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The core of the Social Policy curriculum is the three-semester Proseminar in Inequality and Social Policy, which is ordinarily taken in G2 and G3 years of the program, and the development of a publishable research paper over those three semesters. Proseminar 3, taught in the fall of G3 year, is the capstone of the proseminar experience, featuring in-depth faculty-led discussions of student research in a supportive, collegial atmosphere.

The Social Policy curriculum is also complemented by the weekly Inequality & Social Policy Seminar Series, which are public lectures that introduce students to some of the most exciting work in this area.

Government & Social Policy

Government & Social Policy students complete 12 four-credit courses in years 1 and 2, of which 8 must be in political science. The Proseminar in Inequality and Social Policy I and II classes may count toward the overall 12. 

Course work for Government & Social Policy includes:

  • Choice of four field seminars: American Politics (Gov 2105), Comparative Politics (Gov 2305), International Relations (Gov 2710), or Political Philosophy (Gov 2093)
  • Social Policy 303 (Intro to Social Policy Research)
  • Gov quantitative methods (Gov 1002, Gov 2000, Gov 2000e, Gov 2001, or alternative options outside of the Government Department)
  • Five elective courses in political science
  • Proseminar in Inequality and Social Policy (three courses, SUP 921/922/923)
     

Seminar Paper

As a Government & Social Policy student, you must complete at least three research papers in G1 and G2 years. The usual means of doing so is through enrollment in graduate seminars that require the completion of a research paper. The Proseminar in Inequality and Social Policy sequence also includes a substantial research project, which usually serves as one of the three required papers. 

General Exam

In May of the G2 year, you must sit for a 90-minute oral exam administered by three faculty members not known in advance. Sixty minutes of the exam will cover a major substantive fields in political science (American Politics, Comparative, International Relations, and Political Theory) and a focus field, which for Social Policy students is Social Policy and covers material from the Proseminar in Inequality and Social Policy and as well as from supplemental reading list in Social Policy. You may substitute either formal theory or political methodology for one of the two major fields.  

The remaining 30 minutes is on a minor field in either Quantitative Methodology or Formal Theory. You may opt for the “course-out” option instead taking the minor field oral exam by taking 4 courses from the methods sequence with an overall grade of B+ or higher. At most, one course outside the methods sequence may count toward the “course-out” option. However, you should consult with a member of the methods faculty regarding the outside course before taking those courses for approval. Students who choose to “course-out” will site for the other two 30-minute exams as usual.

Dissertation Prospectus

In the fall of the G3 year, you and three to four faculty members must convene to discuss potential dissertation topics. You will prepare a 10-page statement for discussion, which may either present a potential research question for the dissertation or set forth alternative possible research questions for consideration and development. 

A prospectus meeting is held with the dissertation committee by November 1 of the G4 year. Specific details on the prospectus is available in the Social Policy Handbook.

Dissertation Committee

Typically, the dissertation committee is comprised of one member from the Government Department, one member from the HKS social policy faculty, and a third member who may come from either domain. Two of the committee members must be members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which includes, for dissertation committee purposes, any HKS faculty members who serve on the Committee on Higher Degrees in Social Policy.

 

Sociology & Social Policy

Sociology & Social Policy PhD students complete all the requirements for the Sociology PhD, plus a complementary program of study and research in Social Policy. 

As a Sociology & Social Policy student, you take at least 14 courses, including seven required theory and methods courses in Sociology (including the teaching practicum), two workshops in Sociology, and four elective courses in Sociology.

Course work for Sociology & Social Policy students includes:

  • Intermediate Quantitative Research Methods (Soc 2202)
  • Advanced Quantitative Research Methods (Soc 2203)
  • Intro to Social Policy Research (SPOL 303)
  • Sociological Theory (Soc 2204)
  • Sociological Research Design (Soc 2205)
  • Contemporary Theory and Research (Soc 2208)
  • Qualitative Social Analysis (Soc 2209)
  • Inequality and Social Policy Proseminar (three courses)
  • Teaching Practicum (Soc 3305)
  • Sociology Workshop
  • Four elective courses

 

Written General Exam

There is one General Written Examination that is taken in August prior to the start of the G2 year. The written examination is a four-question essay exam designed to ensure a working knowledge of the range of subfields that comprise the discipline of sociology. You should be prepared for a broad range of questions; you will be given a reading list and sample questions from previous years. 

Research apprenticeship

As a Sociology & Social Policy student, you will work as a research assistant with a faculty member in the Sociology & Social Policy program for at least one term.

Qualifying Paper

You complete a substantial research project in sociology, known as the Qualifying Paper (or “QP”), which is developed in the G2 year and much be completed by March 31 of the G3 year. Because the Proseminar sequence requires a paper similar in scope, the paper produced for that seminar usually serves as the QP. 

You select a Qualifying Paper primary advisor (your QP Chair) in the G2 year and submit first and second drafts to your QP Chair in the fall of the G3 year. Two additional faculty members are selected to form a QP committee. A draft of the QP is due to the full committee by January 15 of the G3 year. 

Special Area Examination

As a Sociology & Social Policy student, your final qualifying requirement is an oral examination on a subfield within sociology that represents your special interest, generally in the same area as the likely dissertation topic. The field should be broad enough that it would be possible to teach regularly an upper-level undergraduate class in the area. You prepare a field statement, not longer than 10 double-spaced pages of 10-point type, to define the area in which the examination will be given. When the field statement and bibliography have been prepared, you submit them to the CHD along with a petition to appointment a Special Area Examination committee. The Special Area Examination is expected to be taken no later than the end of the term following the completion of the research paper.

Dissertation Prospectus

You develop a dissertation prospectus of 20-30 pages in length that should state the objectives of the study and specific set of questions to be explored, review the relevant literature, and indicate the ways in which you intend to make a contribution to existing ideas on the subject. The research methods and design, the data to be employed, and the plan of approach should be included as well. When the final draft of the prospectus has been prepared, you schedule a prospectus defense. The prospectus must be approved before the end of the fall term of the G5 year.

Dissertation Committee

Typically, the dissertation committee is comprised of one member from the Sociology Department, one member from the HKS social policy faculty, and a third member who may come from either domain. Two of the members of the committee must be members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which includes, for dissertation committee purposes, any HKS faculty members who serve on the Committee on Higher Degrees in Social Policy.