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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.

Normally the thesis stream takes four terms to complete. The thesis is graded on a pass or fail basis (i.e. in order to complete a thesis satisfactorily students must receive a minimum passing grade of B- or higher in the committee’s estimation).


  • Proposal due in Fall Term (Nov. 15).
  • Winter and Summer Terms work on thesis.
  • Summer and Fall Term defend final draft of thesis.

Supervisor, Committee, and External Examiner

Once a faculty member, who must be a member of the graduate faculty, has agreed to act as a supervisor, the student will inform the graduate officer in the student’s home department. The student, in consultation with the supervisor, will define the research topic and a viable body of primary sources, and submit a research proposal to the supervisor. No student may register in the thesis stream for more than one term without an approved thesis proposal.

Students in the thesis submit their research proposals and undertake their research projects in consultation with an advisory committee consisting of their supervisor and at least two other readers/advisors. An advisory committee may be composed from any of the faculty in the Tri-University Graduate Program in History, provided those faculty are members of the graduate faculty at their respective institutions.

An external examiner will be added to the committee at the defence stage, once students have a final version of their thesis completed and approved by their advisory committee. Laurier calendar regulations define the external examiner as follows: “An external examiner for a master's thesis must be at "arm's length” from the candidate and the thesis advisor (TA). Arm's length means not being a close friend, or regular or current (in the last five years) research or grant collaborator with the TA or candidate, or a former professor, supervisor or co-worker of the candidate (which includes being a contributor to any research project involving the work for the master's, or to any part of the thesis in terms of project development, data collection, or data interpretation). It also means not being in a conflict-of-interest position with regard to the candidate or TA and not having a vested interest in the outcome of the oral defence.”

The Thesis Proposal

A completed MA thesis proposal form (available from the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies office), which includes a 5-10 page proposal and is “signed-off” on by your supervisor and two other advisory committee members should be submitted to the History Graduate Co-ordinator and/or History Department office no later than Nov. 15.

In five to ten pages, the student will:

  • State the central research question or questions of the project.
  • Identify and briefly discuss the historiography that the project will address.
  • Identify the specific primary source material that will be studied to answer the relevant research question or questions.
  • Outline the methodology that will be used in the analysis.

Thesis Drafts

Students should consult with their supervisors and set working deadlines for their draft submissions. Once the supervisor has approved a draft, it can then be circulated to other committee members. The entire advisory committee needs to approve of a final version in order to send the thesis to an external examiner and set the oral defence date.

Final Drafts and Defences

Laurier has a thesis style guide in our Academic Calendar which outlines the general format for a MA thesis. Please consult this sooner rather than later in the writing process.

The Advisory Committee will review the final draft of the Thesis and indicate whether it is ready for oral defence by completing the requisite examination request/release form. The regulations of the university at which the student is enrolled will be invoked for the format of a Thesis defence. Students must be registered in the term that they defend their thesis, however, if it is within the first month of a new term (e.g. September) a student may be eligible for 100% tuition refund (please check the current graduate calendar for precise dates).

The thesis is graded on a pass/fail basis. However, there are several decision categories, as laid out in Laurier’s Graduate Calendar:

  • Accepted: The thesis is accepted but may require minor typographical and/or minor editorial corrections to be made to the satisfaction of the thesis advisor.
  • Accepted with minor modifications: The thesis requires minor changes in substance or major editorial changes, which are to be made to the satisfaction of members of the examining committee designated by the committee. The examining committee’s report must include a brief outline of the nature of the changes required and must indicate the time by which the changes should be completed. Normally, such changes should be completed within four weeks of the date of the examination.
  • Accepted with major modifications: The thesis requires more substantive changes, but will be acceptable when these changes are made to the satisfaction of those members of the examining committee designated by the committee. The examining committee’s report must include a brief outline of the nature of the changes required, and the date by which the changes are to be completed.
  • Decision deferred: The thesis requires modifications of a substantial nature, the need for which makes the acceptability of the thesis questionable. The examining committee’s report must contain a brief outline of the modifications expected and should indicate the time by which the changes are to be completed. The revised thesis must be resubmitted for re-examination. Normally, the re-examination will follow the same procedures as for the initial submission. Normally, the same examining committee will serve. A decision to defer is open only once for each candidate.
  • Rejected: The thesis and/or defence are not acceptable. The committee must report the reasons for rejection. A candidate whose master’s thesis has been rejected may petition for readmission to write a new thesis or to complete a coursework option.

When accepted, the MA thesis is considered “submitted” and therefore completed, only when the post-defence paperwork has been signed off on and the student has uploaded their thesis to the Scholars Commons. Again, please consult the most current Laurier Graduate Calendar for the specifics on thesis format, procedures, and other regulations.