History M.A. Assessment Plan

Mission Statement

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.

Master of Arts students in History pursue the degree for diverse reasons. Some anticipate applying to Ph.D. programs, either at UNR or nationally. More hope to use the degree for other sorts of professional work: teaching at the community college or high school level; work in cultural resource management or state or federal agencies; employment in public history (museums, historic preservation); research in the private sector. Still others pursue the M.A. degree for the love of history, without specific career objectives. The Department of History welcomes all of these reasons, while expecting all M.A. students to achieve the outcomes described below.

The Department of History reviewed and revised its Master of Arts program requirements substantially in 1993-1994 and again in 1999-2000. The former revision led to creation of the introductory Pro-seminar (History 600), which introduces new students to professional expectations and requirements for the degree, as well as to the fields offered in the Department. The latter revision honed the descriptions of comprehensive examinations and the thesis, to clarify what students are expected to demonstrate.

Program Outcomes

1. Students will be prepared with the knowledge and skills required for future productive research, effective teaching, and independent reading and scholarship.

Student Performance Indicators

  • Student success rate finding professional employment, as reported by students; or student success rate applying to Ph.D. programs, as reported by students; or student satisfaction with the outcomes of the degree.

Assessment Method

  • Tracking of alumni (approx. every two years) through surveys about use of the M.A. degree. Number of graduates who applied to Ph.D. programs who were admitted.

Student Learning Outcomes

1. Students will be able to demonstrate historical knowledge and understanding of particular periods, geographical regions, and topics in history.

Student Performance Indicators
  • Every M.A. student writes a thesis, generally focused in one of the comprehensive examination fields. The thesis is expected to demonstrate proficiency in its topic, and familiarity with the larger scholarly field of that topic.
  • Every M.A. student takes at least 25 credits of course work, most in courses focused on a historical period, place/region, or subject of inquiry.
  • Every M.A. student chooses three fields of concentration (comprehensive examination fields), and takes at least six credits in each of these fields.
Assessment Method
  • The Thesis
    1. Every M.A. student prepares a prospectus of his/her thesis, which is presented in writing and at a thesis prospectus colloquium attended by his/her advisory-examining committee. The committee must approve the proposal for the thesis to proceed.
    2. Every M.A. thesis is read by all members of the student's advisory-examining committee, who must approve the thesis in order for the student to graduate.
    3. Every M.A. student has a final oral exam (thesis defense), evaluated by the advisory-examining committee.
  • Individual faculty members grade each student's performance in course work. At least once a year, the Graduate Advisor evaluates every student's overall progress.
  • Fields of Concentration:
    1. In selecting the fields, the student meets with his/her entire Advisory-Examining Committee (the faculty supervising the fields) to approve the Program of Study, no later than the completion of nine credits.
    2. Written comprehensive examinations (four hours each), taken after completion of at least 24 credits, test proficiency in the fields; each exam is evaluated by at least two members of the faculty. Each reader writes an evaluation of the exam; students receive copies of these evaluations.

2. Students will be able to define historiography (the history of historical scholarship and debate), and demonstrate familiarity with the particular historiography of their chosen examination and thesis fields.

Student Performance Indicators
  • All M.A. students take comprehensive examinations in three fields. Examinations are based on essay questions, primarily dealing with historical scholarship in those fields.
  • All M.A. students must take at least one core seminar in historiography or historical methods (History 700, 701, 780, 781, 782, 783).
  • All M.A. students write a master's thesis, which must demonstrate familiarity with the relevant existing scholarship on its topic.
Assessment Method
  • Every comprehensive examination is read and evaluated by at least two members of the faculty. Each reader writes an evaluation of the exam; students receive copies of these evaluations.
  • Individual faculty grade each student's performance in core seminars. At least once a year, the Graduate Advisor evaluates every student's overall progress.
  • The thesis prospectus (see above) must include a bibliography of relevant scholarship. In reading the student's thesis and in the final oral exam, members of his/her advisory-examining committee evaluate its effective use of existing scholarly literature.

3. Students will be able to demonstrate proficiency in critical inquiry and historical research methods.

Student Performance Indicators
  • On comprehensive examinations, the student should demonstrate the ability to make reasoned observations about the relevant historiography and/or about specific works, and to craft an argument in response to each question.
  • In most courses, students are required to perform research in primary source materials and/or in historical scholarship.
  • The thesis must be a work of original scholarship, based on research in primary sources and current methods of historical analysis.
Assessment Method
  • Every comprehensive examination is read and evaluated by at least two members of the faculty. Each reader writes an evaluation of the exam; students receive copies of these evaluations.
  • Individual faculty grade each student's performance in course work.
  • The thesis prospectus (see above) explains the primary sources to be used and the methodology to be applied. In reading the student's thesis and in the final oral exam, members of his/her advisory/examining committee evaluate its methodology for currency and appropriate use.