M.A. Program in History

The Master of Arts in History offers the student understanding in the scholarly discipline of history through the expansion of historical knowledge, the comprehension of historiography, and the practice of critical inquiry. Framing the questions that define particular scholarly debates underlies critical analysis of primary and secondary sources. Students gain exposure to these questions in course work and demonstrate their familiarity with them in comprehensive examinations. In the thesis, they display awareness of the scope and challenges of historical research: They define what questions can and cannot be addressed with a limited body of sources. They situate their research and analysis in the historiography of a field. Ultimately they discuss their work at a final thesis colloquium.

General Information and Requirements

Applicants to the M.A. program must hold the baccalaureate degree from an accredited four-year college or university, with a major, or a 24-semester-credit minor, in history or a closely related discipline (acceptable fields outside history to be determined on a case-by-case basis by the Graduate Studies Committee). A cumulative grade point average of 2.75 (unless the applicant has demonstrated unusual promise during his or her junior and senior years) and satisfactory scores on the GRE general test are also required for admission to Graduate Standing in History. Detailed information on applying to the M.A. program is found in the "How to Apply for Admission" page.  

The following requirements (listed in order of completion) apply to all students in the M.A. program.

General requirements:

  1. Time Limit. All requirements must be satisfied during the six calendar years immediately preceding the granting of the degree.

  2. Grades. A graduate student in the Department of History will not be granted credit toward the degree for any course (including transfer courses) in which the final grade is below a "B" (3.0).

  3. Course Expectations. A term paper or its equivalent will be required in each course taken for graduate credit in the Department of History.

  4. Continuous Registration. By Graduate School regulations, graduate students must maintain continuous registration of at least three graduate credits per semester to remain active in the pursuit of a degree. This means that students studying for comprehensive exams or writing theses must (even if they are not in residence) register for at least three graduate credit hours each semester (summers excluded) until they graduate. Failure to enroll in at least three credits per semester -- or to request an official Leave of Absence (Graduate School form) -- will result in a student's being dropped from Graduate Standing; the Department may subsequently decide whether or not to readmit the student.

  5. Residence. By Graduate School requirements, at least 21 of a student's credits must be earned in on-campus courses at the University.

  6. Paperwork. The student is responsible for a knowledge of the degree requirements and for the timely submission of all Graduate School forms. Early in their graduate careers, students should become familiar with the most important of these forms: the Program of Study, the Notice of Completion, and the Application for Graduation.

*Before proceeding beyond nine credits of Graduate Study, the student must have accomplished the following:

  1. Proseminar. All candidates for the M.A. in History are required to take History 600 (Proseminar), ordinarily during the first fall semester of enrollment. The proseminar provides an introduction to the members of the Department and the examination fields offered, to the requirements of the graduate program in History, and to the graduate study of history.

  2. Credit Requirements. The M.A. program requires a total of 32 semester credits, including a six-credit thesis; written comprehensive examinations (one credit total) in three fields (after 25 credits of course work); reading knowledge of one foreign language; a public prospectus colloquium; and a final oral examination (thesis colloquium).
  3. Fields of Study. With the approval of the Graduate Advisor, the student must select three fields of study (leading to comprehensive examinations over a broad spectrum of historical material) from the list of M.A. Examination Fields . One field should be in the same area as the anticipated thesis. The fields selected must be from a minimum of two groups; no more than one field may be selected from Group IV. One field may be taken in a department outside History with the approval of the student's committee. Selection of fields and thesis topic must be approved by the student's committee, based on the current resources of the department.

  4. Graduate Committee. The student must secure the agreement of a member of the department faculty to supervise his or her work, at which time the student's graduate committee is formed. Ordinarily this committee consists of those faculty members supervising each of the student's fields of study, plus a faculty member outside the Department of History. (If a student is pursuing an examination field outside History, the faculty member supervising that field does not count as the outside member of the committee.) In all cases the student's committee must include at least two members of the Department of History and at least one faculty member from outside the Department. All committee members must be members of the Graduate Faculty.

  5. Program of Study Form. In consultation with the committee members and the Graduate Advisor, the student completes the "Advisory - Examining Committee/Program of Study" (Graduate School form). The student should list all courses that he or she plans to take en route to the degree and that will fulfill the requirements of the degree, including comprehensive exams (History 795) and thesis (History 797). It is imperative that the student consult with each member of his or her committee, so that all courses necessary for each examination field are included in the Program of Study. Members of the committee should not sign the form until the program-of-study meeting (see #12 below).

