Political Science ó Graduate
The Department of Political Science offers a graduate program of study leading to the master of arts (MA) and doctor of philosophy (PhD) degrees. Binghamton University also has a master of public administration program; for details, see the listing under Public Administration. The primary goal of both the MA and PhD programs is to educate scholars who will contribute to the development of political science through careers in teaching and research.
The program emphasizes a broadly based theoretical understanding of political behavior and institutions coupled with the ability to carry out systematic empirical analysis. Students may choose a primary substantive focus on American politics, comparative politics, or international relations. PhD students also choose a secondary focus from one of those three sub-fields.
The organization of the graduate program is based on two convictions. One is that political science is a unique subject matter that requires specialization. The second is that all the social sciences, including political science, rely on systematic evidence and quantitative analysis.
Students pursuing the PhD and entering with a BA or BS degree are normally required to take five semesters of coursework, including six semesters of training in research methodology and statistics. Beyond coursework, completion of the PhD program requires passing comprehensive examinations in oneís major and minor areas of expertise. When a student passes these examinations, completes all the requirements outlined above and presents a prospectus for the dissertation, he or she receives a masterís degree. Remaining requirements for the PhD consist of researching, writing, and defending the PhD dissertation.
Master of Arts Program
Applicants for admission are required to submit scores of their Graduate Record Examinations. An undergraduate specialization in political science is desirable but not essential. A broad background in the social sciences, humanities, languages, statistics, and mathematics is considered a desirable preparation for study in the discipline. Applicants are expected to present minimum cumulative undergraduate grade-point averages of 3.0 in all subjects and 3.2 in political science courses, with combined verbal and quantitative scores above 1200 on the Graduate Record Examinations.
For a student with insufficient preparation in political science or related subjects, the departmental graduate committee may, at the time of matriculation, specify:
∑ additional credits to be earned beyond the 32 to 40 normally needed for the MA degree; or
∑ additional study without graduate credit in subject areas in which the student may be deficient.
During their first or second semesters, masterís students must organize a guidance committee composed of their principal academic adviser and two other faculty members.
To do this, students should obtain the nomination form from the graduate secretary and approach the relevant faculty members for their signatures.
The Nomination of Guidance Committee form must be filed with the graduate committee each time a change in committee composition is proposed.
Conventional masterís candidates may choose either a thesis or non-thesis option. Students adopting the thesis option must complete seven seminars with a B average or better, plus a thesis. Of the seven seminars, at least six must be taken within the department; three of the six must be in the area of specialization and one must be PLSC 500 (Seminar in Research Methods and Statistics). The non-thesis option requires a minimum of nine seminars (seven in the department), which must include PLSC 500 and 12 hours in the specialization area.
Different examination procedures exist for thesis and non-thesis students. Thesis students are examined by their guidance committee on the thesis and on knowledge of their area of specialization. Non-thesis students must take a written examination, which tests the studentís general knowledge of the field of political science as well as specific knowledge in the specialization area. Students choosing to take Masters Exams will do so at the end of the third semester (nine seminars) of course work. Prior to that semester, students should designate a committee chair in their particular subfield; that committee chair will then participate with members of the subfield in constructing questions for and grading a written, one-day (8-hour) exam to be scheduled by the director of graduate studies. That same committee will evaluate the written answers and assign grades of Pass or Fail. In the event an exam receives a grade of Fail, the student, in consultation with the director of graduate studies and the committee chair will determine if and when the student will retake the exam. The exam can only be retaken one time and must be taken by the end of the semester immediately following the first exam.
All masterís students must file a Declaration of Candidacy form, available on the Web, during the semester in which they intend to receive their masterís degree.
Master of Public Administration
(see section ďMaster of Public AdministrationĒ)
Doctor of Philosophy Program
Applicants for admission to the PhD program are required to submit scores of their Graduate Record Examinations and are expected to have achieved combined verbal and quantitative scores above 1300, with a minimum undergraduate grade-point average of 3.3. Formal admission to the PhD program occurs only when the student has completed at least one semester in full-time residence in the departmentís graduate program and has successfully passed the qualifying examination. Until these requirements are fulfilled, all admissions to the PhD program are provisional.
