Graduate Program

Q:  I am considering the idea of getting a Masters degree in History? Who do I talk to?

A:  Please see  (R-S 306) or   (R-S 107).  For information and admission forms, contact The School of Graduate Studies.

Q:  In general, what are your requirements for admission?

A:  Please, consult Requirements for a Master's Degree in History. In general, we like to see approximately 27 to 30 hours of undergraduate history courses, with at least a 3.0 in those classes.  Applicants with a lower GPA or lower average in their upper-level history courses may either accepted on a conditional basis or rejected.  Conditions vary from student to student.

Q:  I've looked at the requirements for an M.A. in History, and I get the feeling that the Masters programs differs in some substantial ways from the undergraduate degree.  Is that a correct idea?

A:Yes, to some degree you are correct.  The Masters degree, as a graduate degree, is meant to prepare you (or begin to prepare you) for a professional role as an historian or a professional in some related field.  As such, you not only take classes, but are expected to accept training in writing, method, the practical matters of teaching and dealing with students, and various other areas important to the profession of the practice of History.  In that sense, it is more than simply completing a set number of hours.  It would be helpful to consider this example:  graduate school is perhaps one of the last remnants of the old, medieval Master-Apprentice system of learning.  When you enter a graduate program , you are formally beginning your apprenticeship.

Q:  You mentioned a "committee".  What is that and am I assigned one automatically on entering the program?

A: The "committee" is your thesis-supervision committee.  No, you are not assigned one automatically.  Following the completion of twelve (12) hours at the graduate level, you are required to file Candidacy papers with the Graduate School.   Those papers include the names of the members of your thesis committee and a working thesis title.

Q:  So how do I get a committee?

A:  First, you must decide on a subject for your thesis. Then you should approach the appropriate professor (whose field it is) and ask that he or she consider directing your thesis.  If you have problems deciding on who is appropriate, please speak to   (R-S 306 ) or (R-S 107).

Having decided on a topic and arranged for a thesis director, you need to approach at least two additional individuals to serve as Second and Third readers.  In rare circumstances, the Department will agree to committee member from outside the department (such as a member of the Philosophy department), who for purposes of your thesis will be considered an "historian".  If you are unsure whom to approach, your thesis director can offer suggestions.

Committee chairs and committee members serve at their discretion.  Some may decline because your subject is to distant from their field or because they may feel unable to offer you adequate guidance in regard to your proposed thesis subject.  In the final analysis, forming a committee is your responsibility.  Failure to complete a committee is not a disaster, but you may have to consider changing or modifying your proposed subject if, in the opinion of the members of the department whom you approach, it is not feasible because of lack of resources, complexity of the problem given your current level of training, or they feel personally unable to offer adequate guidance.

Unless you have elected to seek the completion of your degree by the non-thesis option, you cannot complete your degree without forming a committee and completing a thesis.  The collaborative process of researching and writing a thesis is fundamental to your training. 

Simply completing classes does not guarantee either a committee or graduation.

Q:  I'd like to go to graduate school, but the thought of a thesis is, frankly, intimidating.  Do I have other options?

A:  You may elect to choose the Non-thesis option, which would require a higher number of class hours.  In addition, you will be required to successfully complete both written and oral examinations administered to you by a committee of not less than three graduate faculty.

Q: I notice that a formal defense of the thesis is required.  Does the department require any written examinations, as well?

A:  This is an option, which is up to the members of your thesis committee.

Q:  I'm in/thinking of beginning the Masters program.  I took a 4xx7 class as an undergraduate at ETSU.  Can I take the same class over again in the graduate program?

A:  No, you may not repeat a class that ends in "7", at the graduate level, if you have taken that class as an undergraduate.

Q:  I am in the graduate program.  How many classes with numbers ending in "7" can I take?

A: Three.  If you exceed that number, then you must take at least two classes ending in "0", to maintain the so-called "30% Rule" for distribution of graduate courses.

Q:  Okay, so how many Independent Studies can I take at the graduate level?

A:  The Graduate Committee customarily limits you to one, except under special circumstances.  You need to consult with Dr. Schmitt, if you wish to take more than one Independent Study, to see if your circumstances qualify as an exception to the general rule.

Q:  Does my thesis count as part of my 30 hours or is it separate and apart from that requirement?

A: Yes, in practice your thesis counts as three of your 30 hours.  However, you should be aware that your committee may ask you to consider taking additional hours, if they believe that you are not sufficiently prepared to complete your degree, particularly if you intend to pursue a Ph.D.

Q:  I am going to have some difficulty in paying for graduate school.  Are there any sorts of Graduate assistantships available, and if so, how do I apply for them?

