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Research Apprenticeship Program & Independent Study

The Department of Political Science invites talented students in our majors to partake in research opportunities throughout their time at UC San Diego. Within the department, students can choose two popular research ventures: research under the guidance of approved graduate student mentors through the Research Apprenticeship Program and research under the guidance of a Core Faculty member through Independent Study. 

Research Apprenticeship Program 

Each student will collaborate with a doctoral candidate on the mentor’s own research project in the winter and spring quarters. Under the guidance of the mentor the student will write a seminar paper of approximately 20 pages in the spring quarter. Applications received by Friday, November 15th, 2019 will receive first consideration for the 2019/20 academic year, but positions will remain open until filled.

Graduate mentors are Ph.D. candidates in the Department of Political Science. The faculty member in charge is the Department Chair, Thad Kousser. Questions about the Research Apprenticeship Program should be directed to the Department's Undergraduate Advisor, Natalie Ikker, during in-person advising or via the Virtual Advising Center. 


Participants must be majors in political science with junior or senior standing and a GPA of 3.0 or higher in all political science courses taken at UCSD. Individual projects may require other prerequisite training, such as Political Science 30(D). (Please read each project description carefully.)

Transfer students - Please note that the graduate students understand you are entering UCSD with a 0.0 GPA; please review the application form to see what GPA you input. 

Time Commitment

During the winter and spring quarters each student must commit to 12 hours per week as a research assistant; during the spring quarter each must also participate in the weekly research seminar and contribute the completion of the jointly authored research paper.

Course Credit

Students enroll in POLI 198RA in the winter and spring quarters and in the optional POLI 199 course in the spring quarter. Students will receive 4 units for each quarter in POLI 198RA and 4 units for completing the course requirements of a POLI 199 with Professor Thad Kousser.  All three courses may count as major electives. 

Please note that POLI 198RA and POLI 199 are taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis only. By university regulations, no more than one-quarter of an undergraduate’s units toward graduation can be taken on a P/NP basis and no more than two 199s can be counted toward the Political Science major.

POLI 198RA and POLI 199 courses are the only courses allowable for "Pass" credit in the upper division Elective category of the Political Science majors. 

How to Apply

[1] Read the project descriptions

[2] Download and complete the preference form.

[3] Prepare a cover letter and resume. Read the guidelines about the cover letter.

[4] Print your academic record.

[5] E-mail the completed form with a cover letter, resume, and copy of your academic record to the Mentor of each project to which you are applying.

Deadline for First Consideration: Friday, November 15th, 2019

Timeline for the Research Apprenticeship Program & POLI 198RA Enrollment

September - Mid-October: Graduate students eligible to serve as mentors for the Research Apprenticeship Program are invited by the Undergraduate Advisor to submit their research projects that need undergraduate research assistants. 

Mid-late October: The list of available projects are finalized. Undergraduate Political Science students are notified of the opportunity and may begin applying for the program, sending their application and other required materials to the graduate student whose project(s) they are interested in serving on.

Mid-November: First consideration of undergraduate research assistant applicants are due.

Mid-November - Mid-December: Graduate students interview, select, and confirm the undergraduate research assistants they would like to mentor for the Winter and Spring quarters. After this process, graduate students complete a form that indicates the research assistants that have been chosen for - and accepted their role in - the Research Apprenticeship Program. 

Mid-December - Late December: The Undergraduate Advisor receives the list of students chosen for the Research Apprenticeship Program and preauthorizes the selected students for POLI 198RA in the Winter quarter. 

Late December - Friday of Week 2 of Winter Quarter: Students selected as research assistants for the Research Apprenticeship Program must enroll in POLI 198RA for 4 units by the add deadline. 

Independent Study - POLI 199 

In a POLI 199 (Independent Study), students work under the guidance of a Core Faculty in the Department of Political Science, usually assisting the faculty members' own research or helping with a project. Overall, the agreement on the academic content is between the student and professor. Students take initiative to connect with an eligible faculty member to discuss the agreement for the quarter(s) in which they want to do the POLI 199.

It is up to each student to find the Core Faculty member with whom they would like to work with. Once you find a faculty member you are interested in working with, contact him or her directly to inquire if they are willing to work with you in a POLI 199.

You must enroll in POLI 199 by the add deadline.

Political Science students can complete up to two POLI 199 courses, each taken for 4 quarter units and earning a "Pass" grade, and apply the course(s) to their upper division Elective category of their major requirements.

POLI 199 Enrollment Process

Enrollment in a POLI 199 is now done through the EASy Preauthorization System. 

You must do the following:

1. Meet with the Core Faculty member with whom you would like to work with and agree on the parameters of the Independent Study

2. Complete all sections of the course request via EASy and provide detailed information on the work you will be doing with/for the faculty member

3. Select the 4 unit option for the course. Only POLI 199s taken for 4 units, and earning a "Pass" grade, will be allowable for the Political Science majors, up to two times, in the Upper Division Elective category of the majors. 

4. The faculty member must approve the EASy Request; it is then sent to the Department for review. If approved, it will go to your College and/or the Registrar for review. 

EASy Preauthorization Request Link:

Please note: Preauthorization for a course allows a student to enroll or waitlist in a course; it does not imply that a seat will be saved for you.