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Program Overview and Requirements

Program Overview

The Master of Arts in history requires satisfactory completion of 30 units of coursework, or ten separate courses at the 500-, 600-, or 700-level.  500-level courses are mixed graduate/undergraduate, with caps of 50;  600-level courses are discussion-based directed readings seminars exclusive to graduate students, with caps of 15;  700-level courses are individualized Special Studies.  While completing your required coursework, you will choose either Plan A (Thesis) or Plan B (Exam) as the culminating project for the degree.

You will also need to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language.  Language requirements may be satisfied with 12-semester units in a foreign language (taken as an undergraduate or graduate student), or with a translation exam. 

Full-time enrollment for a graduate student is 9 units (3 graduate courses) per semester.  It is not recommended that you take any more than 3 courses per semester unless you are also taking language courses.  Language courses are not graduate courses, so they do not count toward the required 30 units.  Our program is flexible, so if you work full-time or have other obligations, you can do coursework on a part-time basis.  Part-time tuition is the same for 0 to 6 units, and full-time tuition is charged for any enrollment over six units (including language courses).  All 600-level graduate seminars are offered one time per week from 4 to 6:40 PM.

A 12-unit Graduate Certificate in Public History is also offered through the Center for Public and Oral History.

Program Requirements

30 units (10 courses) are required for the MA degree in History, which include:

  • 24 units (8 courses) of graduate courses in History
  • 21 units (7 courses) at the 600 or 700 level
  • 9 units (3 courses) may be taken at the 500 level (though this is optional)
  • 6 units (2 courses) may be graduate courses taken outside the department (though this is optional)
  • 2 required methods courses, History 601 and History 665

Courses in which you earn a grade below C do not count toward the MA. Courses taken seven years prior to completion of MA expire, but can be counted for credit if the student submits a Validation for Recency Form signed by the instructor indicating passage of written or oral exam demonstrating student’s command of the course material and approved by the graduate advisor. 

See our Courses page for a list of course offerings in History.

GPA: You must maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 on the Program of Study.

There are two required courses in the program, History 601 and History 665. Both are methods courses designed to introduce you to what it is that professional historians do. 

  • History 601, Introduction to Historical Methodology, is designed to introduce students to concepts and development of historiography and historical methods. All graduate students are required to take this course in the first semester.
  • History 665, The Writing of History, is designed to introduce students to primary source research in their area of interest. Students writing theses will complete a 30-40-page chapter of the thesis. Students taking exams will write a 30-40-page primary-source based essay on a topic related to their exam readings. This course should be taken in the second or third semester, once you have a good sense of the topic you would like to pursue and have some knowledge of and access to relevant primary sources.  You may take this course twice if you prefer, and apply to have it take the place of History 797, one of the two required Special Studies for thesis.

The department offers four different Special Studies depending on whether you select Plan A or Plan B. They are all three units and are all graded on a credit/no credit basis. We recommend that you do the paperwork in order to register for these Special Studies well ahead of time - if at all possible, the semester before you intend to take it.  These studies include the following:

  • History 797: This one of two Special Studies required for Plan A, thesis. You can register for it concurrently with the other Special Study (799A), or you can register for them in consecutive semesters.  Students usually take this course in their third or fourth semester, and it typically involves writing another chapter of the thesis, building upon what has been completed in History 665. You register for History 797 with your thesis advisor (faculty member who will be the first reader on your thesis committee) by filling out the 797 form in conjunction with your thesis advisor, and obtaining his or her signature as well as that of the Graduate Advisor.  Once you have done that, your advisor will give you the schedule number for the 3-unit 797 that is available in his or her web roster for that semester.  Once you have the schedule number, you can register for it through your web portal.  You have until the schedule adjustment deadline of the semester in question to register for this course, but we recommend that you have the form ready the semester prior so that there is no delay or problem with registration.
  • History 799A: This is the other Special Study required for Plan A, thesis. You can register for it concurrently with History 797, or take it in a subsequent semester, and it provides course credit for the completion of the rest of the thesis. Students usually register for History 799A in their fourth semester.  This is the final course for the Plan A MA degree and is overseen by Graduate Affairs.  In order to register for History 799A, you need to have advanced to candidacy by filing a Program of Study with the Graduate Advisor (see next section below). Once you have done that, you need to go to Graduate Affairs and obtain a Thesis Committee Form.  Fill out the form and obtain signatures from all thesis committee members as well as the Graduate Advisor, then return the form to Graduate Affairs and you will receive the schedule number in order to register for History 799A through your web portal.  It can take several days to several weeks to obtain all of the signatures, so be sure to do this well in advance of registration.  You are welcome to leave the form in the History Department office with the graduate coordinator and ask faculty members to come in and sign, then pick it up later.  You have until the schedule adjustment deadline of the semester in question to register for this course, but we recommend that you have the form ready the semester prior so that there is no delay or problem with registration.

