Ph.D Program

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Contact UsApplication (Deadline: January 15)

General Overview

The Ph.D. Program in Political Science at Stony Brook is small and research oriented, with concentrations in public policy and political economy, American politics, and political psychology/behavior. Our program is limited to about 35 students taught by 20 faculty members, and features close working relationships with faculty, small class size, and numerous research opportunities for graduate students. The program provides an opportunity for students to develop skills as researchers and teachers, both through small seminars and hands-on experience. Graduate students have offices next to the faculty, other graduate students, graduate student seminar rooms, the graduate lounge, and extensive research facilities. All of this is located on a single floor of a modern building overlooking the Long Island Sound. This arrangement not only provides a delightful and friendly working environment, but also creates close working relationships among faculty and students that are critical for the professional training we offer.

A graduate program can be no better than the faculty and the Stony Brook Political Science Department is one of the most productive research departments in the country. A recent study of articles published in the three major American political science journals (American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, and Journal of Politics) over the past ten years shows that Stony Brook is second in the country in total publications, exceeded only by the University of Michigan (other schools in the top ten include Stanford, Rochester, Harvard and Ohio State). Taking into account the size of most of the other major graduate departments in political science, Stony Brook is clearly the most productive department per capita. What does this mean for the graduate program? Graduate students take courses from and do research with some of the most active researchers in political science. Seminars are taught by faculty who are familiar with the current controversies in that field and students have an opportunity to work on cutting-edge research in their area of interest. It is an exciting environment and a place where research is not just taught in the classroom but is experienced through direct participation. From your first semester you will be involved in research projects with political scientists who are well known throughout the discipline. By the time your dissertation is finished, you will have taught your own undergraduate courses and will probably have presented a research paper at a major professional meeting. Jointly authored student-faculty papers from our department have been published in the major political science journals on topics including urban politics, political psychology, regulatory enforcement, congress, and electoral studies.

The department is also one of the tops in the country in obtaining research grants and external funding. These grants provide financial support for graduate students and, even more importantly, they open up even more possibilities for collaborative research. Faculty research grants often involve graduate students directly in the projects and those students later go on to co-author resulting papers and books.

The graduate students in our program also contribute to the positive environment of the department. As a result of maintaining a small program, the department can be selective in admitting students. Our graduate students are highly qualified and hard working. They have diverse backgrounds and wide ranging interests. Sharing offices, research facilities, and the graduate student lounge promotes a friendly and intellectual environment. It is not at all uncommon for students to work together on research projects while in school and to continue joint research after graduating.

This emphasis on professional preparation and collaboration on research papers has given our graduates a competitive edge in the academic and research job markets. After finishing their degrees, our students have been successful in finding jobs at major research and teaching universities as well as in the public and private sectors. The program is designed to be finished in four years so students can finish their education in an appropriate amount of time and get started with their careers.

Follow this link for a listing of our recent PhD graduates and their current jobs.


Fields of Study

In order to provide a thorough background in the fields we offer, the department has focused research and teaching resources on three specialized fields -- American politics, policy and political economy, and political psychology. Students take foundation courses in these fields during their first year. In subsequent years they will do advanced course work in two of these three fields, as well as select a specialized field for dissertation research. All students must pass qualifying examinations after their second year in two of these fields and in research methodology. All students receive a thorough training in research methodology, since this is essential to all fields.

American Politics
The American Politics concentration provides a broad perspective on national political institutions and processes, with particular emphasis on elections. Courses are taught in political parties and elections, the legislative process, the American judiciary, political ideology, electoral behavior, and social choice theory. Students become familiar with the kinds of quantitative and formal analysis techniques most often applied to the study of American politics. Members of the faculty are currently doing research on nominations to the Supreme Court, Congressional decision-making, voting in Congressional and Presidential elections, and public opinion.