Doctoral candidates must have a guidance committee and a dissertation committee during their stay at Binghamton University. These committees may be composed of the same members throughout or may change if the student or a member wishes. Each committee serves a slightly different function, as described below.
General Guidance Committee: Doctoral candidates must organize a general guidance committee during their first or second semester in residence. This committee is made up of three members of the department faculty. The guidance committee administers the qualifying examination and advises the student on courses and other requirements needed to complete the degree. The guidance committee may be organized by obtaining the Nomination of Graduate Committee form from the graduate secretary, collecting the signatures of the proposed members and submitting it to the graduate committee for approval.
Dissertation Guidance Committee: The dissertation guidance committee serves in advisory and evaluative capacities during the preparation of the dissertation prospectus and the dissertation itself. Again, this three-member committee may be different from the general guidance committee and may include extra-departmental faculty. If changes are made, the Nomination of Graduate Committee form should be filed soon after the student passes the comprehensive examination. Admission to candidacy may not be completed without the dissertation guidance committee in place. Changes may be made during the dissertation phase as the student deems necessary and with approval of the graduate committee. An examiner from outside the department is assigned to the committee by the vice provost and dean of the Graduate School to participate in the oral defense.
The PhD curriculum is divided into four main fields: American politics, comparative politics, world politics, and political methodology. Students are expected to declare one major and one minor field in American politics, comparative politics or world politics.
All students must take five courses: PLSC 500, PLSC 501, Introduction to Formal Theory, and two advanced skills courses. These courses lay the foundation for the methodological skills and general theoretical framework required for political analysis. In addition, individuals are required to take at least one course each in American politics, comparative politics and world politics, to ensure they acquire some sense of the breadth of the political science discipline. Students are required, as well, to take at least 12 hours in their minor field. A minimum of 15 seminars (60 hours) is required for the PhD degree, though a studentís guidance committee or the graduate committee may require courses beyond the minimum. Students may enroll in independent study with professors with prior approval of the graduate committee.
In addition, students must register for PLSC 699, Dissertation Research. A student must be registered for PLSC 699 during the semester in which the dissertation defense takes place.
While the number of courses the department offers is limited by enrollments and core requirements, faculty members with a variety of areas of expertise and research interests are available for directed readings, independent study and other projects. The department also encourages students to take advantage of courses offered by other departments. A maximum of four courses from cognate disciplines may be applied toward completion of degree requirements.
The skill requirement has two parts: basic and advanced. Successful completion of PLSC 500, PLSC 501 and Introduction to Formal Theory, which are required for all PhD students, fulfills the basic skill requirement. The advanced research skill may be acquired in either research methodology or a foreign language. Further, students are encouraged to attend a summer Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) program in methodology at the University of Michigan.
Advanced Skill in Research Methodology: Students entering the program with a BA or BS degree must complete eight credit hours in research methodology beyond the three-course basic skill requirements.
Advanced Skill in Foreign Language: Students whose native language is English may satisfy the foreign language skill requirement by taking and completing with a grade of B or better an advanced foreign language course at Binghamton. The language course must include composition and conversation. Students whose first language is not English may satisfy the foreign language skill by passing a course requiring a substantial amount of attention to writing skills in Binghamtonís Department of English, General Literature and Rhetoric. The use of a language to fulfill the advanced skill requirement, as well as the courses to be taken, must be approved in advance by the studentís guidance committee and the departmentís graduate committee.
