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The History M.A. Project

This guide is meant to answer some frequently asked questions about the M.A. project, a requirement for students completing the Teaching Option.  Particularly, it sets out project requirements regarding procedure and format.

 If you need further clarification, as well as to discuss possible topics and obtain advice on research strategies, you should see your Project Advisor.

I.  What is the M.A. Project? 

You should consult the Division of Graduate Studies website for a detailed discussion of university-wide policies regarding the M.A. project.  What follows is a brief explanation.

Every master's program in the CSU system must require a culminating experience consisting of a thesis, comprehensive exam, or project. The Division of Graduate Studies defines the project as "a significant undertaking of a pursuit appropriate to the fine and applied arts or to professional fields.  It must evidence originality and independent thinking, appropriate form and organization, and a rationale.  It must be described and summarized in a written abstract that includes the project's significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion or recommendation.  An oral defense of the project may be required" (K-3).  While this definition of the project is quite similar to the DGS's definition of a thesis, the handbook stresses the project's practical emphasis.  In other words, a project allows for the application of both theoretical and technical skills/knowledge.

The CSUF History Department offers all three culminating experiences.  However, students in the Teaching Option are required to complete an unbound project.  At the faculty's discretion, unbound projects which are deemed to demonstrate superior historical awareness, methodology, and/or analytical complexity may be forwarded for University-wide recognition exemplary projects may be submitted for university recognition and binding.

Although bound projects must follow the manuscript format requirements of the thesis and are archived in the university library, unbound projects are governed by regulations specific to the department in which they originate and are usually retained in the department's own library.  Because the History Department requires an unbound project, it has established its own regulations are set out below. 

II.  How to get started on your Project

You can begin thinking of questions you might like to investigate in a project as soon as you begin your course work.  In writing your seminar papers you may discover an issue that you would like to explore more deeply in a project.  The assignments and discussions in HIST 200A (Graduate Historiography & Writing), HIST 200B (Graduate Historiography & Research), and HIST 296 (Topics in History for Teachers) should assist you in clarifying goals for your project.

Your Project Advisor, with whom you will undertake HIST 296, will discuss with you your plans for a project and help you select one or more faculty members knowledgeable in your area of interest. At this initial stage, the challenge is to select a viable and manageable topic, initiate a working bibliography, and develop a project plan.  After obtaining the approval of an advisor and a second reader who will supervise your project, you may enroll in HIST 297 (Internship in History), as part of which you will begin to work in earnest on research and writing.  After satisfactory completion of HIST 297, you will then register for your culminating units (HIST 298: Project).

III.  The Area Specialist

The addition of an Area Specialist is crucial to the rigor and historiographical merit of your project.  With a Project Advisor and an Area Specialist, you're effectively working with a mini-committee, which gives you the benefit of more expertise and experience.

At the beginning of the project, you, your Project Advisor, and your Area Specialist should sit down together and come to a common understanding about what's expected when. For example, at this time you should discuss things such as:

  • How often should you meet with your committee?
  • What are the internal deadlines (i.e. those prior to the final submission)?
  • Once you have turned in your abstract, what revisions and/or refining does it need?
  • Does your reading list need to be pared or augmented?
  • Do you need more time to digest and discuss the research and reading you've done?
  • Do you need help shoring up your understanding of this material or determining its implications for the scope and structure of your argument?

The Area Advisor should have substantial involvement in your project from the very beginning, and must not be brought in at the last minute. That is: s/he is not a rubber stamp, and while your Project Advisor will have the last word over your project's approval, the Area Specialist's comments should be taken seriously, as s/he is not obliged to sign off on something s/he feels is unworthy of an M.A. The exact terms of your working relations will be determined by the three of you; the earlier you agree upon this, the more harmonious and predictable the process is likely to be.

