phd in political science canada

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Program overview

The Department of Political Science has an excellent reputation for dynamic teaching and research that reflects wide-ranging ideological and intellectual diversity among our faculty. Our competitive graduate program thrives under the national and global profile of our distinguished faculty members with expertise in indigenous politics, gender and politics, Canadian politics, international security, global political economy, and the history of political thought.

Political Science faculty members publish extensively in the top Canadian and international journals and have been instrumental in shaping many of the central debates in contemporary politics in Canada and around the world.

In this program, students will be challenged to grapple with and contribute to debates spanning all major fields of study in political science.

We have an exceptional record of placing our doctoral students in academics, government, the public sector, business and law.

Completing this program

  • Courses: Topics may include sexual ethics, history of political thought, political theory, Canadian political process, foreign policy and more.
  • Candidacy: Students will complete both oral and written candidacy exams.
  • Research Methods: Students demonstrate knowledge of research methods or complete a course on quantitative analysis in political science.
  • Thesis: Students will be required to submit and defend an original research dissertation.


University instructor, government policy analyst, researcher, consultant, non-governmental organizations, international organizations.

Political Science degrees

Political Science degrees help students learn to represent the public, based on their understanding of social dynamics, as well as the international relations between nations. You’ll learn about how political power is managed and distributed, how governments operate, how laws are made and changed, and everything from elections to how state institutions function.

You should study a Political Science degree if you always want to take part in the conversation related to current topics, and to be involved in decisions that affects all our lives. Whether you want to change the political climate in your country or to understand the rights and responsibilities of individuals and how the state should uphold them, your knowledge and actions will be a driving force towards a better future. Because Political Science deals with current issues and new discussion topics surface constantly, you will always learn something new and stay on top of current trends.

Students enrolled in Political Science degrees can benefit from different specialisations, based on the university focus and degree offer. Specialisation options include: Urban Politics, International Affairs, Human Rights, Political Theory and Philosophy, Political Systems, Political Economy, National Security, Public Services, and more.

Political Science courses and skills

Courses featured as part of Political Science degrees are some of the most versatile in higher education, as they are constantly updated to accommodate modern subject matters. Because politics is everywhere, universities also usually offer options to combine degrees in dual honours degrees, with other connected topics like Economics, Law, International Relations, International Development, Journalism, and others. Politics degrees cover topics such as Comparative Politics, International Relations, Political Theory, Structures of Government, Public Policy, World Politics, and more.

Develop essential skills for future careers in Politics, including excellent communication and knowledge of rhetoric techniques, ability to synthesize thoughts and properly articulate them, critical thinking, public speaking, teamwork, research on a wide variety of topics, organization and an awareness of proper ethical conduct.

Political Science careers

Political Science graduates work on improving society at the level of state institutions, working in governmental and diplomatic institutions, public affairs, as government officers, or as politicians. Political Science degree graduates can find jobs such as: political analyst, public relations specialist, media manager, political consultant, political campaign staff, political writer, paralegal, and more.Read more about studying a Political Science degree

The primary goal of the doctoral program is to provide a strong foundation for the pursuit of a career in university teaching and conducting research.

The department offers five fields of study within the doctoral program: 

  • Canadian Politics
  • Comparative Politics
  • Gender and Politics
  • International Relations
  • Political Theory

In addition, the department has particular strengths in the study of divided and diverse societies as well as peace, conflict and security.

Applicants must have an A- average in a Master’s degree in political science, or equivalent. Between four and seven candidates are accepted into the doctoral program each year. The PhD program requires successful completion of six one-term courses, a second-language examination, field examinations in two fields, and the presentation and defence of a Ph.D. dissertation. The average completion time for the doctoral program is just over five years.

PhD Student Handbook 2020-2021 (PDF, 470KB)

Article-Based Dissertation Guidelines (PDF, 15KB)

Degree Level Expectations – PhD (224 KB)


Students who are accepted for doctoral studies will be provided financial assistance. Each offer of admission includes a funding package that guarantees a minimum level of funding for the duration of the student’s period of funding-eligibility (four years of full-time enrollment for PhD students). This funding typically consists of a Queen’s Graduate Award and a Teaching Assistantship, but may include a Research Assistantship, or a Queen’s internal award. Our students have an excellent track record of securing external scholarship support (SSHRC, OGS, etc.). In the past, our doctoral students have been honoured with the Trudeau Scholarship and the Vanier Scholarship. Incoming PhD students who win federal government tri-council awards are automatically provided a one time top-up award by Queen’s.

