Department of History College of Arts and Sciences
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Guide for Graduate Students

Master of Arts in History

The program
Admission requirements
Nature of course offerings
Requirements and restrictions
Time limitation
Comprehensive examination
Statement of intent to graduate
Timetable for M.A. program
Forms and applications

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Master’s Thesis

If you decide to write a thesis, we encourage you to pick your topic early (at least one year before you hope to graduate) in consultation with a department member holding at least Associate Graduate Faculty status who agrees to direct the thesis as your thesis advisor. A thesis is always based upon primary research and normally is 16-25,000 words long. Based upon typical double-spaced pages in 12-point text of about 300 words each this comes to 55-83 pages.

After the advisor approves your thesis topic and you determine who will be on your thesis committee (see below), you must register the thesis with the Graduate School. There is a form for this available at, under the title “Thesis/Dissertation Proposal Defense.”

In consultation with your thesis advisor, choose the thesis committee; all prospective members must agree to serve and sign a form obtainable from Usually, a Thesis Committee will consist of the director and two readers, whom you may consult during the various phases of preliminary reading, research, and writing. When you complete your thesis, you will have to defend it, usually in conjunction with your comprehensive examination, but you and your thesis director may, for some reason, decide to have the two examinations separately. You will have to report the results of the thesis defense to the Graduate School, with copies to the Department of History and the Graduate Coordinator. You can get the form at

A member of the thesis committee, but not the director, may be from another department or another institution. Outside members must hold University of Memphis Adjunct graduate faculty status, which is available to them by filling out a short form ( and sending it, together with a current CV, to the Graduate Coordinator, who will seek the approval of the Graduate School. They don’t need to send the other statements that are mentioned on the form, and they should leave “current status” blank, unless they currently have graduate faculty status here.

All graduate committees, including this one, should normally consist of tenured and tenure-track faculty. Other instructors at University of Memphis, untenured or non-tenure track instructors from other institutions, and unaffiliated scholars, with appropriate graduate faculty status may serve, but only with the approval of the committee chair and by a formal petition to the Graduate Studies Committee providing a full explanation of the reasons for the request.

History students should follow the format recommended by the most recent edition of Kate L. Turabian, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations (Chicago: University of Chicago Press). The Chicago Manual of Style is also acceptable. Note that both manuals also give formats for the work-cited format, which is not the one we require (the notes-bibliography format). Everyone should have a copy of one of these books.

It is a good idea to discuss matters of format with the expert on this at the Graduate School; at the current time and for many years this has been Michelle Stout, She will also be the one to scrutinize your final manuscript and judge that it does or does not meet the requirements, and she is the one to whom you should submit your dissertation after making any revisions that your committee has required.

After your committee accepts your thesis and you have made all the revisions it requires, you must present your thesis to the Graduate School for approval of the final copy. You must submit your thesis to the Graduate School electronically. Make sure you are following the most recent guidelines and meet the deadline. All submissions must include an unnumbered abstract of not more than 350 words.

For the current thesis preparation guide and policies on submission to the Graduate School, see

Go to to see how the electronic system is set up to display and search for submitted theses and dissertations.

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Last Updated: 3/12/14