Political Economy
The political economyprogram builds upon the department strengths in political political psychology, methodology, and laboratory experiments.  The primary focus of the program is on applications of behavioral economics methods in political science and empirical testing of theoretical models in laboratory settings.  Such a focus allows for the cross-field collaboration and synergy within the political science department.

Substantively, experimental economics uses the insights from psychology to test the traditional economic models of a man as a selfish utility-maximizing actor.  Behavioral ecoonomics takes these psychological insights and experimental results further and offers alternative theoretical models that incorporate emotions, altruism, sense of fairness, inequity aversion, and so on.  The behavioral models can then be applied in any substantive field of political science.

Political Psychology
The doctoral concentration in political psychology/behavior applies contemporary psychological theories, concepts, and research methods to the study of political behavior. Students are trained in topics and methods associated with psychology as well as political science. Methodological concerns focus on experimentation. In addition to formal training in experimental methods, students are apprenticed throughout their course of training to ongoing laboratory research projects. Students become familiar with the department's extensive and well-equipped laboratories and the regular subject pool.

The substantive concerns of the political psychology concentration include, but are not limited to, those facets of psychology that can be applied to the study of political behavior: e.g. communication and interaction, group influence, attribution, attitude change, political cognition, public opinion, cognitive processes and decision making.

Follow this link to learn more about Political Psychology.

Since we believe that a strong background in research methods is essential for political scientists, we provide a rigorous training in the application of statistical methods and formal models to political analysis. Coursework in analytic methods includes introductory training in mathematical methods and statistics as well as more advanced modeling, econometric, measurement and time series analysis. The "hands-on" approach to is an integral part of our program. We believe, however, that it is the application of research methods, first as part of faculty and class research projects and then in your own dissertation research, that makes you a competent researcher with the skills required for success in research and academic careers.

Degree Requirements

Candidates must meet the general requirements for the Ph.D. degree set by the Graduate School. Departmental requirements are as follows:

A. Core Courses

Students take four core courses:

1. POL 600 Research Project
2. POL 601 Public Policy and Political Economy
3. POL 605 American Government
4. POL 608 Political Psychology

B. Methods

Students are expected to master the methods necessary to engage in scholarly work:

1. All students take a three-course sequence in mathematics, statistics, and research methods (POL 602, 603, 604).
2. All students are required to take at least one advanced methods course either in this department or in a cognate field (e.g., economics). The student’s choice of  
    advanced elective(s) is decided in conjunction with the student’s advisor.
3. In addition to requirements 1 and 2 above, political psychology students take POL 610, a graduate-level course in experimental design. Political economy and American 
    Politics students must take POL 613, Public Choice.
4. Students who have attended the ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods at the University of Michigan can have the advanced elective requirement waived.

C. Electives

Students take a minimum of four advanced seminars in their area of specialization and three in their minor area. The seminars are typically at the 600 level and can be within the department or can be in cognate fields such as psychology, economics, or applied math. The course of study is selected by the student in consultation with his or her advisor and must be approved by the graduate program director.

D. Teaching and Research Apprenticeship

To ensure that all students become proficient in teaching and research, students work with the faculty on an individual basis. Funded students participate in faculty research projects and assist in teaching courses. Advanced students then prepare and teach their own undergraduate classes.

E. Evaluation

Graduate students in the Ph.D. program are formally evaluated at the end of each semester, based on grades received in the program and on evaluations by faculty familiar with the student’s work. The evaluation committee’s charge is to make one of the following three possible determinations with regard to the student’s progress: (1) recommend continuation of graduate study toward the Ph.D., (2) recommend that the student be allowed to continue toward a terminal M.A. but not to continue in the Ph.D. program, or (3) recommend that the student not be permitted to enroll in additional graduate courses in the department. The evaluation also serves as the basis for the decision as to whether the student is to receive financial support during subsequent semesters of graduate work.

F. Qualifying Examinations

1. Timing of Examinations: Students making normal progress toward the Ph.D. should anticipate taking qualifying examinations following the second year of coursework. 
    Examinations in three fields compose the doctoral qualifying examinations.