    Once you submit your thesis and it is processed, you will automatically receive credit for History 799A. If you do not complete and submit the thesis in that semester, however, you would be required to register for Thesis Extension, or 799B, in the semester in which you do ultimately submit.  History 799A is three units, but it is considered to be full-time enrollment for financial aid purposes, though only part-time enrollment for tuition purposes. Thesis extension, 799B, is zero units, but it is considered to be part time enrollment for financial aid purposes. You can register for Thesis Extension through SDSU’s World Campus for substantially less tuition than through the regular university.
  • History 795: This is the Special Study required for Plan B, the comprehensive exam.  Students typically register for History 795 in their fourth semester, and it allows students to get course credit for exam preparation.  You register for History 795 by filling out the 795 form in conjunction with one of your two faculty examiners and obtaining his or her signature as well as that of the Graduate Advisor.  Once you have done that, the faculty examiner can give you the schedule number for a three-unit 795 from his or her web roster for that semester and you can use that schedule number to register for History 795 through your web portal.  You have until the schedule adjustment deadline to register for this course, but we recommend that you have the form ready the semester prior so that there is no delay or problem with registration.
  • History 798: This is an optional Special Study for special cases in which a student is pursuing research in a topic for which there are no related course offerings.  It is an independent study and would be arranged between the student and the appropriate professor in that field. The student and professor work together to develop a reading list that would be equivalent to that of a 600-level graduate directed readings course, with the equivalent and appropriate writing requirement as well.  These Special Studies are implemented only infrequently and, as stated above, in special cases, with the approval of the faculty member and the Graduate Advisor. In order to register, you would fill out the History 798 form in conjunction with the faculty member in question, and obtain that faculty members signature as well as that of the Graduate Advisor.  Once you have done that, the faculty member can give you the schedule number for a three-unit 795 and you can use that schedule number to register for History 798 through your web portal. You have until the schedule adjustment deadline to register for this course, but we recommend that you have the form ready for semester prior so that there is no delay or problem with registration.

Once you have completed 15-18 units (usually at the end of the second semester or beginning of the third unless you are attending part-time), you need to consult with the Graduate Advisor in order to file your Program of Study (POS).  This is a program submitted to Graduate Affairs for approval that includes all coursework completed and all coursework left to complete for the MA degree.  At this time you would also officially make the choice between Plan A and Plan B, and it is an opportunity check in with the Graduate Advisor about your progress and expectations regarding thesis or exams.  Once the POS is approved, you are Advanced to Candidacy, and you must do this before you can enroll in required Special Studies for thesis and exams (see Special Studies section above).

The foreign language requirement may be satisfied by taking 12 semester units in a foreign language as an undergraduate or graduate student, or by passing a proficiency exam administered by SDSU faculty.  See below for the faculty contacts for different language exams.

Language Faculty Member Phone Number Email
Chinese Z. Zhang (619) 594-1912 [email protected]
French A. Donadey (619) 594-0815 [email protected]
German K. Rebien (619) 594-5128 [email protected]
Greek J. Smith (619) 594-5186 [email protected]
Italian C. Clo (619) 594-1131 [email protected]
Japanese R. Kitajima (619) 594-5524 [email protected]
Korean S. Choi (619) 594-5885 [email protected]
Latin J. Smith (619) 594-5186 [email protected]
Russian V. Shapovalov (619) 594-7147 [email protected]
Spanish P. De Vos (619) 594-4893 [email protected]

Plan A is the thesis option for graduate students in the program. Students who choose this option conduct primary-source research in order to produce a thesis that makes an original contribution to the field of history. The thesis option requires a committee of three professors - two from within the history department and one who teaches in another department.

