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Maxwell School
Maxwell / Department of Political Science

Field Requirements

Comparative Politics

Field Coordinators: Matt Cleary, Margarita Estevez-Abe, Dimitar Gueorguiev 

Learning the field of Comparative 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 Comparative Politics should complete at least four courses during their first four semesters; students minoring in the field should complete at least three courses during this time. Students will then sit for their Qualifying Exams in the August following their second year in the program.

Students who are pursuing advanced language training that is pertinent to their field of study may request modifications of this schedule. Changes for this or any other reason must be approved in writing by the Graduate Director.

Course Work

All students majoring or minoring in Comparative Politics must take PSC 671: Comparative Political Analysis. Majors must take at least three additional courses, and minors at least two. Course offerings vary from year to year, but in recent semesters have included:

PSC 600 Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Religion, IR & the Media
PSC 681 Comparative State-Society Relations
PSC 682 Social Theory and the Middle East
PSC 700 Comparative Law & Courts 
PSC 700 Political Economy of Development
PSC 700 Political Economy of Institutions
PSC 704 Comparative Political Economy
PSC 754 International Conflict & Peace
PSC 756 Politics of the European Union
PSC 769 Comparative Parties and Politics
PSC 780 Ethnic Politics
PSC 780 Latin American Politics
PSC 782 Politics of China
PSC 783 Comparative Foreign Policy
PSC 785 Comparative Civil-Military Relations
PSC 786 Russian & Post-Soviet Politics
PSC 787 Democracy & Democratization
PSC 788 Political Leadership

With the approval of the Graduate Director, courses not on this list may be counted toward the Comparative Politics field. No more than one of the courses credited toward the Comparative 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 Comparative Politics should review the works itemized in the Comparative 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.

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.

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 three or more general questions and five or more specific questions drawn from the range of substantive areas of inquiry within the field. Students majoring in Comparative Politics must answer one question from the first section and two from the second. Students minoring in the field must answer one question from each section. 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 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 27, 2013.