  6. Program of Study Meeting. Having completed the Program of Study form, the student arranges a meeting to be attended by all members of his or her committee and the Graduate Advisor. At this meeting, the student explains his or her program of study (fields and courses) and scholarly interests. The committee members and Graduate Advisor review the Program of Study form to ensure that it includes all courses necessary for the chosen fields and satisfies all requirements of the program. At this meeting, the committee members also determine which, if any, of the student's credits completed as a Graduate Special student or in graduate courses outside the University of Nevada, Reno may count toward the total degree requirements (see #13). If the Program of Study is deemed complete and satisfactory, the faculty members sign the form, which is then forwarded to the Graduate School for official approval and filing. Additional copies should be retained by the student and placed in the student's file in the Department. Once signed by the Graduate Dean, a copy will be returned to the Department.

  7. Transfer Credits. Credit completed as a Graduate Special student or in graduate courses outside the University of Nevada, Reno may or may not count toward the total degree requirements, at the discretion of the student's graduate committee. In no event may more than nine credits earned as a Graduate Special student or outside the University (or combination thereof) be applied to the degree.

    *After the Program of Study meeting, the student should submit the "Graduate Transfer Evaluation Request" (Graduate School form) to the Graduate Advisor, who will submit it to the Graduate School. The Graduate School staff checks to be certain that the transfer courses were offered for graduate-level credit and computes the equivalent number of semester hours (if the courses were taken on a quarter basis).

After beginning the M.A. program but before taking comprehensive examinations, the student must accomplish the following:

  1. Specific Course Work Requirements. In addition to History 600 (Proseminar), all candidates for the M.A. are required to take at least one of the following: History 700 (Cultural Studies and History), History 701 (Philosophy of History), History 780 (Methodology), History 781 (Historiography: The Americas), History 783 (Historiography), or History 785 (U.S. Historiography).

  2. 700-level Requirement. Students are required to complete at least 18 credits in 700-level courses, including six hours of thesis credit.

  3. Seminar Requirement. Ordinarily all graduate students working toward the M.A. will complete at least three seminars, including one in the major field of concentration, one in a non-major field, and one as described in #14 above.

    *If there is an examination field in which the student cannot complete a seminar, he or she should complete a directed readings course instead (History 703 or 705). Students should not take directed readings courses in lieu of available seminars. Also note: there is a maximum number of credits that may be taken under each directed readings course number (9 in History 698, 6 in History 697, 6 in History 703, 9 in History 705). Students should keep track of their credit hours in these courses, so as not to exceed the maximums. Any course taken under such an arrangement should be documented in writing (Department of History form), before the beginning of the semester and at the completion of the course. Completion of this form, signed by the supervising professor, is required for enrollment in independent-readings courses.

  4. Foreign Language Requirement. Reading knowledge of one foreign language other than the student's native language (not English) is required, the selection to be determined by the committee. Students undertaking thesis research which focuses on a foreign culture should expect to be examined in the principal language of that culture. The language requirement may be satisfied by: (1) two years of successful college work in one language, the fourth semester to be completed with at least the grade of "C"; (2) passing the foreign language placement test given at the University of Nevada, Reno (by the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures) at the second-year college level. This requirement must be satisfied before taking comprehensive examinations.

  5. Changes in Committee Members/Examination Fields. A student may change his or her examination fields or committee members only with the approval of his or her committee chair and the Graduate Advisor. Such changes may require the student to take additional courses. If the chair and Graduate Advisor determine that the resulting change in the student's program warrants a new program-of-study meeting, the student will arrange that meeting as in #10 above. A change in the student's major field and/or committee chair will ordinarily require a new program-of-study meeting. If the change does not warrant a new meeting, the student should complete the "Change in Advisory Committee" form (Graduate School form), obtain the requisite signatures of the outgoing and incoming committee members, and submit the form to the Graduate Advisor for processing.

Comprehensive Examinations:

  1. Objectives. The following are the expectations for successful completion of comprehensive examinations:
    1. Each exam should demonstrate knowledge of historiography in its field, based on the reading list.
    2. Each exam should demonstrate the ability to make reasoned observations about that historiography and/or about specific works.
    3. Each essay should demonstrate the ability to craft an argument in response to the question.

  2. Reading lists. In each examination field, the student is responsible for a reading list, developed in conjunction with the faculty member(s) supervising that field. Reading lists for M.A. comprehensive examinations consist of twenty to thirty books or their equivalent (where three or four articles are the equivalent of a book). In many fields, core lists of readings -- works required of all students in those fields - are available in the History office. In fields with core lists, the remainder of the student's reading beyond the core list will be determined in conjunction with the supervising faculty member(s). All comprehensive examination reading lists should be deposited in the History office, to be kept on file.

  3. Schedule. Students should take comprehensive exams in the semester when they complete 24 credits of course work, and no later than in the semester when they complete 30 credits of course work. Further extension must be requested (with reasons) in writing, and must be approved by all committee members and the Graduate Advisor. The Graduate Advisor schedules all exams within a one-week period, generally around the thirteenth week of the semester.

