Guidelines for the MA Thesis in History

The MA in History with research option, which is intended for students who plan to pursue doctoral studies, requires the completion of a MA thesis.

Thesis Proposal

  • Candidates present a five- to ten-page proposal plus bibliography, first to their three-member thesis committee and, with its approval, to the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) for its approval. The schedule of proposal submission deadlines is available here.
  • The proposal indicates the thesis topic and argues for its significance as an example of original research that contributes to historical knowledge. The proposal may be submitted to the GSC only after the foreign language requirement has been fulfilled.
  • In addition to describing the primary sources to be used, the proposal presents a hypothesis and research strategy (methodology).
  • The proposal is accompanied by a bibliography of relevant secondary literature. The bibliography is not part of the proposal proper, but is appended to it (i.e., not counted as part of the five- to ten-page length).
  • Students must also include a signature page providing the title of the proposed thesis and the members of the proposed supervising committee. Each member of the proposed committee must sign this page to indicate a willingness to serve on the committee. The student's name should appear only on the title or signature page.
  • The Graduate Studies Committee will assess the proposal based on an established set of criteria


  • While there is no specified requirement, typically the thesis will be between fifty and one-hundred pages in length.
  • All theses include an introduction, one or more substantive chapters, and a full bibliography of all primary sources used and secondary sources cited.
  • Other sections (such as a preface, acknowledgements, an epilogue, or appendices) are permissible, when relevant or necessary, but are not required).
  • The required format for references and citations is the Chicago Manual of Style.

Thesis Committee and Defense

  • The thesis supervisory committee should be formed no later than the 27th hour of enrollment. The form to request the appointment of a MA thesis committee is available here.
  • The thesis committee consists of three tenured or tenure-track faculty members in the School of Arts and Humanities, two of whom must hold appointments in Historical Studies/History of Ideas.
  • The chair of the thesis committee should have qualifications appropriate to substantive supervision of research on the chosen topic.
  • When all three members of the committee agree that the thesis is substantively ready for defense, the student supplies each professor with a clean copy of the complete thesis in proper format. Another copy of this penultimate draft should be delivered to the Arts and Humanities Graduate Coordinator (JO 4.510), who will ensure that the thesis is open for faculty inspection at least three working days before its defense. The chair of the thesis committee authorizes the Graduate Coordinator to arrange for a public defense, the date and location of which is then announced to all Arts and Humanities faculty and graduate students by e-mail.
  • The chair presides over the defense, a one-hour session that begins with a ten-minute student presentation on the general goals and themes of the thesis. Unless the thesis committee decides otherwise, public participation in the questioning is limited to Arts and Humanities faculty members.
  • After the formal defense, the thesis committee will meet in camera to vote on granting the master's degree. The results of its vote are reported to the University's Dean of Graduate Studies through the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies.

Students submitting a thesis must follow all guidelines and dates for submission established by the Graduate School and the School of Arts and Humanities.