M.A. Concentration in Rhetoric and Composition

The graduate concentration in rhetoric and composition provides focused study of writing and literacy, the teaching of writing and the role of persuasive language in academic disciplines, professional and civic life and culture at large. This concentration offers a flexible curriculum, a nationally recognized faculty and an award-winning graduate teaching assistantship program.

Our master’s program is situated in a vibrant intellectual community that also includes an M.S. degree in technical communication, an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in digital humanities, and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in communication, rhetoric and digital media. Collaboration among these programs yields a rich mix of faculty and student interests and expertise. Master’s level rhet/comp students gain a firm theoretical foundation in both composition and rhetoric, and also have opportunities to study such areas of interest as:

  • Composition research and pedagogy
  • Digital rhetoric
  • Writing and new media
  • Experimental and multimodal composition
  • Writing across the curriculum
  • Rhetorical history and criticism
  • Sociolinguistics
  • Professional writing
  • Scientific and technical communication
  • Writing program administration

Rhetoric and composition are lively and growing areas of English studies, contributing research and critical understanding of the role of writing in the classroom, in business organizations and in society. Our graduates have gone on to work as practical communicators in industry, to teach at all levels of education and to pursue doctoral degrees in this field. In fact, the field of rhetoric and composition now represents approximately one-fourth of the faculty positions in English departments listed by the Modern Language Association each year in its academic job list.


Disciplinary Core (15 credit hours)

  • 1 course in Composition (3 hours): ENG 511 Theory and Research in Composition. This course introduces major research and theoretical perspectives on the teaching of writing.
  • 1 course in Rhetoric (3 hours). Choose one of the following:​​​​​​​

ENG 514 History of Rhetoric 
ENG 516 Rhetorical Criticism: Theory and Practice
ENG 554 Contemporary Rhetorical Theory 
ENG 515 Rhetoric of Science and Technology

These courses address major issues and concepts in rhetoric ranging from Greek antiquity to contemporary poststructuralism, and applications from public speeches to popular culture to teaching to technical communication. Most are cross-listed in the Department of Communication.

  • 2 elective courses in rhetoric and composition (6 hours).  Select from the rhetoric courses listed above; the research methods courses listed below; or special topics courses in areas such as computers and composition, emerging genres, writing across the curriculum, and writing program administration (usually offered as ENG 583 Studies in Rhetoric and Writing.
  • 1 course in linguistics (3 hours).  Linguistics courses provide perspectives on language structure, change, and social impacts that are important to understanding educational and public uses of language.  ENG 525, Variety in Language, is especially recommended if you are planning a teaching career.  Note: If you choose a linguistics course to fulfill your research methods requirement (e.g., ENG 527), you may take an additional rhetoric or composition elective in this slot instead.

Research Component (6 credit hours)

  • 1 course in research methods (3 hours). Before embarking on your capstone research, select one research methods course congruent with your disciplinary interests. Courses such as the following will fulfill this requirement.

ENG 506 Verbal Data Analysis
ENG 513 Empirical Research in Composition
ENG/COM 516 Rhetorical Criticism: Theory and Practice
ENG 527 Discourse Analysis
ENG 532 Narrative Analysis
ENG/COM 581 Visual Rhetoric: Theory and Criticism
ENG 583 Studies in Rhetoric and Writing (when topic is methodological)
ENG 585 Studies in Film (when focused on pertinent methodologies)
ENG 587 Interdisciplinary Studies in English (when focused on pertinent methodologies)

  • ENG 676 Master’s Capstone Research (3 hours), taken in the final semester. The master's capstone project should be on a topic that draws from scholarship in the area of rhetoric and composition or that is of clear relevance in the field. It should be conceived to address a specific audience and designed for a specific situation; thus, it could be composed as an article targeting a specific journal or conference; a curriculum plan or teaching materials for a particular instructional agenda; an online resource fulfilling a well defined need; etc. The master's project should be developed in consultation with faculty in rhetoric and composition and must be approved by the advisor for the concentration.

Literature Electives (6 credits)

  • To connect with other core areas of English Studies, all MA English students take two courses in American, British, or World literature, film studies, or literary theory.

Open Electives (6 credits)

  • 2 electives selected in consultation with the concentration advisor. These courses may be from rhetoric and composition, linguistics, literature, digital humanities or other areas within the English Department, or, when appropriate to meet particular goals, from the Department of Communication, Foreign Languages, History, Psychology, the College of Education, or other fields.