Plan A - Thesis

If you choose to write a thesis for the completion of your Master's degree, you should have a thesis topic in mind by the end of your second semester at the latest and will need to assemble a thesis committee, preferably by the beginning of your third semester. By the middle of the third semester, you would want to work with the Graduate Advisor to file your Program of Study and advance to candidacy (see section below). Once you are advanced, you would register for the thesis Special Studies, History 797 and History 799A. Ideally you would register for those courses in your final semester so that you can devote that semester fully to completing the thesis, though sometimes students choose to take the special studies in consecutive semesters.

A typical program for Plan A might look like this:

  • History 601
  • History 620, 630, 640, 650, or 680
  • 500/600-level course in history or in a related discipline
  • History 620, 630, 640, 650, or 680 (3-6 units)
  • History 665 if ready to begin thesis
  • 500/600-level course in history or in a related discipline

Submit POS and select committee.       

  • History 665 if ready to begin thesis or if you wish to take 6 units of it.
  • History 797 if ready to write thesis (though it may be taken concurrently with 799A in fourth semester).
  • Or History 500-level course or 620, 630, 640, 650, or 680, depending on first year courses.
  • History 665 if not taken yet, or if you wish to take 6 units of it.
  • Or History 797 if not taken yet
  • 799A
  • Plan A: 799B Thesis Extension

Thesis Committee

Plan A requires that you assemble a committee of three faculty members to advise your thesis. Two of the committee members must be faculty in the History Department, and the third reader must be a faculty member from another department whose expertise is related to the topic of the thesis. In consultation with the Graduate Advisor, you will select a chair for the thesis committee who will then help you to select other faculty members to serve on the thesis committee. Lecturers and emeritus faculty can serve as second and third readers, but additional paperwork is required. We recommend that you have in mind a general idea of a thesis topic and identify a possible advisor by the end of your first semester. By the end of the second semester, you should have secured an advisor, have a second reader in mind and be thinking about a possible third reader.  All committee members need to sign the Thesis Committee Form before you can sign up for History 799A.

Human Subject Research Approval

Research in which information is obtained about an individual through the use of a survey, interview, or observation requires approval from the university. Determination of whether research will involve human subjects must be made when the thesis committee is formed. For more information on application procedures, ethical practices, and submission deadlines, visit the Human Subject Protection page, email [email protected], or call (619) 594-6622.

Thesis Writing and Submission

A thesis in history is typically 100 to 150 pages with an introduction, 3 to 4 substantive chapters, and a conclusion.  It must constitute original research, with the majority of evidence for its argumentation coming from primary sources and a case made for its original contribution to the field.

The thesis is not complete until all three committee members, or readers, are ready to “sign off” on the signature page that you hand in with your thesis when you submit it. Original signatures are required for the signature page.  Please keep in mind, however, that the thesis is not complete when you have a first full draft of it. Rather, each committee member will read and make comments on drafts, and will expect to see revised drafts with satisfactory revisions before being willing to sign off so that you can submit the thesis. Sometimes it can take several drafts, much back-and-forth communication, and a number of weeks before the thesis is ready for submission, so be sure to calculate that in to your projected timeframe for completion.  You must hand in individual chapters for review to your advisor as they are written, and check in with second and third readers to see if they would like to review your work chapter-by-chapter or once the advisor is ready to sign off.

Once committee members have signed off on the thesis, you submit it to Montezuma Publishing. Each semester, the university provides a series of deadlines for thesis submission, but be aware that the “real” deadline is the final day for submission of thesis so as not to have to enroll in thesis extension (though you will not technically graduate until the following term).  The “no risk” or “minimal risk” deadline only means that the thesis would be processed and published in order for you to graduate that semester.

Recent M.A. Theses

Click on a year to see theses for that time period.

Burke, Taylor Madalena - Daltônico: The Myth of Brazil¿S ¿Racial Democracy¿ (First: Ben, Second: Passananti, Third: Erika Robb Larkins – Anthropology)

Collins, Janie Rose - Boxers and Converts: The Significance of Chinese Christian Converts to the Boxer Uprising of 1900. (First: Edgerton-Tarpley, Second: Kazemi, Third: Lei Guang - Political Science)

Connolly-Cepurac, Jade - Representation of Witches in U.S. Popular Culture, 1950-1970. (First: Putman, Second: Pollard, Third: Amira Jamarkani - Women’s Studies)

Friesen, Hannah Suzanne - Skirted Soldiers: An Account of American Women's Military Service During World War II. (First: Daddis, Second:  Frieberg, Third: Emily Shuckman-Matthews - European Studies)