International students with guaranteed funding from their home country/government are eligible to apply for admission to the Doctoral program. In addition, each year a small number of international students without funding can be considered for admission to the Doctoral program and if admitted will be provided $5,000 per year for four years in the form of an International Tuition Award (ITA) to offset tuition costs.  The number of available ITAs is limited so admission for international doctoral students is highly competitive.

External Opportunities

The department encourages and supports the participation of doctoral students in external opportunities and offers access to two major skill-building summer schools:

The Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research (IQMR)

Held annually by the Consortium for Qualitative Research Methods in Syracuse, NY, the institute seeks to enable participants to create and critique methodologically sophisticated qualitative research designs, including case studies, tests of necessity or sufficiency, and narrative or interpretive work. IQMR attendees receive constructive feedback on their own qualitative research designs, and the course also includes discussions led by the authors of well known works which employ qualitative methods. Funding is provided through the department.

“The methods institute allowed me to explore new options for approaching my research question critically and provided me a laundry list of helpful tips about conducting field research and analysis. I also had the opportunity to make connections with fellow researchers from all around the world.”

– Samantha Twietmeyer, PhD Candidate

The International Summer Research Institute

The UQAM Summer Institute is a bi-annual two-week summer school for graduate students that is organized and financed by a broad academic network headed by Professor Alain Gagnon at the Université du Québec au Montréal.

In 2017, the summer institute took place in Bolzano/Bozen, in cooperation with the Eurac Research-Institute for Minority Rights and Institute for Comparative Federalism. The 2017 edition (June 19 – 30, 2017) of the summer school focused on “A World in Turmoil: Territory, Power-Sharing and Conflicts” and examined the challenge of complex diversity through theoretical and empirical perspectives from all over the world. The two week program consisted of lectures given by distinguished scholars and experts—mainly coming from the network of partners-—seminars, institutional visits and other non-academic and cultural activities. Students also had the opportunity to deepen their expertise regarding the school’s topics by presenting and discussing their own work, such as doctoral dissertations, on-going research, or research papers. Funding is provided through the department.

McMaster has one of the strongest International Relations PhD programs in Canada. A 2007 survey of International Relations professors’ views on which PhD programs provided the best preparation for an academic career found that our Department’s program ranked in the top four of Canadian universities (along with University of Toronto, UBC, and York). Source: Lipson et al, ‘Divided Discipline’ International Journal, Spring 2007, p. 337.

Our PhD International Relations program strengths are in the fields of:

  • Globalization
  • Global Political Economy
  • Canadian Foreign Policy
  • Critical Security and International Relations Theory

Research opportunities

Several faculty members in the department have funded research programs that provide potential opportunities for collaboration or research assistant positions for PhD students enrolled in political science. Potential PhD students with research interests or preparation that align with one of the projects below should contact the relevant faculty member(s) as they prepare their applications for admission to the PhD program.

Requirements and Timelines

The International Relations doctoral program is designed to equip graduates to conduct research and teach at the university level in International Relations and one other field chosen from Canadian politics, comparative politics, public policy, or political theory.

Students take six courses, including three required ones. They then prepare comprehensive examinations in their two major fields, which they write in August of their first year and December of their second year. Students also prepare a major paper for December in their second year.

The remainder of the program involves preparing a thesis proposal, and then completing and defending the dissertation.

A thesis proposal will normally be submitted in April of the student’s second year. The thesis should normally be no more than 60,000 words long, and it is expected that the thesis will be finished about two years after the proposal is approved. Overall, then, full-time students are expected to take about four years to complete the program. Part-time students may take up to seven years to complete the degree but are encouraged to finish in less time.

Admissions and Applications

Admission Requirements:

Admission to the PhD program will normally require a Master’s degree in political science with an average of at least an A- (A minus).

Applicants are encouraged to contact faculty members in the Department of Political Science regarding potential supervision.

Required Application Documents:

Graduate Studies Online Application

Applicants are required to complete the Graduate Studies Online Application which opens October 1st each year.  In addition to the online application, applicants must also submit the required documents listed below. Some required documents must be submitted through the online application.

Statement of Interest

  • An electronic statement of interest (approximately 500 words, single or double-spaced, maximum of 1 page).
  • The statement must be uploaded as a PDF attachment only through the online application system on the Upload Document
  • Your statement of interest is a crucial element of the application process. Comparative Public Policy applicants should highlight the comparative nature of their research and policy area which concerns them. International Relations applicants should identify the international, transnational or global elements of their research projects.
  • All applicants would benefit from indicating particular faculty members or research clusters that overlap with their projects.

