Graduate Bulletin

Spring 2018

Ph.D. Program in Political Science

The Ph.D. program in Political Science, in the College of Arts and Sciences, is characterized by several distinct features:

A. Three areas of specialization
1. Political Psychology/Behavior
2. Political Economy and Public Policy
3. American Politics

B. Close student/faculty interaction

C. An emphasis on professional training of research-oriented students and the production of professional-quality articles and conference papers by Ph.D. students. 

Political Psychology/Behavior
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 and survey research. In addition to formal training in methods appropriate to the psychological study of political behavior, students are apprenticed to ongoing research projects throughout their course of training. Students become familiar with the department’s extensive and well-equipped laboratories and the regular subject pool. Opportunities are also available to take part in ongoing survey research projects.

The substantive interests of the faculty in this area include voter decision-making processes, political socialization, political values and beliefs, the mass media, political cognition, group influence, and public opinion.

Political Economy and Public Policy
The concentration in political economy and public policy emphasizes the interaction between politics and the institutions (both public and private) that shape economic policies. Students choosing this concentration analyze important issues by focusing on decision-making and organizational behavior as shaped by individual incentives and institutional structures. In addition to the foundation course in public policy required of all students, elective seminars in this field include policy evaluation, organizational decision-making, bureaucracy, regulation, institutional analysis, and urban politics.           

The faculty have published research on issues such as the economic development of metropolitan areas, the political economy of suburbs, political controls over regulatory bureaucracies, and citizen responses to tax policies. A sample of other ongoing research projects in which incoming students may become involved include the effect of market-like incentives in school choice, subsidy flows in the European Union, the role of social capital in environmental decision making, and regulation of business by state governments. The economic approach is also used to investigate other political processes such as voting, party competition, and agenda setting.

American Politics
The American politics concentration provides a broad perspective on national political institutions and processes, with particular emphases on elections and courts. Courses focusing on political parties and elections, the legislative process, the American judiciary, electoral behavior, American political ideology, and public choice theory are offered. Students become familiar with the kinds of quantitative and formal analysis techniques most often applied to the study of American politics. Seminar papers allow students to go into detail on topics of special interest.

Members of the faculty are currently doing research on congressional and Supreme Court decision-making, the role of economic forces in American national elections, voting in congressional elections, issues of gender and the law, and the dynamics of American public opinion.

Since we believe that a strong background in research methods is essential for political scientists interested in empirical research, we provide a rigorous training in the application of statistical methods and formal models to political analysis. Coursework in methods includes introductory training in research design and elementary statistics, as well as more advanced work in statistical analysis, econometrics, time series analysis, and measurement. The department recognizes that many undergraduates in political science come to graduate school without much background in statistics and math. Therefore, our courses start at an introductory level and slowly develop the skills necessary to do publishable research in political science. In addition to the classroom work, these courses all involve analysis of actual data on personal computers. We believe, however, that it is the application of research methods, first as part of faculty and class research projects and then in a student’s own dissertation research, that makes a qualified researcher with the skills required for success in research and academic careers.