College of Arts and Sciences

Department of English

Master of Arts in English

(Rhetoric and Composition Emphasis)

This program allows students to specialize in the theory and pedagogy of composition. The degree is designed to prepare candidates for teaching positions at the college level or for doctoral programs with a specialization in composition and rhetoric. Language proficiency requirements are based on the candidate's expected needs and may be met by linguistics or other language studies. Candidates for this degree may prepare either a thesis or a portfolio: the thesis option requires 24 graded seminar hours, the portfolio option requires 27. Either way, students must
fulfill the following requirements:

I. Programs and Courses (30-38 credit hours)

A.      Both of the following courses (6 hours)

  • ENGL 501 (Methodology of Composition)
  • ENGL 502 (Contemporary Theories of Composition)

B.      Three of the following eight courses (9 hours)

  • ENGL 508 (Seminar in Assessment of Writing)
  • ENGL 509 (Classical Rhetoric)
  • ENGL 515 (Contemporary Rhetorical Theory)
  • ENGL 516 (Rhetorical Theory; same as COMM 525)
  • ENGL 531 (Administering a Writing Lab)
  • ENGL 532 (Teaching Writing to Non-Traditional Students)
  • ENGL 534 (Teaching Technical and Professional Writing)
  • ENGL 597 (Topics in Rhetoric and Composition)

C.      A minimum of three graded hours to be selected from the department's graduate offerings in linguistics or TESOL. The director of the student's program may allow the student to substitute other graded courses for this 3-hour requirement if the student's individual program would benefit from specialized work in another related area, e.g., computer programming or the teaching of reading.

D.      After consultation with the student, the student's advisor may recommend that the student take one or two courses in literature, but the final decision about this requirement rests with the advisor. Depending upon the advisor's
recommendation, students pursuing the thesis option would take one course;
students pursuing the portfolio option would take two. Ideally, these literature
courses should cohere as a unit (e.g., a series of courses focused on gender issues,
on twentieth-century literature, on drama, etc.).

E.     Finally, students are required to present a 15-20 minute paper at the annual M.A. Conference sponsored by the English Department near the end of Spring

II. Portfolio Process

The M.A. examination in Rhetoric and Composition involves a process which begins during the third semester of the program. At the outset of that semester (or even at the end of the second semester), the student forms a committee of three faculty members to supervise the examination and portfolio. The student should also complete his or her Program of Study form at this point, working in close consultation with the Academic Coordinator.

During the fourth and final semester of the program, the student should enroll in at least two credits of ENGL 702. It is during this semester as well that the student will (1) submit his or her portfolio, (2) take the three-day comprehensive written examination based on an annotated bibliography, and (3) defend both the portfolio and the written exam at a final oral examination.

The portfolio should be submitted by the end of the second week of the semester and consists of the following items:

The portfolio consists of the following items:

    1. One revised, publishable seminar paper.  This paper may derive from any graduate seminar taken at WSU.
    2. An annotated bibliography in the student's area of interest, developed in consultation with the student's advisor and committee members.  This bibliography will be used as the basis for the three-day take-Home examination.
    3. A statement of intent which explains how the student's course of study and intended focus for the take-Home examination relates to his or her professional goals and interests.
    4. A cover letter or memo which describes the contents of the portfolio.

The Master's Committee will read, evaluate, and provide comments to the student over a two- or three-week period.  The chair of this committee is responsible for making sure that all members give comments to the student, and that the student has ample time to make revisions.

III. Comprehensive Examination (Portfolio Option Only)

The comprehensive examination is a three-day take-home exam administered by the members of the student's Master's Committee. It is based on the annotations in the student's annotated bibliography. Normally the examination is given to the student at the end of the sixth week of his or her final semester: the student picks up the exam on Friday morning and returns it the following Monday morning. The examination usually has just one question, but it is up to the chair and the committee members to decide the precise format. The student's written response to the exam question(s) must be no longer than fifteen double-spaced pages using a 12-point type font.

Within two weeks of the submission of the examination, the student's committee members should have evaluated the students answer(s) and provided their recommendations (of pass or failure) to the committee chair. If the committee agrees that the student has submitted passing work, the student may schedule a final oral examination. If the committee members believe the student has failed the exam, they may ask the student to retake the exam.

IV. Oral Examination (Portfolio Option)

The student schedules a final oral examination with his or her Master's Committee. The oral is not so much an examination as a discussion with the committee of the take-home examination and the revised essay in the portfolio. It is, in essence, a conversation among colleagues, one in which the student has a chance to discuss his or her professional goals and may ask as well as answer questions. The intent is that it serve as a welcome into the profession.

Timeline for Final Semester of M.A. Program in Rhetoric and Composition (Portfolio Option)

End of second
week of semester: Submit portfolio to the members of your committee.

The portfolio includes the following components:

  1. a cover letter or memo outlining the content of the portfolio;
  2. a statement of intent regarding your professional goals;
  3. an annotated bibliography on your specific area of interest (this
    bibliography will be used by your committee members in designing the question for the takehome exam);
  4. one revised, publishable seminar paper.

End of sixth week of semester: Begin three-day take-home examination

Beginning of seventh week of semester: Submit take-home examination

End of eighth week of semester: Last day to apply for a graduate degree

Ninth or tenth weeks: Begin scheduling M.A. oral examinations (do this
with the Academic Coordinator)

Twelfth through fifteenth weeks: Take oral (final) examinations

Fourteenth week (usually Wednesday
afternoon, 1:00-4:00 p.m.): In-house conference for all M.A. students

Note: the final version of your portfolio must be submitted to your committee members at least two weeks before your oral examination. In other words, you'll need to submit it around the same time that you see the Academic Coordinator to schedule the exam.

Note: Final oral examinations may not be scheduled during Finals Week; the last eligible day is the Friday of the previous week ("Dead Week").

Also: your scheduling form for the final examination must reach the WSU Graduate School at least ten working days prior to the date of the examination itself.

Rhetoric and Composition Emphasis








Department of English, PO Box 645020, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5020, 509-335-2581, Contact Us