Guidance for History M.A. Candidates

Overview of HIST 9600

The graduate history oral examination serves as the capstone of the M.A. in History program. Students take three credit hours of Independent Study (HIST 9600) to prepare for oral exams and presentation of a portfolio of three papers (in triplicate) to the history faculty. Upon nearing completion of degree work, candidates are required to pass the oral exam that covers the coursework that they have completed. The oral examination committee will consist of three professors. Candidates will also present, and defend, before the history faculty a portfolio of three papers (submitted in triplicate) that they have written in research seminars. Candidates may have no more than six credit hours of coursework pending at the time they attempt this examination. The examination, for which a student must register, will be given each semester, including summers, at times agreed upon by candidates and the history faculty.

When graduate students are in their last semester, they should register for HIST 9600 as a 3-credit course. They will need to register with a specific History faculty professor. That professor then takes charge of and directs the exam for that student.

HIST 9600 Deadline

Prior to enrolling in HIST 9600 , the candidate is responsible for contacting and securing a member of the graduate history faculty to supervise their oral examination. At the beginning of the semester when a student has enrolled in HIST 9600, the candidate should provide all three committee members with a one - to two - page document that: 1) summarizes the arguments of each of your papers in 1 - to - 2 paragraph abstracts for each paper, 2) identifies the common threads or themes that permeate their work (one paragraph), and 3) discusses what type of historian they are and who do they model themselves after (one or two paragraphs). The professors serving on the candidate's committee will use this information to suggest additional readings to the student to be read prior to the course. Four to eight weeks into the semester , in consultation with the candidate's advisor, the candidate should contact the other two members of your committee and schedule the date and time of their oral defense. Email is the ideal format to make these arrangement. Oral exams should be scheduled no later than one week before the end of the semester. At least two weeks before the examination, the candidate should provide their portfolio of three hard copy papers to each of their committee members. The exam focuses on the candidate's three research papers, course readings completed with the three faculty members of the committee , reading for their HIST 6000 Historiography course, and any additional reading assigned as oral prep. As the examination is an "oral" process, it is important for candidates to prepare themselves to engage in a scholarly discussion of their papers and readings.

The types of issues that are typically covered in an oral examination include:

  • Specifically, research papers' arguments, historiography, research methods, sources, and evaluation of sources.
  • Specifically, the major historical themes that emerge from the candidate's work.
  • In general, the candidate's historical approach (and methods) and intellectual positioning within the discipline.
  • In general, the candidate's ability to articulate arguments in the range of assigned course readings and oral preparation readings, particularly as relevant to their own work.
  • In general, the candidate's self-reflection on their progression as a historian and how their research has evolved.

Examination Preparation

In order to perform well on the examination, the candidate will need to - review , read, prepare , deliver , and engage on multiple fronts.

  • Review - All prior coursework, course texts, critical historians that you have studied, as well as your three research papers.
  • Read - Additional reading books/articles requested by professor as orals examination prep.
  • Prepare - An oral presentation that highlights the key elements of your papers, as well as your historical approach.
  • Deliver - A thoughtful, deliberate, and focused oral presentation that reveals your professional competence.
  • Engage - In a Master's level discussion with the faculty so as to demonstrate that you have a command of the material.

At Examination

At the start of the examination, the candidate will give a brief overview of their papers and the common threads that interlink them. After which, each professor will typically ask a few question about each paper and/or broader theoretical and historical issues. Specific questions might engage the relevant historiography, detailed elements of the paper, argumentation, the implications of their argument, the historical context, and anything about related books/articles from Readings seminars or HIST 6000: Historiography course completed by the student. Professors commonly request candidate to complete additional reading in preparation for the orals exam. Candidates will be inquired about those additional readings as well. After completing the oral examination, the candidate will be asked to leave the room and the faculty will vote to pass or not pass the candidate. The final course grade for HIST 9600 is determined by both the oral exam performance and the overall impression of final, re-edited, papers submitted for the exam. Examinations typically take 1.5 to 2 hours total.


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