About the Program
The goal of our PhD program is to train individuals to be effective scholars and teachers of political science. The program begins with a broad introduction to the substantive issues and methodological approaches across political science, then increasingly allows the students to tailor their coursework and other learning opportunities such as collaborative research projects in accordance with their interests, and finally culminates with independent research. Particular attention is given in the program to providing students with opportunities for hands-on experience in both research and teaching, and the financial support and advising to be able to do so.
First Year. The first year program is designed to (re)introduce students to the main subfields of political science and to train them in the methods necessary for consuming and ultimately producing scholarship in the discipline. Students are therefore required to take at least three of the core seminars in the traditional subfields (American Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, and Political Theory) and a sequence of methods courses (Introductory Research Methods and Intermediate Research Methods I & II). In addition to these required substantive and methodological courses, students take more advanced seminars in areas of their interest.
Second Year. In the second year, students begin to focus their coursework on their major fields and on the remaining required methodological coursework they may not have completed in their first year (Advanced Research Methods and Introductory Game Theory; or, in the case of first-field political theorists, a year of foreign language). Students produce a plan of study that identifies their three fields of study, the first two of which must be subfields in political science and the third of which may be a field either inside or outside of the discipline. In addition to pursuing their remaining coursework, they take a required two quarter research design seminar in which they undertake a major independent research project, culminating in a paper suitable for submission for publication.
Third Year. Students begin the third year with comprehensive examinations in their first and second fields. During the year, students complete all their required coursework. At the end of the year, students take an oral qualifying examination in order to advance to doctoral candidacy.
Fourth and Fifth Years. After successfully writing and defending a dissertation prospectus, students devote the majority of their time to independent research centering on their doctoral thesis. In addition, students at an advanced stage are given opportunities to do independent teaching.
Subfields and Faculty
The study of American politics at Davis engages a broad range of questions central to understanding democratic processes and institutions in the US. Faculty research and teaching covers the major institutions of American national government, including the Congress, courts, presidency, and the political parties. The faculty in American politics includes recognized experts on the electoral process, with interests in the study of political behavior, citizen participation and engagement, and political representation. Faculty members employ a diverse range of approaches in their research including experimental, survey, archival, and formal methods. Students in the subfield are encouraged to develop their analytical and methodological skills, as well as a sophisticated understanding of the scholarly literature on political behavior and institutions. Current graduate students in American politics actively participate in the department's micro-politics group, the omnibus program of experimental research, among other faculty-graduate student research collaborations.
Affiliate Faculty: Mark Lubell
Many of the core questions in political science can be addressed particularly profitably within the broad approach known as comparative politics. Traditionally, scholars of American politics were best able to address systematically many of the central political science questions about the ways domestic politics operate because of the high quality of data in areas such as public opinion, elite and electoral behavior, and political institutions. As the quality and quantity of data on other countries increased, however, scholars in comparative politics have been able to provide some of the most compelling answers to the core questions in the discipline. The reason is simple: a frankly comparative approach introduces cross-national and cross-cultural variation into our research designs. At Davis, our view is that such an approach offers substantial advantages over a more "area-studies" focus. Accordingly, although most of our faculty members possess detailed knowledge of various countries and regions of the world, we have built our comparative politics program around an explicitly comparative orientation.
When do states go to war? What affects trade and immigration patterns? Which counter-terrorism strategies work? Is the enemy of my enemy truly my friend? How does war affect leaders, public opinion, and elections? These are just some of the critical international politics questions studied at Davis. Traditionally, international politics focused exclusively on the influence of the international system. While arguments about the democratic theory have clearly challenged that approach, our perspective moves far afield from an international system outlook and instead focuses on the intersection of domestic and international politics, examining both international conflict and political economy. We employ a number of different approaches (such as rational choice, social networks, political psychology, and prospect theory). Faculty frequently publish with graduate students, and also work closely with other subfields. Our research employs a variety of empirical methods, including statistical analyses, mathematical models, experiments and case studies. Our goal is to ask questions that have relevance for the global future and answers from the international relations past, and to examine them creatively and rigorously.
