PhD program

Waterloo’s PhD in Political Science is the most innovative program of its kind in Canada, offering students considerable flexibility in core research activities, formal professional development for both academic and non-academic career paths, an experiential option (including access to the world’s largest co-op program of its kind, or other internship/placement experiences) and a teaching option (including mentored teaching experiences and formal pedagogical training).

Students will have the opportunity to work with internationally and nationally-renowned scholars in the discipline.

Students have the option of choosing from three major fields: Canadian Politics, International Relations, and Political Economy. For their secondary field, students may choose either a second major field or create their own ‘custom concentration’ based on coursework in a designated area of the discipline (for example: comparative politics, democratic theory, public policy, gender and politics) or from a subfield of their major field (for example: security, rights, etc.).

The program includes one year of coursework featuring a mandatory, team-taught methodology course, two courses in the student’s major field, two courses in the student's second major field or custom concentration, and one elective. Students must also complete the PhD Professional Development Seminar, a series of half-day seminars offered by the Department and additional workshops delivered by campus units like the Writing and Communications Centre, Centre for Career Development, or Centre for Teaching Excellence. Professional Development training gears students to both academic and non-academic job markets, fostering skills enhancements in research methods, communications to non-academic audiences, fieldwork, conferencing best practices, and career planning.

The capstone research project (the PhD thesis) requires students to complete and defend a thesis proposal. Students may choose a traditional dissertation (ranging from 200-350 page in length), or a ‘publication model’ consisting of at least three sole-authored (submitted, in press, or published) works and including an original introduction, conclusion and any necessary bridging chapters to reflect a coherent project. In rare cases, and with the approval of the student’s supervisor and the Department Graduate Committee, students may opt for a non-traditional thesis formal that meets the standards of an original doctoral-level contribution to knowledge but in a different form (for example, a documentary). The Department is especially cognizant of the potential for alternative approaches to knowledge generation and dissemination, such as Indigenous approaches to knowledge, as something to be accommodated on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of format, the completed thesis will be subject to an oral defence before a committee, including the supervisor(s), two other political science faculty members, an internal-external examiner from another department/program at Waterloo, and an external examiner.

For further details on the program, please visit the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar.