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Graduate Student Orientation

Department Programs and Graduate School Requirements

Welcome to the Department of Politics and Government. This orientation reviews coursework and graduate requirements for the MS program as well as information concerning Graduate Assistantships. Most of the information you will need is available on the department’s website and that of the Graduate School. From the Department’s web page​, follow the link to the Graduate Program under the Academics tab, and see ‘links, forms and contacts’ to reach the Graduate School Website. Important resources there (under ‘Student Support’) include a summary of basic steps in the Academic Process.​ All graduate students are responsible for keeping track of program degree requirements and deadlines. However, you are encouraged to consult with the Graduate Director (myself).

The Graduate School also offers their own online orientation.

Department Philosophy: This department is explicitly committed to methodological pluralism. That may not sound as radical as it really is. It means that there is no set list of topics and approaches relevant to the study of politics. Given time constraints, some specialization is necessary. However, departmental courses available to fulfill requirements in each sequence include a range of subjects and perspectives. Electives provide you an opportunity to deepen your knowledge in particular subjects and approaches or to acquaint yourself with others.


For an overview, See Coursework Requirements

See the Graduate Catalogue for a more complete and up-to-date listing of requirements.

Process and Options:

  1. All new graduate students should be registered for POL 496, Introduction to Political Inquiry, which must be taken in the first semester of the MS program.
  2. After taking POL 496, students must take either POL 461 or POL 497 in Spring. POL 461 emphasizes conceptual and interpretive approaches, while POL 497 emphasizes quantitative and empirical methods. These approaches are by no means mutually exclusive and you may also take both courses, which count as core seminars and fulfill requirements for Comprehensive Exams in the Theory and Methods subfields. POL 497 and POL 461 also count towards the 12-hours of core seminars required for each sequence.

Sequences: Other requirements are specific to each sequence (Political Science, Global Politics, Public Service, Applied Community and Economic Development): See the list of coursework requirements under each category in the Graduate Catalog, including the standard MS in Political Sciences. These seminars will be offered regularly in Fall or Spring.

Note: The Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) sequence is reserved for Students affiliated with the Stevenson Center. For details, see the ‘ACED Core’ description in the Graduate Catalog.

Electives: In addition to completing required seminars, students can take electives to fulfill their graduation requirements. These may include any other 400-level graduate seminars in the department, select 300-level courses, and/or a course in another department. Consult with me for permission for seminars outside the department (up to 3hrs.), independent studies or 300-level courses. To receive credit for a 300-level course, it must be listed in the graduate catalog and include specific requirements for graduate credit. Once you identify a qualifying course, you’ll need to submit a request indicating the relevant requirements (generally a copy of the syllabus specifying them) to get permission (from the graduate director, currently me) to register. Once approved, you can register, and I can provide an override if necessary.

Independent study and Readings courses (400/490) may not exceed 6 total hours. These hours include those used to replace one seminar requirement with 3 hrs of summer independent study or readings coursework (POL 400 or 490), as allowed by the department. For these courses, students need to find a faculty supervisor with whom to design a syllabus and assignments. The required form is available here: Fill out this form in cooperation with your faculty supervisor and and send it to me for approval. An override will be needed, which I can request, after which you can register online or in person at Moulton Hall.

Graduation Requirements and Deadlines

For students in our regular program, 32 Credits are required for graduation. If writing a thesis, 4-6 hours of POL 499 may be counted towards that total.

Note the requirements specific to the ACED sequence. Students in this sequence may complete their degree with either a Capstone (40-hour options) or a Thesis (36 Hour option). However, the latter option (thesis) requires the successful defense of a proposal (See ‘Master’s Thesis’, below).

Deadlines: Students are responsible for meeting all deadlines set by the department and the university and submitting all required forms and applications.

See Graduate school site: ‘Dates and Deadlines’ under ‘Graduation and Commencement‘​

Choosing Comprehensive Exams or a Thesis:

Ideally, students should decide between completing a thesis and taking exams before starting their second semester in order to complete the appropriate courses, etc. by their third semester/summer.

It is not advisable to take comprehensive exams in the same semester you take the core seminar in the relevant subfield, but you may do so at your own risk.

Comprehensive exams can be taken without registering for that semester. However, if a student has not registered for a full year they must apply for re-admission (something to avoid). There is also a 6 year limit from admission to completion of the degree, after which an application for re-admission is required.

