Political Science PhD Milestone Guide

It is my first semester in the Political Science PhD program. How do I get started?

  1. During your first semester in the program, meet with Shannon Williams, Director of Student Engagement, to complete your Degree Plan. You can find degree plans here. You should also meet with your faculty advisor to discuss your research goals. Throughout the program, you should periodically discuss your education plan with your advisor and track degree progress with Shannon Williams.
  2. Please remember to check PatriotWeb for the most up-to-date schedule of classes.
  3. Take courses in the order specified on your degree plan. If you plan to take a semester off (excluding summer) contact PhD Student Services.
  4. If applicable, submit your Reduction of Credit paperwork to the Director of Student Engagement within the first year of the program. The Reduction of Credit form can be found here.

I’m finished with my coursework and am now ready to move on to the Comprehensive Exams. How do I proceed?

  1. Shannon Williams will send an email to the PhD listserv announcing the upcoming dates for the exams. Comprehensive exams are held twice a year (January and May).
  2. Notify Shannon Williams that you wish to take the Comprehensive Exam. Be sure that you have submitted an updated Degree Plan form.
  3. You can find more information about the comprehensive Exams here, and review past exam questions here.
  4. Students have two opportunities to earn a passing grade on the exam. Failure to pass the comprehensive exam on the second attempt will result in automatic termination from the program.

I passed Comprehensive Exams. How can I register for GOVT 998 Dissertation Proposal?

  1. To begin the GOVT 998 registration process, first you must complete and submit a Dissertation Committee Form. You can find this form here. You must have at least a Dissertation Committee chair person before you can register for GOVT 998.
  2. Second, give the Committee form with the chair person’s signature to Shannon Williams and she will give you a CRN for registration.
  3. You will need a new CRN each semester for registration.
  4. You must stay continuously enrolled once you enter the dissertation phase of the program. You must be registered for GOVT 998 by the first day of classes for each semester.

Who can be on my dissertation committee?

  1. View committee guidelines here. All dissertation committees must consist of at least three members of the graduate faculty, at least two of whom must be from the student’s academic unit or program faculty. The committee consists of a dissertation chair, a graduate faculty member from the School or program of the student’s field of study and at least two other members of the graduate faculty. Only a graduate faculty member with a full-time appointment at George Mason University may serve as dissertation chair. Other Mason faculty, as well as individuals from outside the university, may be appointed as additional members to the committee. Such appointments are made where the additional member’s expertise and contribution add value to the dissertation, but appointment does not require graduate faculty status. View eligible faculty for committees.
  2. Student-initiated changes in the composition of the dissertation committee may occur only with the approval of the dean or director of the school, college, or institute or its designee in consultation with the committee. Faculty may resign from a dissertation committee with appropriate notice by submitting a written resignation.

I think I’m ready to defend my dissertation proposal. How do I proceed?

  1. It is essential for you to keep in touch with your committee members, especially your dissertation chair. You should avoid surprising your committee with what you think is a finished product. The expectation is that students correspond regularly with their committee members, sending outlines and ideas, and reporting progress on the research. It is your responsibility to keep committee informed of the status of your research and writing.
  2. Once the committee has reviewed and approved the proposal, you schedule the defense with the help of PhD Student Services. In scheduling the defense, it is your responsibility to ensure that all members of the committee are available. Please note that all members of the committee are required to be physically present for the defense.
  3. At least 15 days before the defense, you must submit the time, date, and campus of defense; the proposal defense readiness form available here; an electronic copy of the proposal; and the completed announcement template with an abstract of up to 100 words.
  4. Your dissertation committee will evaluate your dissertation proposal for originality, feasibility, comprehensiveness, and the likelihood that it will make a scholarly contribution to the field.
  5. If approved, your dissertation committee will sign the Dissertation Proposal approval form at the defense. You then submit the signed form to Shannon Williams.

I successfully defended my dissertation proposal. What happens next?

