waived. The test scores should have been taken within the past five years
    • For international students studying under a student visa, the Test of English as a Foreign Language test (TOEFL) is required and you must have a minimum TOEFL score of 500 on the paper‐based exam; 61 on the internet‐based exam, or 173 for the computer‐based exam. Students must also meet all other requirements for International Students, as established by the Graduate School and the Office of International Students and Scholars/ 0074, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada 89557‐0074. If admitted, International Students should contact the Office of International Students and Scholars immediately to make sure that all needed paperwork is processed as quickly as possible. Some paperwork needed, such as application for Social Security cards, can take weeks to complete, so students are encouraged to start this process once they are informed of their admission to the university.

The Political Science Department reserves the right to request that the English skills of incoming International Students be evaluated by the Intensive English Language Center on campus. The results of that evaluation will be used to determine if the student needs to take additional English or other classes to facilitate their success in the program.

  • Three letters of recommendation of which a minimum of two are from professors with whom the student has completed coursework.
  • Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose: the 500-word statement should explain to the Graduate Committee why the student has chosen the department for their graduate program, their career and educational goals, their potential research agenda and interests, how their research fits with the department’s research focus and any faculty members with whom the student has an interest in working.
  • All statements should be printed with a standard 12 pt font and have the student’s name at the top of each page.
  • Students applying for departmental assistantships must complete the department specific application for an assistantship.
  • All applicants must begin the application process by creating an electronic application account with the Graduate School of the University of Nevada, Reno.
  • All additional application materials must be mailed to the Graduate School by the appropriate application date.

University of Nevada, Reno
Graduate School/0326
Reno, NV 89557-0326

Please do not mail application material to the department without consulting with the department’s Director of Graduate Studies. The Graduate School evaluates all applications for completion and then electronically forwards them to the department’s Graduate Committee for evaluation and admission decision. We cannot guarantee that materials sent directly to the department will be included in the student’s application file.

Completed applicant files are reviewed by the department’s Graduate Committee and forwarded to the Graduate School for final approval. The Graduate Committee reserves the right to specify additional application material if necessary. It is possible that the Graduate Committee may recommend admission for a student contingent upon the student taking additional coursework to make up for deficiencies in the student’s record. Such make‐up coursework can generally be completed while the student is pursuing an approved program of graduate study.
Admitted students will receive an email welcoming them to the department, but the official letter of admission will come directly from the Dean of the Graduate School. The Graduate Dean’s letter is the official offer of admission. To accept the offer of admission, students must contact the Director of Graduate Studies by email to acknowledge that they are accepting the admission offer. This communication will allow the department to establish department records and to add the new student to the department’s list serves. If the student does not respond to the department’s offer of admission by the established deadline, they will forfeit their seat for the incoming class.

For students who are not sure about Graduate School and want to try a few classes before submitting a full application, the Graduate School allows students to apply for Graduate Special status. This status allows students to take up to 9 credits without being formally admitted to the program. For those who have had a long absence from the classroom, graduate special status will provide a re-introduction to the classroom environment. It can also slowly introduce students back into the classroom environment for those that may have had a long absence from the classroom. The 9 credits can be applied to a degree program once a department admits the student.
Application for Graduate Special Status must be made directly to the Graduate School, not through departments. Students can find additional information and an application status from the Graduate School’s website.
Students admitted as a Graduate Special should get in touch with the Director of Graduate Studies immediately to discuss which courses the student should take, given the student’s background and objectives.

The Political Science Department offers a limited number of graduate research and teaching assistantships. Departmental assistantships are generally awarded during the priority application cycle for the following academic year. Assistantships are competitive and available only for full‐time students. Application forms and information can be obtained from the Political Science website.  Rules established by the Board of Regents of the University of Nevada, Reno limit student to five years of state funding for students entering the PhD program without an MA degree and four years for students entering the PhD program for students with an MA degree. All funding is renewable on a yearly basis and contingent upon students making appropriate progress toward their degree, grades, and job performance.
The University provides a range of financial assistance options for graduate students. Interested applicants should contact Financial Aid. Students should also explore other sources of scholarships from private foundations and government agencies where available. Discussion of these opportunities can be had with your advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies.

V. Program Requirements

The PhD degree requires 75 credits beyond the B.A. degree. Of these credits, 30 must be at the 700-level. Of the 30 credits of 700-level course work, 3 credits are required for comprehensive examination.
As a significant portion of students in the PhD program are working professionals, a large number of seminars, particularly in the areas of public administration, policy and methodology, are offered in the evenings or on weekends.
Whether a student pursues the PhD part-time or full-time, students must complete all requirements for the degree within the Graduate School’s 8-year limit. The course requirements that follow are the minimum standards established by the Department. Students may take courses beyond the minimum in preparation for comprehensive exams and their dissertation research.
The PhD program requires all students to fulfill the following minimum course requirements:

A. Scope and Methods (12 units)

B. Major Field (15 units)

To be selected in consultation with your advisor/committee chair.

