Department of Political Science Guidelines for PhD Students


1. The normal requirement for admission to the PhD program is English language proficiency sufficient to study in a PhD program and a Master’s degree (or its equivalent) in Political Science with high honours standing or better.

  • Students with a GPA below 10.0 (A-) in their last ten credits (normally 20 courses) are generally not recommended for admission to the doctoral program.
  • Information on how to calculate GPA can be found on our how to apply page
  • Students applying on the basis of a Master’s degree from other disciplines will be considered on a case by case basis, and may be required to take additional courses as part of the program.

Degree Requirements – Overview

2. All PhD candidates will fulfill a 5.0-credit program.

3. The PhD program at a glance:

First Core Course – Fall and Winter sections (1 credit)
Second Core Course – Fall and Winter sections (1 credit)
Two Electives (1 credit)
Two Workshop courses* – PSCI 6907 & PSCI 6908 (1 credit)
Two Comprehensive Exams** (1 credit)
Dissertation (0 credit)

* These two courses are normally taken in the second year. They are graded SAT or UNSAT.
** A core course comp is written in August of the year that a student finishes the two halves of the core course.

Degree Requirements – Details

4. 1.0 credit at the 6000-level in each of the candidate’s two major fields of study. A B+ or better must be obtained in the core courses for students to be allowed to proceed to the respective comprehensive examination.

  • The core courses are: PSCI 6000/6001 (Canadian); PSCI 6105/6106 (comparative); PSCI 6200/6201 (Gender and Diversity); PSCI 6300/6301 (political theory); PSCI 6407/6408 (public affairs and policy analysis); and PSCI 6600/6601 (international relations).
  • Not all core courses are offered every year. All core courses are offered within a two-year period.
  • Core courses are normally completed within the first two years of the student’s program.

5. Satisfactory completion of PSCI 6900 (0.5 credit), PhD Field Examination I; and PSCI 6905 (0.5 credit), PhD Field Examination II.

  • Field examinations take place once per year, in August. At the discretion of the Department, candidates may be required to take an oral examination following the written examination.
  • Students register in these courses following completion of the corresponding core courses. Students taking their first field examination register for PSCI 6900. Students taking their second field examination register for PSCI 6905. Full-time students are required to complete the comprehensive examinations within 24 months of entering the program.
  • Comprehensive exams must be successfully completed before defending the dissertation proposal.
  • More information pertaining to the field exams can be found below.

6. 1.0 credit of electives, normally taken during the first or second year of the program, in fields allied to the major topics of the thesis.

  • Students must complete these electives with a GPA of at least 9.0 (B+).
  • This credit will normally be fulfilled through regular course work rather than a directed reading course. For a directed reading course (PSCI 5900 or PSCI 5901) permission is required from both the Graduate Supervisor and the professor with whom the tutorial will be taken. Students must complete a Tutorial Approval Form. A detailed course outline must be attached to the form.
  • 0.5 credits may be taken outside the Department of Political Science in courses that are of a related discipline.

7. Successful completion of PSCI 6907, Thesis Proposal Workshop I (0.5 credit) and PSCI 6908, Thesis Proposal Workshop II (0.5 credit). These courses are graded Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory.

  • These classes will normally be taken during the second year.
  • Students must complete the Thesis Proposal Workshop before defending their proposal.
  • Students who fail to achieve a 9.0 G.P.A. after the completion of 2.0 credits in the program will be withdrawn from the program. In computing first year GPA, only graduate level courses are counted even though students may have taken undergraduate courses in order to make up for deficiencies in their background. All graduate level courses are counted.

8. Ph.D. candidates must have completed a political theory course at the undergraduate or master’s level, regardless of their desired field of specialization, or will be required to take PSCI 5310, History of Political Thought. This 0.5 credit counts toward the elective credits.

