M.Phil. Degree

In order to receive the Master of Philosophy degree, students must fulfill the following requirements.

Residence Requirement

Mid-Program Interview

Annual Progress Report

Course Requirements

Research Tools Requirement

Research Paper Presentation (Mini-APSA)

Comprehensive Examination in Subjects

Special Minors


External Fellowship Application Requirement

Teaching Requirement

Residence Requirement

Six Residence Units are required for the M.Phil. degree. This total includes two Residence Units required for the M.A. earned in progress toward the M.Phil. and Ph.D. degrees or advanced standing and a complementary number of Residence Units.

If advanced standing has been awarded, each unit of advanced standing reduces the number of Residence Units required for the M.Phil. by one Residence Unit. Students who have been granted two units of advanced standing have fulfilled the M.Phil. residency requirement at the end of their second year, but are eligible to receive the M.Phil. only upon completion of all M.Phil. degree requirements.

After fulfilling the residency requirement, candidates for the M.Phil. register for Extended Residence (ER) or Matriculation and Facilities (M&F) as appropriate for their teaching, research, and coursework activities each semester. Students are required to register continuously throughout their years in the program, including the term in which they distribute the defense copies of their dissertation. Click here for more information about Residence Units and other registration categories.

Mid-Program Interview

Each student will be scheduled for a mid-program interview during his or her third semester or in the second semester with advanced standing. Two members of the faculty, normally the student’s adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies, will conduct the interview. The goal of the meeting is to assess progress, to evaluate the student’s preparation for the comprehensive exams, to counsel about future coursework and completing the degree requirements, and to discuss the student’s research interests. The interviewers compile a short record of the meeting for the student's departmental record for future reference. The required mid-program interview form is available here.

Annual Progress Report

The faculty and Fellowship Committee review each student's academic progress annually. To this end, students must submit a progress report form each year. The Director of Graduate Studies corresponds with any student whose review raises matters of concern. Cick here for the progress report form.

Course Requirements

Courses and research tools used to fulfill the M.A. degree requirements can all be used to fulfill M.Phil. degree requirements.

In order to qualify for the Master of Philosophy degree, students must meet the following requirements.

During the first four semesters of residence, students must take a minimum of twelve political science courses for Examination credit (for a letter grade), including:

  • three of the department’s four field surveys (i.e., POLS GR6210, GR6411/6412, GR6101, GR6801);
  • four of the department’s colloquia and seminars (i.e., 8000- and 9000-level courses), at least two of which must involve the production of research papers;
  • one course in quantitative analysis or formal modeling.

The twelve courses students must take for Examination credit must include at least two courses in each of two different subfields of political science.

The department’s field surveys are:

  • POLS GR6210/6211, Theories and Debates in American Politics
  • POLS GR6411/6412, Comparative Politics Survey I/II
  • POLS GR6101, Issues in Political Theory
  • POLS GR6801, Theories of International Relations

Certain approved courses may be offered in lieu of the third field survey requirement. Students should inform the Director of Graduate Studies of their intention to offer one of these courses to fulfill the field survey requirement. The approved courses are:

American Politics:

  • POLS GR8245, Controversies in American Politics

Comparative Politics:

  • Any 8000-level course in comparative politics

International Relations:

  • POLS GR8804, International Political Economy
  • POLS GU4895, War, Peace and Strategy

Political Theory:

  • POLS GU4134, Modern Political Thought

The courses that fulfill the “one course in quantitative analysis or formal modeling” requirement are:

  • POLS GU4710, Quantitative Political Research
  • POLS GU4712, Analysis of Political Data
  • POLS GU4714, Multivariate Political Research
  • POLS GU4730, Game Theory and Political Theory
  • POLS GU4732, Research Topics in Game Theory
  • POLS GU4764 Design & Analysis of Sample Surveys
  • POLS GU4768 Experimental Research: Design, Analysis & Interpretation
  • POLS GU4790, Advanced Topics in Quantitative Research: Models for Limited and Qualitative Dependent Variables
  • POLS GU4792, Advanced Topics in Quantitative Research: Models for Panel and Time-Series Cross-Section Data
  • STAT GU4330, Regression and Multilevel Models (Statistics Department)
  • STAT GR7110, Political Science Methodology (Statistics Department)
  • STAT GR7300, Research in Bayesian Statistics (Statistics Department)

Courses in other departments may be substituted for those of the Department of Political Science with the prior written approval of the DGS.

