The University of Chicago is one of the world's leading centers for the study of political science. Its faculty and students are engaged in critical inquiry on a wide range of topics, from American elections to the origins of the modern state. This breadth of scholarship is valued at Chicago. So, too, is an emphasis on the profound questions of political life, from the sources of war and the meaning of justice to the development of representative democracy. It is this commitment to understanding fundamental issues that distinguishes the University of Chicago and its graduate program.
To foster such scholarship, the department has developed a sophisticated and flexible program of graduate training, built around seminars with leading scholars and tutorial guidance for student research. Students can select courses of considerable diversity, supplemented by guest lecturers and special seminars throughout the year.
Apart from completion of coursework, the most important project in the first two years is the Master's paper, a substantial piece of original research, which students complete under the direction of two faculty members. At the end of the second year, students take two comprehensive exams.
Students distribute their coursework among at least two of the five fields of the discipline, choosing among political theory, American politics, comparative politics, international relations, and methodology. Many choose the department's introductory sequence in quantitative methods, followed by more advanced seminars in data analysis and model building. Students with more advanced methodological skills can take further coursework in the department or related courses in economics, public policy or statistics. Others take coursework in related social sciences, history, or foreign languages. For students who have not taken many undergraduate courses in political science, there is ample opportunity to survey the subject through core concentration courses and develop graduate-level competence in research-oriented courses. For students with more extensive backgrounds, the department offers advanced seminars and opportunities for individual research. In the process, all students can sample a wide variety of theoretical perspectives and develop essential research skills.
Doctoral research is the culmination of graduate study, marking a transition from taking courses to becoming an independent scholar, doing original and significant work. Students select several faculty members to discuss research questions and supervise the PhD. Working with this committee, they develop a dissertation proposal and begin research. Frequently, they also join faculty and fellow graduate students in advanced workshops, which meet throughout the year to consider new research. This active involvement for advanced graduate students is another of Chicago's strengths. Advanced students can shape their own research programs and have regular opportunities to discuss and present their ideas.