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Looking for Qualitative PhD Programs


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Hi all,

 

I'm currently debating a lot between political science and anthropology, and I'm wondering if anybody has insight as to which schools are more qualitative in their emphasis? I know political science as a field has gotten pretty quantitative over the years, and I know I'll have to study statistics regardless, but I'm looking for programs that are less about the numbers, where a dissertation relying on ethnography can be pursued. Anybody in these types of programs, or know of any? I'm interested in studying conflict in sub-Saharan Africa, humanitarianism, and US-Africa relations, if that helps.

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Thanks for the advice. I'm in an area studies MA program right now, and most of the scholars studying the topics I specialize in are either political scientists or anthropologists. I'm looking at both types of PhD programs, just trying to figure out what will be the best fit. I'll do a little more digging on fields and professors. How closely should potential advisers and I match in terms of interests? Is working in the same geographic area or studying similar concepts elsewhere enough, or should it be more related?

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The first thing you should know is that it's going to be hard (if not impossible) to find PhD programs that will allow you to only take qualitative methods. I didn't specifically look for them when I went through the top 50 or so when I applied, but that was the sense I got from my survey.

Now, there are some departments that will allow you to substitute some of the quantitative training for qualitative training. In the book "Perestroika" (edited by Kristen Renwick Monroe) where Pelegrine Schwartz-Shea conducted a survey of graduate programs in an attempt to investigate what departments were more friendly/specialized in qualitative methods.

It was a while since I read it so I don't exactly recall the method she used. However, it did for example look at the number of courses offered in qualitative methods. This study was published almost a decade ago, so keep that in mind. A lot can change in a department in ten years.

Edited by Lemeard
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When in doubt, talk to current professors. Networks are so tight these days, that someone always knows someone. If you can get some ideas on the "who's who" in whatever your interests are, then you might be in a better position to make a decision. 

Other options are reading political science and finding what you like. When I applied, that's what I did: I remembered very distinctly about 7 or 8 programs from which authors of memorable works came from. It at least gave me a starting point for looking into schools. It's all about narrowing things down. 

 

Edited by HK2004
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There are very few programs that won't force you to provide extreme justification for a completely qualitative thesis and very few that won't allow you to follow a compelling research design that emphasizes qualitative methods. One thing you may want to consider is whether you'll get a job if you don't present serious quantitative credentials. If you aren't interested in really developing these skills, you might want to consider a field that doesn't obsess over it so much. (It's my sense, though, that we'll see a renewed focus on qualitative and quasi-theoretical research in the next decade.)

 

Anyway, your methodological and substantive interests are very similar to mine. I would recommend Yale, Harvard, Northwestern, Stanford, Duke and UCSD. UCSD has a reputation for being extremely quantitaive (and they do put students through a math wringer), but they accept students with a qualitative focus that appear willing and qualified to do the math.

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Thanks so much for the tips, everyone. I'll keep those schools in mind. For others looking for the same info, I spoke to a couple of recent hires in political science and they told me to steer clear of UCLA and NYU, which are very quantitative-centric.

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