Master of Arts in the History of Art and Architecture

Candidates for the master's degree (MA) must complete at least 45 credits in courses approved by the student's advisor, as well as satisfy the general requirements of the UO Graduate School. Of the 45 credits, a minimum of 36 must be graduate credits in research-based courses, taken for a letter grade.*

All MA candidates must complete either a thesis or a terminal project, as determined by the student in consultation with the student’s advisor.

You may chart your progress through the program with the MA Statement of Completion Worksheet, which you can find on the Current Student blog Departmental Forms page.

Coursework Requirements

  • Thesis (ARH 503), 9 credits or Terminal Project (ARH 614). 9 credits. Students may enroll in 503 or 614 credits after all thesis committee members have approved their proposal.

  • Graduate Seminar Requirements and First-Year Seminar Series. Of the 36 graduate credits required, a minimum of 16 credits must be in graduate seminars. Of the 16 seminar credits, 12 credits (3 courses, 4 credits each) must be taken during the student’s first year: Graduate Studies in Art History (ARH 611, fall), Seminar: [Topic] (ARH 607, winter), Seminar: [Topic] (ARH 607, spring)

  • Electives. A minimum of 12 credits of elective courses. Of the 12 credits, a maximum of 8 credits may be taken outside of the department with an advisor's permission

  • Distribution Requirement. Students must undertake course work in three of four historic areas: prehistoric-ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern-contemporary. Students may petition to apply a thematic or nonperiod-specific course toward one of the distribution requirements if a substantial part of the student's work in the thematic or nonperiod-specific course engaged the historic area in question

  • Distribution Recommendation. While not required, it is highly recommended that students take a selection of courses spanning western, Asian, and other cultural traditions to fulfill their distribution and elective requirements

*Note that of the 36 required graded graduate credits, at least 4 credits (excluding ARH 611) must be taken with your primary advisor.Practicum and internship credits (ARH 604) are not designed to be research-based and do not count toward the minimum of 36 graded graduate credits. Students who wish to pursue research-based projects in the museum or elsewhere should consult with their advisor about enrolling in 600-level research credits (ARH 601 or 605, as appropriate).

Foreign Language Requirement

The department requires that MA degree candidates demonstrate reading proficiency in at least one foreign language. Students are expected to satisfy this language requirement as soon as possible, and no later than the end of their first year in the program. Your chosen language must be approved by your advisor and should be relevant to your scholarly interests. Students typically demonstrate their language proficiency in one of several ways, by:

  1. Passing a written language exam given by the department

  2. Providing an official transcript from the UO or elsewhere that shows satisfactory completion of the second or third year of college-level coursework in the language (as determined by the student’s major advisor in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies) with a grade of B or better in the previous five years, or

  3. Presenting evidence of having achieved equivalent results on a standardized foreign-language placement test in the previous five years

The foreign language requirement may be waived if you've earned a high school diploma or higher degree that used the target language as the primary language of instruction.

If you plan to pursue a PhD, you should also acquire a research capability in additional languages, as appropriate to your area of study, as soon as possible in your academic program.

Thesis or Terminal Project Requirement

All MA students must complete either a thesis or a project, as determined by the student in close consultation with the student’s advisor. Theses and projects are both subject to the proposal process described below and are equivalent to 9 credit hours.


An MA thesis is a scholarly paper, 30–50 pages in length (double-spaced), that demonstrates the student’s ability to conduct independent research on a topic in her/his area of concentration. Typically, the thesis extends and revises a seminar paper. It should show the student’s command of pertinent bibliographical and reference materials as well as her/his ability to critically evaluate and synthesize the current state of research on the subject.

The thesis must conform to the formatting specifications of the UO Graduate School. For instance, if the thesis is written in the format of an article with multiple sections (recommended by department faculty), the student will need to convert the sections into chapters in accordance with UO Graduate School formatting requirements.

Terminal Project

An MA terminal project demonstrates a student’s mastery of practical or theoretical knowledge of art in a historical or contemporary setting. It may take a variety of forms, such as a curatorial project (realized in a gallery, museum, and/or online), the dissemination of art historical writing, or the archiving and cataloging of primary source material. The project may make use of internal or external institutional settings, but it must be the result of research produced as part of the student’s graduate study. MA projects must include an archival component that can be filed with the department. Please note that MA students must identify their intention to complete a project by the end of their third quarter in residence, or they will be expected to complete the MA thesis instead.

Committee Selection

The student selects the thesis/project committee in consultation with her/his advisor. The committee consists of three members, two of whom must be faculty members in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture. When appropriate and approved by the student’s advisor, the third committee member may come from outside of the department.

Proposal Specifications

Before beginning her/his thesis research or project activities, the student must submit a written proposal approved by her/his committee at a review meeting. The meeting is typically scheduled when the main advisor is satisfied with the preliminary draft of the full proposal. Students are strongly encouraged to complete and submit their approved proposal at the end of their first year or at the beginning of their second year. In the review meeting, the student typically gives an illustrated presentation of the written proposal of 20–25 minutes, followed by questions and discussions with committee members. The student should see the review meeting as an opportunity to collect feedback and to generate new ideas and directions for the actual thesis/project.

The written proposal should include the following components:

Proposal Approval Form. Available online or from the department office, this form should be presented at the proposal defense and be signed by the committee members.

Narrative. Typically 3–4 pages (double-spaced), the narrative component of the proposal defines the parameters of the thesis/project, and indicates the student’s intended methodology and level of preparedness. In succinct prose, the student should:

  1. Identify the object of study and define its scope. What object(s) will be studied in the thesis/project? What is the relevant historical period, cultural context, and/or theoretical framework?

  2. Review the current primary and secondary literature on the object of study. In the case of the MA thesis, this should be a narrative synthesis of the bibliography to be provided as part of the proposal. It may take into account monographs, exhibition catalogs, books and articles. Which authors have already written on the chosen object of study? What issues have they addressed? What issues have they not addressed? In the case of MA projects, this should be a contextualization of the project in relation to existing precedents. What similar projects have already been done? What have they accomplished and what remains to be done?

  3. Define the major objective and method of the thesis/project. In the case of the MA thesis, students should discuss the following: What question(s) does the thesis/project wish to answer? What method will be employed and what materials will be examined in order to answer the question(s)? In the case of MA projects, students should clearly state what may be expected as the final product (e.g., creation of a website, organization of an exhibition, documentation of a body of works of art) and the steps necessary for successful completion. Students carrying out MA projects should also clearly explain the involvement of any third party (e.g., museum, gallery).

  4. Provide an approximate timeline for the research and completion of the thesis/project. Students should indicate their level of preparation (e.g., language ability, a course or seminar relevant to the topic) and give estimates for the date of defense. Students should take into account a minimum of two full weeks to review the thesis drafts or projects results prior to the defense. In the case of MA theses, the students should also be aware of the deadline of the UO Graduate School for the submission of final texts.

Bibliography. The bibliography should include primary (including archival materials) and secondary sources pertinent to the topic.

Final Defense

A defense is scheduled when the student has completed the thesis/project to the satisfaction of her/his main advisor and committee members. The student should bring to the defense the Thesis Approval Form to be signed by the committee members. The candidate should follow the step-by-step process to the MA Thesis Defense which is outlined in the student handbook.

The thesis defense is open to all students and faculty members who wish to attend.