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Hi all!

Thought I'd introduce myself here since I've been lurking for the past few months. I graduated this past May with a BA in History and am currently in the process of applying to History MA programs for Fall of 2018. My undergrad career was less than stellar, finishing with a 2.8, but a diagnosis between my sophomore and junior years marked a turn around for me with my last 64 GPA coming in at 3.4. I'm hoping that by doing well in a MA program, I'll be able to downplay the effect my undergrad has on getting into a competitive PhD program in the future. As far as my research interests go, I'm looking to study turn of the century France, empire, and cultural history, so any and all shouts as far as programs to look into are more than welcome! Cheers.

Edited by WhaleshipEssex

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1 hour ago, WhaleshipEssex said:

Hi all!

Thought I'd introduce myself here since I've been lurking for the past few months. I graduated this past May with a BA in History and am currently in the process of applying to History MA programs for Fall of 2018. My undergrad career was less than stellar, finishing with a 2.8, but a diagnosis between my sophomore and junior years marked a turn around for me with my last 64 GPA coming in at 3.4. I'm hoping that by doing well in a MA program, I'll be able to downplay the effect my undergrad has on getting into a competitive PhD program in the future. As far as my research interests go, I'm looking to study turn of the century France, empire, and cultural history, so any and all shouts as far as programs to look into are more than welcome! Cheers.

Start working on French yesterday, if you haven't already. 

If you're leaning towards empire, you will inevitably end up looking at one of France's colonies. Getting familiar with the language of whatever colony you decide to look at would be wise. 

As far as programs, ASU has some good scholars for France and Empire. So does UT Austin. 

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5 minutes ago, miami421 said:

Start working on French yesterday, if you haven't already. 

If you're leaning towards empire, you will inevitably end up looking at one of France's colonies. Getting familiar with the language of whatever colony you decide to look at would be wise. 

As far as programs, ASU has some good scholars for France and Empire. So does UT Austin. 

I took french all throughout school up until college and was planning on taking a refresher course at a local community college if I could find one. I'm not sure to what extent fluency will be required at various programs but I definitely have a working understanding of the language. Thanks for recommending those programs, I'll be sure to look into them!

Edited by WhaleshipEssex

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6 minutes ago, WhaleshipEssex said:

I'm not sure to what extent fluency will be required at various programs but I definitely have a working understanding of the language.

As fluent as you can get.

But more realistically, you should be able to watch news and understand what's going on. You should be able to read academic level articles with a dictionary. You should be able to talk about your research topics in French. And finally, being comfortable with writing wouldn't hurt. 

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1 hour ago, WhaleshipEssex said:

Hi all!

Thought I'd introduce myself here since I've been lurking for the past few months. I graduated this past May with a BA in History and am currently in the process of applying to History MA programs for Fall of 2018. My undergrad career was less than stellar, finishing with a 2.8, but a diagnosis between my sophomore and junior years marked a turn around for me with my last 64 GPA coming in at 3.4. I'm hoping that by doing well in a MA program, I'll be able to downplay the effect my undergrad has on getting into a competitive PhD program in the future. As far as my research interests go, I'm looking to study turn of the century France, empire, and cultural history, so any and all shouts as far as programs to look into are more than welcome! Cheers.

For MA programs you should also be concentrating in a secondary and maybe even, tertiary field.   Several PhD programs have and others are beginning to emphasize global themes as a preferred pedagogical method.  You will be a more attractive candidate when the time comes if your MA training is not too narrowly focused. 

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10 minutes ago, miami421 said:

As fluent as you can get.

But more realistically, you should be able to watch news and understand what's going on. You should be able to read academic level articles with a dictionary. You should be able to talk about your research topics in French. And finally, being comfortable with writing wouldn't hurt. 

Perfect! thank you so much.

8 minutes ago, ltr317 said:

For MA programs you should also be concentrating in a secondary and maybe even, tertiary field.   Several PhD programs have and others are beginning to emphasize global themes as a preferred pedagogical method.  You will be a more attractive candidate when the time comes if your MA training is not too narrowly focused. 

Interesting. So I should be looking at MA programs based around methodology and less so about the actual areas and topics studied by the faculty?

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5 minutes ago, WhaleshipEssex said:

Interesting. So I should be looking at MA programs based around methodology and less so about the actual areas and topics studied by the faculty?

Not necessarily.  You should know both, in the event you apply to programs that either prefer one method over the other.  But even if you apply to only programs that focus on the temporal and region, you still need to know more than one area for your comps. 