C.V. / Personal Resume

  • An electronic copy of your CV/Resume must be uploaded as a PDF attachment through the online application system on the Upload Document 

Official Academic Transcripts

  • Academic transcripts from ALL post-secondary studies completed or in progress at the time of application.
  • Transcripts from institutions where you completed courses on Letter of Permission and/or as part of a Student Exchange Program must also be included.
  • All transcripts must be sent DIRECTLY from the issuing institution to the Department of Political Science (address below).
  • Transcripts not received in institutionally sealed envelopes will NOT be accepted.

Academic Reference

  • Three (3) confidential reference reports from instructors most familiar with your academic work.
  • All referees are required to complete the e-Reference.
  • McMaster University uses an Electronic Referencing System (e-Reference). You will be required to indicate an institutional email address for each referee. Your referees will receive an email message asking them to complete an e-Reference.
  • If you need to change your reference or referee email address after submitting your application, you will need to contact the Department.
  • IMPORTANT: The system will send the e-Reference request to your references ONLY AFTER YOU SUBMIT your online application. This means that you will need to have completed AND uploaded your Statement of Interest and CV/Resume to your online application BEFORE you can click the “submit” button. References may require 2-4 weeks to complete the e-Reference reports. Referees MUST complete their reference report BY THE APPLICATION DEADLINE of January 21st. Please keep this in mind when you are working on your application.
  • If for some reason your referee is unable to use the Electronic Referencing System, you can download the Reference Form and send it to your referees for completion. Downloaded reference forms must be sent by the referee DIRECTLY to Manuela Dozzi by e-mail ([email protected]) or the mailing address below. 

English Language Proficiency (if applicable)

  • If English is not your native language, an official copy of your English Language Proficiency score or other evidence of competency in English is required. Such applicants are required to supply this evidence as part of your application. Applicants whose university studies were complete at an institution where English is deemed the official language of instruction may be exempted from this requirement (an official letter from the institution is required).
  • The English Proficiency exam must have been completed within 2 years of the application due date.
  • This requirement must be met prior to an offer of admission. There will be no exceptions to the language requirement.
  • The most common evidence is a score on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

– TOEFL: minimum score is 92 (iBT-internet based), 237 (computer based) or 580 (paper based). The McMaster University TOEFL/TSE Institution Code is 0936 and the Department Code for Political Science is 89.

– IELTS (Academic): minimum overall score is 6.5, with at least 5.5 in each section.

  • NOTE: Foreign students wishing to enter Canada on a student visa should also contact the nearest Canadian Embassy or Consulate for visa information

Application Fee

The system will charge a $110 (Canadian) application fee. This fee is non-refundable and payable by credit card only. Once you have paid the application fee, please remember to return to the online application and click the “Submit” button. The application fee will not be waived.

How to Apply:

Each applicant is required to complete the Graduate Studies Online Application which opens October 1st each year and submit the required application documents listed above to complete the application.

Please note that all application supporting documentation must be forwarded to and received by our Department no later than January 21st of the year in which you are applying. 


Please send all (hard copy) supporting documents to:

Department of Political Scienc
c/o Manuela Dozzi
Kenneth Taylor Hall 527 (KTH-527)
McMaster University
1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
L8S 4M4 

Application Deadline:

  • January 21

Financial Information, Scholarships and Awards

The Ellen Louks Fairclough Scholarship in Political Science

The Ellen Louks Fairclough Memorial Scholarship in Political Science was established in 2004 to commemorate the life of The Right Honourable Ellen Louks Fairclough, P.C., C.C., F.CA., L.L.D., F.R.C.G.S., D.H., U.E., Canada’s first female federal cabinet minister and lifelong advocate for women’s rights. To be awarded to a student enrolled in a graduate program in Political Science who holds an Ontario Graduate Scholarship. Preference will be given to a student with an interest in Canadian public policy.

The Political Science Travel Grant

To support research and professional development by assisting graduate students with costs related to doing field-work or attending academic conferences.  This grant is open to both MA (thesis option) and PhD students.  There are two rounds of applications each year with the deadlines being October 15th and January 30th.  

The William Coleman Fund

The William Coleman Fund was established in 2011 by Dr. William Coleman. To support Ph.D. students in the Department of Political Science who are conducting field research.