2. Examination Fields: The department’s policy is to allow students to take exams only in those areas in which its faculty strengths allow in-depth training, including:

a. Methods
b. American Politics
c. Political Economy and Public Policy
d. Political Psychology/Behavior

All students are required to take the methods exam. Students then prepare two of the three other substantive areas for written examination.

3. Preparation and Evaluation of Examinations: The graduate program director appoints a committee (with a designated committee chairperson) responsible for each examination field. The committee prepares the written examination, providing sufficient options for questions on which students may write. The committee members read the student’s examination and prepare an evaluation of that performance, which is reviewed by the Ph.D. committee.

G. Dissertation

Following successful completion of the qualifying examinations, the student begins the process of preparing his or her dissertation.

The third year includes developing a directed reading course under the supervision of a dissertation director. Through the readings the student will explore specialized research literature in the area of a proposed dissertation, develop an initial bibliography, and formulate a specific question for research. The second half of the year includes working with the dissertation director and selecting a dissertation committee consisting of four faculty members—three from the Department of Political Science and one with whom the student has worked outside of the department. The third year culminates with a presentation of the dissertation proposal by the student and its acceptance by the dissertation committee.

Should the dissertation committee reject the proposal, a candidate is allowed to revise the proposal for a subsequent defense. If this second defense also results in failure, the student’s program is terminated.

Upon successful conclusion of research, the student defends the completed dissertation to the committee and the University community at large.


 PhD Student Handbook



Note: Most courses do not have a specific semester offering. Please refer to the Graduate Class Schedule for specific semester offerings.

POL 600: Research Project

A two-semester introduction to research for first-year students. The course introduces issues of research design through lectures and presentations of current research by faculty members. Each student designs his or her own research paper under the guidance of a faculty member familiar with his or her area of interest. Final papers are due in the beginning of May. 3 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

POL 601: Foundations: Public Policy and Political Economy

A systematic introduction to the principles of political economy. Develops a microeconomic model and approach to public policy analysis. A major part of the course is devoted to student projects that analyze the political economy of a governmental policy. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 602: Applied Data Analysis I

The application of statistical and mathematical models to the analysis of political data: introduction to the research process and to topics in measurement, basic descriptive statistics, and inferential statistics. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 603: Applied Data Analysis II

The application of statistical and mathematical models to the analysis of political data: regression analysis. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

Prerequisite: POL 602 or equivalent.

POL 604: Applied Data Analysis III

The application of statistical methods to the analysis of political data. The emphasis is on diagnosing and dealing with violations of assumptions of statistical models. Topics covered include advanced regression, models for discrete dependent variables, systems of equations, and selection bias. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

Prerequisite: POL 603 or equivalent.

POL 605: Foundations: American Politics

A review of the basic political science literature on American politics, with emphasis on American political institutions. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 606: Duration and Panel Models

This seminar will consider statistical models for political processes observed over time. The major topics will include duration models and methods for pooled cross-sectional (panel) data. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 607: Social Survey in Contemporary Society

This course on political socialization focuses on continuity and change in political attitudes and behavior across the life span. Topics include the stability of political attitudes-contrasting the greater durability of political partisanship and basic values with the relative instability of issue positions; the social psychology of attitude change, which lends some insight into the conditions under which attitudes are most likely to change; the importance of political period or era as a determinant of political attitudes and behavior; and the existence and coherence of distinct political generations. Some attention is also given to the political changes that accompany old age, including changes in attitude and behavior linked to growing dependency on the Social Security and Medicare systems. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

Prerequisites: POL 602 and POL 603.

POL 608: Foundations: Political Psychology, Behavior

A review and analysis of the political behavior literature, including such topics as attitude formation and change, belief systems, political socialization, demographic and small group influences on political beliefs and conduct, political leadership, electoral behavior, elite vs. mass politics, decision making, personality and politics, political conformity, and protest. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 609: Advanced Research Design

A practical application of topics in the philosophy of science to research design. Students prepare their dissertation proposal as a part of this course. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

Prerequisite: Permission of graduate program director.

