College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences

Rhetoric & Composition

Students pursuing the M.A. in the Rhetoric & Composition option will be exposed to broad theoretical and historical understandings of rhetoric, ranging from classical conceptions of persuasion to contemporary theories exploring the relations of language, knowledge, and power. The three broad areas of study in the option include the history of rhetoric, modern and contemporary rhetorical theory, and pedagogy. Students completing this intensive course of study will have the theoretical, historical, and pedagogical understandings enabling them to teach composition effectively at a variety of levels, including the four-year university or college, the community college, and the secondary school. Students completing course work for the option (along with the portfolio exam or thesis) will also have a strong foundation for pursuing further graduate work leading to a Ph.D. in rhetoric & composition.

For required coursework, see the University Catalog.

Rhetoric & Composition Culminating Experience

Students can choose between the Portfolio Examination and M.A. Thesis for their culminating experience.

Portfolio Examination (enroll in ENG 6970)

The portfolio is an opportunity for students to synthesize material from several courses and to consider their learning in the program as a whole. In it, students demonstrate how their knowledge and ability have developed over the course of the program and reflect on what they have learned about rhetoric, writing, and pedagogy. They revisit past work and propose how they might improve it. The portfolio should provide a thoughtful representation of students' writing, research, and teaching abilities (which means that it might be something they could show potential employers as part of a job search). Completed portfolios contain:

  • A cover page confirming the contents of the portfolio.
  • A reflective essay that considers how well the portfolio meets the Student Learning Outcomes of the Rhetoric & Composition M.A. Option.
  • A rhetorical analysis of a text using appropriate classical, modern, and contemporary rhetorical theories/scholarship.
  • Five seminar papers or projects, each including a discussion of changes in the direction or arguments the paper might take after accounting for new perspectives gained since each paper or project was written, plus annotations in the text indicating where changes would be made.

See the Portfolio Contents (PDF) handout for a more detailed discussion of the portfolio contents and procedures. See the Portfolio Grading Rubric (PDF) for more information on expectations for this culminating experience.

Portfolios may be submitted in hardcopy or as electronic documents (PDF or posted to a blog or website). Portfolios are evaluated in the fall and spring semesters. For more information, contact an advisor.

M.A. Thesis (enroll in ENG 6960)

Students may also choose to write a thesis, a directed, in-depth research project. For more information, see the guidelines (PDF). Then speak with an advisor before filling out the petition (DOC).