Qualifying Examination: Students entering the program with an MA must take the qualifying examination between Feb. 1 and March 15 of their first year in residence. Students entering the program with a BA only must take the qualifying examination between Sept. 15 and Nov. 1 of their second year in residence. It is the studentís responsibility to schedule the qualifying examination in consultation with his or her guidance committee. Students must submit a paper for their qualifying examination; written MA examinations are not accepted in place of the paper. The examining committee uses the paper, in part, to determine the studentís potential for conducting independent research. The committee also explores the strengths in the studentís political science background and assesses the work the student must perform before undertaking comprehensive examinations and dissertation research. The examining committee submits to the graduate committee its recommendation regarding the studentís admission to the PhD program, detailing political science preparation prior to enrolling at Binghamton, major and minor fields, course distribution at Binghamton (completed and anticipated), a description of how the skill requirement will be satisfied, expected comprehensive examination date and professional activities. Based on the results of the exam, the examining committee may recommend to the graduate committee that the student be admitted to the PhD program, recommend against admission, or repeat the qualifying exam within six months, deferring its final recommendation until that time. In light of the committeeís recommendation, the graduate committee will advise the Graduate School whether or not the student should be permitted to continue working toward the PhD.
Comprehensive Examination: Students are expected to sit for a Comprehensive examination soon after completing their fifth semester of coursework. These examinations are administered in December or January before the beginning of the spring semester during the between-semester break. The examination explores a studentís knowledge in political science, paying particular attention to the breadth and depth of knowledge in the student's major and minor field. Currently, examination fields include American politics, comparative politics and world politics. The examination is constructed and evaluated by the departmentís graduate field examination committee appointed by the director of graduate studies, including the studentís chosen PhD faculty supervisor.
Students will write for two 8-hour days in their major fields, and for one 8-hour day in their minor fields. The examination committee plus each studentís major advisor will grade the exam. There are three grading outcomes:
Pass. This indicates that the student has successfully demonstrated mastery of the subfield and is certified to move on to the doctoral dissertation stage.
Fail. The student has not demonstrated mastery of the subfield and is not certified to continue to the dissertation stage. The student must take the comprehensive exam again.
Conditional Pass. The student demonstrates knowledge of the subfield, but does not demonstrate mastery; therefore, he/she must undergo an oral examination conducted by the examination committee (including the studentís major adviser) within one month of the written exam. Passing the oral exam is a precondition for receiving a passing grade on the written exam.
Each student must pass the written examination in each subfield in order to proceed toward the doctorate. In the event that a student receives a ďconditional pass,Ē the student will undergo the oral exam. The oral exam will allow the committee to probe the studentís understanding of the material and will allow the student to demonstrate mastery of the subfield. Students who do not demonstrate mastery of the subfield in the oral exam do not satisfy the condition for passing the written exam: their final comprehensive exam grade is ďFail.Ē
In the event of failure to pass one or more examinations, there will be consultation with relevant faculty and the graduate adviser, and the student will retake the exam in question at the end of the spring semester. However, students should recognize that the comprehensive examinations are a very important step in the doctoral program, providing a significant basis for evaluation and judgment of each studentís prospects for long-term success in the program. Accordingly, failure on the written exam should be construed as a serious indicator that insufficient progress is being made by the student. Unsatisfactory performance on the second trial of the exam usually will result in the decision to terminate the studentís doctoral study.
Dissertation Prospectus: Students should defend their dissertation prospectuses within six months of passing their comprehensive examination. The prospectus proposes a theoretically grounded important question and demonstrates how the research to be conducted for and reported in the dissertation will answer the question. It should be submitted to all members of the studentís PhD guidance committee one month prior to its oral defense. It is the studentís responsibility to schedule the oral defense in consultation with his or her guidance committee.
Dissertation and Defense: The development of the dissertation is aided by the dissertation supervisor. Students should take care to choose someone with whom they can work closely and who has an interest in the proposed research. The supervisor gives advice on the direction the research should take, critiques work in progress, encourages the advisee to finish the task within a reasonable time frame and assists in job placement. A final draft of the dissertation must be submitted to the dissertation committee within five years of successful completion of the PhD comprehensive examinations. Before the PhD may be conferred, the candidate must defend his or her work in an oral public defense. The dissertation committee must unanimously recommend conferral of the degree. Specific guidelines regarding the dissertation may be found in the Faculty and Student Graduate Degree Handbook. The handbook clearly outlines all the procedures for proper preparation and submission of the dissertation, including formatting, microfilming and binding. Protecting the research through copyright is explained as well. Students are advised to consult the handbook throughout the degree process.