A:  The Department of History has a number of Teaching Assistantships and Tuition Waiver Scholarships.  More information can be found at the following link: Requirements for the Masters Degree

If you wish to apply for either a teaching assistantship or a tuition waiver scholarship, then you need to pick up an application from the School of Graduate Studies.  In practice, if you wish to receive an assistantship at the beginning of the academic year (Fall term), then you will need to have completed and submitted your application by the preceding March.  Normally, the Graduate Committee meets in April to consider the distribution of assistantships and tuition waivers.  Should you miss that time-frame, go ahead and turn in your application, as circumstances, sometimes favorable, will allow us to award more positions in the summer.

Q:  How do they work?

A:  Teaching Assistantships cover your tuition (except for some minor fees), including out-of-state tuition, and provide you with a small stipend.  Tuition waiver scholarships cover your tuition (except for some minor fees), but provide no stipend.  In both cases, you will work for the Department.  A teaching assistant works about 20 hours per week, a tuition scholarship person works about 8 hours a week.

Q:  What sort of work would I do?

A: You would, generally, be working with a professor as a classroom assistant or as a research assistant.

Q:  I want to teach.  Can I do that?

A:  You may occasionally lecture, at the discretion of your supervising professor.  Once you have completed a minimum of 18 hours at the graduate level, you are technically eligible to be assigned a class of your own.  However, this is at the discretion of both the Chair of the Department and the Graduate Committee, who will consult on all such assignments.  If you are in the verge of completing the requisite number of hours, and would like to be considered for a teaching assignment, please make this know to either Dr. Day, Dr. Schmitt, or Dr. Burgess, so that your name may be considered when assignments are made. The completion of 18 hours in no way guarantees or entitles you to a class of your own, as departmental needs and responsibilities take precedent.

Q:  Is there a Graduate Student Association at ETSU?

A:  Yes, there is.  You can find out more information through the School of Graduate Studies.

Q:  Are graduate assistants evaluated?

A:  Graduate assistants are overseen by the Graduate Committee. Those receiving awards, are evaluated though the normal process which evaluates classes.  Those assigned their own classes are evaluated yearly by the Department's Peer Review Committee.

Graduate students' rights are protected by the same Grievance process as other employees of the institution.

Q:  What happens if I receive an assignment and then am unable to work with the professor to whom I am assigned?

A:  You need to contact Dr. Burgess (R-S 107), who normally makes the assignments, or Dr. Schmitt (R-S), Chairman of the Graduate Committee.  They will try to evaluate the problem and suggest courses of action.

Q:  What sorts of things can I reasonably be expected to do for the professor to whom I am assigned?

A:  The University has very specific guidelines regarding the use of graduate assistants.  You will be given a copy of these guidelines during your orientation and class assignments.  Should you loose it, get a new copy from Dr. Burgess (R-S 107).  Should you have any  questions about whether your assignments fall within the parameters set by the University, see Dr. Schmitt, Dr. Day (Chair), or Dr. Burgess.

Q:  I am thinking about transferring to another institution to complete my MA.  Will all of my classes transfer?

A:  Probably not.  In practice, most institutions will only accept six (6) hours for transfer.  You need to contact whatever institution you are considering transferring to, and ask them about transfer credit.

Q: I want to do military history (or political history).  Why do I have to take Historiography?

A:  No matter where you pursue post-graduate degrees, you will be required to take a course on the philosophy of History. Merely knowing the road speed of a Tiger Tank or the rate of fire of a trap-door Springfield will not make you an historian.  All it will make you is someone with a vague knowledge of useless trivia.  That is not what we do.  You might win some money on Jeopardy, but you will not be an historian.  Therefore, you are required to take a course in the nature and theory of history. What is it?  How does it work?  Why is it studied? What is the purpose of that study?  And so forth...

Q:  Okay, but why do I have to take Research Methods course? Why does it matter if I learn the "correct" way to do footnotes or bibliography?

A:  Because if History is important enough to do at all, then it is important enough to do right. Otherwise, nothing separates you from a novelist or a movie writer.  If someone wants to find your sources or examine books on the subject, then it is part and parcel of your professional (and indeed, moral) obligation to provide them with the means to do so.  In order to learn how to do that correctly, you are expected to take a course on method.  Besides, you may use your evidence wrong or come to the wrong conclusions.  Scholarly work, done correctly and appropriately documented, and subjected to the critique of the scholarly community,  is part of the process of doing history.  Doing history is not for the slack.  You must learn to do it correctly, otherwise you are essentially an amateur.


Last modified:  Ides of August, in the 2762th ab urbe condita (from the Foundation of the City, Rome, that is....2009, for those of you on a different calendar).