Composition, Rhetoric, and English Studies

Master’s Exam

The master’s graduation requirement (for those not writing a thesis) is an oral examination and defense of a seminar paper. Students will choose one their strongest seminar papers from a CRES course for the capstone experience and will work with the professor of that class to revise the paper, do additional reading on the topic, and defend the work at the end of the semester in which they plan to graduate.

To begin the process of the MA capstone, students should contact the CRES professor who taught the seminar and ask if the faculty member would be willing to chair. In consultation with the chair, students will choose two additional committee members. The chair and student will work together to form a timeline for revising the paper. Students should complete a revised draft early in the final semester to allow sufficient time for consultations with the chair and further revisions. The chair will notify the student when the revised paper is ready to go to the committee, and from there the student can schedule the paper defense.

In addition to completing the MA paper, students will generate a reading list of 20-25 items. Many of these readings will already be listed in the bibliography of the seminar paper, but the student and chair may add additional reading items to round out the list. The list may include articles as well as books, primary as well as secondary texts. This list should place the paper’s focus within the broader context of English studies/rhetoric & composition. The student will be responsible for these works during a one-hour oral defense of the paper.

To successfully complete the MA capstone requirement, students should produce a well-developed seminar paper of approximately 20-30 pages that effectively covers the topic, places it in the context of an ongoing conversation in composition-rhetoric or English studies, and has the potential to become a publishable project.

Oral Defense

In the oral defense, students should be able to

  • discuss the paper fluently, addressing broader questions about the importance of the research and its relationship to enduring debates in the field.
  • demonstrate an awareness of possible venues for presentation or publication of the work.
  • ¬†field questions about the reading list, showing familiarity with the individual works and understanding of how their ideas relate to the published authors’.
  • discuss the pedagogical applications of the work and practical consequences/implications for teachers & scholars.

The oral defense is also an opportunity for students to talk with the committee about their experience in the program, future goals for teaching/research, and questions regarding professional or academic goals.