In the political theory subfield at Davis we take a broadly textual approach to the history of political thought, focusing on major political philosophers from the ancient, medieval, modern, and contemporary eras. We provide our students with training in textual analysis that is also sensitive to the broader philosophic issues and historical contexts necessary for understanding these texts. While we offer courses across the entire range of the history of political thought, including seminars focusing on a single thinker or text, our program is particularly strong in the early modern era. The faculty and students in political theory form an unusually active and cohesive group. In addition to regularly offered graduate seminars, we have a reading group that meets regularly, allowing students and faculty to explore topics in political theory of common interest.
Political methodology is a rapidly growing field in the discipline of political science. The field generally deals with issues of measurement of interesting political phenomenon and developing, improving, and creatively applying statistical methods and formal models to political data. At Davis, we have a strong commitment to training students to learn a variety of statistical methods and formal theory while at the same time teaching students to think carefully about the nature of the data and the assumptions of the models given the data. Within statistics, we offer a variety of courses on a wide range of topics, including linear modeling, duration modeling, Bayesian statistics, time-series, hierarchical modeling, and discrete-choice modeling. Likewise, in formal theory we offer courses that cover a range of areas, including game theory, social choice theory, formal and spatial modeling, and the empirical testing of formal models.
Graduate Student Accomplishments
Our graduate students have been highly successful in their scholarship and in gaining professional recognition. Some of the recent publications, fellowships, and awards our students have received during their graduate career at Davis are listed below. For the accomplishments of the graduates of our program, please visit the Placements page.
Christopher P. Donnelly, "Balancing Act? Testing a Theory of Split-Party U.S. Senate Delegations," Electoral Studies, Forthcoming.
Jesse R. Hammond, "Using machine-coded event data for the micro-level study of political violence," Research and Politics (with Nils Weidmann)
Timothy W. Taylor, “The Electoral Salience of Trade Policy: Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Welfare and Complexity,” International Interactions, Forthcoming.
Shareefa Al-Adwani, 2013 - 2014 Herbert F. York Global Security Dissertation Fellowship, UC Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation.
Richard Bairett, "Institutions and the Stabilization of Party Systems in the New Democracies of Central and Eastern Europe," Forthcoming in Electoral Studies (with Josephine T. Andrews).
Jesse R. Hammond, "Capitol Mobility: Madisonian Representation and the Location and Relocation of Capitals in the United States," American Political Science Review (with Erik Engstrom and John T. Scott).
Jesse R. Hammond, "An examination of the relationship between international telecommunication networks, terrorism and global news coverage," Social Networks and Data Mining (with George Barnett).
Jesse R. Hammond, 2013 Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, University of Konstanz
Danielle A. Joesten, "Explaining Proximity Voting in 2006," Journal of Politics (with Walter Stone).
Richard A.I. Johnson, “Politics and Parasites: The Contribution of Corruption to Human Misery." International Studies Quarterly (with Randolph Siverson).
Matthew Lesenyie, 2013 Dean's Prize for Best Oral Presentation in the Social Sciences for "Torts of Appeal: Do Elected Judges Rule Differently than Appointed Judges?" UC Davis Interdisciplinary Graduate and Professional Student Symposium
Aaron Shreve, 2013 - 2014 International Nuclear Security Fellowship Competition, UC Institute of Global Conflict and Cooperation.
Andrey Tomashevskiy, "Trade and Democracy: Which Leads and How?" Forthcoming in The International Political Economy of Trade, ed. David Deese (Edward Elgar, U.K.).
Shaina Western, “Levels of Linkage: Across-Agreement v. Within-Agreement Explanations of Consensus Formation Among States” International Studies Quarterly (with Heather McKibben).
Richard A. I. Johnson "Militarized Refugee Camps: Causes and Consequences", Journal of Refugee Studies.
Belgin San Akca, "Supporting Non-State Armed Groups: A Resort to Illegality?" Journal of Strategic Studies.
Alexander K. Mayer, "Politics, Expertise, and Interdependence within Electorates," in Jan Leighley, ed., The Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior (Oxford University Press) (with T.K. Ahn, Robert Huckfeldt, and John Barry Ryan).
Ronni Abney, Andrea Morrison, and Gary A. Stradiotto, "The Stability of Representation: A Cross-National Analysis of Party Policy Dispersion," Representation.
Nikolas Emmanuel, "Economic Aid and Peace Implementation: The African Experience," Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding (with Donald Rothchild).
Leo Blanken, Best Dissertation Award from the Western Political Science Association.