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Master's Program

The Program

The Tri-University Graduate Program in History combines the faculty and resources of three of Canada’s premier universities. Since 1994 our program has been educating students in innovative ways while providing them with a solid grounding in traditional historical methods. The Tri-University program integrates the scholarship and experience of more than 75 graduate faculty, making it one of the biggest graduate history programs in the country. Some 150 History graduate students are currently enrolled in the program and each year we accept around 20 new doctoral students and 60 new masters students.

Because of its impressive size and scope and because of student mobility among the three campuses, we are able to provide courses and supervise research in a wide range of areas. At the same time, through small seminars, close student-professor relationships and through teaching assistantships and scholarships held at one of the three participating campuses, the program is able to maintain the atmosphere of a smaller, more intimate educational institution. In our program, students benefit from combining placement in one of three departments with the resources of one of Canada’s largest graduate history programs. 

Central to the Tri-University concept is student mobility. MA students may take courses at any of the three campuses, greatly expanding their range of course choices. The program provides student travel subsidies to reduce the cost of inter-city travel for students moving between Guelph and Waterloo. Unlike many other large programs the Tri-University program generously supports MA students through teaching assistantships and scholarships. We regard the TA experience as a major component of MA studies, as many of our students are interested in continuing on into PhD programs or teachers’ colleges.

MA courses in the Tri-University program are designed for MA students. We do not normally put master's students in seminars with doctoral students or undergraduates. Despite this, the Tri-University program offers one of the widest selections of MA courses in Canada.

In this program students benefit from the existence of three contributing departments with the resources of one of Canada's largest graduate programs in history.

For information on areas of specialization and current faculty, consult the Tri-University website: triuhistory.ca.

Program Structure

There are three streams of study for the master's degree.

The Thesis Stream

Four seminar courses and the research requirement of a thesis with an oral defence. The thesis stream is only available to students with the permission of the graduate officer in the department in which the student is registered. This stream is normally completed over two years.

The MA thesis involves a formal and extended treatment of a historical topic or problem grounded in the relevant historiography. Primary source materials must form the basis of thesis research, the goal of which is to contribute to original analysis either by consulting new material or by applying new historiographical insights or methods. A thesis carries the weight of four 0.5 credit courses, and its normal length is approximately 100 pages of double-spaced type. In order to complete a thesis satisfactorily, students receive a minimum passing grade of B- (70%).

The Cognate Essay/Master's Research Paper Stream

Six seminar courses and a research requirement of a master's research paper with an oral defence. This stream normally takes three terms to complete.

The cognate essay/master's research paper is a research project on a historical or historiographical topic designed to explore a body of sources, demonstrate a thorough grasp of the secondary literature on the topic and permit the author to arrive at an independent conclusion. Primary source material normally forms the core of the MRP. The cognate essay/master's research paper carries the weight of two 0.5 credit courses and its normal length is approximately 50 pages of double-spaced type. In order to complete a cognate essay/master's research paper satisfactorily, students must receive a minimum passing grade of B- (70%).

The Course-Only Stream

Eight seminar courses. At least three of the seminar courses must be “Research” courses where a research paper is written. The course-only stream is only open to students by permission of the graduate officer in the department in which the student is registered. Course-only stream students may not normally complete their degree in three consecutive terms.

A research paper is developed as part of the requirements of a seminar course. A research paper explores a historical or historiographical topic in such a way as to demonstrate the author’s thorough grasp of the secondary literature on the topic and to permit the author to arrive at an independent conclusion. It differs from the cognate essay/master's research paper primarily in depth of research and in length. A research paper is normally 20-25 pages in length.

Courses or seminars in the master's program are organized as seminars of 0.5 credit-weight. In order to complete a course satisfactorily students must complete all course requirements as specified by the instructor and receive a minimum passing grade of B- (70%).

Course Types

A variety of approaches to the study of history may be followed in the Tri-University Graduate Program:

  • Seminars devoted to the broader historiographical study of the history, development and divergent forms of the discipline as a whole.
  • Seminars devoted to the study of selected secondary readings from the historiography of a specific national or regional period or of a particular thematic subject.
  • Seminars which require students to read and discuss a mixture of secondary historiographical and primary documentary materials.
  • Seminars devoted largely to the methodology, preparation and presentation of research papers based on primary research, which may require a specific, or one of several, historiographical courses as a prerequisite.
  • Individual directed studies courses where students work one-on-one with an instructor. Note: No student may take more than one directed studies course (0.5) in their program. Students may only register for directed studies courses with the approval of the Graduate officer in the students’ home department.
  • Students may also enrol in MA seminars offered by the history departments in any of the three universities.

Second Language Proficiency

Students will be expected to be proficient in the language or languages needed for their research. No language examination will be required for students in the course-only stream. A student writing a thesis or cognate essay/master's research paper will be required to pass a language examination if the director and the advisory committee determine that this is warranted by the nature of the student's research topic.

Progress Through the Program

The choice of stream of study for any individual student is made in consultation with the graduate officer in the department in which they are enrolled at the commencement of their program. The final decision rests with the department concerned.

Expected Progress through the Streams

Master's students will normally register for up to three seminar courses per semester.

  • Full-time thesis stream: Students will take two seminars in each of their first and second terms. They will also register for their thesis at the end of the first term. The thesis should be completed no later than the student's fourth term of full-time registration in the program.
  • Full-time cognate essay/master's research paper stream: Students take three seminar courses in each of their first and second terms. They also register for their cognate essay/master's research paper with a view to developing their research topic. The cognate essay/master's research paper should be completed by the end of the students’ third term of full-time registration in the program.
  • Full-time course-only stream: Students will normally take three seminar courses in each of the fall and winter terms. They will normally enrol in their two remaining courses in the subsequent fall or winter term.
  • Part-time: Students will usually register in one or two seminar courses in each of the fall and winter terms. The minimum residency requirement for part-time degrees is six terms.