The UIC Department of History welcomes applications for its stand-alone Master's program. Students usually take two years to complete the program, and leave with an MA in History. The application deadline for the Masters program is February 15.
Below you'll find some helpful links and details of the program requirements.
MA students concentrate on one major and two minor fields of study, and the minor fields must be distinct in space or time from the major field.
MA Degree Requirements:
- Earn a grade of A or B in History 501, Introduction to the Graduate Study of History. This course is ordinarily taken during the first semester of graduate study.
- Complete at least 32 credit hours in graduate-level courses. At least 20 of these credit hours must be taken in courses at the 500 level and at least 16 of those credit hours must be in 500 level courses taught by members of the graduate faculty in the Department of History. Students enrolled in courses listed at the 400 level will be expected to undertake extra work or demonstrate a higher standard of proficiency than undergraduates enrolled in the course. No student may receive graduate credit for a course below the 400 level.
- Maintain a grade point average of at least 3.0
- Earn a grade of A or B in one research seminar. The research seminar requires preparation of a major research paper based on primary sources.
- Complete the colloquia series required for the student’s major and minor fields. (Students majoring in Colonial America and the United States are required to pass History 551 parts 1 and 2. Students majoring in other fields should consult with their faculty adviser and the Director of Graduate Studies to determine which colloquia are required.)
- Demonstrate a reading knowledge of one foreign language. This is normally done by taking the Foreign Language Exam. Faculty advisers may require that students demonstrate competence in additional languages if they deem it necessary for the field of study.
- Successfully pass Comprehensive Exams in two minor fields and one major field.
Note: Any exceptions to these requirements must have the support of the student’s faculty adviser and the approval of the Graduate Advisory Committee.
Foreign Language Requirement
Graduate students at the M.A. and Ph.D. programs must demonstrate a reading knowledge of one language other than English. The purpose of this requirement is different for students who will be working extensively with foreign-language sources while in graduate school than for students who will not, so the History Department has designed two paths to fulfillment of the requirement. Students are to select one of the two paths in consultation with their advisors.
Path I. This path is intended for Ph.D. students who will be working extensively (i.e. on a daily or weekly basis) with foreign-language primary and secondary sources in their research for the dissertation. The goal is to ensure that these students are adequately prepared to comprehend, analyze, and translate sources in at least one of the primary languages in which they will be working. Students on Path I must successfully pass a written exam, which comprises translating a passage of college-level prose, roughly one page in length, into standard English. Students are given two hours to complete the exam, for which they are allowed use of a dictionary. The text is selected and the exam is read by a two-member faculty committee (either from inside or outside of the History Department) appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. A passing grade is given for an exam that demonstrates graduate-level proficiency in translating the text both in its specific details and in its overall meaning, not by translating it word for word but by conveying the sense of each sentence clearly and correctly. If a student fails the exam, it may be twice retaken.
Path II. This path is designed for Ph.D. students who will not regularly depend on foreign-language sources for their research, as well as for all students in the terminal-M.A. program. The goal is to ensure that these students possess a basic ability to understand written work in at least one language other than English, sufficient to allow them to read primary and secondary sources with a general level of comprehension when they encounter them. Such familiarity with, if not fluency in, another language is an increasingly important qualification for teaching, scholarship, and participation in the profession for all historians today, especially given the transnational turn of historical scholarship in all fields and the multilingual diversity of high-school and college history students. This requirement is intended to encourage a broad acquaintance with non-English sources and perspectives, providing a gateway for scholars of British and U.S. history in particular to pursue lines of inquiry that cross the English-language border. Students on Path II may fulfill the language requirement either by passing a written exam or by taking a course:
- The written exam for Path II calls for paraphrasing rather than translating a passage of college-level prose, roughly one page in length, and then answering a brief series of guided questions about the text. Students are given two hours to complete the exam, for which they are allowed use of a dictionary. The text is selected and the exam is read by a two-member faculty committee (either from inside or outside of the History Department) appointed by the Director of Graduate Studies. A passing grade is given for an exam that demonstrates basic comprehension of the main ideas and overall meaning of the text. If a student fails the exam, it may be twice retaken.
- Alternatively, students on Path II may fulfill the requirement by completing and receiving a grade of “A” or “B” in a relevant language course. This can be either a graduate-level readings course (e.g., French 401: Reading French for Graduate Students, or German 400: German for Reading Knowledge) or a 104-level undergraduate language course (i.e., the intermediate level corresponding to the fourth semester of college language instruction).
All graduate students must complete the language requirement no later than the semester prior to taking the Comprehensive or Preliminary Exams. In special cases, students may request postponements or waivers of the language requirement, in consultation with their advisors, by petitioning the Graduate Advisory Committee. Such waivers may be granted, for example, to Ph.D. students who are native non-English speakers or whose research plans require special training in a skill comparable to learning a language, such as quantitative analysis. Students in the terminal-M.A. program may be granted waivers if no foreign language is directly relevant to their studies.