You should have what all parties consider a "near-final" draft to your Project Advisor and Area Specialist no later than the Friday before Thanksgiving Break (if for the Fall) or 30 days before Commencement Ceremonies (for the Spring). The rationale for these daunting dates has to do partly with courtesy, partly with logistics, and partly with avoiding unpleasant surprises. The Division of Graduate Studies needs final project approval forms from the History Department no later than the last day of exam week--and that's taking it right down to the wire. Our internal deadlines, then, allow one week for your readers to turn around that draft to you, two weeks for you to respond to any final requests for revisions, and (assuming your revisions are satisfactory) another week for Graduate Advisor and the department's Administrative Assistant to process all the paperwork.

If your project is interdisciplinary in nature, you may (with your Graduate Advisor's approval) ask members of other departments to serve as consultants, although the History Department will retain the final responsibility for supervision and approval. 

IV.  Forms related to the Project

A.  Project Committee Form

Once you have discussed with your Project Advisor who your Second Reader will be, and have secured this reader's agreement to work with you, you must submit to the Teaching Option Coordinator a Project Committee Form.  The form must be signed by the Project Advisor, Second Reader, and Teaching Option Coordinator.

This form represents your Project Committee members' formal agreement to guide you through the completion of your project.  Do note, however, that committee members reserve the right to withdraw from the committee if necessary.    

B.  Project Proposal

For detailed instructions on how to craft your project proposal, click here.

C.  Project Guidelines

For detailed overall project guidelines, click here.

D. Request for Project Variation (Request for topic, method or committee members change)

For details, please consult your Project Advisor.

E.  Unbound Project Approval Form

The History Department requires an "Unbound Project Approval" form, which must be signed by your Project Advisor, your Area Specialist, the Teaching Option Coordinator (if other than your Project Advisor), and the Chair of the Department.  You must submit this form (with the required signatures) to the History Department when you turn in your two copies of your project. 

V.  Deadlines

You should discuss with your Project Advisor and Area Specialist how often, and at what dates, they would like to see rough drafts of your work.  You and your Project Advisor should also determine at what point the second reader will begin reviewing and commenting upon your drafts. You should plan on submitting a complete rough draft to your Advisor and Area Specialist well before the deadline below, in order to allow ample time for revisions (which may in some instances be substantial). 

Two copies of the final draft of your project must be turned in to the History Department, together with a copy of your filled and signed Unbound Project Approval form. Once the two copies of the project are submitted with the completed Unbound Project Approval Form, signed off by the appropriate people as listed above, you will have discharged your project responsibilities at the department level. The Office of Research and Graduate Studies will review the Unbound Project Approval Form for accuracy, but the project remains in the department.

The deadlines for the final submission of your project to your Project Advisor will be as follows:

FALL SEMESTER: The Friday before Thanksgiving break.

SPRING SEMESTER: 30 days before Commencement Ceremonies.

VI.  Number of Copies Required

Two copies of the project (in final form) are required.  While both are initially given to the Teaching Option Coordinator, ultimately one copy is given to your Advisor and the other is placed in a loose-leaf binder and kept in the History Department office, where it can be read by students and faculty.  Both copies should be submitted with the pages paper-clipped or clamped, but not bound or covered in any way.

VII.  Format: General Appearance of the Project

A. Style Manual

You should use Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th Edition, as a general guide.  When in doubt, follow this guide.

B.  Type

Projects must be typed in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator.

C.  Quality of Copies

Copies must be submitted on 8 1/2 x 11-inch paper with a pH of 7 or higher (i.e. the paper must be neutral or alkaline).  All copies must be clean, that is:

  • Both sides of each page must be free of all pencil marks, carbon smears, streaks, etc.
  • All characters should be sharp and clear.
  • No discernible erasures, corrections or additions to the text are allowed.
  • There should be no inked-in or penciled corrections.
  • All charts, diagrams, and figures must be graphically produced; that is, work that is obviously done freehand will not be accepted.
  • Type tone should be consistent.
  • All pages should be free of wrinkles and folds.

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