To see additional information regarding awards and funding, please visit our Awards & Funding page.

Academic Support

IR Faculty

The Department has many faculty specializing in International Relations. Their names and research interests are:

Marshall Beier – Critical approaches to security, militarization of childhood, Indigeneity and IR, IR Theory

Stephen McBride – North American Political Economy, Trade and Investment Governance

Peter Nyers – Critical Security Studies, Citizenship, Borders, Refugees, Undocumented Migration

Robert O’Brien – Global Political Economy, labour internationalism, global civil society, climate change, global governance

Tony Porter – Global governance and standard setting, international finance

Alina Sajed – Postcolonial IR, political violence and revolution, global south

Lana Wylie – Canadian and US foreign Policy, alternative diplomacy, Cuba

In addition several other faculty have an interest in international relations:

Michelle Dion – Comparative Politics, Gender and Politics, Globalization, Public Policy, Social and Health Policy

Catherine Frost – Communications, Globalization, Nationalism, Political Theory, Politics and History, Politics of Representation

Ahmed Shafiqul Huque – Climate, Water and Sustainability, Policy, Public Policy

James Ingram – Critical IR, Globalization, Political Theory, Postcolonial Theory

Inder Marwah – Critical IR, Globalization, Political Theory, Politics of Representation


POL SCI 6O06 / Canadian Politics

POL SCI 701 / Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis: Frameworks and Models

POL SCI 705 / Global Public Policy

POL SCI 706 / Comparative Politics of Health Policy

POL SCI 708 / Major Research Paper

POL SCI 715 / Liberalism and Imperialism

POL SCI 716 / Comparative Authoritarianism

POL SCI 717 / Political Violence and Revolution

POL SCI 740 / Theories of Comparative Politics

POL SCI 741 / Politics of Social Movements

POL SCI 742 / Politics of Developing Areas

POL SCI 744 / Politics of Western Democracies

POL SCI 746 / Issues in Comparative Politics

POL SCI 748 / Democracy and Diversity

POL SCI 749 / Topics in Gender and Politics

POL SCI 750 / Issues in Political Theory

POL SCI 754 / Critics of Modernity

POL SCI 755 / Lying in Politics

POL SCI 756 / Politics and Its Others

POL SCI 757 / Theories of Political Community

POL SCI 758 / Cosmopolitanism and Its Critics

POL SCI 760 / Political Institutions of the Canadian State

POL SCI 761 / The Social, Cultural and Economic Foundations of Canadian Politics

POL SCI 762 / Comparative Political Economy

POL SCI 763 / International Water Policy

POL SCI 765 / Reading Course

POL SCI 767 / Politics of the Global South: an International Relations Perspective

POL SCI 768 / Political Economy of Global Climate Change

POL SCI 769 / The Political Economy of East Asia

POL SCI 770 / Globalization and the Canadian State

POL SCI 771 / Advanced Concepts in International Relations Theory

POL SCI 772 / Theories of International Politics

POL SCI 773 / Selected Topics in International Politics

POL SCI 774 / Global Political Economy

POL SCI 775 / MA IR Colloquium

POL SCI 776 / Advanced Issues in Critical Security Studies

POL SCI 777 / Global Governance

POL SCI 779 / Major Research Paper

POL SCI 780 / Selected Political Problems I

POL SCI 781 / Selected Political Problems II

POL SCI 782 / Development Theory and Administration

POL SCI 783 / Comparative Public Policy

POL SCI 784 / Quantitative Political and Policy Analysis

POL SCI 785 / Public Sector Management

POL SCI 788 / Comparative Foreign Policy: Canadian and U.S. Foreign Policy

POL SCI 789 / Global Finance

POL SCI 790 / The Politics of Economic Policy in Market Economies

POL SCI 795 / Research Project in Public Policy

POL SCI 796 / Research Design and Methods

POL SCI 797 / Readings in Comparative Public Policy

Students may also choose from other Political Science and Globalization Studies graduate courses such as:

International Trade and Economic Development -OR- US Foreign Policy in Historical PerspectiveSchool of Graduate StudiesGraduate Students AssociationInternational Student Services (ISS)Graduate Student FAQ’sPhD in Political Science RegulationsApply NowFor more information:Department of Political Science
KTH 527
905-525-9140 ext. 24742
[email protected]Length:4 yearsRequired Credential:Graduate DegreeProgram Type:Thesis, Course BasedProgram Options:Full-time, Part-timeTypical Entry:SeptemberCurrent Deadline:

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