Fields of Study

We offer a range of political science field specializations for graduate study. To earn a doctorate, you must certify in a first field as your primary area of study, and at least one second field specialization. For each of our major fields, we present both required and recommended courses, requirements for qualifying and preliminary exams, and a typical course of study with a timeline.

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 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 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 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

Theme fields can be selected only as a second field in your doctoral study. We offer such second field specializations in Law and Politics; Race, Ethnicity and Politics (REP); and Religion and Politics.