Master’s Program

The Master’s (MA) program in the Department of History is a 24-month program and requires full-time residential study.

The history master’s program includes regional and thematic courses, methods and historiography, and a research seminar, culminating in the writing of thesis.

Program Overview

The MA program consists of three parts:

  1. Course requirements
  2. Thesis
  3. Language requirement


Master’s students must complete six courses for a total of 18 credits. Below are the required courses:

  • The Research Seminar (3 credits): The mandatory research seminar introduces students to the problems, materials, and research methods in the discipline; candidates must demonstrate their ability to use documents and other sources, and to write and defend papers based on such research. Ideally, the seminar paper will be the nucleus of the MA thesis.
  • Historiography (3 credits): The Historiography seminar involves an intense introduction to varieties of historical writing and the philosophic assumptions behind historical thinking. The Comparative History courses are designed to broaden student's knowledge and compensate for gaps created by specialization.
  • Readings and Topics Courses (12 credits): The readings and topics courses introduce students to the main historiographical problems and secondary literature in their fields of specialization.

With the permission of the Graduate Advisor, students may take up to 6 credits of coursework from outside the History Department in lieu of readings or topics courses. Language courses may not be substituted for graduate readings courses.

The MA thesis is the culmination of your work in the history graduate program. The preparation of this document involves isolating, defining and explaining a historical problem through the use of primary materials. The emphasis of the thesis is on the quality of the historical work, rather than exhaustive treatment of the subject.

Once a research topic is identified in consultation with the advisor, students should prepare a thesis prospectus indicating the nature of the problem they plan to investigate, the research methods, the literature relevant to the problem, and the availability of relevant materials. Students will need to select a second committee member who will provide advice and assistance throughout the remainder of the process.

The master’s thesis is about 40 pages (10,000 words) in length and in the genre of a scholarly article ready for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.

A thesis is evaluated and graded by the supervisor, committee member, and a third independent reader. A thesis may be accepted as presented, returned for revisions, or rejected. If there is a disagreement among the evaluators, the graduate advisor will mediate. A thesis earning a grade lower than 60 will be rejected. If the thesis is rejected, the student will be asked to withdraw from the MA program.

When a thesis has been approved, the Master's Thesis Approval and Program Completion form signed by the student's supervisor and the graduate advisor must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. 

Before receiving the MA degree in History, candidates must demonstrate an adequate reading ability in a language other than English - either French or a foreign language appropriate to their field of study. Students who require a foreign language for their thesis research will be expected to take the language exam in that language.

The department holds language exams twice a year (usually in November and April). Candidates must translate a passage from the language they have chosen into English, with the aid of a dictionary, but without the assistance of a laptop computer.

Exemption from the language exam may be granted under certain circumstances by the graduate advisor. Several departments at the university offer courses to help students acquire a reading knowledge of a foreign language, such as French, German, or Russian. Students who have successfully completed such a course at the third-year level or above, with at least a B (72%) average, can apply for exemption from the History Department's exam by submitting evidence of completion of the course to the graduate program assistant.

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