Guasticci, Danilo J - Reinforcing the Stereotype: Media Representation of African-American Athletes and Musicians. (First: Cline, Second: Devos, Third: Eric Smigel - Music and Dance)

Kitchens, Matthew S - The First Space Race, 1914-1933: How the Press Shaped Spaceflight. (First: Asselin, Second: Frieberg, Third: Gary Fogel – Astronomy)

Parker, Aditi Joshi - Creating A "Proper Environment": The Subversion of Motherhood in Classical Greek Thought. (First: Penrose, Second: Devos, Third: Huma Ahmed Ghosh - Women’s Studies)

Payne, Zoraida Juri - All Men Are Created Equal: A Dissonant Reality at the Birth of the American Experiment. (First: Devos, Second: Cline, Third: Norma Iglesias Prieto - Chicano Studies/Sociology)

Rhein, Christina Marie - Early Modern Moriscos: Development of the Crypto-Islamic Identity in the Iberian Peninsula. (First: Devos, Second: Ferraro, Third: Ann Johns - Linguistics & Asian/Middle Eastern Languages)

Robinson, Kayla Marie - My Eyes Have Seen the Glory: A Comparison of Medical Care Given by Union and Confederate Hospitals, 1861-1865. (First: Kornfeld, Second: Devos, Third: Pamella Lach - Library/Digital Humanities Center)

Tepozano, Berenice - The Origins of Difference: Christian Attitudes Towards Inferiority and the Impacts on El Sistema De Castas. (First: Devos, Second: Pollard, Third: Erika Robb Larkins – Anthropology)

Alvarado, Andrea Vaness - Man in the Box: Expressions of Masculinity and Mental Health in 1990's Grunge Music. (First: Kornfeld, Second: Devos, Third: Amira Jamarkani - Women’s Studies)

Campbell, Michael Andrew - United States Keeps It Cool: The Dave Brubeck Quartet State Department Tour of 1958 and the Concert Series in Bombay, India. (First: Asselin, Second: Wiese, Third: Markus Burger - Music and Dance)

Cassell, Griffin Aaron - Friends Like These: Washington and Asian Authoritarian Regimes During the Vietnam War Era. (First: Asselin, Second: Edgerton-Tarpley, Third: Grace Cheng - Political Science)

Chavez, Ariana - Malinalli: Ni Santa, Ni La Chingada, Solo Mujer. (First: Devos, Second: Nieves, Third: William Nericcio - English And Comp Lit)

Dang, Tia - "On War and Home Front:" Portrayals of Soviet Women in American Written Media from World War II into the Early Cold War. (First: Frieberg, Second: Kornfeld, Third: Veronica Shapovalov - European Studies)

Gove, John William - From the Campus to the Community: The Struggle for Gay and Lesbian Rights in 1970s San Diego. (First: Cline, Second: Nieves, Third: Jess Whatcott - Women’s Studies)

Melendez, Joshua David - Deconstructing the Pillars of Memory: Gender, Memory and the Rwandan Genocide. (First: Kornfeld, Second: Nieves, Third: Laurie Edson - English And Comp Lit)

Thiele, Scott Carter - Construetms and Meaning ff Freedom: A Gendered Perspectives of the Actions of Formerly Enslaved Men + Women in American South 1860-1880. (First: Kornfeld, Second: Cline, Third: Michael Roberts – Sociology)

Waltman, Katie Lynn - History of the British Museum's Repatriation Debates of The Parthenon Marbles and Benin Bronzes. (First: Beasley, Second: Pollard, Third: Quentin Bailey - English And Comp Lit)

Del Nagro, Peter - Ulysses S. Grant: A Study in Personality and Leadership. (First: Blum, Second: Weeks, Third: Jeff Conte – Psychology)

Dichiera, Stephen - The State Department and the Space Race. (First: Asselin, Second: Putman, Third: Jonathan Graubert – Political Science)

Gardner, Joanna - "Wiser Mothers, Better Babies:" Baby Week, Children's Year, and the American Campaign to Reform Motherhood, 1910 – 1921. (First: Kornfeld, Second: Devos, Third: Susan Cayleff - Women’s Studies)

Jacobs, Shayla - Free Women of Color as Property Owners: The Coloniality of Power and the Liminal Racial Space in Spanish Louisiana, 1776-1811. (First: Devos, Second: Ben, Third: Erika Robb Larkins – Anthropology)

