Master of Arts Program

The M.A. program is broadly concerned with skills development (written and oral) and advanced learning, rather than with pre-professional training for academic scholars. While the master’s program does prepare students for entry into the doctoral program, it is equally aimed at enhancing the skills and historical perspective of teachers, lawyers, journalists, museum professionals, editors, and others in both the public and private sectors.

Advisory Committee

Upon admission to the program, a student is assigned a major advisor to act as chair of an advisory committee. At least two associate advisors also serve on the committee and are selected by the student by the end of the first year of study. A student’s program of study must be developed with the major advisor and have the concurrence of the associate advisors.


Students elect one of two programs in pursuing the master’s degree.

  • Plan A requires a minimum of 21 credits of course work, mainly at the 5000 level, plus a thesis. In addition all Plan A students must complete 9 credits of Master’s Thesis Research (GRAD 5950 or GRAD 5960).
  • Plan B, which is the option chosen by most students, requires a minimum of 30 credits of course work and no thesis.
  • Under both plans, no more than 6 credits may be taken at the 3000 level. (Graduate students may not take 2000 level courses for credit.)
  • Additionally, students on either plan may take no more than 6 credits as independent studies (History 5199). If students have special reasons for an exemption to this latter rule, they can present a petition to the Graduate Committee.
  • In both Plans A and B, course requirements are the formal minimum; students with deficient backgrounds in history may be required to take additional courses without credit toward the degree.

Course work is ordinarily taken in at least two areas of history in the interest of balance. Students should design a curriculum so that some of the courses have a common thematic or topical focus. History 5101 is required for all master’s graduate students and should be taken as early as possible in the student’s career. History 5102 (Historical Research and Writing), a three-credit course that is normally taken in the spring, is required of all master’s candidates who opt for Plan B. Graduate students may take for degree credit up to two graduate-level courses in other UConn departments. These courses should be chosen in consultation with the student’s advisory committee and should make a clear contribution to the student’s program.

A master’s student must complete the equivalent of one year of full-time study at this institution, on a full- or part-time basis.


Under Plan A, the thesis must represent independent investigation of a significant topic. The choice of the topic is made in consultation with the major advisor and must have the concurrence of the advisory committee.

Plan of Study

Before the completion of twelve credits of appropriate course work, the student must submit a formal Plan of Study to the Graduate School; forms for this purpose are available in the departmental graduate office and at the Graduate School’s website. The plan is prepared with the advice and approval of the student’s major advisor and advisory committee. A copy of the plan should also be submitted to the graduate office.

Master’s Final Examination

The M.A. in History is designed to allow students to think broadly about historical scholarship. The M.A. final examination, therefore, gives students the opportunity to make the achievement of the M.A. more than the sum of the courses they have taken, pulling together the knowledge and skills acquired in classes to think critically, develop larger ideas, and participate in the debates about the practice of history, broadly defined. The foundation of the M.A. exam is a field of focus, defined by each student in collaboration with an advisor and advisory committee. The exam includes both written and oral components.


Early in the third semester of the program, the student will begin to plan the field of focus in conjunction with an appropriate advisor, who will serve as the chair of the examination committee. This advisor may or may not be the same faculty member originally assigned to the student, depending on the intellectual direction of the student’s course of study. The student and advisor will then identify two other appropriate committee members.

By the seventh week of the third semester, each M.A. student must file a Plan of Study with the department and the graduate school, laying out the coursework leading to the degree and naming the student’s advisor and advisory committee, who will also serve as the examination committee.

In consultation with all three committee members, the student will refine the field of focus and develop a list of 15-18 books (or their equivalent), many but not all of which the student will have already read during course work, and which permit the student to think broadly across the historiography. Students are encouraged to meet with the committee as a group as part of the development of the field of focus and reading list. The student must have the field of focus and final reading list approved by all three committee members before the end of the third semester.

No later than a week before the designated exam period, the advisor will coordinate the development by the committee of historiographical questions for a written examination based on the field and the list. One question will address the chosen field broadly. Two questions will each investigate a more specific topic in greater depth. The student will be required to write two essays: one in response to the broad question and the other in response to the student’s choice of either of the more specific questions. Each question will anticipate a 4 – 6 pp. (approximately 1500 word) response.

A specific time early in the fourth semester (early February, usually) will be designated for all 4th semester M.A. students to take the individually designed written component of their M.A. exam. The examination period will begin on a Friday and end ten days later on a Monday. The exam will be open book and open note, word processed and appropriately footnoted. (Faculty will be asked to be aware of this exam timing when devising their syllabi, considering both expectations in graduate seminars and grading loads for teaching assistants.)

All three members of the committee will read the written exam, and specific responses to areas of strength as well as those that require study and improvement prior to the oral exam will be coordinated through the student’s advisor. The advisor will meet with the student approximately two weeks after the exam period is over, and will provide those directions in a single coordinated format in writing as well as discussing them with the student.

During the last three weeks of the fourth semester, a one-hour oral exam will be held. The oral exam will entail further consideration of the written questions, the student’s written answers, and the issues raised by the committee in response to the written work, including as they relate to the reading list as a whole.


Final assessment of the M.A. exam will be based on a combination of the student’s performance on the written questions, the student’s responses to recommended areas of further attention, and performance in the oral exam. The exam will be graded as a whole, achieving a pass with distinction, a pass, or a failure. If, after the oral examination, the student is judged by the committee to have failed, the student will not receive the M.A. without retaking the oral portion of the exam. The student must retake the oral exam the following semester, after having further reviewed the committee’s instructions for preparation. No further financial support will be granted for this preparation.