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PhD Program


The PhD 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). Considering 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 so that finishing in four years is possible but most students require a fifth year of study. Over the past decade, the department has a perfect record of funding students who require the fifth year.

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



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 economy program builds upon the department strengths in 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 economics 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.



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: The examinations are taken in January (Methods) and June (Substantive) during and immediately following the second year of coursework, respectively.

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 PhD 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.



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. Students design their own research proposals under the guidance of a faculty member familiar with the area of interest to the student. Proposals are due in mid-March. 
POL 601: Foundations: Political Economy
Gives a broad overview over topics and methods used in studying the interrelationships between political and economic processes. The class provides an introduction to the analysis of political and economic institutions from a model oriented and rationalist perspective.
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 measurement, basic descriptive statistics, and inferential statistics.
POL 603: Applied Data Analysis II

The application of statistical and mathematical models to the analysis of political data: Regression analysis.

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 diagnosing and dealing with violations of assumptions of statistical models. Topics covered will include: advanced regression, models for discrete dependent variables, systems of equations, and selection bias.

Prerequisite: POL 603 or equivalent.

POL 605: Foundations: American Politics


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

POL 606: Seminar: Time Series Analysis

The application of models to study political data over time. Topics include ARIMA and ARFIMA models, GARCH and MV-GARCH models, cointegration and error correction, duration models, and panel data.

POL 608: Foundations: Political Psychology
A review and analysis of the literature in political psychology, including such topics as attitude formation and change, belief systems, values, political sophistication, personality, social identity, prejudice, and the influence of political communication and the mass media on public opinion. 
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. In addition. students participate in the development, implementation, and analysis of laboratory experiment. 
POL 613: Introduction to Game Theory for Political Science
Introduces students to basic formal approaches in rational choice theory, putting an emphasis on non-cooperative game theory and applications in political science. The class also provides a brief refresher of optimization and probability theory.  
POL 614: The American Judiciary
An advanced seminar on judicial process and behavior. Emphasis will be placed on the Supreme Court, but trial courts and other appellate courts will be examined as well. Topics will include Constitutional interpretation, and both legal and extra-legal models of decision making. Students should possess basic methodological skills.
POL 615: Legislative Process
Seminar on the legislative process, focusing on current research on the U.S. Congress.
POL 616: Political Parties and Elections
Advanced seminar on parties in the United States. Topics to be covered include party organization and leadership, nomination and general election campaigns, and the role of parties in government.
POL 617: Electoral Behavior
An advanced seminar on vote choice including the decision to turn out to vote, primarily in U.S. presidential elections. In-depth coverage of topics such as party identification, candidate perceptions, the impact of race, economic voting, wartime elections, campaign strategies, historical change, and election forecasting. 
POL 618: American Political Ideology
This course will examine American political ideology as it is reflected in public opinion, political debate and public policy. The goal will be to understand the underlying bases of conflict and consensus in American politics and the ways in which that influences and constraint debate over public policy. The course will trace both the development of political conflict in the U.S. and examine the bases of contemporary political debate.
POL 625: Ecological Rationality
We will examine how modern political decision making is produced by a mind adapted for past environments. This can lead to both irrational and, sometimes, better than rational decision making. Course connects to political economy and political psychology.
POL 626: Social Networks
The course is designed to introduce students to the process of analyzing interdependent political actors.  It begins by considering methods that take account of the interdependence of political actors when the entire network is unavailable. The bulk of the course involves students learning to use whole network data to conduct social network analysis and models that account for the interdependence of cases.
POL 631: Political Cognition
Surveys the contemporary psychological literature on human memory and cognition, with emphasis on applications to political information processing.  
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.
POL 633: Social Influence and Group Processes in Political Decision Making
Review of theory and empirical research relevant to understanding the relationship between group influence and political behavior an decision-making. The course examines both political and social psychological models of group processes.
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.
POL 670: Public Choice
Public Choice applies the assumptions of neoclassical economics to non-market and collective decision-making. We cover topics such as the justification of the state, spatial models of voting, principal agent models and rent-seeking, among other things.
POL 670: Behavioral Economics
The purpose of this course is to provide Political Scientists a broad background in the basic theories, frameworks, techniques and controversies in the field of behavioral economics. Behavioral economics is a fusion of economics and psychology, reading will reflect this interdisciplinarity and will be drawn from economics, psychology, biology and, of course, political science. With an eye towards the analysis of political phenomena, we will examine applications based on the primary methods of empirical inquiry in behavioral economics: laboratory experiments and agent-based simulation.
POL 671: Advanced Topics: Public Policy Analysis II
A continuation of POL 670.
POL 673: Advanced Topics: Seminar in American Politics I
Seminar in American institutions and processes, focusing current research in such areas as: Congress, The Supreme Court, Presidency Political Parties, or Bureaucracy.
POL 674: Advanced Topics: American Politics II
A continuation of POL 673.
POL 676: Advanced Topics: Methods I
A course reviewing the literature and methodology of specific areas of political science research. The course will relate directly to research applications and provide students an opportunity to apply advanced research tools to selected substantive problems.  
Prerequisite: Permission of Graduate Studies Director.
POL 677: Advanced Topics: Methods II
A continuation of POL 676.
POL 678: Advanced Topics: Political Psychology/Behavior I
Review of the literature and methods related to a single topic or problem in contemporary political science, voting behavior, issue formation, interest groups, political economy or personality.  
Prerequisite: POL 605 and 608.
POL 678: Evolutionary Psychology
This course examines human social and political behavior from an evolutionary perspective. We will study a variety of psychological processes, asking what computations they perform and how they function to solve adaptive problems. We will review evolutionary theories about family, mates, fighting, trade, morality, and culture. Finally, we will explore how humans invent new political institutions that extend our evolved political strategies.
POL 679: Advanced Topics: Political Psychology/Behavior II
A continuation of POL 678.
POL 680: Directed Study
Individual studies under the guidance of a faculty member. Subject matter varies according to the needs of the student.  
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor and Graduate Studies Director.  
1-6 credits, repetitive
POL 681: Directed Study
Individual studies under the guidance of a faculty member. Subject matter varies according to the needs of the student.  
Prerequisite: Permission of instructor and Graduate Studies Director.  
1-9 credits, repetitive, grading S/U.
POL 690: Research Colloquium
Students will participate in weekly departmental colloquia where they will serve as discussants of research reports presented by individual faculty members or outside investigators reporting on current research.  
Prerequisite: Permission of Graduate Studies Director.
POL 691: Research Practicum I
A course actively involving students in an ongoing research project under the direction of a principal investigator. Students will participate in all stages of research project and be required to prepare a research report on one aspect of the project.  
3 credits, grading S/U.
POL 692: Research Practicum II
A continuation of POL 691. Students actively participate in either a second research project where they will again prepare a research report or continue their participation in the same project, where they will then be assigned a subset of data for analysis or carry out a specific research aim of the project.  
Prerequisite: POL 691  
3 credits, repetitive, grading S/U.
POL 693: Practicum in Teaching
POL 699: Doctoral Dissertation Research
POL 800: Full Time Research