Moreland, Chris - Perception and Reality: Revisiting Richard M. Nixon's Handling of the Vietnam War. (First: Asselin, Second: Putman, Third: Peter Atterton – Philosophy)

Lopez, Michael - A History of Aztec Women and their Agency: Goddesses, Queens, Translators, and Nuns. (First: Devos, Second: Ben, Third: Anh Hua - Women’s Studies)

Vasquez, Alexandria - Manufactured Latinas/os: Perceptions of Latinas/os in U.S Primetime Television from 1950s to 2000s. (First: Putman, Second: Devos, Third: William Nericcio - English and Comparative Literature)

Baukol, Matthew - Constructing Identity: Reorganizing the Bethleham Female Seminary (First: Kornfeld, Second: DeVos, Third: Doreen Mattingly - Women's Studies)

Griswold, Stephanie - FLDS Families Facing the Fauxpocalypse: Motherhood and Dependency under One Man Rule from the mid-1970s into the New Millennium (First: Kornfeld, Second: Frieberg, Third: Joanna Brooks - English and Comparative Literature )

Johnson, Eric - Media and Cultural Portrayals of Marginalized Groups in Gold Rush California (First: Kornfeld, Second: Cline, Third: Eric Smigel - Music and Dance)

Jones, Marc - The Quilting of a Frontier Border City: Identity Development and Expression in the Early San Diego Borderlands, 1848-1868 (First: DeVos, Second: Colston, Third: Seth Mallios - Anthropology)

Pucell, Eddie - The Imagined Space Between Us: A Look Motivational Research and its Effects on Advertising and How MR Cultivated Gendered Visions in Postwar America (First: Wiese, Second: Ben, Third: Felipe Quintanilla - Classics and Humanities)

Bennett, Beauregard Brian - "Guttural German": Herbert Marcuse, the Media, and Student Radicalism in San Diego During the 1960s  (Chair: Beasley, Second: Yeh, Third: Richard Gibson)

Lyell, Courtney Marie - Forti Nihil Difficile: How the Victorians Created a New Self-Image Under Revolutionary Conditions (Chair: Beasley, Second: De Vos, and third Quentin Bailey - English and Comp Lit)

Sawh, Matthew Francis - Hip Hop: An Expression of Social Dissent and Political Engagement (Chair: Kornfeld, Second:De Vos, and Michael Roberts)

Alvarado, Christian David - Manufacturing a Gendered Nigeria: Academic Discourse at the University of Ibadan, 1948-1977  (Chair: Kornfeld, Second: Beasley, and William Nericcio - English And Comp Lit)

Bolthouse, Melissa Anne - History and the True War Story [Electronic Resource]: Reading for Moral Injury in Vietnam Veteran Literatures (Chair: Cobbs, Second: Edgerton-Tarpley, and Third: Joseph Smith - Classics and Humanities)

Boughan, Rachael Elizabeth - The Sly Fox and the Willowy Ghost: Representations of Gender in Qing Supernatural Tales (Chair: Edgerton-Tarpley, Second: Pollard, and Third: Sandra A. Wawrytho - Philosophy)

Boulter, Sherry Lee - Voices That Carry: Women Self-Fashioning as Artists and Bringing a New Discourse to MTV that Foreshadowed Third Wave Feminism (Chair: Kornfeld, Second: Nobiletti, Third: Eric Smigel - School of Music and Dance)

Choate, Stevie Rose - Apocalyptic Visions of a Franciscan Friar: A Study of the Writings and Legacy of Toribio de Benavente (Chair: De Vos, Second:Colston, and Third: Mario Martin Flores – Spanish)

Daniloff, Brittany - Through Innocent Eyes: Childhood and the Japanese-American Incarceration Experience (Chair: Kornfeld, Second:Edgerton-Tarpley, and Third: Veronica Shapovalov - European Studies

Faber, Jackson James - Becoming Friendship Park: The History of Border Field State Park (Chair: Passananti, Second: Ben, and Third: Jill Esbenshade – Sociology)

Frausto, Ramiro Juan - A Dangerous Neutrality: Ronald Reagan, Argentina, and the South Atlantic Crisis (Chair: Passananti, Second:Ben, and Third: David Carruthers - Political Science)

Genshock, Suzanne Christine - The Transmission of Contraceptive Knowledge from Greece and Rome to the Islamic World and Back Again (Chair: Pollard, Second: De Vos, and Third: Ghada Osman - Arabic Studies, Emeritus)