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27 minutes ago, ltr317 said:

Not necessarily.  You should know both, in the event you apply to programs that either prefer one method over the other.  But even if you apply to only programs that focus on the temporal and region, you still need to know more than one area for your comps. 

Got it! Thank you

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I have a quick language/SOP question.  Currently, I'm using the title of a book in German to demonstrate both my language abilities and the theoretical framework I have learned. Unfortunately, this book is only published in German and has no official English translation. Since I don't expect ADCOM to know every language, should I translate the book title or not?

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2 hours ago, Tigla said:

I have a quick language/SOP question.  Currently, I'm using the title of a book in German to demonstrate both my language abilities and the theoretical framework I have learned. Unfortunately, this book is only published in German and has no official English translation. Since I don't expect ADCOM to know every language, should I translate the book title or not?

I am trying to imagine how you would talk about someone else's work in your SOP. As is, my advice is don't do it in the SOP. You have other places to show language ability (CV, WS, and LORs) and command of a theoretical framework (WS).

 

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3 hours ago, Tigla said:

I have a quick language/SOP question.  Currently, I'm using the title of a book in German to demonstrate both my language abilities and the theoretical framework I have learned. Unfortunately, this book is only published in German and has no official English translation. Since I don't expect ADCOM to know every language, should I translate the book title or not?

I would suggest not mentioning it at all in the SoP. You could do one of two things, mention in it some supplementary material (every app has a dedicated space for this) or alternatively, you could use it in your writing sample. Either one of those are fine.

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Back when I applied—a season which included a couple history programs—I mentioned about three books in my writing sample. It went something like: My work is inspired by/along the lines of Big Name, sort of like what Emerging Scholar has done, except my own focus would be on this interesting and quite different aspect of the problem. It worked out for me okay. Did you guys really not mention any other scholars' work in your statements of purpose? Based on my experience, I would recommend @Tigla not dwell on the book, but is the standard advice not to mention any books, not even the few that pass the "three most important books for this proposed research" test?

That said, historians put a lot more weight on the writing sample than anthropologists, so I'd believe it if you told me history SOPs don't usually have scholars because you rely on your WS to show your chops. (In anthropology, the writing sample is usually optional and I don't think most committee members read much of them, so that would not be as wise a strategy.)

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9 minutes ago, hats said:

It went something like: My work is inspired by/along the lines of Big Name...except my own focus would be on this interesting and quite different aspect of the problem. It worked out for me okay. 

Same here.

Moreover I mentioned the title of a series that I envisioned contributing to down the line.

 

Edited by Sigaba

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Hi everyone!

I'm new to the site, but thrilled to find such a great community.  I got my B.A. in the Spring of '16, and after working at a living history site for about a year I am now tossing around the idea of a Masters.  However, I didn't do a fantastic job of staying in touch with my professors from undergrad.  Based on what I've read, most programs for history, public history, etc. expect letters of recommendation from professors, specifically history professors.  And there lies my second issue, my minor was in history in undergrad not my major.  So I didn't have a history advisor nor did I get particularly close with my history professors.  Any advice on reconnecting with old professors for letters of recommendation without looking like a leach?  What about getting around my lack of good history professor contacts? 

Thanks!!

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@hats , @AP@psstein Thank you. Originally, I did not include it, but my PoI suggested that I should include some theoretical foundations and language ability into the SOP for that school.

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15 hours ago, Historically Inclined said:

Hi everyone!

I'm new to the site, but thrilled to find such a great community.  I got my B.A. in the Spring of '16, and after working at a living history site for about a year I am now tossing around the idea of a Masters.  However, I didn't do a fantastic job of staying in touch with my professors from undergrad.  Based on what I've read, most programs for history, public history, etc. expect letters of recommendation from professors, specifically history professors.  And there lies my second issue, my minor was in history in undergrad not my major.  So I didn't have a history advisor nor did I get particularly close with my history professors.  Any advice on reconnecting with old professors for letters of recommendation without looking like a leach?  What about getting around my lack of good history professor contacts? 

Thanks!!

It happens ALL the time.  For MA-level, you simply need to get solid, favorable letters of recommendation from your professors whom you've taken history classes with.  Google a few relevant keywords and you'll see plenty of advice on how to reconnect with professors for getting a letter of recommendation.  Professors understand that this task is part of their job.  Beware that some might warn you of avoiding taking out loans and/or think through what kind of outcomes you hope to have at the end of the MA make sure that the time is worthwhile for you.  (Don't get defensive but demonstrate appreciation for their concern and thought on their part.)

