May 25, 2019  
2016-2018 Catalog 
2016-2018 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Literature and Writing Studies, M.A.

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Program of Study

The California State University San Marcos Literature and Writing Studies (LTWR) Department offers graduate study leading to the Master of Arts degree. Our mission is to prepare students for study at the doctoral level, for teaching at the community college level, and for occupations in the private and public sectors that require a high degree of literacy.

Rather than offering an emphasis in literature or writing studies at the master’s level, our program aims to balance and integrate these activities. Since we read writing and write reading, we see no purpose in studying one without the other. To do so would deny the integrity of our discipline.

Because most of our students are, or eventually will be, teachers, our intention is to provide a graduate teaching apprenticeship within the program that begins with classes, seminars, and close faculty mentoring and leads to internships, tutoring, and teaching assistantships. Qualified students may work in the University Writing Center or teach general education writing courses. Internships may also be arranged at community colleges or other organizations.

Student Learning Objectives

Graduate students in the Department of Literature and Writing Studies (LTWR) develop theoretical knowledge and practice critical reading and writing in the field. The program has been designed so that graduates should be able to:

  1. Closely analyze texts at an advanced level, using a range of critical and theoretical approaches.
  2. Analyze, within a theoretical framework or frameworks, the historical, political, and/or social conditions of texts from local and global literary traditions, with attention to the formation of literary canons and counter-canons.
  3. Proficiently read and interpret texts in at least one language other than one’s native language.
  4. Recognize and describe advanced theories and practices that inform the fields of literature, composition pedagogy, and creative writing.
  5. Participate in professional practices such as disseminating scholarship/ creative activities through course-assigned conference papers and other scholarly or creative works and activities that meet current standards for publication and presentation in the field of literature and/or writing studies.
  6. Write a theoretically informed thesis that contributes to research or creative activity in the field of literature and/or writing studies.

Admission Requirements and Application

All applicants, including international students, must meet all the general requirements for admission to graduate studies at Cal State San Marcos. These university requirements are described in this catalog under Graduate Studies.

Admission to the program requires a bachelor’s degree, preferably in English, literature and writing studies, comparative literature, rhetoric, linguistics, or a comparable program.

Applicants with these and any other bachelor’s degree must have taken at least five upper-division courses of 3-4 units each in literature or writing from an accredited university. Admission decisions will be influenced by the breadth, appropriateness, and grades of undergraduate course work. Applicants must have maintained a grade point average of not less than 3.0 in the last 60 units of undergraduate study, and a 3.3 average in upper-division literature and writing courses.

All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE General). Although the minimum cut-off scores may vary from year to year, it is unlikely that students will be admitted with a verbal score of less than 153 and an Analytical Writing Score of less than 4.

All applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose preparatory education was principally in a language other than English, must take the combined Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and receive a minimum score of 550 on the TOEFL and a minimum of 4.5 on the Test of Written English (TWE) portion of the paper-based TOEFL or on the writing portion of the computer-based TOEFL.

A complete application consists of the following:

Application Materials sent directly to the Admissions Office of Cal State San Marcos:

  • A completed university application form for admission to Cal State San Marcos.
  • Application fee.
  • One set of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, with indication of graduation.

Application Materials sent directly to the Literature and Writing Studies Department (see address below):

  • A completed application form for admission to the Master’s Program in Literature and Writing Studies.
  • One set of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, with indication of graduation.
  • A 750- to 1000-word “statement of purpose.” This statement should address educational and career goals, relevant educational background, and research experience.
  • A writing sample. This should be an analytical essay of no fewer than five pages on a literary topic. The essay should not be written for the purpose of admission, but instead provide a sample of the applicant’s best undergraduate work.
  • GRE (and TOEFL/TWE, if appropriate) score reports.
  • Three letters of recommendation (except undergraduate Literature and Writing Studies majors at Cal State San Marcos, who may list names of LTWR faculty familiar with their work).

