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Department of History Graduate ProgramDegree Options

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Degree Options


Each student in the MA program will take a variety of classes to satisfy their elective requirements and to facilitate their instruction in various regional and topical interests. Students choose one of three options to finish their M.A. in History: the examinations, the research thesis, or the portfolio.



The examinations offer students the opportunity to work closely with a faculty committee to build expertise in two historical fields. The fields can be tailored to the geographical areas, topical interests, or other fields of study in consultation with the faculty committee. Students consult with faculty members who specialize in each field, and spend several months reading widely and studying independently in their fields of choice. Ultimately, students complete a written examination and oral defense to demonstrate their mastery over the content and their understanding of big historiographical problems and questions in each field. This degree option allows students to build content proficiency and pursue their historical interests to finish the program. Students who pursue the examinations option take a minimum of 30 credit hours and enroll in HIST 675: M.A. Examination Preparation and Research.


The research thesis offers students the opportunity to pursue independent academic research and write a piece of original historical scholarship. The historical problem addressed by the thesis is up to the student, in consultation with a faculty thesis advisor. Students pursue digital and archival research, consult and evaluate primary sources, and read the applicable secondary literature in the field. Students also sit for an oral defense of the thesis research. The defense focuses on the construction of the thesis, the historical context, the relevant secondary literature, and related aspects of the student's research concentration. This degree option allows students to build skills in concrete historical investigation, historical writing, editing and revision, and archival research. The thesis option will be recommended for those students who have maintained a high GPA and have the supp y thesis advisor. Students who pursue the research thesis option typically take a minimum of 36 credit hours and enroll in HIST 698 and HIST 699: Thesis. ort of a faculty thesis advisor. Students who pursue the research thesis option typically take a minimum of 36 credit hours and enroll in HIST 698 and HIST 699: Thesis.

Previous examples of research theses done by graduates of the M.A. in History program can be seen here.


The portfolio option offers students the opportunity to build a portfolio of academic products relevant to their professional interests in public history, education, and historical research in consultation with a faculty committee. Students choose two components for the portfolio: one or two research papers, a single examination field, a teaching preparation component, or a public history project.

The research paper option allows students to conduct high-quality research and write a piece of original historical scholarship that can ultimately be submitted to an academic journal. The research paper typically builds on research done in the student's coursework. The single examination allows students to build expertise in a historical field tailored to a favored geographical area or topical interest (see the Examinations option). The teaching preparation component allows students to plan the instruction of a college-level course, including the production of a syllabus, sample lectures, proposed readings and discussions, and historiographical justifications for educational design. The public history option allows students to participate in the development of a public history project in conjunction with an internship at a local historical site. Students are also asked to review a public history project and to build content expertise in a public history subfield, including historical preservation, exhibition development, oral history, cultural resources management, and applied history, among others. Students select an advisor for each component of the portfolio, and the faculty member sets the specific parameters for each component. The portfolio is reviewed and the candidate sits for a portfolio defense by a faculty committee. This degree option allows students the flexibility to pursue historical work related to their future career aspirations and to develop tangible products in preparation for the job market. Students who pursue the portfolio option typically take a minimum of 30 credit hours and enroll in HIST 677: Portfolio Option Preparation.



*Details on each degree option can be found in the Graduate Catalog and in the latest edition of the Graduate Handbook.