Gonzalez-Meeks, Javier Cuauhtemoc  - Negotiating Bodies In Late Antiquity : Empress Theodora and Al-Khayzuran (Chair: Pollard, Second: Kuefler, and Third: Ellen Quandahl - Rhetoric and Writing Studies)

Hetherington, Anna Kathleen - The Unluckiest Queen: A Gendered Examination of Anne Boleyn (Chair: Kornfeld, Second: Ferraro, and Third: Doreen Mattingly - Women’s Studies)

Laue, Rachel Willow - The Great Obligation: The Serampore Baptist Missionaries and the Rise of Social Service in Protestant Missions (Chair: Beasley, Second: Edgerton-Tarpley, and Third: Quentin Bailey - English and Comparative Literature)

Hutson, James A - Pragmatic Positivisms: Werner Heisenberg's Philosophy of Quantum Mechanics (Chair: De Vos, Second: Pollard, and Third: Robert Francescotti - Philosophy)

Lehnhoff, Lindsay Leigh - Craft Beer in San Diego: Social Consumption and a New Urban Identity (Chair: Kornfeld, Second: Elkind, and Third: Pascale Jouassart-Marceli – Geography)

Lopez, Mayra - The Magonista Insurrection and the San Diego Free Speech Fight: A Volatile U.S.-Mexican Border Region at the Turn of the 20th Century (Chair: Passananti, Second: Wiese, and Third: Richard Griswold Del Castillo - Chicano and Chicana Studies)

Navalle, Jayme Marie - A Matriarch’s Past: Piecing Together the Story of My Oma’s Journey through Orphanhood and a Post-Colonial Society (Chair: Kornfeld, Second: Edgerton-Tarpley, and Third: Irene Lara - Women’s Studies)

Peale, Jana Alyce - Cops & Criminals: Representations of Masculinity in 1970s Crime Television (Chair: Kornfeld, Pollard, and William Eadie - School of Journalism and Media Studies)

Radic, Andrej - Shattered Dreams: Accounts of Ordinary Citizens and Soldiers during the Dissolution of Yugoslavia and the War in Croatia (Chair: Frieberg, Beasley, and Richard Gibson – Education)

Radojevic, Katrina - Creating Spaces: The Epistolary Movement for Female Autonomy in Late Eighteenth-Century England (Chair: Beasley, Second: Ferraro, and Third: Huma Ahmed-Ghosh - Women’s Studies)

Stout, Mary Ellen - Captives and their Monsters: U.S. Media Use of Captivity Narratives in the Construction of the Imagined Muslim Monster (Chair: De Vos, Second: Kornfeld, and Third: Veronica Shapolvalov - European Studies)

Tocki, Jasmine Rae - The Girls Who Surf: Women in Surfer Magazine, 1963-1976 (Chair: Kornfeld, Second: Colston, and Third: Michael Roberts – Sociology)

Search all SDSU theses for History.

Plan B is the exam option for graduate students in the program. Students who choose this option work with two faculty members in the history department to delineate two different fields of study that may be defined chronologically, geographically, or thematically. In conjunction with the advising faculty, the student prepares a reading list of forty books for each field, for a total of eighty books, and takes a four-hour written examination in each of the two fields.  

Plan B MA candidates must complete written examinations and enroll in History 795 and one additional three-unit  course numbered from 620 to 680 in lieu of History 797 and 799 A.  Examinees are expected to demonstrate a mastery of the factual knowledge and historiographical debates within two broad fields defined by geographical area and a standard chronological period with a focus on a particular methodology or theme. It should be an attractive alternative to the thesis if you are considering careers in teaching or have not determined what specialization you want to pursue in a doctoral program.

A typical program for Plan B might look like this:

  • History 601
  • History 620, 630, 640, 650, or 680
  • 500/600-level course in history or in a related discipline
  • History 620, 630, 640, 650, or 680 (3-6 units)
  • History 665 if ready for exam prep
  • 500/600-level course in history or in a related discipline

Submit POS and select committee.           

  • History 665 if ready for exam prep, or if you wish to take 6 units of it
  • History 620, 630, 640, 650, or 680 (3-6 units)
  • History 665 if not taken yet, or if you wish to take 6 units of it
  • History 795 
  • Plan A: 799B Thesis Extension

Examining Committee

In preparing to take comprehensive exams, you would first need to form a committee composed of two professors, one from each exam field.  You will designate one of the field supervisors as chair of the committee, and he or she would serve as the instructor for History 795.  Lecturers with PhDs who have taught at SDSU for three years or more may serve on a committee, but not chair it.

