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Masters Degree in History


For MA program policies and a typical timetable of progress, see the Graduate Student Handbook.

Major field requirement

Students must declare a major field of study, chosen in consultation with a faculty advisor.

Plan of study

Plan of Study Requirement. By the end of the first quarter in the program, students are required to file a Plan of Study, signed by their advisor, in which they must state their major focus of study, list all courses taken and anticipated coursework, and specify their language requirement(s). This Plan of Study may be modified later by written agreement of both the student and the advisor. The Director of Graduate Studies will review and approve the Plan of Study and place it in the student’s academic file. The Plan of Study form is available here.

Required courses

During the first year, the MA student must take:

  • A three-course sequence:
    • HIST 612, Historical Methods and Writing, taken in fall term (5 credits, graded)
    • HIST 615, Professional Development and Field Preparation (1 credit, P/NP), taken in winter term, often in conjunction with Field Readings (see below)
    • HIST 616, History Conference (1 credit, P/NP), taken in spring term
  • Field readings (1 course). The field readings requirement, ideally to be completed within the first two quarters of the first year, may be fulfilled in one of three ways:
    • HIST 611 Field Readings, with advisor
    • An appropriate 500-level course with advisor
    • HIST 608 Colloquium, if in field and equivalent to Field Readings
  • Research/Writing Seminar (HIST 607 or 507)

MA students must also take:

  • A second research or writing seminar (HIST 607 or 507)
  • 2 colloquia (readings courses) (HIST 608 or HIST 508)
  • Language exam

For the research seminars, MA students should ideally enroll in seminars in their field, a closely related field, or an “open topic” seminar to begin work on the thesis, and they are strongly encouraged to take the “Craft of Writing” seminar, usually offered in the fall term of the second year.

Additionally, MA students pursuing the thesis option must take 9 hours of thesis credit (HIST 503) and should expect to spend the summer of their first year engaged in research for the MA thesis.

Credit requirements

The Graduate School requires a minimum of 45 graduate credit hours. At least 30 graduate credit hours must be taken in History, and 24 of the 30 hours must be graded. Graduate credit hours are those at the 500- or 600-level. Additional credit requirements include:

  1. at least 3 credit hours each quarter (except summer quarter), including the quarter when the thesis defense is held,
  2. at least 30 graduate credit hours (24 or them graded) taken in residence over at least two quarters,
  3. a minimum of 9 credits at the 600-level, taken in residence, and
  4. at least 9 thesis hours (P/N) for the thesis option.

A maximum of 15 graduate credits may be accepted in transfer credits.

Courses taken to acquire language skills may be taken at the undergraduate level but do not count as graduate credit hours. However, those language courses may count toward the minimum 9 hours of credit required for full-time enrollment in residence in a given term.

Language requirement

All MA students must demonstrate proficiency in at least one foreign language by passing an exam that tests the ability to read and comprehend a passage of average difficulty drawn from primary sources or the secondary literature. The language exam is offered once each quarter during the regular academic year.

Advisors must approve the choice of language. MA students whose thesis or research papers require work in foreign language sources are strongly urged to complete this requirement by the end of the first year of study. Advisors may set higher standards and/or include additional languages in which students must demonstrate competence. These standards should be established at the time a faculty accepts a graduate student and written on the Plan of Study form.

For further information on meeting the language requirement, see the Graduate Student Handbook.

Writing requirements

There are two options for satisfying the major writing requirement for the MA:

Option One: Students complete a master’s thesis in their major focus of study and pass an oral defense of the thesis before a committee of three faculty members.

Option Two: Students complete two substantial research papers and pass an oral defense of these papers before a committee of three faculty members. For the purposes of this option, a research paper is defined as a paper of 25 pages or more, based on primary source research.

Students completing the Thesis Option must enroll in a minimum of 9 Thesis Credits (HIST 503), usually in the winter and spring of their second year, and they must be enrolled in 3 Thesis Credits in the term they defend the thesis. Students choosing the Two-Paper Option may register for 5 credits of Research (HIST 601), usually in either winter or spring of their second year.

For much more detailed information on the writing requirements, refer to the Graduate Student Handbook.

Time to degree

Under ordinary circumstances, it takes students two full years of work to complete this program. All requirements must be met by the end of seven (7) years.