Guidelines for Graduate Students in English: Rhetoric and Composition Option

Guidelines for Graduate Students in English: Rhetoric and Composition Option

Welcome to the Rhetoric & Composition option. The following program has been prepared to help you move easily and successfully through the program. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask them.

People to Know About in English

Professor Irene Clark

Director of the Composition Program

Office: ST 720

Telephone: 818-677-3414


Professor Steven Wexler

Office: ST 732

Telephone: 818-677-5694


Professor Santosh Khadka

Office: ST 834

Telephone: 818-677-4337

Email: santosh.khadka@csun.edu

Professor Sandra Stanley

Graduate Advisor

Office: ST 801

Telephone: 818-677-3426

Email: sandra.stanley@csun.edu

Professor Jennifer Lee

Office: ST 830

Telephone: 818-677-2718


 Frank De La Santo

Graduate Administrative Coordinator

Office: ST 705

Telephone: 818-677-3433

Email: frank.delasanto@csun.edu

Professor Iswari Pandey

English 205 Coordinator

Office: ST 822

Telephone: 818-677-0910



Professor Kent Baxter, Chair of Department

Office: Sierra Tower, Room 704

Phone: 818-677-3434

Email: kent.baxter@csun.edu

The MA Degree in Rhetoric and Composition Sequence:

  • Submit work sample to the Graduate Administrative Coordinator.

  • Students must be classified within their first 12 units of course work.

  • Select and complete courses.

  • Once classified, students should email the Graduate Advisor for an appointment to submit their Formal Program. This is a department/option specific contract that lists all the classes that are required for their Master's degree.

  • Students need to apply for graduation through Admissions the semester before they plan to graduate.

  • Take culminating experience (MA R/C exam or Graduate Project) their final semester.



The Rhetoric and Composition Theory option focuses on the interconnections among texts, contexts, readers, and writers. Students who select this option will take courses that address historical and theoretical approaches to language, rhetoric, and writing. The option serves the practical needs of graduate students who plan to go into teaching as a full- or part-time career. It also provides the theoretical foundation for further study in rhetoric or composition studies at the Ph.D. level. For those who want to become professional writers, the option offers theoretical and practical knowledge, applicable in a variety of workplace environments.

With the guidance of a Rhetoric Option Advisor and the Graduate Advisor, students select courses in the concentration that serve their educational or professional objectives. The program seeks to meet the needs of a wide range of students, including the following:

  • Present and future teachers of writing at the secondary and college levels;
  • Students seeking a master’s level foundation for further graduate work in Rhetoric and Composition studies;
  • Students who want to pursue careers that require effective written communication skills;
  • Professionals for whom writing is an essential part of their work;
  • Aspiring professional writers.

Program Benefits

Courses in the Rhetoric and Composition Theory option complement concentrations in literature and creative writing. Students can study literature, creative writing, and linguistics within the option, as well as rhetoric and composition pedagogy. Since the field of contemporary rhetoric and composition is informed by many other disciplines, the option is designed to take advantage of a variety of offerings in the English Department with enrich its program. Courses within the option provide an intellectual challenge comparable to that experienced by students in the creative writing and literature options. For practicing teachers, the program provides a broader and deeper knowledge of the research into the nature of the composing process that has emerged in recent years. Finally, an MA in English with a concentration in Rhetoric and Composition Theory is regarded highly by future employers and directors of doctoral programs.


Students with a BA in English or with 24 units in approved upper division English courses and a BA in another discipline may apply to be admitted to the option.

Work Sample

During their first semester of residency, students wishing to apply to the Rhetoric and Composition Theory option must submit a non-fiction scholarly work sample along with a letter of intent. The sample can be of any length and in any medium (e.g., essay, video, website, blog) and may have been submitted in one of your classes (undergraduate or graduate). However, whatever the length or medium, the sample should demonstrate your ability to engage in scholarship and write error free prose. Include a letter of intent indicating why you are choosing rhetoric and composition theory as your MA English Option. Pick up a cover sheet from the Graduate Administrative Coordinator in ST 705 or download from here. Fill it out and submit it with your work sample and letter of intent. (If your work sample is online, include the URL on your cover sheet.) Submit two copies of the cover sheet, work sample (unless your work sample is online), and letter of intent to the Graduate Administrative Coordinator. Look on the English MA Program Calendar of Important Dates for deadlines.