POL 610: Foundations II: Experimental Design and Methods

An overview of experimental research with an emphasis on experimental design, data analysis, and interpretation. Students develop the ability to critically evaluate experimental research. Students also participate in the development, implementation, and analysis of a laboratory experiment. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 612: Classics of American Politics

Reading and discussion of a selection of the most frequently cited works in the field of American politics, with emphasis on relatively contemporary authors. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 613: Introduction to Public Choice

Introduction to public choice theory with an emphasis on the collective consequences of rational individual actions. Main areas covered include equilibrium analysis; prisoner’s dilemma; Mancur Olson’s “Logic” of collective action; Kenneth Arrow’s general possibility theorem; voting methods, heresthetics, and democratic theory; spatial models of voting in small groups and in mass elections. Empirical applications focus primarily on American presidential elections. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

Prerequisites: POL 602 and permission of instructor.

POL 614: American Judiciary

A seminar on judicial process and behavior. Emphasis is placed on the Supreme Court, but trial courts and other appellate courts are examined as well. Topics include constitutional interpretation and both legal and extra-legal models of decision making. Students should possess basic methodological skills. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 615: Legislative Process

A seminar on the legislative process, focusing on current research on the United States Congress. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 616: Political Parties and Groups

A seminar on parties, campaigns, and elections in the United States. Topics covered include party organization and leadership, nomination and general election campaigns, and the role of parties in government. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 617: Electoral Behavior

Models of voting choices; key attitudes such as party identification, issue orientations, and ideology; the impact of group affiliations, economic conditions; campaign strategies of candidates; congressional vs. presidential elections; historical change, e.g., party realignments. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 618: American Political Ideology

This course examines American political ideology as it is reflected in public opinion, political debate, and public policy. The goal is to understand the underlying bases of conflict and consensus in American politics and the ways in which they influence and constrain debate over public policy. The course traces the development of political conflict in the United States and examines the basis of contemporary political debate. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

Prerequisites: POL 605 and permission of instructor.

POL 620: Government Regulation of Business

An examination of the scope of government regulation of business in the United States today-regulation at both the federal and state levels and by both economic and social agencies. The course compares market vs. regulatory policies as well as possible explanations for why some regulatory agencies change over time. Finally, the course considers proposed reforms, such as clearer legislative standards, curbs on “revolving door” practices, greater citizen participation in agency proceedings, and deregulation. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 621: Theories of Policy Making

An introduction to theories of policy making, especially policy formulation, stressing reading and thinking about classics and acquiring skills necessary for theorizing, including mathematical modeling and formal theory. Laboratories focus on improving special skills (e.g., optimization) and theorizing about particular policy areas (e.g., pork barrel politics). 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 622: Bureaucracy and the Policy Process

An examination of bureaucracy as part of the policy-making process. This course reviews theoretical explanations for the bureaucracy as a political institution and implications of its rapid growth since the New Deal. It also looks inside bureaucratic organizations, examining factors that influence the exercise of discretion and policy implementation. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 623: Urban Politics

This course concentrates on urban and suburban growth, the decentralization of metropolitan areas, land-use policy, and reforming metropolitan policy making. Specific policy areas such as education, finance, and police are considered. Political phenomena, including parties and ethnic groups, are also discussed. This course is offered as both CES 545 and POL 623. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 624: Decision Making in Organizations

A seminar on decision procedures in public and private organizations. The course begins with the rational choice model developed primarily in economics and policy analysis, then considers common problems of decision making arising from limited capabilities, conflicts among organization members, and uncertainties and ambiguity in the organization’s environment. Readings are from several disciplines. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 631: Political Cognition

Surveys the contemporary psychological literature on human memory and cognition, with emphasis on applications to political information processing. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

Prerequisite: POL 608.