C. Minor Field (9 units)

To be selected in consultation with your advisor/committee chair.

D. Field Seminars and/or Electives (9 units)

To be selected in consultation with your advisor/committee chair.

E. Comprehensive Exam (3 units)

Two units of comprehensive examination for the major field and one for the minor.

  • (1 to 3 units S/U Only) (3 units required)
  • Notes: 

    1. Students must pass a comprehensive exam in each of his/her fields of concentration (major and minor). Students must register for two comprehensive exam credits when they schedule their major field examination and one comprehensive examination credit when they schedule their minor field examination.

  • 2. About Comprehensive Examinations: Three times a year (January, May and August), the Director of Graduate Studies will put out a general call for students to notify the department and their committee chairs that they would like to take comprehensive exams. Students notify the Director and their committee of their intent to take the examination. The Director of Graduate Studies will form comprehensive examination committees that will have the responsibility to construct and to grade the examinations. The examinations are in three parts where students choose one question from each part to answer. The form of the exam is an open‐book, take‐home exam that the student has three days to complete (generally Friday to Monday). Students should take the exams as soon as possible after completion of the required coursework for each exam. Dissertation or thesis work cannot begin unless the student has passed their comprehensive examinations. Four possible grades may be awarded: Pass with Distinction; Pass; Provisional Pass (requiring additional work on the part of the student, as determined by the Exam Committee and the Graduate Director), or Fail. Students receiving a failing grade on one or both comprehensive exams MAY be granted the opportunity to retake the exam(s) once. PERMISSION TO RETAKE A FAILED EXAM IS GRANTED AT THE SOLE DISCRETION OF THE GRADUATE COMMITTEE.

F. Dissertation Prospectus

Students are required to write and defend a dissertation prospectus (a research plan for the dissertation) to their dissertation committee, which may accept or reject the prospectus or require revisions to the prospectus. The prospectus will be defended after the completion of comprehensive examinations. Students should arrange a prospectus defense in consultation with their committee chairs. This document is crucial for students because it is the plan of research that the committee believes will produce a successful and defensible dissertation. 

G. Dissertation (24 units)

Each student must complete 24 hours of dissertation credits. Students may not register for dissertation credits until s/he has passed both comprehensive exams and been Advanced to Candidacy.

VI. Total Units (75 units)

75 credits beyond the B.A. degree

VII. Notes

  1. All students must take 30 credits of 700‐level courses.
  2. Graduate Grades and Grade Point Average Standing: Students must maintain a 3.00 grade point average (GPA) to maintain standing graduate standing with the Graduate School. If a student’s GPA falls below a 3.00 GPA, the Graduate School will give the student one semester to increase their GPA to a 3.00 level. If the student fails to do so, the Graduate School will dismiss them from graduate studies at the university; this decision is not made by the Department of Political Science. In graduate studies, generally grades below a “B” are considered failing by the faculty and are frowned upon. These grades can seriously affect your progress and will certainly affect a student’s ability to maintain departmental level funding. While the Graduate School uses 3.00 as their minimum threshold, the Political Science Department may terminate a student’s program if s/he receives six or more credits of B‐ or lower grades, or three credits of C or below grades.
  3. Transfer/Substitution of Units: A maximum of 24 semester hours of graduate credit MAY be transferred for credit towards the PhD degree. These credits may be from another university or from a previous degree program at UNR. Up to nine of the 24 transfer credits may be taken as “graduate special” courses at UNR (described above). The Director of Graduate Studies, the student’s committee chair and the Graduate School (where those courses are transferred in from another institution) must approve credit transfers. Only those courses that relate to a student’s particular program focus will be approved for transfer and/or substitution.
    Courses older than eight years, whether transferred in or taken in‐residence, cannot count toward the 72-credit requirement for the PhD, unless those courses were part of a student’s previously completed Master’s or J.D. program.
  4. Timeframe: Students have eight years to complete all PhD requirements, a timeframe that begins the date of your acceptance into the program. No courses taken in residence (including credits taken as a Graduate Special) in pursuit of the PhD may be older than 8 years, at the time of graduation from the program.

VIII. Undergraduate Prerequisites

  • Undergraduate Degree (B.A./B.S)
  • Minimum 2.75 overall GPA (B.A./B.S.) or a 3.0 GPA for last two years of B.A./B.S.
  • 18 credit-hours of social science courses taken at the undergraduate level

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