Reading Lists

Each field supervisor will work with you to prepare a reading list of approximately 40 books or their equivalent for his or her field.  The readings should focus on key events, figures, trends, and historiography in each field.  You should expect to read a total of 80 books (or the equivalent in articles) for the two exams.

Selection and Definition of a Field

With the approval of the committee, you will select two geographical fields in standard chronological periods and indicate a methodological or thematic focus for each.  Other fields and chronological periods can be chosen if the student and examining committee agree to them.

  • Pre-Modern: African, Asian, Latin American, Middle Eastern, or World
  • Modern: African, Asia (China/Japan, or Southeast Asia), Latin American, Middle Eastern, or World 
  • Ancient Greece, Near East, or Rome
  • Medieval, Early Modern, or Modern Europe
  • Colonial US to Civil War, or US from Reconstruction to Present
  • history of childhood
  • cultural/ intellectual history
  • economic history
  • environmental history
  • film history
  • history of foreign relations
  • history of gender
  • political history
  • race and ethnicity
  • public history
  • history of religion
  • history of science and technology
  • history of medicine
  • history of sexuality
  • social history
  • urban history
  • military history


The field supervisors and students will develop three study questions at least a month before the exam.  You will be required to answer two questions in each field.  One field will be about the field as a whole; the second will have a methodological or thematic focus.    

The written exams will be scheduled with the graduate adviser, Dr. Paula DeVos, and will take place during the allotted exam period – the thirteenth and fourteenth week of the semester – for Fall and Spring semester. All students choosing the Plan B option must take their exams during this allotted period.  You can choose which field you will be examined on the first day.  The examination in the second field will be given the next day.  Students have four hours to complete each exam.

Students must write their exams on a department laptop.  You must receive a passing grade in both fields from both members of the committee.  To pass with distinction requires unanimity of the committee.  An oral examination consisting of one hour of question and answer between you and the examining committee will take place if the committee, after reading the written exam, deems it necessary.  The oral examination will take place within one week following the written exam.

A student who fails one or both of the exams has one academic year to retake the exam or exams in the field(s) he or she failed.  Retaking exams can be done only once, and it must take place during the allotted exam period of the semester in which the exam is to be retaken. 

The grades for comprehensive exams must be transmitted to the student no later than a week after the examination is taken.  The chair of the committee will inform the Graduate Advisor that the student has successfully passed the examinations.  Exams will be kept on file in the History Department office for three years after passage.

Recent M.A. Exams

Click on a year to see exams for that time period.

Cox, Michael - Exam Topics: Ancient Near East; Public History (Examiners: Penrose and Cline)

Lengua, Sarah - Exam Topics: Holocaust, Central and Eastern Europe (Examiners: Frieberg and Hillman)

Munoz, Eduardo Alberto - Exam Topics: Modern Middle East; Cold War (Examiners: Kazemi and Asselin)

Woolston, Timothy Ryan - Exam Topics: Eastern and Central Europe and the Holocaust; Cold War (Examiners: Frieberg and Asselin)

Burnette, Timothy - Exam Topics: Ancient Rome; Ancient Near East (Examiners: Pollard and Penrose)             

Griffith, Nicole Kristine - Exam Topics: Early Modern Europe and Americas; Medieval Europe (Examiners: Devos and Kuefler) 

Emery, Devin - Exam Topics: British Empire, World War II (Examiners: Beasley and Frieburg)
Hollingsworth, David - Exam Topics: modern Latin America and modern U.S. (Examiners: Yeh and Passananti)
Richards, Sean - Exam Topics: Colonial Mexico / Spanish Borderlands and modern Britain and British Empire (Examiners: Beasley and DeVos)

Casas, Lino III - Exam Topics:  Modern Mexico, Spanish Borderlands (Examiners: De Vos and Colston)

Courtney, James Kelley - Exam Topics:  Early Modern Europe, Modern U.S. (Examiners: De Vos and Putman)

Gagin, Matthew - Exam Topic: Modern U.S. (Examiners: Wiese and Elkind)

Newby, Brenda Marie (Examiners: Putman and Yeh)

Robles, Giovanni Alexander (Examiners: Ben and Passananti)

Smit, Lauren Lind (Examiners: Pollard and De Vos)  

Valdivia-Rea, Vivian (Examiners: Penrose and Wiese)

Certificates and Areas of Specialization

A 12-unit Graduate Certificate in Public History is also available through the department.  The certificate helps prepare students for careers in public history, including work in museums, archives, libraries, and digital humanities.  Visit the Center for Public and Oral History for more information.