  4. Format. The candidate is examined in his or her three fields of study, with a three-hour written exam in each. Students are allowed no more than four hours to complete each exam. Previous comprehensive exams are kept on file in the Department of History; students may consult those exams in the History office.

  5. Evaluation. All exams are read by at least two members of the Department of History, except in fields taken outside the department. The department may permit the student to arrange for re-examination in case of failure. After all of a student's exams have been evaluated, readers' reports will be made available to the student.

  6. Credits. Comprehensive examinations (History 795) count for one credit. If a student must retake an exam after the semester in which exams were originally taken, he or she will receive a grade of Unsatisfactory, to be replaced with Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory after the re-examination.

After successful completion of comprehensive examinations:

  1. Prospectus/Seminar Paper Colloquium. Students will prepare and present to their committees a prospectus colloquium on the topic of their research. In advance of the colloquium, the student will submit to his or her committee a written thesis prospectus. The colloquium is a public event of roughly ninety minutes, to which the History faculty and graduate students are invited. Ordinarily the candidate will make a brief (15-20 minute) presentation on his or her research, followed by questions from the committee and others assembled. At the conclusion of the question-and-answer period, the committee will discuss the plans for further work (thesis or seminar papers) and will make recommendations to the candidate.

  2. Thesis. The following are the expectations for successful completion of the thesis:
    • Writing a good thesis begins with the formulation of a critical or analytical question or questions.
    • A thesis should demonstrate understanding of the historiography of the issue or question.
    • A thesis should demonstrate the student's use and understanding of primary resources, as appropriate and possible in the chosen thesis field.
    • A thesis should be the well-written product of critical analysis.
    • Given the differences among fields of study, the precise nature and length of an acceptable thesis ranges widely and ultimately must be determined in consultation with the student's committee and chair. As a rule of thumb, M.A. theses should not be longer than 100 pages.
    • The thesis should be submitted in the form prescribed in the Chicago Manual of Style, latest edition, and in accordance with the guidelines provided by the Graduate School. Students should obtain those guidelines at the beginning of the thesis process, in order to avoid reformatting later.

  3. Students must purchase and complete an online application for graduation in each semester when they wish to graduate.  The application is available at http://www.unr.edu/grad/apply.html
    • Applications are due March 1 for May Graduation; June 1 for August Graduation; and October 1 for December Graduation. (There is no longer a policy allowing graduation applications to "roll over" to a subsequent semester.)  See the Graduate School Website for details.
    • The application for graduation provides a final list of all courses the student has taken in order to complete the program. If that list in any way deviates from the one on the Program of Study form, the student must attach a "Change in Program of Study" form (Graduate School form) detailing the changes. If the student's committee has changed, he or she must attach the "Change of Advisory Committee" form (Graduate School form).
  4. Final Oral Examination (Thesis Colloquium). A final oral examination (60-90 minutes) will be conducted in which candidates will be expected to display a thorough and detailed understanding in the area of their thesis research. The thesis must be submitted to the committee members no later than one week before the oral examination (earlier if so directed by the committee chair). The final oral exam is a public event, to which the History faculty and graduate students are invited. Upon passage of the oral exam and acceptance of the thesis or seminar papers, the committee members sign the "Master's Degree - Notice of Completion" (Graduate School form).

    *The Notice of Completion form and the approved thesis are generally due to the Graduate School ten days to two weeks before the end of the semester in which the student intends to graduate. Deadlines are published on the Graduate School's website and in each semester's course schedule. It is the student's responsibility to plan his or her work so as to meet these various deadlines.


The following are the groups and fields of historical study open for M.A. candidates:
(applies to students entering the M.A. program beginning Spring 2002)

Group I:

  • American Colonial History to 1750
  • U.S. 1740-1815
  • U.S. 19th Century
  • U.S. 20th Century
  • U.S. Social History
  • U.S. Cultural/Intellectual History
  • U.S. Political/Constitutional History
  • African-American History
  • American Environmental History
  • Nevada and the West
  • U.S. Diplomatic History

Group II:

  • Medieval European history
  • Renaissance
  • Early Modern Europe
  • Europe 1789-1914
  • Europe 1890-present
  • European Cultural/Intellectual History
  • European Social History
  • British Isles since 1688
  • Modern Irish History
  • British Empire
  • Russia to 1900
  • 20th Century Russia

Group III:

  • Colonial Latin American History
  • 19th century Latin America
  • Contemporary Latin America
  • Traditional East Asian History
  • Modern East Asian history
  • 20th Century East Asia
  • Latin American Cultural/Social history
  • East Asian Cultural History
  • Ancient Africa
  • Modern Africa

Group IV:

  • Cultural Theory
  • Gender Studies
  • History of Science
  • History of Medicine
  • History of the Book
  • Popular Culture and Diaspora Studies
  • Comparative fields (such as slavery, socialism, environmental history, 16th-century studies)
  • Fields in other departments (such as Basque Studies, historical archaeology)