History MA Program

For essential information about admission and program requirements for the Master of Arts in History, refer to the department’s official calendar entry and read the General Graduate Regulations.

A short synopsis of our MA program:

Semester 1

History 814
Begin History 815
One or two other courses/directed readings

Semester 2

Continue and complete History 815 by defending thesis prospectus
One or two other courses/directed readings

Semesters 3 - 6

Research, thesis write-up, and defence

What to expect (in more detail):


  • Read the General Graduate Regulations and the History Department website
  • Contact Senior Supervisor to discuss course selection
  • Register for courses

First Semester:

  • Attend orientation
  • Meet with Senior Supervisor
  • Take 814, 815, other courses
  • Attend teaching, grant-writing, and professional development workshops
  • Discuss the composition of your committee with your Senior Supervisor, who will submit the Approval of Supervisory Committee form to the Graduate Secretary by the end of the semester
  • Apply for SSHRC (for Canadian students with the minimum GPA of 3.67)

Second Semester:

  • Coursework
  • Finish 815 and defend prospectus

Third Semester:

  • Meet with your Senior Supervisors to establish clear expectations for the first research semester

Fourth Semester:

  • Progress Reports:
    • By September 15 (and annually hereafter) submit Report of Progress Through the Graduate Program to Senior Supervisor
    • Meet with Senior Supervisor to discuss and sign off on your report and his/her assessment made on the Evaluation of Progress report
    • Both signed reports submitted by Senior Supervisor to Graduate Secretary by Oct 6
  • Begin attending Candidates’ Seminar to assist in the writing process (participation should continue until the student has completed thesis)

Subsequent Research Semesters:

  • Attend Candidates’ Seminar
  • Meet at least once a semester with Senior Supervisor to discuss progress.

Semester of Thesis Defence:

  • Decide with your Senior Supervisor when your thesis is ready to defend
  • When the date has been set, your Senior Supervisor will notify the Graduate Secretary of the intention to proceed to the defence
  • Make an appointment with Graduate Secretary to go over details on preparing for defence
  • Recommendation of Examining Committee form is prepared by Graduate Secretary and forwarded to Dean of Graduate Studies office
  • Format your thesis in accordance with the University’s specifications.
  • Read the Dean of Graduate Studies’ Examination Best Practices.
  • After the defence and when all revisions are approved by Senior Supervisor make a second appointment with the Graduate Secretary for final details on submitting thesis to the library

 Preparation for your Thesis: MA Thesis Prospectus, Thesis, and Defence

MA Thesis Prospectus

All MA students must write and defend a thesis prospectus. Students will work on their prospectus during HIST 815 and in consultation with their Supervisory Committee. A thesis prospectus should present a coherent thesis topic and engage with existing scholarly work about the topic. The thesis prospectus will be 10 - 15 pages in length. It should contain:

  • A precise definition of the topic.
  • A demonstration of critical awareness of scholarly literature.
  • A statement of the significance of the topic in relation to existing knowledge
    and theory in the area.
  • A discussion of principal sources and a rationale for the chosen methodology.
  • Where applicable, a discussion of research ethics.

All students proposing research involving human subjects, including oral history, whether funded or unfunded, must have their research approved in advance by the Office of Research Ethics. The approval normally should be sought prior to the prospectus defence. We advise students to take the Tri-Council Course on Research Ethics and to work closely with their Senior Supervisor to craft their application for ethics approval.

The thesis prospectus defence consists of a brief presentation (no more than 10 minutes) on the prospectus followed by 2 rounds of questions by the Supervisory Committee.

  • One of three recommendations can be made by the Supervisory Committee to the GPC:
  • That the student proceeds to work on the thesis.
  • That the student revises the thesis prospectus as specified by the prospectus
    examining committee and then proceed to work on the thesis.
  • That the student be required to submit a revised proposal for another defence.
    The total number of revised proposals will be limited to a maximum of two.

MA Thesis and Defence

MA students write a thesis of between 15,000 and 21,000 words, including footnotes (excluding bibliography). Shorter or longer theses may be submitted only with the graduate chair's prior approval. If a thesis will exceed the word limit, the graduate chair must give formal approval prior to scheduling the defence.

The History Department has adopted the Chicago Manual of Style as its style manual, but the more concise Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses and Dissertations by Kate L. Turabian will be adequate for most purposes.

Before a defence date can be set, the Supervisory Committee must have read a complete draft of the thesis and agreed that it is ready to be defended. Agreement does not mean that the thesis is perfect; merely that it is defensible. The Supervisory Committee may raise questions and challenge key aspects of the thesis during the oral examination.

In addition to the Supervisory Committee, the thesis defence examining committee includes a member of faculty at the university, or a person otherwise suitably qualified, who is not a member of the student's supervisory committee. The master's examiner may not be a member of the same department as the one granting the degree, unless a waiver is granted by the Dean of Arts and Social Sciences or designate.”

Refer to the Library’s Thesis Assistance page and the University’s General Graduate Regulations for more detailed information about MA thesis submission and defence.