Latvia - CIRCA 1920s: Photo of builders working on site. Sitting on scaffolding

The Thesis (Plan A)

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. At the latest by the beginning of your second year, you will want to think about with whom you want to work on your thesis, develop a relationship with them, and familiarize yourself with their expectations. Also make sure that you have a continuous relationship with your second reader and start thinking about options for a third reader.

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, especially a thesis adviser with whom you will work closely, preferably by the beginning of your third semester. You would enroll in a second History 665 at this point.

By the middle of the third semester, you would want to work with the Graduate Adviser 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 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. 

The thesis will consist of 3-4 chapters, to a total of 60-150 pages (depending on field, topic, and your thesis adviser). It will have an introduction and a conclusion, and the chapters will logically further a larger coherent argument. 

The introduction will most often introduce the topic of the thesis, source base and choice of time, give an overview of the literature engaging with the topic, a background to the researched era, a “roadmap” of the thesis chapters, and present an argument or question that will be answered in the thesis. Consult your thesis adviser for their preferences on the content of the introduction! 

The conclusion will sum up the findings in the thesis, emphasize how the findings, based on the primary sources, support the argument and, possibly, point to further research, “thoughts for the road,” relevance of the work.

Chapters should have shorter introductions and conclusions and their contents should be based on a mixture of primary and secondary sources. 

While you can use papers written for your 600-level seminars – in particular for the 665 – it will not be possible to do so without substantial revisions in close consultation with your thesis adviser to fit them within the thesis at large

To assemble your thesis committee (after you have advanced to candidacy)

Write to the graduate adviser with:

  • The title of your thesis
  • The names of your readers and their roles (1st, 2nd, 3rd)
  • Your Red ID

The graduate adviser will file the thesis committee form and that will generate the code that allows you to enroll in 799A. 


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. 

Please keep in mind 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. 

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.

In short

  • 60-150 pages
  • 3-4 chapters
  • 3-person thesis committee
    • 2 history faculty readers
    • 1 other faculty reader (the third reader)
  • HIST 665 and HIST 799A
  • Submit to Montezuma Press, once all readers sign off!

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 working on the thesis.
  • Or History 500-level course or 620, 630, 640, 650, or 680, depending on first year courses.
  • Second Historyt 665 if not taken yet.
  • 799A
  • Plan A: 799B Thesis Extension

More on the 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 Adviser, 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 adviser by the end of your first semester. By the end of the second semester, you should have secured an adviser, 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.

Selected Recent M.A. Theses

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

Balingit, Christopher Walker -  The activism of the Black Panthers: Visual rhetoric and lived experiences. (First: Kornfeld, Second: DeVos, Third: Pamella Lach - Digital Humanities Center)

Menchaca, Hailee Josefina - “Ya acabó la canción:” Reproductive injustice and Chicana testimonio as resistance in Madrigal v. Quilligan. (First: Cline, Second: Yeh, Third: Jess Whatcott - Women's Studies)

Onstad, Cassandra - Staking their claim: Resilience and resistance to American dietary exceptionalism. (First: Kornfeld, Second: Putman, Third: Emily Schuckman-Matthews, European Studies)


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)

Search all SDSU theses for History.