M.A. Program Requirements

Program Overview

  1. Thesis option: 24 graded course credits, 2 courses (6 credits ) ungraded research, and master's thesis
  2. Non-thesis option: 30 graded course credits, and 2 original research papers

Course Requirements

  • A minimum of 30 credits
  • A minimum of eight graded one-semester courses of 3 units each. At least five of the eight courses must be offered by the Department of Political Science, and only two of the courses can be undergraduate courses.
    • Three of the eight courses (four for the JDMA) must cluster in one of the political science major fields
    • Two of the eight courses must cluster in a second major field or a theme field
  • Foreign language competency or one course in either statistics or formal theory. (NOTE: this is recommended but not required for students in the joint JD/MA degree program.)
  • Three full terms of tuition must be paid (e.g. Fall, Spring and Summer I/II, or Fall, Spring, Fall). The enrollment cap is 12 units of graduate credit per semester.
  • Effective Fall 2018, courses below the 500 level may not be applied toward the required credits needed for a post-baccalaureate degree. With the approval of their director of graduate studies and the associate dean for academic affairs, graduate students may enroll in lower-level courses, but these courses will not count toward any graduation requirement and will not be included in a student’s GPA calculation.

    This new policy affects all UG (undergraduate-level) course registrations for incoming or continuing graduate students beginning in fall 2018 and beyond.  UG courses that graduate students have taken before fall 2018 will still count toward their degree credit requirements and GPA as allowed under the old policy.

Thesis Option

In the thesis option, 24 graded course credits are required in addition to six ungraded research credits. The ungraded research hours should be spent preparing the Master of Arts proposal and the thesis itself. Three of the ungraded credits will be completed as part of an ungraded seminar in the fall of the second year on how to write a major research paper.

The M.A. thesis should demonstrate your ability to collect, interpret and analyze pertinent material on a research problem. Ideally, the M.A. thesis will be a journal-style paper of approximately 30-50 pages. You may choose to expand upon a seminar paper that is completed during the first three semesters of coursework to fulfill the thesis requirement. You are required to pass an oral examination of your thesis in order to earn your degree.

Your thesis must be formatted according to guidelines set by the Graduate School. The timeline for submission and defense is as follows:

  • On or before April 15 for a May degree.
  • Ten (10) days before the final day of the second summer term for a September degree.
  • Ten (10) days before the final day of the fall semester for a December degree.
  • At least one week before the scheduled date of the final examination.

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. It is the responsibility of the student to obtain in a timely manner the explicit consent of each faculty member to serve on their Master’s Committee.

Non-thesis Option

In the non-thesis option, you are required to complete 30 graded course credits. You must submit two research papers originally written in political science seminars. Your committee will then hold an oral exam in which you defend the papers. You must pass the oral examination in order to earn your degree.

Major Fields

Normative Political Theory & Philosophy

This field interprets, critiques, and constructs philosophical conceptions and arguments concerning morally appropriate and prudent standards and purposes for political actors and regimes. Topics include historically influential theories, the genealogy of political ideas, democratic theory, and contemporary theories of legitimacy, identity, ethics, the good society, and social justice.

Political Behavior & Identities

This field is concerned with understanding and explaining mass political behavior, opinion, and identities. This broadly includes the formation and acquisition of political attitudes, beliefs, and preferences by individuals and groups; how those beliefs, attitudes, and preferences, as well as various social identities, map onto political behaviors and decision-making. Specific areas of study within this field include the origin, nature, and measurement of public opinion; political psychology; voting and participation; campaigns and elections; media and information; political parties; collective action; and disruptive political action.

Political Economy

This field examines the reciprocal relationships between politics and markets, both within and among countries, using a variety of analytical tools, including those of economics. Its concerns include interactions among economic and political development; cooperation and conflict among nations, groups, and individuals; the distribution of material resources and political power; the effects of political actors and institutions on economic outcomes; the causes and consequences of technological and structural change, growth, and globalization; and regulation.

Political Institutions

This field studies the formal and informal rules, practices, and regularities at both the domestic and international level that guide and constrain political choices and activities. It is concerned with the emergence, dynamics, and consequences of institutions in both authoritarian and non-authoritarian regimes. This focus includes constitutional design and how the organization of legislatures, parties, judiciaries, markets and other social structures shape relationships between individuals and states, and in turn, the factors shaping the emergence and evolution of those institutions.

Political Methodology

This field focuses on scholarship directed at providing appropriate methodologies for investigating theoretically motivated political questions. Departmental activities in methods are organized around deductive/analytical, empirical/inductive, and computational approaches to modeling political phenomena. 

Security, Peace & Conflict

This field is dedicated to the study of political violence, armed conflict both within and across state borders, and to the study of politics in the shadow of violence. We seek to understand the causes of armed conflict and violence, the conduct and consequences of the use of violence and coercion by state and non-state actors, and the conditions under which the peace and security of states, societies, groups and individuals can be protected. Toward these ends, we examine the policies and strategies used by states and other political agents – both domestic and international – to control, manage, contain or prevent the use of political violence.

Theme Fields

Law and Politics

Law and Politics is a second field for those students who want to pursue research questions that are at the intersection of political science and legal studies. This interdisciplinary research encompasses a wide range of theoretical and empirical methods and addresses both normative and explanatory concerns. The relevant topics touch all of the traditional fields in political science. Some general themes include the legal relevance of international treaties and organizations, both domestically and globally; courts and judicial decision-making, including their independent effects on politics and policy; the relationship between legal and political governance structures; the determinants of both deviant behavior (like corruption) and legal compliance; and the interrelationship between legal, political and moral philosophy. The Law and Politics second field allows political science graduate students to formally draw on the expertise of a number of members of the law faculty who work in areas that overlap substantially with the study of politics.

Race, Ethnicity & Politics

Race is central to the political fabric of the United States. One, therefore, cannot study American politics without studying racial politics. The changing context of the United States requires that we move beyond the historical understanding of race as one dominated by seeing the world solely in "black and white" terms. Latinos, Asians, American Indians, and other populations of color are now part of the construction of race in America and thus are increasingly important to the study of politics in general and racial politics in particular. A comparable dynamic is driving citizens in other parts of the world to see their nations in multi-racial terms. Moving beyond the national particularities of race creates space for cross fertilization and intellectual development. Understanding race in these terms requires those in American politics to engage race in terms encountered in comparative politics, in political theory, and in international relations – and vice-versa. 

Religion and Politics

Religion and Politics examines the continuing importance at both the theoretical and empirical levels of religion for social and political life. More specifically, the field explores how religious beliefs, practices and institutions affect social, economic and political behavior and how political and economic structures and institutions affect the practice of religion.