  1. After you have completed all the coursework, passed the comprehensive exams, and successfully defended your dissertation proposal, you are eligible to advance to candidacy.
  2. Shannon Williams will complete the Advancement to Candidacy form. Additional paperwork required includes the Degree Plan and the Reduction of Credit form (if applicable).
  3. You will receive notification in the mail that the Advancement to Candidacy has been approved. Be sure to keep your mailing address updated on PatriotWeb.

I have advanced to Candidacy. How do I move on to GOVT 999 Dissertation Credits?

  1. You must email Shannon Williams at least two weeks before the start of the semester to request a CRN to register for GOVT 999. Be sure to provide your dissertation chair’s name along with your request.
  2. Each semester you will need a new CRN before you can register. Contact Shannon Williams no less than two weeks prior to the start of the semester to receive the CRN. Students are required to be continuously enrolled every semester (excluding summers) until graduation.
  3. You must be enrolled for at least 3 credits a semester until the minimum number of credits has been reached. Then you can register for one (1) credit a semester.
  4. It is important to stay in touch with your committee. Meet with the Chair of your Dissertation Committee either by phone, email or in-person once every semester or as needed.

I’m ready to defend my dissertation. What do I need to do?

Formatting: Candidates are required to follow the University’s “Thesis, Dissertation, or Project Guide.”  The University rigidly applies its requirements for format, graphics, style, and timeline.  It is the responsibility of the candidate to follow the established guidelines available at library.gmu.edu/udts. The University requires a format review by the University Dissertation & Thesis Services (UDTS) Coordinator in Fenwick Library.  The candidate should forward a copy of the dissertation to the Coordinator as soon as possible before the defense to allow time to make the necessary changes to the document.  The Coordinator reviews the completed dissertation for compliance with the guidelines.  The Coordinator does not assume responsibility for editing or putting the dissertation in final form, which is fully the responsibility of the candidate.

Dissertation Committee Approval: Once your committee has reviewed and approved your dissertation for defense, you schedule the defense with the help of PhD Student Services. In scheduling the defense, it is your responsibility to ensure that all members of the committee are available. Please note that all members of the committee are required to be physically present for the defense.

At least 15 days before the defense, you must complete the following tasks:

  • Send an email to PhD Student Services with the time, date, and campus of defense
  • Submit the signed oral defense readiness form available here
  • Submit to PhD Student Services an electronic copy of the dissertation
  • Submit the completed announcement template with an abstract of up to 100 words
  • Put a hard copy of your dissertation on reserve at the Gateway Library reserve desk
  1. You should work with your committee chair to determine time limits and expectations of your defense presentation.
  2. This is a public defense; members of the University community are welcome to attend. We encourage all of our students to attend the dissertation defense of other students to get a sense of what to expect.
  3. Any requests for exceptions to these requirements must be made well in advance in writing by the student’s committee chair and approved by the Doctoral Program Direction and the Dean.

I have defended my dissertation and made the required revisions. What are the steps for submission?

You must submit copies of your dissertation by the university’s submission deadline.  Deadlines can be found here. The copies required are the following:

  • 1 PDF version of the dissertation on CD and one original signature sheet (submitted to the library).
  • 1 electronic version of the dissertation (in Word format) after all you have made all revisions (submitted to Shannon Williams).
  • 2 copies on regular paper, single-sided (submitted to the Schar School). These copies should be unbound but gathered in such a way that they stay together (box, folder).
  • A spiral-bound copy for EVERY member of your committee.

What do I need to do to graduate?

  1. Apply to graduate on PatriotWeb. For directions and deadlines go to http://registrar.gmu.edu/students/graduation/ You must be registered in the semester in which you want to graduate.
  2. Check your Mason email regularly. You will be contacted should there be a problem with your application to graduate.
  3. Be sure that your mailing address is correct on PatriotWeb.
  4. Attend graduation events. For information on Mason’s Commencement and the Schar degree celebration, please go to events.gmu.edu. Caps and gowns are available at the Mason campus bookstore. Please contact the bookstore for more information.
  5. Diplomas will be mailed 6-8 weeks after degree conferral. Make sure your mailing address is correct on PatriotWeb.