Master of arts students may choose from among three different options: thesis, project, or written examination. Please note that the thesis option, but not the project and written exam options, requires students to fulfill the department’s foreign language requirement.
Thesis: This option is appropriate for those who wish to pursue a PhD, either immediately after receiving the MA or at some point in the future. A thesis is a lengthy monographic work (usually 50 to 150 pages long) that addresses a topic of importance to historians in an original way.
Project: Occasionally, when student background or experience allows, and when faculty availability and expertise exists, students may complete a project in lieu of the traditional thesis. A project may take the form of a narrative history, a documentary film, or website, or some other effort approved by the committee.
Written examination: This option consists of an eight-hour written exam given at the end of one’s graduate career. It is designed for students who do not plan to pursue a PhD in history. It is especially useful for secondary school teachers who want to attain the MA in a timely manner.
Graduate Fields of Study
Whether pursuing the thesis, a project, or the exam option, students must choose a primary field of study from a list of fields approved by the faculty. Currently, the Department of History offers the following primary fields. Fields other than those listed need prior approval from the student’s advisor.
Colonial/Revolutionary North America
19th Century U.S.
20th Century U.S.
U.S. Foreign Relations
U.S. Environmental History
U.S. Social History
U.S. Cultural History
Native American History
Pacific Northwest History
Modern Britain and the Empire
Modern East Asia
Latin American cultural history
Latin American religious history
Latin American state formation
The Soviet Union
African Health and Healing
African Childhood and Education
Thesis Requirements and Timeline
Before starting research on a thesis, you must choose an advisor and submit to her/him a short research prospectus. The prospectus is a proposal of about 8-10 pages, including the following:
- The topic and scope of your thesis or project
- A tentative thesis statement
- The primary sources you intend to use
- Historiographical review, including a statement of your work’s place within it
- Preliminary chapter outline.
Once your advisor approves your prospectus, she or he will assist you in assembling a thesis committee composed of three historians or, in rare cases, two historians and one academic specialist from outside the department (as approved by the advisor). The prospectus must be approved by the student’s advisor and defended before the student’s assembled thesis committee before the end of the third quarter or before the completion of 30 credits, whichever comes last. By the end of the fourth full quarter, the student must submit at least one completed chapter of the thesis to the thesis director/advisor for approval. Students who do not meet the above deadlines for submission/approval of a prospectus and chapter may not be permitted to continue to pursue the thesis option. After the thesis is complete, the student will defend his/her findings before his/her committee. The final draft of the thesis (the draft to be defended) must be given to both secondary advisors at least three weeks in advance of the defense date.
Project Requirement and Timeline
As with the thesis, students who choose the project option must enlist an advisor and submit to her/him a short research prospectus (see thesis requirements, above, for prospectus guidelines). Once your advisor approves your prospectus, she/he will assist you in assembling a thesis committee composed of three historians or, in rare cases, two historians and one academic specialist from outside the department (as approved by the advisor). The prospectus must be approved by the student’s advisor and defended before the student’s assembled committee before the end of the third quarter or before the completion of 30 credits, whichever comes last. By the end of the fourth full quarter, the student must submit a significant part of the project to her/his director/advisor for approval. Students who do not meet the above deadlines may not be permitted to further pursue the project option. After the project is completed, the student will defend his/her work before his/her committee.
Exam Requirements and Timeline
Students who choose the exam option must select an advisor by the beginning of the third quarter or before completion of 20 credits, whichever comes last. In advance of the exam, the exam director/advisor will work with the student to choose a committee and to delineate a major field (see list of fields above). In consultation with the advisor, the student will then develop a major field bibliography consisting of at least 30 books that must be read in preparation for the exam. The eight-hour exam will consist of three (3) written questions. After the exam is completed, the student must defend her/his answers before the committee.
Foreign Language Requirement
At the discretion of the advisor, students who choose the thesis option must meet the department’s foreign language requirement. The requirement can be met in two ways: (1) by attaining a grade of B in the final course of a two-year sequence of undergraduate-level foreign language instruction (the sixth quarter or fourth semester) either during the student’s undergraduate or graduate career; (2) by passing the department’s foreign language exam. The department’s foreign language exam requires students to translate (usually a paraphrase rather than a word-for-word translation) two short passages, one from a primary source and one from secondary literature. Students taking the language exam may use dictionaries. Faculty members with the appropriate language skills will grade the exam on a pass/fail basis. If you plan to enter a PhD program in the future, we strongly urge you to gain proficiency in at least one foreign language during your MA career.
Program Learner Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this program, students will be able to:
- Describe and analyze the variety of historical methods.
- Describe and analyze the development of historical periodization, e.g., “Early Modern Europe.”
- Describe and compare scholarly interpretations of a particular field of historical investigation.
- Produce original interpretations of a historical period or theme.
- Canvass and make full use of historical resources whether digital, print, or other, and will cite that work in appropriate scholarly format.