11 hours ago, Tigla said:

@hats , @AP@psstein Thank you. Originally, I did not include it, but my PoI suggested that I should include some theoretical foundations and language ability into the SOP for that school.

Mention scholars, not books.  The ideas in the books you have read belong to the scholars who wrote it, not the publisher who put the books all together for you.  I never mentioned books in my SOP, especially that title take up space.  Professors in your areas of interest will be familiar with the scholars' works that they won't need titles.  (That's the beauty of working at research universities, they are expected to stay very up to date with many, many articles and books published every month, if not several times a year).

As for language, yes, it's perfectly fine to include it if you have sufficient room for that particular program.  In other programs, demonstrate it in your CV (just a line will do) or/and writing sample.  As for the book titles in applications, keep everything in the original language.  If you are paranoid about it and have room, use the brackets in English after the original.  For example, 
Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf [My Struggle] (sorry, I'm a German historian to the core :))
 Your POIs will be the first to read your application and pass on their judgment to the Adcoms.  Adoms will review more quickly as they are going to be mostly focused on building a good cohort and time will be running short. 

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3 minutes ago, TMP said:

Mention scholars, not books.  The ideas in the books you have read belong to the scholars who wrote it, not the publisher who put the books all together for you.  I never mentioned books in my SOP, especially that title take up space.  Professors in your areas of interest will be familiar with the scholars' works that they won't need titles.  (That's the beauty of working at research universities, they are expected to stay very up to date with many, many articles and books published every month, if not several times a year).

However,

  1. Not everyone reading an application is going to be a specialist in the same field as a scholar named in a SOP (an application can be forwarded to the graduate school for consideration for university-wide fellowships),
  2. ideas/innovations in history don't always spring forth from one scholar alone, and,
  3. in certain fields of history, certain names can antagonize a professor reading a SOP. That is, having an approach to the craft influenced or informed by a work is less proactive than wanting to be like a specific professor.

My $0.02.

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13 hours ago, Sigaba said:

However,

  1. Not everyone reading an application is going to be a specialist in the same field as a scholar named in a SOP (an application can be forwarded to the graduate school for consideration for university-wide fellowships),
  2. ideas/innovations in history don't always spring forth from one scholar alone, and,
  3. in certain fields of history, certain names can antagonize a professor reading a SOP. That is, having an approach to the craft influenced or informed by a work is less proactive than wanting to be like a specific professor.

My $0.02.

Points well-taken.  Welcome to the challenge of writing the SOP which should be able to demonstrate some familarity with the literature in your own field while being able to explain to non-specialists what you want to do....

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Hey! New to the site but excited to be a part of the group. Graduated in the spring with two degrees in History and Women's Studies, looking to go to grad school for Gender History. Applying to the PhD programs at Wisconsin-Madison, Rutgers, UNC @ Chapel Hill, and Yale.

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4 hours ago, hrmit said:

Hey! New to the site but excited to be a part of the group. Graduated in the spring with two degrees in History and Women's Studies, looking to go to grad school for Gender History. Applying to the PhD programs at Wisconsin-Madison, Rutgers, UNC @ Chapel Hill, and Yale.

Wisconsin has some very good people if you want to do gender history. PM me if you want to know anything about the program.

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I felt like I was building momentum on these PhD applications.  My quantitative metrics (GPA, GRE) are solid, I have LOR lined up that I am confident in,  I have been working on foreign language skills (both refreshing German and learning Spanish) for at least an hour a day every day, my SOP is coalescing, and I have reached out to POI.

Then I hit a brick wall momentum wise.  I am trying to determine how much of a detriment some of the structural flaws of my writing sample are going to be, and if they are application killing or not.

The biggest issue is that, while I do use some primary sources, they are not the bulk of the paper. I certainty did not translate any of the primary sources that I did use.  It was about Egypt in the 19th century, and I have zero knowledge of Arabic, Turkish, or other useful languages for that area.  It also does not focus on the time period or geographic area I am interested in.  On the other hand, it is the only paper I have with a substantive historiographic review or any serious use of primary sources.  I also have no papers focusing on my time period of interest anyways so I feel I am a bit stuck with it.  Rereading it I do think the paper is otherwise a solid synthesis of second works, it also focuses on themes I want to highlight in my SOP, but the other flaws seem glaring when I read about what makes a WS good.

