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Security Studies

Security Studies

Kansas State University
221 Eisenhower Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506


Fort Leavenworth
Education Center

Dr. Cheryl Polson

Ph.D Program

(Masters Degree is required to apply to the Ph.D Program)

This is a rigorous, interdisciplinary program intended to prepare its students for careers in research, teaching, and security and international affairs through a broad exploration of social science and historical methodologies as well as topics relating to security issues. Many students will already have a Master of Arts in Security Studies from Kansas State University, but this is not required. Students with other relevant masters degrees may apply to the Ph.D program directly.

Students entering with a masters degree in history, political science, or a closely related field can expect to complete their coursework in 3-4 semesters of full-time study.

Much of the information below, as well as some practical advice, is summarized in a brief guide:

Key Stages in the Ph.D Program

Detailed Information

Ph.D Coursework
Foreign Language Requirement
Dissertation prospectus defense
The Dissertation
Ph.D committee
Ph.D Exams

Ph.D Coursework

The Ph.D degree will require 90 hours of course work. Up to 30 hours from a previous masters degree may be counted towards these 90 hours. The Ph.D committee will judge the suitability and applicability of the previous credits. An additional 30 hours of those 90 will be research hours towards the dissertation. The remaining coursework to reach the total of 90 hours will include 15 hours of required courses. The required courses consist of:

  1. The Historical Research Sequence. This sequence consists of two courses of three hours each. The first (Hist 911) will study various approaches to the history of security, international relations, and military affairs. The second will be a methodology course in the theory and concrete practice of historical research in security studies (Hist 912). Hist 911 will generally be offered in the fall of odd-numbered years; Hist 912 in the fall of even-numbered years.
  2. The Political Research Sequence. This sequence also consists of two courses. The first, Research Design and Qualitative Methods (Poli Sci 900), focuses on the construction of social science research and the various research design issues students must understand to construct qualitative social science studies. The second course, Quantitative Methods (Poli Sci 901), will introduce students to the statistical tools used by political scientists studying international security issues. Poli Sci 900 will generally be offered in the fall of even-numbered years, and Poli Sci 901 in the spring of odd-numbered years.
  3. The final Ph.D -level required course must be taken after completing the history and political science two-course research sequences. Each student must complete a directed reading (Hist 985 or Poli Sci 985) with the chair of the student's Ph.D committee. The course is intended to allow the student to hone his or her dissertation topic in one-on-one consultation with the Ph.D chair.

The other fifteen hours of coursework will be elective courses chosen in consultation with the Ph.D committee to prepare the student for research and teaching in security studies, as well as to help prepare for the Ph.D exams. These electives may be drawn from History, Political Science, or other disciplines. Courses outside history and political science, or below 700-level, require prior approval of the student's supervisory committee.

The intent of the Ph.D coursework is to prepare students for writing the dissertation. Upon completion of the Ph.D coursework students will have the research skills necessary to complete a dissertation-length scholarly study on a well-defined topic developed in consultation with their Ph.D Chair.

Foreign Language Requirement

The foreign language requirement(s) will be set by the student's faculty supervisory committee. Because the nature of the dissertation topic will determine the number of foreign languages in which expertise must be possessed as well as the degree of competency required in those languages, it is not possible to set absolute minimum foreign language requirements for completion of the Ph.D degree. A student’s decision on areas of study should take into account language proficiency likely to be demanded by the supervisory committee.

Dissertation prospectus defense

Following the completion of the Ph.D coursework, the student will submit a written dissertation prospectus to his/her Ph.D Committee. The Committee will provide written feedback on the prospectus. After the student revises the prospectus, he/she will present and defend it orally to the Committee (via live video streaming if necessary). After completion of comprehensive exams and the completion of an acceptable prospectus, the student officially becomes a Ph.D candidate in the program and commences the dissertation.

The Dissertation

Writing the dissertation

The student will research and write the dissertation, consulting with the Ph.D Committee as often as necessary. The dissertation should be a substantial and original contribution to knowledge and scholarship.

Research hours

By decision of the Security Studies faculty committee in consultation with the Dean of the Graduate School, Ph.D students who are NOT resident in Manhattan must register for Division of Continuing Education (DCE) research hours.

Dissertation defense

After completing the dissertation, the student will defend it orally before the Ph.D Committee (again, via live video streaming if necessary).

Submission of dissertation

Upon successful completion of the oral defense, the student will make any additional revisions to the dissertation required by the Ph.D Committee and submit the final version of the dissertation to the Graduate School at KSU.

Ph.D committee

Within their first two semesters in the program, students will choose a Ph.D Committee consisting of at least four members of the KSU Security Studies faculty, including at least one member from History and at least one member from Political Science. As in any graduate program, adjunct professors are eligible to serve on committees. This committee will work with the student to craft an appropriate and feasible dissertation topic and advise the student on suitable coursework and preparation. Students will report to their committee at regular intervals. The Ph.D Committee may require the student to master specific research skills appropriate for the dissertation, including foreign languages or quantitative methods.