Research Tools Requirement

For the M.Phil. degree, the department requires demonstrated command of two research tools, selected from the following list:

  • a reading knowledge of a foreign language, demonstrated by passing the proficiency exam offered by a language department, by placing out of the fourth year on the placement exam offered in a language department (e.g., East Asian Languages and Cultures), or by passing the fourth-year course in a foreign language.  Native speakers of a language other than English may offer their native language in satisfaction of this requirement.
  • one of the following two-course sequences in quantitative analysis with an average grade of B or better:
  • POLS GU4710 and GU4712
  • POLS GU4710 and GU4714
  • POLS GU4710 and GU4730
  • POLS GU4714 and GU4790
  • POLS GU4714 and GU4792
  • POLS GU4764 and any above 4000-level quantitative courses
  • POLS GU4768 and any above 4000-level quantitative courses
  • one of the following two-course sequence in formal modeling with an average grade of B or better:
  • POLS GU4700 and GU4730
  • POLS GU4730 and GU4714
    • POLS GU4730 and GU4732
    • one course in qualitative methodology in combination with any one of the above quantitative or formal modeling courses (or, for Ph.D. students who are pursuing a minor in quantitative methods, in combination with a substantive course in a field other than the major field) with an average grade of B or better.  Courses in qualitative methods include:
    • POLS GU4702 (Methods of Inquiry and Research Design)
    • POLS GR4780 (Qualitative & Interpretative Methods in Political Science)
    • SOCI GR6091 (Historical Methods & Documentary Analysis)
    • An alternative approved by the DGS
    • a comparable level of proficiency in a comparable research tool, approved in writing by the DGS upon recommendation of the student’s adviser. 

    Methods courses used to fulfill the “research tools” requirement simultaneously fulfill the “one course in quantitative methods” requirement but cannot be counted toward the four-course requirement of those completing quantitative methods as a minor subfield.

    Languages used to fulfill the “research tools” requirement are to be chosen in consultation with the adviser from among those encompassing a significant literature in political science, including Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Certain other languages necessary for the student’s research interests may, upon approval by the student’s adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies, be offered as a foreign language. English may not be offered as a foreign language.

    The research tool used to fulfill the M.A. degree requirement automatically fulfills one of the two research tools requirements of the M.Phil. However, the tool used to fulfill the M.A. degree research tool requirement does not have to be one of the tools used to fulfill the M.Phil. research tools requirement.

    Methods minors may satisfy the research tool requirement with two courses from the same subfield outside of their major subfield.  For example, a student could satisfy the requirement with two courses in international relations as long as international relations is not the student’s major subfield.

    Research Paper Presentation Requirement: Mini-APSA

    In the last week of the fall semester of their third year, students must present a research paper at the departmental student conference, referred to as “Mini-APSA.”  This paper need not be written especially for this occasion, but can be, or grow out of, one completed for a course. Students will not be graded for the exercise, but will receive comments from a faculty discussant.

    Comprehensive Examination in Subjects

    Comprehensive exams are offered three times each year: May, August and January. A candidate for the M.Phil. degree takes on-campus written and oral examinations in a major and a minor field in May of their second year or August prior to their third year, unless the DGS gives permission in writing for an extension. Students required to retake the exam must do so in the January of their third in the program.

    Students select a major and a minor field from among the four subfields: American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and political theory. Students may also select pre-approved minors in economics, quantitative methods, or law.  Students may petition to do a special minor by following procedures outlined in the "Special Minors" section below.

    In order to take comprehensive exams, students must meet minimal expectations for academic achievement including having no more than one grade of INC on their record at the time of the exam. Each student's academic record is reviewed by the Fellowship Committee annually on the basis of academic performance, including the timely and satisfactory completion of course, research tool, and research paper requirements. A student who does not meet minimal expectations will be so notified by the DGS, and, in a meeting with the DGS and the student's adviser, will be informed of what improvements must occur in order for the student to be eligible to take the comprehensive exams. Students who are so notified and who do not meet these expectations prior to the exams will not be allowed to take them, and will be considered to have failed the exams one time. 

    Normally, students take the exams in May of their second year or August prior to their third year. Students who propose to take an exam earlier than May of the second year must have their academic records reviewed by the DGS to ensure that they are meeting expectations for academic achievement. Students who take the exam early (and only such students) are permitted to take the major without simultaneously taking the minor, which must be taken no later than August before the third year.

    The oral examination committee (comprised of three faculty members specializing in the fields under examination) will make a recommendation regarding the outcome of the exam, taking into consideration the student's performance on both the written and oral components.

    A student who fails the comprehensive exam on the first attempt will be given written feedback from the orals committee regarding the reasons for the failure and the areas in which improvement is needed (students who pass may see the chair of the oral examining committee for comments). A student who fails the comprehensive exam a second time is eligible to receive the M.Phil. if the faculty so agrees based on the student's record even when she or he is not eligible to continue the program toward the Ph.D. dissertation.

    If the faculty decides to pass a student on the comprehensive exams, the presumption is that the student will continue to pursue the Ph.D. unless the DGS has identified problems in the student's record that require a faculty discussion about his or her ability to continue in the doctoral program, in which case the faculty will discuss whether the student shall receive a terminal M.Phil. (contingent on satisfaction of all M.Phil. requirements). In making this decision, the entirety of the student's record and performance will be considered. This includes grades, the number of Incompletes, the quality of the student's research papers, and the performance on the comprehensive exams (students with weaker academic records will be helped by good performance on the exams). If the faculty decides that the student's record is not satisfactory for continuation toward the Ph.D., the DGS (in consultation with the faculty and under GSAS rules) will notify the student of the problems that exist with the record, what must be done to address these problems, and a timeline within which they must be addressed to the satisfaction of the faculty. After the allotted time, the faculty will make a collective decision regarding whether the student can then continue to pursue the Ph.D. or shall receive a terminal M.Phil. (contingent on satisfaction of all M.Phil. requirements).

