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The Department of History offers a dynamic learning space for graduate students, and our program is designed to facilitate the development of methodological and critical skills required to pursue history at a high academic level. The National Capital Region provides ready access to numerous national museums, federal departments, cultural institutions, and Library and Archives Canada.

Our faculty embodies a diverse range of geographical, thematic, and theoretical interests. We offer excellent opportunities for supervising work in Canadian History, Early Modern history, Modern Europe, the Atlantic world (especially Africa/the Caribbean/Latin America), and U.S. History. The Department’s research interests include broad, transnational thematic areas, such as women’s and gender history, family history, religious history, migration studies, and the history of the book. Our faculty are also on the forefront of emerging areas, including environmental history, state formation, history of food and drink, the body and sexuality, and public memory.

Carleton currently offers two different programs at the M.A. level: 1) M.A. in History, and 2) M.A. in Public History. Within the regular M.A., students may apply for either a 2-year Thesis Option or a 1-year Research Essay Option.

Collaborative Specializations and Diploma Programs

In certain areas, Carleton offers the opportunity to pursue a specialized course of study with separate course requirements. The Department of History currently supports the following MA specializations: African Studies (research essay or thesis), Climate Change (research essay or thesis) Data Science (thesis only), Digital Humanities (thesis only), and Latin American and Caribbean Studies (research essay or thesis). Students interested in pursuing a Specialization should consult these programs directly for further information.

M.A. students in History are also able to complete the Diploma in Curatorial Studies, the Diploma in Social Statistics and Data Analysis, and the Diploma in Migration and Diaspora Studies. Students should consult these programs directly for application information, deadlines, and program requirements.

Thesis or Research Essay: Which option is right for me?

The key difference between the thesis option and the research essay option is the balance between course work and independent research. While undertaking a thesis will present more opportunities for guided research on a larger project, the one-year program allows you to combine more breadth in your course work with a smaller-sized research project.

The chart below is intended to outline the practical differences between the two options, as well as some of the common reasons for choosing the one-year research essay or a two-year thesis program.  Ultimately, the decision is a personal one, but we strongly encourage you to consult with your potential supervisor or the graduate chair on which program suits your interests and your potential research project.

NOTE: The requirements listed below were approved by the University for students entering the program in Fall 2016. Student who entered the program before that date should consult the program requirements for current students.

Thesis Option Research Essay Option

Program Length

20-24 months 12 months

Coursework Credits

2.0 3.0

Manuscript Credits

2.0 1.0

Manuscript Length

100-125 pages 40-60 Pages

Oral Defense

Yes No

Assessment System

Satisfactory or unsatisfactory Letter grade

Language Requirement 

Yes Yes
Potential Benefits
  • A substantive and complex research project.
  • A summary or parts of the project could be converted into a publishable article
  • A research project that could be converted into a publishable article
This option is suitable if you…
  • Are drawn to a particular project you want to pursue in depth.
  • Wish to hone your methodological skills in a larger project.
  • Want to use the thesis as preparation for or as a testing ground for doctoral studies.
  • See the thesis as a ‘capstone’ before switching to a line of work that doesn’t involve larger projects.
  • Are embarking on a project in a chronological or regional field that is new to you and want the time to familiarize yourself with that field.
  • Did not complete your undergraduate degree in history and wish to become better acquainted with the discipline.
  • Are undertaking a research project which makes use of an archive that is not easily accessible, perhaps because of distance
  • Have a wide range of interests you want to develop during course work.
  • Hope to proceed quickly to a PhD program where you will pursue a more substantive research project.
  • Have a strong background in historical theory and practice.
  • See your Master’s as further qualification for future employment.
  • Have already attended graduate school or have had similar academic experiences
  • It is a common myth that the two-year program is more costly for the student.  Our full-time students are guaranteed a second year of funding if they hold a Teaching Assistantship.  The department also makes every effort to assist students in applying for external awards in the fall of their first year.

Information on this page is only a guideline and is subject to change. Please be sure to consult the graduate calendar for program information.