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History | Tools  of Research

Tools of research/analysis are designed to help each graduate student with course work and with overall historical study. They are further designed to help PhD students with researching and writing their dissertations. Therefore, both MA and PhD students, in consultation with their advisors, should at the start of their graduate program select tools of research/analysis that are related to projected historical interests. 

MA students must demonstrate competence with one tool of research/analysis and PhD students must demonstrate competence with two tools of research/analysis. PhD students who already have an MA in history and have demonstrated competence with a tool of research/analysis are required only to pass an exam for one additional tool of research/analysis. Students should get to work on mastering these tools early in their graduate program.

Standard Tools

The Department accepts languages, statistics, oral history, computer science, and digital history as standard tools of research/analysis. MA students in American history may select any one of these tools. PhD students in American history may select any two of these tools. MA students in European history, however, must select a language as their tool of research, and PhD students in European history must select at least one language as a tool of research. For more information on the language test, see the Language Resource Center page.

Alternate Tools

In each case, the student's advisor must approve the selection of tools of research/ analysis. With the support of his or her advisor, a student may petition the Graduate Committee to approve an alternative tool of research/analysis, a methodology applicable to his or her specific area of history, as one tool. The student is responsible for finding an expert willing to train him or her and test competence. Past examples of tools approved after petitions include linguistic analysis, Marxist and neo-Marxist theory, and feminist methods. The Graduate Committee will approve petitions for alternative tools of research only if they are directly related to students' work. It will not approve petitions submitted after students' course work is completed. PhD students are not allowed to satisfy the tool of research with two alternative tools; one must be a standard tool. 

A PhD student who has passed a tool of research exam in langauge, statistics, computer science, oral history, or information technology at another institution will be considered to have demonstrated competence with that tool of research/analysis if the requirements are comparable to those of the AU History Department.


Competence in a foreign language is satisfied by examination. Competence in other tools of research and analysis may include additional requirements. Students should consult individual faculty examiners for the requirements in tools of research and analysis other than foreign language. 


The MA tool of research/analysis requirement must be satisfied before the student may take the MA comprehensive examination. PhD students must also demonstrate competence with at least one tool of research/analysis before they take their second comprehensive examination, and competence with both tools of research/analysis before they take the dissertation comprehensive. Students must completely fulfill their tool of research/analysis requirements before receiving their graduate degree.