It seems to me I have four unpalatable choices 1. abandon the applications, cut my losses, regroup (would need to awkwardly explain this to my boss who has given me reduced hours to work on applications, and the professors writing my LOR )  2. trim the paper only to use what few primary sources I do have (I would be lucky to cull 10 pages from my current 40)  3. do less radical revisions and hope the rest of my application carries the day (seems a potential waste of money and time, ignoring sunk costs). 4. Do something really desperate and write a new paper from scratch (time seems an issue).

I am not a student any more, so I really have curtailed access to academic souses.  I also work a little under 40 hours a week, so that is an added constraint. I am aware I could also focus on a MA.  However, even funded MA's seem at best to be only partially funded, and I do not want to pay or take debt.

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2 hours ago, Banzailizard said:

It was about Egypt in the 19th century, and I have zero knowledge of Arabic, Turkish, or other useful languages for that area.  It also does not focus on the time period or geographic area I am interested in.  On the other hand, it is the only paper I have with a substantive historiographic review or any serious use of primary sources.

Without knowing more about your writing sample, the following guidance is spit balling.

Shift the focus of the paper so that it centers around the contemporaneous debate(s)/initial historiography in English.

  • Beginning
    • Event A happened in 18xx in Egypt.
    • Summary of historiography.
    • Pivot to earliest discussion of Event A in English and how that discussion shaped subsequent views.
    • Summarize why understanding earliest discussion is important.
  • Middle
    • Primary source-based discussion of Event A (it sounds like you have this already.)
    • Primary source-based discussion of initial interpreters of Event A (letters and papers of English-language interpreters)
    • In depth discussion of influence of initial interpretation over time.
      • Some secondary works are now primary sources
  • End
    • Tie in your piece with broader conversations of the lasting influence of initial interpretations upon historiography and history. 
      • Historiography as knowledge, knowledge as power.
        • You can go big here. 30K, 60K 100K views.
        • Avoid jargon.
        • Avoid getting too wrapped up in various theories unless you really know the theories and you believe in those theories enough to not get an offer.
          • A disinterested Joe Friday "just the facts" approach will do.
      • If possible, make an elegant pivot to your current research interests.
        • A cluster of well phrased questions.
        • Speculation on how you would use your new interests to address the broadest of the questions.
        • The linkage between this revised piece and your SOP should be clear to anyone who reads both.

#HTH.

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3 hours ago, Banzailizard said:

I felt like I was building momentum on these PhD applications.  My quantitative metrics (GPA, GRE) are solid, I have LOR lined up that I am confident in,  I have been working on foreign language skills (both refreshing German and learning Spanish) for at least an hour a day every day, my SOP is coalescing, and I have reached out to POI.

Then I hit a brick wall momentum wise.  I am trying to determine how much of a detriment some of the structural flaws of my writing sample are going to be, and if they are application killing or not.

The biggest issue is that, while I do use some primary sources, they are not the bulk of the paper. I certainty did not translate any of the primary sources that I did use.  It was about Egypt in the 19th century, and I have zero knowledge of Arabic, Turkish, or other useful languages for that area.  It also does not focus on the time period or geographic area I am interested in.  On the other hand, it is the only paper I have with a substantive historiographic review or any serious use of primary sources.  I also have no papers focusing on my time period of interest anyways so I feel I am a bit stuck with it.  Rereading it I do think the paper is otherwise a solid synthesis of second works, it also focuses on themes I want to highlight in my SOP, but the other flaws seem glaring when I read about what makes a WS good.

It seems to me I have four unpalatable choices 1. abandon the applications, cut my losses, regroup (would need to awkwardly explain this to my boss who has given me reduced hours to work on applications, and the professors writing my LOR )  2. trim the paper only to use what few primary sources I do have (I would be lucky to cull 10 pages from my current 40)  3. do less radical revisions and hope the rest of my application carries the day (seems a potential waste of money and time, ignoring sunk costs). 4. Do something really desperate and write a new paper from scratch (time seems an issue).

I am not a student any more, so I really have curtailed access to academic souses.  I also work a little under 40 hours a week, so that is an added constraint. I am aware I could also focus on a MA.  However, even funded MA's seem at best to be only partially funded, and I do not want to pay or take debt.

Keep in mind, professors do recognize that interests change.  The point of the WS is to demonstrate your skills thus far as a historian-- how you integrate and analyze contemporary historical debates on the questions you're asking and how you use primary and secondary sources to support your argument.  Your SoP will be the spokes-item of your present research interest and that's wha the profesosrs will judge on when determining your fit to the program. Make sure that your SoP clearly articulates how you moved from that topic of  your WS to your present interest.  Share these concerns with your letter writers and they'll be able to frame your application pacage better (they have far more leeway in space than you do).