9. Ph.D. candidates must have completed a social science research methods course at either the undergraduate level or master’s level, regardless of their desired field of specialization, or will be required to take PSCI 5700 Basic Research Methods or PSCI 5705 Approaches to the Study of Political Theory. This 0.5 credit counts toward the elective credits.

10. Completion of a dissertation and a public defence of that dissertation in English at an oral examination. More information pertaining to the dissertation and dissertation defence can be found below.

Comprehensive Examinations

11. All PhD candidates write examinations in two major fields, corresponding to the core courses that they have taken.

12. Eligibility to write a comprehensive examination will be determined by the Graduate Supervisor in May of each year. To write the examination, students must have successfully completed both core courses in the respective field with a grade of B+ or higher.

13. Students seeking accommodations for a comprehensive examination must inform the Graduate Administrator and seek formal accommodation through the Paul Menton Centre by end of May.

14. The purpose of a comprehensive examination is to provide an opportunity to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the relevant literature within a field. A satisfactory examination demonstrates analytical and critical skills pertaining to both research and teaching. The examination will be based on established reading lists for each field.

15. In each field examination, students are asked to answer two out of a minimum of five questions in a four hour time period. Students use computers for the exam. Examinations are saved on a memory stick and distributed to the examination council (see below) by the Graduate Administrator.

16. The field examinations are evaluated as a group by the core course instructor for each section of the field, as well as a third reader in the field. These three people comprise the examination council for the comprehensive exam. The third reader is agreed upon in advance (no later than May) by the two instructors and the Graduate Supervisor.

17. An oral examination may be given at the discretion of, and will be conducted by, the examination council. In such a case, the grade entered for the comprehensive examination will combine the written and oral exam. During the oral exam students are not allowed to bring any books, articles or notes with them. A clean copy of their written exam will be provided at the oral exam. Any appeals will be made in writing to the Dean of FGPA within two weeks of the announcement of results.

18. The grades for PSCI 6900 and PSCI 6905 are reported as “INP” until the comprehensive examinations are taken. Passing grades for these courses are “satisfactory” and failing grades are “unsatisfactory”.

19. A student who receives a grade of “unsatisfactory” on a comprehensive examination will be permitted one re-examination. Normally, this examination takes place in January. Any student who fails a second comprehensive examination (same field) will be withdrawn from the program.

20. The results of a comprehensive examination may only be appealed on procedural grounds.

Dissertation Advisory Committee

21. On admission each student is assigned a Faculty Advisor from among the departmental faculty. New students are strongly encouraged to meet in the fall term with this person to introduce themselves and discuss their interests. It is possible that the Faculty Advisor will becomes the student’s dissertation supervisor. If this is not the case, the student should definitely secure a dissertation supervisor no later than January of their second year. As soon as this selection has been made, the student must inform the Graduate Administrator so that the faculty member’s name can be entered into the Departmental records.

22. The dissertation advisory committee consists of the supervisor as well as two other members, at least one of whom will be a faculty member of Carleton University. The third member may be, if deemed necessary or desirable based on the topic, faculty from a different university. The Dissertation Supervisor must be a faculty member in the Department of Political Science. The composition of the committee should be finalized no later than the start of a student’s third year. In the situation of a co-supervision between two Political Science faculty members, there must be two additional committee members, for a total of four on the dissertation advisory committee.

23. The student’s primary point of contact is their supervisor. Once work on the thesis has begun, the candidate is expected to see the supervisor, and the other committee members as needed, at regular intervals. Candidates should submit drafts of chapters to the supervisor, and to the other members if they so wish, for general advice on possible revisions or for correction of errors. The dissertation advisory committee, guided by the preferences of the candidate and the supervisor, should determine how frequently and in what form members wish to read draft chapters. If, after reading chapters or blocks of chapters, members have important criticisms or revisions to propose, they should be provided in writing to the student, with a copy to the supervisor.

