The MA in history is intended as a terminal degree that will prepare our students for careers in teaching, research, archives or museums, or business. Students who have been admitted to the PhD program in history earn the MA on the way to the PhD. Students admitted to the MA program may apply to the PhD program, but enrollment in the MA program does not confer an advantage in the PhD admissions process.
MA students must take eight courses (32 credits), usually taken as four courses (16 credits) per semester, to satisfy the requirements for the degree. The Department of History aims to familiarize graduate students with historiographical and methodological paradigms in fields beyond their own area of interest. All students in the MA program are thus required to take the following four courses:
- GRS HI 800: European Historiography
- GRS HI 850: American Historiography
- GRS HI 870: African Historiography
- GRS HI 801: The Historian’s Craft
HI 800, 850, and 870 are reading and research courses on historiographical issues and approaches in the areas where the department has special strengths. In contrast, The Historian’s Craft (HI 801) is a research seminar designed to help students move from the original conception of a problem to a publishable article.
Candidates for the MA may count courses designed primarily for undergraduates (numbered at the 500-700 level) for the degree. Students are also permitted to take up to one graduate level course in
relevant disciplines other than history. Courses taken at other accredited graduate schools or in other schools or colleges of Boston University not used toward the awarding of any other degree may be transferred on recommendation of the department. For the MA degree, no more than two such courses may be transferred. To be awarded the master’s degree, the candidate is expected to earn a grade point average of 3.3 or above. Note that a grade of B or lower constitutes a failing grade.
Major Research Paper/MA Capstone Experience
Within the context of HI 801 (see Course Requirements above) students will write a major research paper, which will be separately certified by the Graduate Studies Committee as the student’s capstone experience. The paper must be between 25 and 40 pages in length, the equivalent of a publishable journal article, based on primary sources, and meeting professional standards of documentation, argument, and literary structure. It will be graded by the instructor of HI 801, after which a copy of the paper must be approved by the student’s advisor and then submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies to determine if it fulfills the research requirement. A paper accepted as fulfilling the requirement remains in the student’s file.
Given the increasing globalization of research and the significant secondary literature produced outside the English-speaking world, the Department believes it is important for all of our students, including Americanists, to demonstrate a genuine ability to read research in foreign languages. To this end, we require that all MA candidates demonstrate a reading knowledge of one relevant foreign language.
Students can demonstrate reading proficiency in a foreign language in one of three ways:
- Language examinations. Students are given an excerpt from a scholarly text and asked to translate as much as they can as accurately as they can into good English (a dictionary is permitted). These exams are administered during the semester in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. Exams must be scheduled with an administrator at least 2 weeks in advance.
- Language courses. The Department of Romance Studies offers reading courses for graduate students in French (GRS LF 621), Italian (GRS LI 621), and Spanish (GRS LS 621). The Department of World Languages & Literatures offers a reading course for graduate students in German (GRS LG 621). Passing one of these reading courses fulfills the department’s requirement for the language in question. Note that these courses may not be taken for credit toward the degree.
- Prior graduate school certification. If the candidate has passed a reading examination at another accredited graduate school and submits evidence to that effect to the Director of Graduate Studies, the departmental requirement will be waived in most instances.
Applying for Graduation
Students must file an application for graduation in the Graduate School office (check with that office for deadlines). Note that an application is good only for the specified date (September, January, or May); if a student needs additional time to complete requirements, a new application must be filed. Note also that a student must be registered for the semester in which he or she graduates and in the preceding one and that a student must be registered for any semester in which a degree requirement is completed (such as submission of the research paper or passing the language examination).