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MA Degree Requirements


A minimum of 30 credit hours of graduate work is required to complete the program. Fifteen of these credits must be at the 6600-level.

Program Curriculum 30 credits total
Required Courses    
HIST 6600 Graduate Proseminar 3
HIST 6620 Research and Writing Seminar 3

HIST 6645

or HIST 6650

Independent Research Project

or Thesis

6600-level courses

These may include repeating required courses listed above

5550-level courses Content courses vary 9
Additional graduate level course   3

*This course will develop students’ ability to use digital tools (such as GIS or digital media) and/or further improve their academic and professional marketability (such as in grant writing, digital/graphic communication, or pedagogy).

Coursework Limitations

Students may count no more than six credits from outside the History Department, including the required digital or professional development course, toward their degree, as approved by the Graduate Director.

Capstone Requirement

Student capstone project will be a portfolio or thesis, as outlined below.

Paths to the Degree

In addition to completing 30 graduate credits and core requirements, students prepare a capstone project, demonstrate their competency in a public talk, and conduct an oral defense overseen by a department graduate committee.

Capstone Options

1. Portfolio

All new students enter the program on the Portfolio path. The Portfolio path showcases competency across several categories. Students submit a professional portfolio of their work prior to their defense (see defense deadlines within the Graduate Catalog). A student’s Portfolio will contain five of the following elements, chosen in consultation with their graduate advisor. Items 5 and 6 are required of all graduate students in history.

  1. A professional resume or curriculum vitae (C.V.)

  2. A cover letter or letter of intent

  3. A primary, secondary, or college-level lesson plan

  4. A grant or funding proposal

  5. A historiographical literature review within the student’s subject field

  6. An article, based on original research into primary sources, that conforms to the standards of an identified journal in the student’s subject field. This is usually prepared in HIST 6620*

  7. A book review adhering to the standards of an identified journal in the student’s subject field

  8. A detailed analysis of a Digital Component that complements the student’s subject field and which was developed from the Digital or Other Professional Development Elective Course noted above. This should explain the tool and its uses, assess its value and limits in historical interpretation, and place its use in the broader context of digital history scholarship. 

  9. A detailed lesson plan for teaching a significant historical problem in a primary, secondary, or college-level classroom.

  10. A digital presentation of research and interpretation. This may take the form of a story map, timeline, website, podcast, or other digital tool. It should be publicly accessible online. 

  11. A product and/or report from a student’s internship experience, such as a museum display, archival inventory, public history report or brochure, or public presentation.

*Faculty in the student’s research field will advise on appropriate journals and source materials.

The student will submit their Portfolio in digital format to the Director of Graduate Studies for distribution amongst their committee.

Committee & Supervision

Portfolio path students committees function as internal review boards that ensure the integrity of student work. Faculty serving on the committee rotate each semester. Guidance on various Portfolio elements is provided by a student’s graduate supervisor, who is assigned to each graduate student

2. Thesis

The Thesis path prepares students for postgraduate study. Students pursuing the Thesis path must inform the Director of Graduate Studies within their first semester. Requests to be placed on the Thesis path must contain the following elements, prepared as a cohesive document, and submitted by the beginning of a student’s second semester: 

  • Provisional Thesis title
  • Overall Thesis abstract (250-500 words) 
  • Outline of potential chapters (150-200 words each) that include arguments, cohesion statements, and general themes.
  • Potential Sources and Methodology 
  • A Graduate Committee formed from two department members (Committee Chair and Committee Member) and a Graduate Faculty Representative (GFR). 

The Director of Graduate Studies determines a student’s request for transfer to the Thesis path within two weeks of its submission. If denied, the student may revise and resubmit. If accepted, supervisors and students will devise a timeline for chapter submissions, meetings, and feedback.

A student accepted to the Thesis path will prepare a manuscript of at least 15,000 words that, in addition to exploring the proposed subject, develops a digital element complementary to that work. The thesis should contain the following elements, further details for which are available on the ISU Graduate School website:

  • Title Page
  • Signature Page
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Thesis Introduction
  • Chapters
  • Thesis Conclusion
  • Bibliography

Citation should conform to the most recent edition of Turabian Chicago Style. 

Committee & Supervision

Full graduate faculty supervise graduate students (committee chairs and committee members), help direct their research, suggest coursework, help to identify external funding sources, conference opportunities, and job prospects, and guide development in digital humanities training. They do this in tandem with students. It is the student’s responsibility to seek guidance in these areas and to be proactive.

Preparing to Graduate

Program of Study

The Program of Study will list all requirements that must be completed in order to receive the degree. A Program of Study, using departmental form, must be submitted to and approved by the Graduate School the semester prior to the semester in which a student intends to graduate. The submission date is defined as: the date the program of study is submitted to the Graduate School with all student, department, and college signatures. See "Dates, Deadlines, and Procedures" for specific dates, updated annually. The Graduate School website also outlines application to graduate procedures and fees.

Students should obtain the Program of Study form from the Director of Graduate Studies.

MA Defense

Both Portfolio and Thesis path students sit an oral defense, which has three components.

1. An informative public talk that includes the following elements:

  • A 30-40-minute talk outlining the student’s project (article-length piece or Thesis)
  • Explanation of the Digital Component complementing that research
  • Visual complement or interactive demonstration aligned to the research

2. Questions from the audience, after which the public is asked to leave.

3. Questions from the graduate committee, after which the candidate is asked to leave and the committee votes “pass” or “fail.” The candidate then returns and is given the committee’s decision, after which the defense is concluded.