POL 632: Mass Communication and Political Persuasion

In-depth examination of the role of mass media in the political process and the psychological dynamics of media influence. Effects of the media on public opinion and voting. Implications of media influence on democratic theory. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 633: Social Influence and Group Processes in Political Decision Making

Review of contemporary theories of social influence processes and group decision making, with emphasis on applications to decision making in politics. Special focus on small-group methods and research applications. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 634: Behavioral Decision Theory

Emphasizes psychological theories of judgment and choice and prediction of the errors that individual decision makers are likely to make. These ideas are applied to a variety of political contexts. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 635: Advanced Topics: Political Socialization

An interdisciplinary course on political socialization that focuses on continuity and change in political attitudes and behavior across the life span. Readings cover research and theorizing on conditions under which political attitudes are most likely to change. Dual emphasis is placed on attitudes that prove to be exceedingly stable over time and others that seem to have undergone considerable change over the last few decades. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 664: Advanced Institutions

POL 670: Advanced Topics: Public Policy Analysis I

An intensive examination of major substantive and methodological concerns involved in the investigation of the public policy process. 3 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: Permission of Graduate Program Director.

POL 671: Advanced Topics: Public Policy Analysis II

A continuation of POL 670. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

POL 673: Advanced Topics: American Politics I

A seminar in American institutions and processes, focusing on current research in such areas as Congress, the Supreme Court, the presidency, political parties, or bureaucracy. 3 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: POL 605.

POL 674: Advanced Topics: American Politics II

A continuation of POL 673. 3 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

POL 675: Advanced Topics: Comparative Politics I

Readings and research papers on topics in comparative politics. Particular attention is given to concepts and methods identified with the field. 3 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: POL 553.

POL 676: Advanced Topics: Methods I

A course reviewing the literature and methodology of specific areas of political science research. The course relates directly to research applications and provide students with an opportunity to apply advanced research tools to selected substantive problems. 3 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: Permission of Graduate Program Director.

POL 678: Political Decision Making

Review of the literature and methods related to a topic or problem in contemporary political science, voting behavior, issue formation, interest groups, political economy, or personality. 3 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: POL 605, 608.

POL 679: Advanced Topics: Political Psychology/Behavior II

A continuation of POL 678. 3 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

POL 680: Directed Study

Individual studies under the guidance of a faculty member. Subject matter varies according to the needs of the student. 1-6 credits, ABCF grading. May be repeated for credit.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor and Graduate Program Director.

POL 681: Directed Study

Individual studies under the guidance of a faculty member. Subject matter varies according to the needs of the student. 1-9 credits, S/U grading.

Prerequisite: Permission of instructor and Graduate Program Director.

POL 690: Research Colloquium

Students participate in weekly departmental colloquia where they serve as discussants of research reports presented by individual faculty members or outside investigators reporting on current research. 3 credits, ABCF grading.

Prerequisite: Permission of Graduate Program Director.

POL 691: Research Practicum I

A course actively involving students in an ongoing research project under the direction of a principal investigator. Students participate in all stages of the research project and are required to prepare a research report on one aspect of the project. 3 credits, S/U grading.

POL 692: Research Practicum II

Domestic students have the option of the health plan and may also enroll in MEDEX; international students who are in their home country are not covered by mandatory health plan and must contact the Insurance Office for the insurance charge to be removed; international students who are not in their home country are charged for the mandatory health insurance (if they are to be covered by another insurance plan, they must file a waiver by the second week of classes; the charge will only be removed if the other plan is deemed comparable); all international students must receive clearance from an International Advisor. Fall, spring, and summer, 1-9 credits, S/U grading. May be repeated for credit.






Application Deadline
for PhD program:
January 15th




PhD Recruitment Director
Dr. Jason Barabas

PhD Program Director:

Dr. Matthew Lebo


Graduate Program Coordinator
Carri Ann Horner


Department of Political Science • Social and Behavioral Sciences Building, 7th Floor, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 • Phone: 631-632-7650 • Fax: 631-632-4116
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