Application materials (consisting of a departmental application form, a California State University Admissions booklet, and a leaflet describing the program) are available upon request from the Literature and Writing Studies Department Administrative Coordinator at California State University, San Marcos, San Marcos, CA 92096-0001.

Application Deadlines:
The application deadline for Fall admission is May 15th, however applicants are encouraged to submit their applications prior to March 15th for best consideration. Currently the graduate program is unable to offer Spring admission.

The application fee must be submitted to the Admissions Office by these deadlines. Applicants for Fall admission will be notified of the status of their application shortly after their files have been reviewed and a descision has been made, but no later than June 1st.

Degree Requirements

The program requires 30 semester hours (10 courses, one of which is thesis work) of studies. At least 18 units must be at the 500- and 600-level. No more than six (6) units may be taken at the 400-level, and these must be pre-approved by the LTWR Graduate Coordinator. No more than six units taken before admission to the graduate program may be applied to the degree. Required courses are LTWR 600 , LTWR 601 , and LTWR 602 , which should be taken as early as possible. (LTWR 600  must be taken in the first semester). A substantial thesis, approved and directed by the student’s thesis committee, is also required of all students. The grade point average must be at least 3.0 to graduate.

The typical full-time student will complete the program in four semesters. Units earned not in residence at Cal State San Marcos are limited to six, and must be approved by the LTWR Graduate Coordinator. A maximum of nine units of courses graded credit/no credit (usually internships, independent study, and thesis work) will be accepted in the program. Finally, students must satisfy a language other-than-English requirement (LOTER). Each candidate, with the approval of the graduate advisor, may fulfill the language requirement in one of several ways: (1) by passing the Modern Language Association Reading Examination; (2) by passing a local examination administered by the university’s language assessment process; (3) by completing one three-unit upper-division foreign language literature course with readings in the original language with a grade of C (2.0) or better; (4) by passing an examination to be determined by the LTWR Graduate Coordinator, if the chosen language is not one taught in a program at Cal State San Marcos; or (5) by successfully completing LTWR 511 . Students whose application materials reflect preparatory education principally in a language other than English are assumed to have met the LOTER.

Academic Continuation

To continue in the graduate program, students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (A=4). A student whose cumulative graduate GPA falls below 3.0 at any time is placed on academic probation. If the GPA falls below 3.0 for two consecutive semesters, the student will be dropped from the program. Unless students have an approved leave of absence, they must be continuously enrolled for Fall and Spring semesters. Please refer to the Graduate Studies  policies on “Continuous Enrollment Requirement and Time-Limit to Degree” and “Graduate Student Leave of Absence.”

Each student must present a formal thesis proposal to the thesis committee no later than the beginning of the third semester of study for full-time students, or after eighteen units are completed for part-time students. In addition, each student must defend the completed thesis in front of his/her committee no later than four semesters following the approval of the thesis proposal. The overall time-to-degree limit for full- and part-time students is five years after the beginning of coursework as a conditionally classified or classified graduate student.

Thesis Proposal

The thesis proposal consists of two parts:

(1) The Literature and Writing Studies Program Thesis Committee Membership Form and (2) a thesis proposal (1000-1500 words), which includes proposed areas of research or topics of research, a bibliography, an outline of each chapter, and a working plan for completion. By the fifth week of the semester prior to the semester in which the student plans to defend the thesis, he or she must submit a completed Thesis Membership Form, accompanied by a thesis proposal, to the LTWR Graduate Coordinator, the members of the thesis committee, and the LTWR Administrative Coordinator. The proposal must be approved by the seventh week of the same semester.

Master’s Student Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement

Students need to fulfill the Master’s Student Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement before advancing to candidacy. Please refer to Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement  for more information regarding this requirement.

Advancement to Candidacy

To advance to candidacy, the student must:

  1. Be classified and in good standing;
  2. Have completed fifteen (15) units;
  3. Have completed all required courses for the program;
  4. Have a 3.00 GPA or above; and
  5. Have a thesis committee formed and a thesis proposal approved.