    The Major Field

    The major field must be chosen from one of the Department’s four main subfields, i.e., American politics, comparative politics, international relations, or political theory. A student who fails may be re-examined once, in whichever field was failed. Re-examination must take place at the next examination date after the first examination.

    The Minor Field

    The minor field is normally a second field selected from the department’s four main subfields.  (Students may elect a qualifying minor field in economics, quantitative methods, law or a field designed in consultation with members of the faculty; information and procedures for qualifying in these minors is presented under “Special Minors” below.) The student will be expected to be conversant with the full range of important debates in this minor field, but not in the same depth as required for a major in that field. The department assumes that preparing for the minor field will entail about one-half as much coursework and study as that entailed in preparing for the major field examination.

    Grievances regarding the outcome of comprehensive exams can be pursued according to the procedures laid out in GSAS rules.

    Click here for sample exams (access limited to department student, faculty, and staff).

    *Please note that there is no oral exam for sociomedical science students minoring in political science; they take only the written minor exam in one subfield.

    Special Minors

    Students may, with departmental approval, fulfill the minor field requirement by constructing an ad hoc minor field. Special minor fields must be directly relevant to topics in the field of political science, but may include work in disciplines other than political science. Any student who wishes to fulfill the minor field requirement with a special minor must submit a proposal for this field to the DGS and receive approval from the DGS and another faculty sponsor. The proposal must specify three courses the student will take in the special minor field, one of which must be equivalent in scope to the department’s field survey courses (note that this course is taken in addition to the three departmental field survey courses). In addition, the student must submit an original research paper in the special minor field and must take and pass an oral examination based on the research paper given by two faculty members, at least one of whom must be a member of the Department of Political Science. The student will be certified by the DGS to have fulfilled the minor field requirement when he or she has taken and passed the three courses with an average grade of B or better, submitted the research paper, and passed the oral examination.

    Special Minor Deadlines

    Students wishing to minor in quantitative methodology, law, economics, or a special field must complete all requirements for the minor by the end of the first semester of the student's third year. If a student does not pass the first oral exam (i.e., if the faculty committee requires revisions of the paper and a second oral exam), all revisions and the second oral exam must be completed no later than the second Friday of classes in the 6th semester. Students who do not pass the exam and complete all course requirements for the minor by the end of their third year (end of classes in the Spring semester of their third year) will not have completed the minor field requirement necessary to be granted candidacy for the Ph.D. and will not be allowed to continue in the program. Students must submit the work for the special minor in advance to their committee for approval.  If the student does not leave enough time for necessary revisions, extensions shall not be granted except under extreme circumstances as designated by the DGS.

    Students completing a special minor should thus plan to complete course requirements, and special minor papers by the beginning of semester 5, and to hold oral defenses early in semester 5, leaving time for revisions if necessary, during the course of semester 5. All requirements, including successful defense of papers, must be completed NO LATER THAN the date of winter comps (e.g., the last date for students to take comps for the second time if they did not pass the first time).

    A regional institute certificate does not satisfy the minor requirement.


    To continue in the program, all students must successfully complete ALL requirements for both their major and minor field no later than the second Friday of classes in the 6th semester (or the date of January orals, whichever comes later). This will hold whether the minor is a subfield, methods, or a special minor; whether the requirements include an exam, a paper and oral defense, or any other set-up. This includes revisions to a methods or special minor paper, or a second attempt at passing an exam.  (Students can, of course, continue to take course work.)

    External Fellowship Application Requirement

    Students are expected to apply for at least one external fellowship during their first four years of study.

    Teaching Requirement

    The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences requires all M.Phil. candidates to "fulfill a one-year GSAS teaching requirement that must be completed in their first four years of residence." In addition, GSAS multi-year teaching fellowships carry an obligation to participate in the instructional activities of the department for three years. As a rule, in the second, third and fourth years of study, students gain exposure to teaching as assistants to professors or section leaders in lecture courses offered by the Department of Political Science.

    Students who are interested in broadening their teaching apprenticeships are eligible to teach in the undergraduate Core Curriculum once they have received the M.Phil. Students may apply to be a Core preceptor only if they have or expect to have the M.Phil. by the May prior to being appointed as a preceptor, and if they are not past their sixth year of registration during the first year of the preceptorship. Students may not hold instructional appointments after their seventh year of study.

    Exceptions to the teaching requirement may be available to students who secure outside fellowships and/or research assistantships. Inquiries about exceptions should be made to the DGS. Non-native speakers of English are required to take the English Proficiency Test offered by the American Language Program before teaching.