Dissertation Proposal

24. A dissertation proposal must be publicly defended and approved by the members of the dissertation advisory committee. The dissertation proposal should be about 20 pages long (excluding the bibliography). It should include a clear statement of the research problem, including its theoretical significance, a review of relevant literature, a statement of the research plan and methods, an outline of chapter headings, and a preliminary bibliography of materials most relevant to the proposal.

25. The defence is normally chaired by the Associate Graduate Supervisor. Arrangements for the scheduling of the proposal defence must be made through the Graduate Administrator at least three weeks in advance of the anticipated date. Prior to making arrangements, the supervisor and the committee members must agree that the proposal is ready to be defended.

26. Students cannot defend their dissertation proposal until they have successfully passed comprehensive exams in two fields.

27. An FGPA milestone in the PhD audit is that the dissertation proposal be defended:

  • within 9 terms of initial registration in the PhD program for full time students;
  • within 16 terms of initial registration in the PhD program for part time students.


28. When beginning work on the thesis all students are advised to look at the thesis guidelines found on the FGPA website at:

29. The length of the dissertation will vary with the nature of the topic, but 250-275 pages, excluding bibliography, is a recommended guideline. All dissertations must have an abstract at the beginning of no longer than 350 words. Students should look at this site on formatting requirements:

30. Students whose work involves research with human subjects (questionnaires, interviews, or archival research on living subjects, for example) must gain the approval of the Carleton University Research Ethics Board before they begin their research. Details can be found here:

31. Students are advised that once they register for the dissertation, PSCI 6909, they must register each term until the thesis is defended successfully, except for any approved leave of absence. Failure to register will result in loss of status.

Off Campus Research

32. In special cases it may be possible for a registered full time graduate student to arrange to undertake full time studies or research at another institution or in the field. The off campus period does not normally exceed 12 months.

33. Requests for permission to undertake full time off campus study or research study must be submitted, well in advance, to the Dean of FGPA through the department. Such requests should include the following information:

  • a statement of the research proposal;
  • an explanation of the reasons why the work cannot be satisfactorily undertaken while on campus at Carleton;
  • a description of the facilities of the proposed off campus location;
  • a time schedule for the proposed research work;
  • if the research is to be undertaken at another institution, a statement of the specific arrangements that are proposed for the supervision and direction of the work, and a written statement from a responsible official (for example, the on site supervisor or director) of the outside institution confirming that the proposed arrangements are satisfactory and that the candidate will be able to undertake research or studies; and
  • a memorandum of support from the student’s supervisor.

Dissertation Defence

34. The candidate must prepare a second-from-final draft copy of the dissertation for their dissertation advisory committee for approval. This may be given to the committee member in electronic or hard copy format, depending on the members’ preference. Each committee member should read the second-from-final draft copy in detail within three weeks of receiving it.

35. Once each committee member certifies to the student that the dissertation is ready for examination, the student must submit one unbound hard copy of the final draft dissertation for defence as well as an electronic copy to the Graduate Administrator. The student must also upload the electronic copy in Carleton Central under E-Thesis. The Graduate Administrator will schedule a date for the defence no sooner than six weeks after the date of the submission of the thesis (eight weeks if the timeframe is over Christmas).

36. The Examining Board consists of a Chair; the dissertation advisory committee; one examiner from Carleton University but from outside the Department (the “internal examiner”); and, one examiner from outside the university who is a recognized authority in the subject of the dissertation (the “external examiner”).

37. It is the responsibility of the supervisor, working with the student, to identify an external and internal examiner. Guidelines on who may be acceptable to FGPA as internal and external examiners are found here:

38. The supervisor should use their discretion in asking FGPA in advance if a certain person may or may not be acceptable to FGPA as an internal or external examiner. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to contact the potential external and internal examiner and secure their agreement. The supervisor may ask the Graduate Supervisor to assist or to do so on his or her behalf.

39. Once the internal and external have been determined, the supervisor must provide the names of the people on the examining board to the Graduate Administrator, who will find a date suitable for all members. The Graduate Administrator conveys this to the office of the Dean of FGPA.

