The Master’s Degree

The M.A. in History emphasizes the development of analytical research skills necessary for studying the past. The curriculum focuses on the comprehension and appraisal of historiographical perspectives and debates, the methodologies and practices of research in primary sources, and the development of skills necessary for the interpretation of the past for a public audience.  The program offers a choice among three areas of concentration: American History,  European and World History, and Public History. The curriculum is designed to serve students with a variety of goals, including those interested in teaching; those pursuing careers with business, labor, or community organizations; those seeking employment in historical agencies, museums, historical societies, or archives; those desiring the intellectual stimulation of a challenging discipline; and those interested in continuing advanced education.

Degree Requirements


During the first semester of study, each student is assigned an initial academic advisor who assists in defining career goals, selecting courses, and developing an education plan. However, students are free to change advisors and are encouraged to select thesis and project advisors who most closely fit their interests and with whom they can work most effectively. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with their advisor regularly, especially before enrolling for their first and last semesters. Questions about advising may be directed to the Department by email ( or by phone at (217) 206-6779.

Grading Policy

Students must earn a grade of B or better in all courses counting toward the master’s degree. History graduate students may repeat program courses for grade improvement only once. Students may also repeat a thesis or project defense only once.

NOTE: Students also should refer to the campus policy on Grades Acceptable Toward Master’s Degrees section of this catalog.

Graduate Credit for 400-Level Courses

Graduate students in the American and the European and World History concentrations may use no more than 12 hours of 400-level course work towards their degrees. Students in the Public History concentration may use no more than four hours of 400-level course work towards their degrees.

Graduate students enrolled in 400-level courses are expected to perform at a higher level than undergraduates and to complete extra work as defined by the instructor. Examples of such work include reading and reporting on material in addition to that required of undergraduate students, completing an annotated bibliography in the professional literature of the field, or meeting separately with the instructor to research a specified topic.

If a course has an “ECCE” designation, M.A. students need permission from the instructor to register and are encouraged to consult with their academic advisors about the suitability of the course.

Master’s Closure

To attain a master’s degree, the student must complete a closure exercise appropriate to the chosen area of concentration. Candidates must successfully complete 12 hours of the core requirements (HIS 501, HIS 503, and one HIS 510 seminar) before enrolling in credit hours toward the closure requirement (HIS 560, HIS 570, or HIS 580).

The thesis (HIS 580) is a formal written presentation of historical research based on primary sources. The project (HIS 570) derives from an internship served with an historical agency or other entity. The position paper and historiography (HIS 560) is a thorough written examination and evaluation of the essential secondary sources devoted to a specifically defined topic.

The position paper and historiography is offered in the recognition that primary research facilities in European and world history topics pose difficulty of access. The student is encouraged to master the research and analysis undertaken by professional historians in these areas.

In each case, the student will defend the completed exercise before a committee comprised of at least three faculty members (two from the History Department, one from another academic program). The thesis or project must be successfully defended for the student to receive credit for the closure requirement. Students may repeat a defense only once, at the discretion of the committee.