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Graduate Program Requirements

Degree Options
You may choose from among three different options: thesis; written examination; and project.

Thesis: A thesis is a lengthy monographic work (usually 50 to 150 pages long) that addresses a historically significant topic in an original way.

This option is appropriate if you wish to pursue a Ph.D., either immediately after receiving the M.A. or at some point in the future. Students who cannot meet the deadlines listed on page four will not be able to pursue the thesis option. Further, students must attain a 3.5 GPA or better in the graduate program in order to pursue the thesis option without special approval from the graduate committee and the advisor. Students with GPAs below 3.5 will ordinarily do the written examination option.

Your advisor will help you choose two additional faculty members to serve on your thesis committee. The committee’s job is to help formulate and critique the thesis. After the thesis is completed, you will defend your findings before their thesis committee. At the discretion of the advisor, students opting for the thesis option may be required to meet the Department’s foreign language requirement.

Written examination: The exam consists of three questions in a major field. Generally speaking, committees prefer written exam answers that show your familiarity with historical context, historical periodization, and historiography, and that marshal evidence to make original arguments. The entire written portion of the exam must be completed in eight hours.

Choose this option if you do not wish to write a thesis. It is especially useful for secondary school teachers who want to attain the M.A. in a timely manner. Students who choose the exam option must select an advisor and adhere to the timeline given on page 4 of the Graduate Handbook.

Your advisor will help you choose two additional faculty members to serve on your exam committee. The committee’s job is to write questions for the exam and review your answers. In advance of the exam, the committee will work with you to delineate a field and suggest an appropriate reading list. Your advisor may work with you on sample questions and responses in order to better prepare you for the exam. After the exam is completed, you must defend your answers before the committee. Students opting for the exam option do not have to meet the Department’s foreign language requirement.

Project: On rare occasions, if your background or experience allows, and when faculty availability and expertise exists, you may complete a project in lieu of the traditional thesis. In such special cases, proposals for an alternative to the exam or thesis options must be approved by your advisor and committee. Students opting for the project option do not have to meet the Department’s foreign language requirement.

All three options require the following courses:

  • HIST 511, Historiography (5)
  • HIST 512, History Graduate Reading Seminar (10)
  • HIST 596, Field Bibliography (5)
  • HIST 700, Thesis, Exam, or Project study (6)
  • Department-Approved Electives from 500 level courses in History (10)
  • Department-Approved Electives from 400 or 500 level courses in History OR other approved fields (courses must pertain to student’s thesis) (9)

Total 45 Credits

Graduate Fields of Study

Whether pursuing the thesis, project or 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. One of these primary fields should be indicated in the application letter prior to admission. Fields other than those listed need prior approval from the student’s advisor.


Colonial/Revolutionary North America Imperial Russia
19th Century U.S. Russian Empire
20th Century U.S. The Soviet Union
U.S. Foreign Relations Modern Germany
U.S. West WWII
U.S. Environmental History Military History
U.S. Social History Holocaust
U.S. Cultural History African Health and Healing
U.S. Imperialism African Childhood and Education
U.S. Political History African Gender
Native American History Urban Africa
Pacific Northwest History Pre-Colonial Africa
Modern Britain and the Empire Colonial Africa
Modern Ireland Environmental History
Modern France Urban History
Modern East Asia Comparative Colonialism
Latin American Cultural History Comparative Gender
Latin American Religious History Comparative Revolutions
Latin American State Formation Comparative Borderlands
Modern Mexico Comparative Nationalism
Colonial Mexico Race and Ethnicity
Pre-Imperial Russia Comparative Imperialism


For additional information regarding the Graduate Program Requirements, please visit the Graduate Handbook here.

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