40. The Dean of FGPA formally appoints the Examining Board and assigns the Chair of the defence. The office of the Dean sends an official email to the External Examiner with details of the requirements. The Dean will require the submission of written comments from the External Examiner before allowing the defence to take place. These must be received one week in advance of the defence.

41. Electronic copies of the dissertation are distributed to the members of the Examining Board by the Graduate Administrator. Should a member require a hard copy, it is the student’s responsibility to provide one to the member or to the Graduate Administrator and to pay for any expenses associated with this.

42. The office of the Dean of FGPA will formally issue a notice of defence, including the place, time, and date of the defence. The date of the announcement must be at least 14 days in advance of the date of the examination.

43. Any Carleton faculty member may attend the examination as an observer. The privilege of asking questions by observers may be granted to observers who submit, at least two days in advance of the examination, a written scholarly criticism of the section or sections that are, in their judgment, subject to question. Other observers may attend only by invitation of the Chair of the examining board.

44. At the oral defence, candidates are asked to present an oral summary (no more than 20 minutes) of the major arguments in their dissertation. There are then two rounds of questioning, the first formal and the second less formal. The external examiner is first to ask questions, followed by the internal examiner, the committee members, and finally the supervisor. A dissertation defence will typically take 2 to 3 hours in total.

45. The results of examination by committee (including comprehensive exams and thesis) can only be reviewed on procedural grounds.

46. The dissertation may be accepted as submitted, with minor or major revisions, or rejected. Time limits may be set for corrections or re submission of a revised dissertation. The dissertation is marked satisfactory, or unsatisfactory, and the oral defence is graded separately as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. The supervisor is expected to convey in writing to the candidate any modifications required by the examining board.

47. If major revisions are required, the Chair of the examining board will appoint a sub committee from the board, usually having the supervisor as Chair, to ensure that all the required revisions, specified in writing by the board, are made. This may require a second defence by the candidate before the sub committee. Upon written certification by the sub committee that the required revisions have been made, the Chair of the examining board will then authorize acceptance of the dissertation.

48. Minor revisions will be supervised by the dissertation supervisor who will certify in writing to the Chair of the examining board that the required revisions have been made.

49. Any revisions must be completed and accepted within the time limits established for the completion of the PhD. degree.

50. The final copy of the dissertation must be uploaded by the student into the e-thesis system. Once it is uploaded and all other documentation is complete in the system, the supervisor must go into the e-thesis system to approve the dissertation. The dissertation then goes to the library and is available for viewing by all members of the university.


51. Academic Standing. A student is deemed to be in good standing if they meet all program requirements within the deadlines stipulated in these guidelines and in the Graduate Calendar. PhD candidates must obtain a grade of B or better in each course. An overall average of 9.0 is also required.

52. Full time Study. The following criteria have been established by FGPA for full time students. A full time graduate student must:

  • identify themselves at the point of first registration as a full time graduate student;
  • be considered a full time graduate student by their supervisor; and
  • be designated as a full time graduate student by the University (as evidenced by the fees paid).

53. Time Limits.  Full‑time PhD candidates must complete the PhD requirements within an elapsed period of five calendar years after the date of initial PhD registration. Part‑time PhD candidates must complete the PhD requirements within an elapsed period of nine calendar years after the date of initial PhD registration. Candidates who undertake the program as a combination of full‑time and part‑time study must complete the degree requirements within an elapsed period between five and nine calendar years after the date of initial PhD registration; the exact time limit is determined on a pro-rated basis. An extension of one year for extenuating circumstances may be given by the Dean of FGPA.

54. Graduation. All graduate students must apply to graduate on Carleton Central by FEBRUARY 1 for Spring convocation and SEPTEMBER 1 for Fall convocation. Candidates wishing to have their degrees certified in February must apply by DECEMBER 1.