Apr 23, 2024  
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog 
2018-2019 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Security Studies (Ph.D.)

The graduate program in Security Studies   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.

Ph.D comprehensive exams

Comprehensive exams in Security Studies entail a written and oral examination, subdivided into a general field and a special field. The written component of the general field examination is one closed-book, 8-hour exam in the History of International Security, and one closed-book, 8-hour exam in the Politics of International Security (usually, these two exams will occur on successive days or two out of three days). An interdisciplinary Exam Committee of KSU Security Studies faculty, which may vary from year to year, will determine the precise format and administer the written general field exam. The student will be allowed to consult the history and political science reading lists in hardcopy form but will not be permitted to have any notes or other resources available during the examination.

Reading List for History of International Security Exam

Reading List for Politics of International Security Exam

Students should regard the reading lists as indispensable tools to help prepare them to be knowledgeable and independent thinkers. However, examiners also may pose questions on important Security Studies issues not specifically included in the readings. A successful exam does not merely summarize the findings of other scholars; it presents clear and well-argued theoretical arguments supported by the literature but rooted in the student’s own ideas.

There is no guarantee that future exams will mirror the format of previous exams. Past general field written exams are available through the links below:

Spring 2015 exam questions
Fall 2014 exam questions
Spring 2014 exam questions
Fall 2013 exam questions

The subject of the special field exam is chosen by the student in consultation with his or her PhD adviser and committee. The special field may be geographic in focus (post-Soviet states, Africa, or Latin America, for example) or thematic (civil-military relations, crisis bargaining models, or arms proliferation, for example). The precise format of the special field exam will be determined by the PhD adviser/examiner in consultation with the student’s PhD 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.

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 Mnahttan 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.

Doctoral degree requirements

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 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.

2. The Political Research Sequence.

This sequence also consists of two courses. The first, Research Design and Qualitative Methods, 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, will introduce students to the statistical tools used by political scientists studying international security issues.

3. The final PhD-level required course

The final PhD-level required course must be taken after completing the history and political science two course research sequences. Each student must complete a directed reading 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 PhD 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 from other disciplines deemed appropriate by the 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 PhD Chair.