The MA Exam
Comprehensive Examinations for the stand-alone MA Degree in History at UIC
- The purpose of the comprehensive exam is to give students the opportunity to demonstrate mastery in three areas of historical inquiry.
- Students must take comprehensive exams in one major field and two minor fields. One minor field must be distinct in space or time from the major field, and is usually thematic in nature.
- Students generally take their comprehensive exams during the second year of graduate study.
- Students need not be enrolled during the semester in which they take their exam.
- The comprehensive exams are offered twice each year, once in the fall and once in the spring.
- Students must submit to the Graduate Secretary a written application that lists the major and minor fields as well as the members of the graduate faculty with whom the student has worked. The application must be signed by the student’s adviser. The application deadline is posted each semester by the Graduate Secretary.
- Students who plan to take comprehensive exams should meet with the appropriate faculty member in each minor field at least six months prior to the exam.
- The major field exam takes three hours. Each minor field exam takes two hours. Examinations take place during a single week, with each test scheduled for a different day.
- Ordinarily the major field exam is graded by three faculty members and the minor fields by two faculty members. Students can pass with distinction (for performances of superior quality), pass, or fail. If a student fails all or part of any portion of the exam the student may re-take that portion up to two times. Should the student fail a minor field, the student may choose to be examined again in a different minor field, in which case the student must re-apply for the exam. The student may exercise this option of switching fields only once. Students who fail one or more portions of the exam may petition to retake the exam before the next regularly scheduled exam period. Students who fail any part of the comprehensive exam three times will have their status in the program automatically reviewed by the GAC, with dismissal from the program a possible outcome.
- Exam questions are often historiographic and/or analytical and are not necessarily restricted to topics that are covered in particular courses.
- Students who pass the comprehensive examination must apply, in writing, to the Graduate Secretary in order to receive their degree. Those continuing on to pursue the PhD must also do this in order to have the MA posted on their transcript.
Preparing for Exams
Major field exams are generally based on colloquia readings and topics covered during the past three years. The faculty in each major field construct a standard bibliography of important works in the field organized according to the most important themes in the field—areas of inquiry that any student would be expected to master (e.g. French Revolution in modern Europe; slavery in U.S.). The list includes recommended readings for each theme. Each student prepares an individualized major field list derived largely from this longer bibliography. Each theme should be covered, but not every work in every category need be on each student’s list. Lists will require regularly updating, approximately every three years. Students are responsible for developing their own minor field reading lists in conjunction with their advisors and other faculty in the minor field area. Examination questions are often historiographical and analytical and are not necessarily restricted to topics covered in particular graduate courses. For this reason, it is extremely important for students to consult those members of the graduate faculty who are responsible for examination fields in order to become familiar with expectations. Students are strongly encouraged to consult previous exam questions, as well as a range of course syllabi. Previous exam questions in most fields, as well as many course syllabi, are available for inspection and photocopying in the Graduate Secretary’s office.
Exam readers will be selected within the first two weeks of each semester for that semester’s exam, and the identity of the readers for each field will be made known to the students at that time. Conversely, readers will also receive the names and contact information for all exam takers in their fields.
Students are strongly encouraged to meet with the chairs of their exam committees. In large fields (such as U.S. history) committee chairs may prefer to organize one general meeting for all exam takers rather than meeting individually with a relatively large number of students.
It is possible to petition to take the major field examination in an area not included in the History Department’s official list. Students who wish to explore this option must consult with the Director of Graduate Studies.
Minor field examinations are based on reading lists compiled by the student in consultation with two faculty members who specialize in that area. Students should develop minor fields in consultation with their advisers.
Students may petition to take minor field exams in areas not included in the History Department’s approved list. The petition must be endorsed by at least two faculty members who are competent to administer the exam. In certain circumstances, one or both faculty members may come from outside the Department of History. All petitions for special fields must be submitted for approval to the Graduate Advisory Committee. (This does not apply to MAT students preparing a minor field in the College of Education.) Petitions for special fields must be submitted at least one semester prior to the examination.
Traditional MA Timeline
This is a list of time-sensitive steps in the process of acquiring an MA as the final degree in the UIC Department of History. It is not a list of all degree requirements. Italics indicate that this is a logical semester in which to complete this item, although it is not necessary to do it during this semester. Note: All calendar dates are approximate. For exact dates for each academic year, consult the Director of Graduate Studies.
Take Hist 501.
Take colloquium in major field. For students in U.S. history, take Hist 551(a).
First opportunity to apply for foreign language examination: Oct. 5.
For U.S. history students, take Hist 551(b).*
Possible semester for seminar.*
Second opportunity to apply to take foreign language exam: Feb. 1
Possible semester for seminar.
Last opportunity to apply for foreign language examination: Oct. 5. Must fulfill foreign language requirement this semester.
Apply for graduation (online): Feb. 1.
Apply to take comprehensive exams: Feb. 1
Comprehensive exams: March 20.
Graduate with MA.
*Students should be aware that the combination of a major field colloquium and a seminar taken in the same semester involves a lot of work, although it may be doable, depending on other commitments.