Duke University Political Science

The Master’s Program

The Duke M.A. degree in Political Science is designed to fill the growing gap between the technical skills required by Ph.D study and undergraduate course work in political science. It is tailored to fit the needs of individuals seeking to gain additional educational training prior to embarking on careers in public policy, law, or other areas of professional activity as well as to help students prepare for Ph.D programs in the discipline.

The M.A. (Masters) degree requires a minimum of 30 units of degree credit, at least 24 of which must be graded course work, and a final examination administered by the student’s masters committee.  

To receive a Master's Degree in Political Science, students need to complete the following requirements:

1) Take a minimum of seven one semester courses of 3 units each, at least five of which must be in political science. Three courses must cluster in one of the Political Science major fields (Political Institutions, Political Behavior and Identity, Political Economy, Normative Political Theory and Political Philosophy, Political Methodology, or Security, Peace, and Conflict) and two may cluster in another major field or in one of the theme fields (Race, Ethnicity, and Politics or Religion and Politics).

2) Submit a M.A. thesis of you choose the Thesis option OR submit 2 research papers for the Non-Thesis option.

3) Demonstrate competence in one foreign language OR in statistics OR formal theory.  Students normally take at least one course in statistics or formal theory to satisfy this requirement. This course is in addition to the seven courses noted above.

4) Pass an oral exam in which the student explicates and defends the M.A. project. A three-member faculty committee, including at least two (2) members of the Political Science Department, must conduct the oral examination on the Master’s Thesis.

Masters, Thesis Option.

Typically, twenty-four units of graded coursework plus six units of ungraded research are required for the Thesis option. The ungraded research hours should be spent preparing the MA proposal and the thesis itself.

The M.A. thesis should demonstrate the student's ability to collect, interpret, and analyze pertinent material on a research problem. Ideally, the thesis will be a journal-style paper of approximately 30 to 50 pages. Students may choose to expand upon a seminar paper that is completed during the first three semesters of coursework to fulfill the thesis requirement. 

Using established guidelines for formatting, the thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School for approval. Students are required to pass an oral examination of the M.A. thesis.  

Masters, Non-Thesis Option.

In the non-thesis option, the student submits two research papers which were originally written in political science graduate seminars. The student’s committee will then hold an oral exam in which the student defends these papers. If a student pursues this option, he or she will be required to complete 30 units of coursework credit. Instead of taking 6 units of ungraded research, the student will take two three-unit courses beyond the eight described above.

Students who are pursuing only the M.A. degree are not eligible for departmental financial assistance.


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