The doctoral program (PhD) at Chicago Harris prepares qualified students interested in research-oriented careers involving the substantive and institutional aspects of public policy. The program emphasizes the acquisition of skills needed to design and conduct policy-relevant research, and allows students to develop individualized and innovative courses of study in which they work closely with faculty members of the School and the University.

Program Director
Scott Ashworth, Professor (

Associate Directors
Christopher Blattman, Ramalee E. Pearson Professor of Global Conflict Studies (
Damon Jones, Assistant Professor (

PhD Program Specialist
Cynthia Cook-Conley (

Course Work

Ph.D. students should expect to complete their program of study after a minimum of four to five years in residence. Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of 27 courses, including demonstrated mastery of the School's core subjects, unless they enter the program with a master's degree in the same or a related field, in which case the number of required courses may be reduced by up to 9 courses. Following completion of their coursework and examinations, Ph.D. students will be able to take advantage of opportunities to obtain financial support for their doctoral research from internal and external sources and to participate in research projects in the School and the University. Students receiving internal financial support will also serve as course assistants beyond their first year of study.

Additional Requirements

Beyond the successful completion of required course work, Ph.D. students must fulfill the following requirements:

Qualifying Examinations
Ph.D. students are required to pass four qualifying examinations offered by Chicago Harris: methods (statistics and econometrics), microeconomic theory, political economy, and a field exam in a substantive field of public policy studies chosen by the student and the student's advisor. These examinations will ordinarily be taken following two years of coursework. In exceptional cases, a student may propose an alternative to either the methods or the theory examination.

Qualifying Paper
During their third year of study, Ph.D. students make the transition from coursework to dissertation research. As a first step, they complete a qualifying paper and present it at a Chicago Harris workshop or other University forum. An acceptable qualifying paper will show evidence that the student is developing the capacity for formulating and conducting an independent research project and for creating a scholarly argument. Ideally, the qualifying paper will constitute a step toward completion of a dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Proposal
Following completion of the qualifying paper, students will write and defend a dissertation proposal before the student's dissertation committee and other interested University faculty and doctoral students. The proposal hearing will ordinarily be held by the Autumn Quarter of the fourth year of study, after which the student is admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. The hearing must precede the defense of the dissertation itself by at least 8 months.

Dissertation Defense
The dissertation should be a significant public policy research project carried out under the supervision of the student's dissertation committee, composed of at least three qualified members approved by the director of doctoral studies. The dissertation defense is a public meeting of faculty and students directed by the chair of the dissertation committee. The dissertation is expected to constitute an original contribution to public policy knowledge and to demonstrate mastery of relevant theories and research methods.

View a copy of the 2016-2017 Ph.D. Policies and Procedures Manual.
Check out the University of Chicago's Dissertation Guidelines.