You will be notified in writing of the results of your reading.

Culminating Experience: MA R/C Exam or Graduate Project

MA R/C Exam English 6987C (.pdf)

The exam consists of two parts: Part I is a three-hour general examination of your knowledge of the fields of rhetoric and composition; it is based on a reading list constructed by the Composition committee. Part II is a take-home essay of 8-10 pages which is based on a specialized subject area within the field of Rhetoric and Composition; you select the specialized subject area in advance with the help of an advisor. Part II is written immediately after you take Part I and is due in two weeks.

Graduate Project English 698D

Students will discuss and practice the tools of literary research in developing two individual projects (an eight to ten-page rhetoric/composition paper and a 25 to 30-page rhetoric/composition paper) that demonstrate an advanced level of proficiency in relation to professional research and writing skills. Students will also gain experience with professional conferences, in two ways: (1) they will apply to a graduate student conference outside of the course, and (2) they will cooperatively organize, develop, administer, and participate in a one-day conference comprised of panels of papers written by students for the course.


Students should consult the Graduate Advisor about the possibility of taking up to two courses in other departments. These courses must be carefully selected to coordinate well with the Rhetoric/Composition option. As the outline below shows, students may select four courses (12 units) in rhetoric or composition or study of language beyond the required core requirement, Engl. 651: Rhetoric and Composition Theory (3 units). Students will be guided during the advising process to ensure both depth and breadth of course selection in the option.

MA Core Requirements: Rhetoric and Composition Theory 30 units total

Average course load = 2-3 courses per semester, Average time = 2-3 years

The Master of Arts Degree in English provides all of its students with a solid core in linguistics, critical theory, and literary/cultural analysis. All students are also required to complete a common culminating experience in their final semester. To supplement this core, students in each option must take a common methods course and then they are allowed to take three specialized courses in the areas of creative writing, literature, or rhetoric/composition.

Core courses (required in all three options):

1. English 604, Seminar in Language and Linguistics

2. English 638, Seminar in Critical Approaches

3. Graduate Level Literature Courses (Choose two): English 525, 617, 620, 622 (Lit), 623 (Lit), 624 (Lit), 630, or 654 (Lit)

4. Exam/Project (Choose one): English 697C or 698D

5. Elective Course (Choose one if taking 698D; Choose two if taking 697C): English 512, 525, 600A/B, 608, 609, 617, 620, 622, 623, 624, 630, or 654

Option-specific requirements:

1. Methods Course (English 651)

2. Three Required Courses in Rhetoric/Composition 

**All 400-level courses require the approval of the Graduate Advisor via the 400-level consent form.

Students may only take up to two 400-level courses and they may not be used for the graduate level literature requirement.


Available Courses:

Linguistics 417**

Language Development and Acquisition (3 units)

Linguistics 525

Pedagogical Grammar (3 units)

English 405**

Language Differences and Language Change (3 units)

English 406**

Advanced Expository Writing for Teachers (3 units)

English 407**

Composition and the Professions (3 units)

English 455**

Literacy and Rhetoric (3 units)

English 459A-Z**

Special Topics Writing Rhetoric (3 units)

English 600A

College Composition: Theory and Pedagogy (Must be accepted to the TA program to take this course) (3 units)

English 600B/BF

College Composition: Theory and Pedagogy (will include a classroom-based research project) (Must be accepted to the TA program to take this course) (3 units)

English 612

Stylistics (3 units)

English 650

Twentieth-Century Rhetoric (3 units)

English 653

Literary and Rhetorical Genre Theory (3 units)

English 654A-Z

Advanced Topics in Rhetoric and Composition: Composition and Critical Theory (3 units)

English 655

Forms of Professional Writing (3 units)

English 660

Writing and the Developmental Student (3 units)

English 661

Methods of Inquiry in Composition (strongly recommended for professional preparation ) (3 units)

English 665

Reading/Writing Connection (3 units)


This course is not available to graduate students if it was taken as an undergraduate

These courses may be supplemented by additional courses in special topics in consultation with the Graduate Advisor.