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5 hours ago, Sigaba said:

Without knowing more about your writing sample, the following guidance is spit balling.

Shift the focus of the paper so that it centers around the contemporaneous debate(s)/initial historiography in English.

  • Beginning
    • Event A happened in 18xx in Egypt.
    • Summary of historiography.
    • Pivot to earliest discussion of Event A in English and how that discussion shaped subsequent views.
    • Summarize why understanding earliest discussion is important.
  • Middle
    • Primary source-based discussion of Event A (it sounds like you have this already.)
    • Primary source-based discussion of initial interpreters of Event A (letters and papers of English-language interpreters)
    • In depth discussion of influence of initial interpretation over time.
      • Some secondary works are now primary sources
  • End
    • Tie in your piece with broader conversations of the lasting influence of initial interpretations upon historiography and history. 
      • Historiography as knowledge, knowledge as power.
        • You can go big here. 30K, 60K 100K views.
        • Avoid jargon.
        • Avoid getting too wrapped up in various theories unless you really know the theories and you believe in those theories enough to not get an offer.
          • A disinterested Joe Friday "just the facts" approach will do.
      • If possible, make an elegant pivot to your current research interests.
        • A cluster of well phrased questions.
        • Speculation on how you would use your new interests to address the broadest of the questions.
        • The linkage between this revised piece and your SOP should be clear to anyone who reads both.

#HTH.

I appreciate the detailed suggestion.  I will have to tweak it a bit. The main focus of the paper I am using were related to a process rather than an event, specifically the social changes over the whole of the 19th century.   Key themes being the growth and change in priorities of a cosmopolitan Europhile elite (from a limited copying European military methods for defense, to copying economic and social forms), the growth of a disgruntled nativist middle class, changes in the urban structures of Ciro and Alexandra (infrastructure, size, street lay out, building shape), the effects of globalization, and the realignment of social divisions on economic rather than religious, or other traditional lines.  The last three are the things I want to draw connections to in my SOP, as those are among the themes I want to focus on in early modern Europe. However, those are also the areas with the fewest primary souses.

I do have English and American primary sources (diaries and travel logs) and I even draw on official state portraits of the rulers of the Muhammad Ali dynasty to talk about a change in how they portrayed themselves. I use secondary works to talk about Orientalism, Focult with training discipline in the army, the use of history to support nationalism in the post colonial period.  It was an important part of the historiography section to discuss where my paper written by a westerner about Egyptian history fit in to all the other papers written by westerners about Egyptian history.

I might do a rough draft mock-up of both papers roughly using your outline and see how each comes out.  Even just writing about it here though, the second sounds more complete.

5 hours ago, TMP said:

Keep in mind, professors do recognize that interests change.  The point of the WS is to demonstrate your skills thus far as a historian-- how you integrate and analyze contemporary historical debates on the questions you're asking and how you use primary and secondary sources to support your argument.  Your SoP will be the spokes-item of your present research interest and that's wha the profesosrs will judge on when determining your fit to the program. Make sure that your SoP clearly articulates how you moved from that topic of  your WS to your present interest.  Share these concerns with your letter writers and they'll be able to frame your application pacage better (they have far more leeway in space than you do).

I had not thought to talk to my professors writing my LOR about their LOR.  I guess I assumed it was taboo, and that I should be not seen as influencing them so that they could provide a slightly more objective analysis.

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Well, I submitted my application IU Bloomington's French Ph.D. program. I take the GRE the 20th and my professors have been notified at this point to submit their recs. It sucks that I have nothing to do now except maybe email professors.

For UMich and Penn State I am awaiting confirmation that I'm eligible for a fee waiver. I reaaaally hope I am because otherwise I will fill them out a little later. The other 2 I am applying to are UPitt and UNC. 

In order, my choices are:

 

1. Bloomington/Michigan

2. Pittsburgh

3. UNC/Penn

All programs are a fit, but I'd prefer to live in a mid-sized city with lots of students and progressive people. Pitt could be exciting, though, and seems to be the one that matches my interests best. UNC is too close to home and Penn--I don't know about living in a small town where the college is the whole town.

I am not even nervous about the GRE, it appears to be SAT 2.0. I study of course but I don't fret about it.

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