The history department also offers a Community College Teaching Certificate through the Department of Administration, Rehabilitation, and Postsecondary Education (ARPE). This certificate requires twelve units of coursework, six of which taken as optional non-departmental courses for the Master's degree.

NOTE-- This program is currently unavailable.

The Concentration in War and Society examines the causes, conduct, and costs of war from a historical perspective thus enabling critical public policymaking and informed citizenship. Offered in conjunction with the Center for War and Society (CWS), the concentration brings together scholars, students, and faculty members to support advanced research, teaching, and public engagement in vital historical questions on war as a human phenomenon. For more information, see the center's page for the concentration.


  • Mathew Kuefler (Medieval Europe, Gender, Sexuality). .
  • Walter Penrose (Greek and Hellenistic History, Gender, Sexuality)
  • Elizabeth Pollard (Greece and Rome, Greco-Roman Religion, Women in Antiquity)
  • Abikal Borah

  • Pierre Asselin (Vietnam War, Southeast Asia, Third World Revolutionary Movements)
  • Kathryn Edgerton-Tarpley (E.Asia, China and Japan, Trauma).
  • Walter Penrose, (Ancient Near East)
  • Digital Humanities
  • David P. Cline (oral history, public history)
  • Angel David Nieves (Urban history, public history, spatial history)
  • Elizabeth Pollard
  • Pablo Ben (19th and 20th Century South America, Argentina, Gender)
  • Paula De Vos (Colonial Mexico, History of Science and Medicine, Scientific Revolution)
  • Tom Passananti (Modern Mexico, Economic)
  • Ranin Kazemi (Modern Iran, Modern Middle East)
  • Edward Beasley (England, Imperialism, Racism)
  • Joanne Ferraro (Renaissance and Early Modern, Italy)
  • Annika Frieberg (Central Europe, Poland, Germany, conflict resolution)

  • Pierre Asselin (Vietnam War, American Foreign Relations, Cold War History)
  • Edward Blum (Civil War, Reconstruction, African-American, Religion)
  • David P. Cline (20th and 21st century U.S. social movements, oral history, public
  • history)
  • Stephen Colston, (Southwest, Public, Film)
  • Sarah Elkind (Environmental, Political, Public, Urban).
  • Eve Kornfeld (Colonial, Revolutionary, Gender, Childhood)
  • Tom Passananti (US Economic)
  • John Putman (American West, California, Popular Culture, Urban)
  • Andrew Wiese (Urban, Social, African-American)
  • Chiou-Ling Yeh (Race, Ethnicity, Asian Americans, Gender)
  • Paula DeVos (Scientific Revolution, Darwinism and Social Darwinism, history of pharmacy)
  • Edward Beasley (Technology in World History, Darwinism and Social Darwinism)
  • Pierre Asselin (Revolutionary Movements, 20th century military history)
  • Edward Beasley (Modern)
  • Paula De Vos (Pre-Modern)
  • Kate Edgerton (Modern)
  • Mathew Kueffler (Ancient, Medieval)
  • Walter Penrose (Ancient)
  • Elizabeth Pollard (Ancient)
  • Tom Passananti (Economic)

Apply to Our Program

Important Links


"My professors in the MA program provided me a place to grow and explore, and guided me on a path of my own goals and ambitions. It was more than just a place to learn."


Dr. Annika Frieberg
Office: AL 576
Email: [email protected]

Important Forms/Docs

Department and University Contacts

Adriana Putko
Office: Arts and Letters (AL) 588
Email: [email protected]
Phone: (619) 594-7119

Graduate and Research Affairs
Office: Student Services East (SSE) 1410
Phone: (619) 594-5213

Financial Aid Office
Office: Student Services West 3615
Phone: (619) 594-5253 Press 3

History Department Scholarships
Professor Ben: [email protected]

For more information, visit our pages for Scholarships and Financial Support.

Graduate Student Association
Office: Student Life and Leadership, 210U
Email: [email protected]

Phi Alpha Theta (History Honors Society)
Professor Penrose:  [email protected]