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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Political Science

 Field Requirements

 American Politics

Field Coordinators: Grant Reeher, Danielle Thomsen

Learning the field of American Politics requires successful completion of a number of substantive courses as well as significant additional reading outside of these courses. Under ordinary circumstances, students majoring in American Politics should complete at least four courses in the field during their first four semesters and students minoring in American Politics should complete at least three such courses during this time. Students will then sit for their Qualifying Exams in the August following their second year in the program. Deviations from this schedule require the approval of the Graduate Director.

Course Work

Students majoring in American Politics are required to take four of the following courses; students minoring in the field are required to take three:

PSC 602: Public Policy Analysis
PSC 611: American Parties and Elections
PSC 612: Development of the American Administrative State
PSC 711: American Constitutional Development
PSC 712: Public Opinion and Communication
PSC 713: Congress and the Presidency
PSC 715: Judicial Politics
PSC 716: Foundations of American Political Thought

With the approval of the Graduate Director, courses not on this list may be substituted for one or more of the required courses. No more than one of the courses credited toward the American Politics field may be counted simultaneously toward another field.

Qualifying Examinations

In addition to completing the required course work, all students majoring or minoring in American Politics should review the works itemized in the American Politics reading list. For students receiving summer stipends from the department, we expect the first two summers to be devoted in significant part to this activity. The reading list is meant to serve as a useful guide, not as a substitute for students’ own judgment and initiative in identifying and reading what they take to be the leading works in the field.

Students majoring in American Politics are responsible for mastering the core reading list, along with three of the following subfields; students minoring in the field are responsible for the core plus two of the subfields:

1. American Political Development and Thought;
2. Public Opinion and Political Behavior;
3. Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Social Movements;
4. Legislative Politics;
5. Presidency;
6. Bureaucracy;
7. Law & Courts;
8. Federalism, State and Urban Politics;
9. Race, Gender and Inequality;
10. Public Policy.

Students who are minoring in Law & Courts may not choose that field as one of their subfields here. Students who are majoring in Public Administration & Policy or minoring in Public Policy may not choose Public Policy as one of their subfields here.

The written exams will be offered twice per year, typically in August and January. At least three months prior to their written exam, students should inform Candy Brooks of their intention to sit for the exam and should identify the subfields that they have chosen to prepare.

The single-day written exam will be closed book, although students may bring one double-sided 8.5x11 inch sheet of notes to the exam. The exam will consist of two or more questions drawn from the core list and one or more questions drawn from each of the students’ declared subfields. Majors must answer one question from the core section and two from the subfield section. Minors must answer one question from the core section and one from the subfield section. In both cases, students should avoid choosing questions that significantly overlap with one another, and their essays taken together should demonstrate significant breadth of knowledge within the field. Each essay will be weighted equally, and the faculty recommend that students devote roughly equal amounts of time to drafting each of them.

Roughly two weeks following the written exam, the students will sit for an oral defense, which will be conducted by the two American Politics field coordinators plus the student’s advisor, who shall act as chair. Upon completion of the oral exam, the advisor will notify the Graduate Director in writing that the student has passed with distinction, passed, or failed. In the latter case, the student may retake the exam during the following semester. This option may only be exercised once.

Last updated: February 21, 2013.