Masters Thesis:

Finishing your degree with a master’s thesis requires your independent initiative. You need to formulate a topic, assemble a committee of relevant faculty, including your advisor and two others (one of whom may be from outside the department), and complete an extensive research and writing project. Therefore, you must successfully defend a thesis proposal before your committee before being allowed to sign up for Thesis hours. See the description of the proposal on the department website under ‘Master’s Thesis’. The Thesis ‘Proposal Approval Form​‘ is available from the Graduate School website under ‘Forms​‘.

Submission guidelines can be found on the Graduate School website. Note that students must maintain continuous registration (1 thesis hour min.) while writing a thesis.

Comprehensive Exams:

Comprehensive Exams test your knowledge in two sub-fields, not to be confused with sequences. To take these exams, you must have completed six seminars – three in each of two subfields – as listed on the Department website under ‘graduation requirements.’ Exams are graded by committees assembled from each sub-field.

There is no guarantee that all of these courses will be offered in any given semester or year. It is therefore important for you to plan ahead.

Scheduling of Comprehensive Exams, per the department website: “All comprehensive exams will be administered once per semester. In the Fall, comprehensive exams will be administered the first week of November. In the Spring, they will be administered the first week of April. No exams will be administered during the Summer.”


Each student will need to file a Degree Audit form (please use the Word version to allow for editing) prior to graduation, to be approved by the graduate school. Please submit this form at least two months prior to your intended graduation date. These forms are to be filled out and sent to me for approval before being forwarded to the graduate school.

Department Librarian: Grace Albaugh (email)

Graduate Assistant Rights and Duties.

See the Graduate Assistant Handbook (also available in ‘Links, Forms and Contacts’ via the Department’s Graduate Page).

Please note the following:

  • Newly admitted graduate students must have a minimum 2.8 admit GPA for appointment as a GA. Continuing graduate students must have a minimum 3.0 graduate GPA. Students who fail to maintain a GPA of 3.0 will lose their eligibility for assistantships and will be placed on academic probation, and may be terminated from the degree program.
  • Graduate students must be enrolled full-time (minimum of 9 credit hours per semester) during the contract period to maintain their assistantship. There are two exceptions: First, summer GA contracts, during which students still have to maintain insurance coverage – see handbook on insurance reimbursement, etc. Second, students in their final semester may request a GA Course Load Waiver if less than 9 hrs. are required to graduate.
  • To ensure you meet coursework requirements for your GA position in Spring, be sure to register for Spring courses by Oct.26. [Note: This means that any student wishing to register for Thesis hours will need to have defended a thesis proposal]

Students-at-Large (SAL) or certificate only students are not eligible for assistantships.

We aim for but cannot guarantee at least three semesters of funding for students with a GA. It is common to finish in the 4th semester. However, students often need not be enrolled full time after their third semester. Students taking comprehensive exams need not be enrolled. Students writing a thesis must maintain continuous registration (a minimum of one credit hour per semester). Students can apply for graduate tuition waiver funds for credit hour(s) required to maintain continuous registration (through the department).

Assignments: You are students first and foremost. We try to assign students to faculty based on area of study and research interest or experience. However, this is by no means assured. Where possible, clearly communicate any concerns regarding the workload and timing of your assignments with faculty supervisors. You may also address concerns to me, the department chair, or the office of ‘Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution’.

Financial Aid:

A variety of forms of aid are available.

See links to assistantships and funding on the Grad. School site.

You cand find related resources and opportunities through the Graduate Student Association.

Check out scholarships and the diversity tuition waiver, which defines diversity broadly.

You can also apply for Departmental awards, linked from dept. awards and assistantships on website. See Link from program page on Scholarships and Awards– Scroll down for a listing of ‘Graduate’ and ‘all students’ awards.

The Career Center offers guidance for career planning.

Retirement Plan:Illinois State University offers a 403(b) Retirement Savings Plan, which is available to all employees, including graduate assistants. For further inquiry, please contact Human Resources at 438-­8311.

Other Matters: I encourage you to submit papers for the annual Student Conference and to our student journal, Critique.

Online training with university web-based technologies is now available. See online instructions at the Student Technology QuickStart​.

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