Thesis Requirements

The thesis is the culminating experience for each student enrolled in the Master’s program. Each thesis committee will have a minimum of two members; three is the standard. LTWR graduate students may only choose among LTWR tenure-track faculty members for their thesis committee chair. The thesis chair ensures that the thesis conforms to program and university standards. S/he must have knowledge and expertise in the field of study and is responsible for the intellectual integrity, rigor, and quality of the research. The thesis chair and the LTWR Graduate Coordinator must approve the composition of the committee. The student must submit the final thesis to the thesis committee at least two weeks prior to the oral defense and orally defend the final thesis at least one week prior to the end of a regular semester. In exceptional cases, thesis work can be completed in a thesis extension course, LTWR 699X , LTWR 699Y , LTWR 699Z .

M.A. Thesis Options

Students have three options:

  • a thesis of 50-80 pages that represents a carefully developed argument
  • in exceptional cases: three 30-page publishable papers
  • a “creative writing thesis,” consisting of an abstract, a critical introduction, and a creative manuscript or multi-media piece (length varies relative to the project; see Graduate Coordinator for details)

The third option is open to students based on completed coursework in consultation with the creative writing faculty and the LTWR Graduate Coordinator. It involves at least six units of creative writing coursework at the 500-level and assembling a portfolio.

To earn credit for work on their theses, students must sign up for LTWR 690 (Graduate Research) while conducting research and writing thesis drafts, and LTWR 699 (Graduate Thesis) in the semester of the thesis defense. LTWR 690 can be repeated only once for credit toward the M.A. degree.

The prerequisite for enrolling in LTWR 699 is the completion of 24 units in the graduate program, or the consent of the chair of the thesis committee.


A student planning to graduate in any given semester must meet with the LTWR Graduate Coordinator at the beginning of the semester in order to evaluate all pertinent requirements described above concerning courses, the thesis, and the LOTER.

Graduate Teaching Assistantships and Internships

A limited number of competitive Teaching Assistantships in the GEW program may be available to students who have completed LTWR 602 . In subsequent semesters of supervised teaching, Teaching Assistants are also expected to demonstrate ongoing professional development in the field of composition pedagogy by taking LTWR 602  every semester they teach, requesting classroom observations from the GEW Director, and submitting to the GEW Director a professional portfolio of relevant teaching materials.

Teaching/professional internships supervised by LTWR faculty may be arranged for course credit (LTWR 695). Internships in the University Writing Center may also be available to qualified students. Apply for internships and paid positions in the Writing Center with the Writing Center Director. Unpaid graduate teaching internships at Palomar College and MiraCosta College may also be available. Consult with the LTWR Graduate Coordinator.


A graduate student who is aggrieved about a course grade, candidacy decision, or degree requirement should first discuss the matter with the relevant faculty member or the LTWR Graduate Coordinator. If the matter cannot be resolved informally, then the student may file a formal grievance in accordance with Cal State San Marcos policy, first with the Department Graduate Studies Committee, then, if not resolved at this level, with the Chair of the Literature and Writing Studies Department, and finally with the Dean of Arts and Sciences.

Failed Thesis Proposal

The student will be put on probation if the student fails to submit a thesis proposal by the fifth week of the semester prior to the expected semester of graduation, or if the thesis committee does not approve the thesis proposal. Upon petition to the LTWR Graduate Studies Committee, the student may be given one more chance to develop an acceptable proposal by three weeks prior to the end of the semester. The student will be dropped from the program if the thesis committee does not approve the student’s second thesis proposal submission.

Failure to Complete the Thesis

The student will be dropped from the program if s/he fails to complete his/her thesis four semesters after the approval of his/her thesis proposal. The student may petition the LTWR Graduate Studies Committee for special consideration to extend the limit. The petition must state the reason for the extension and a specific plan to complete all the requirements. The LTWR Graduate Studies Committee will respond to the petition in writing. Extensions beyond the five-year time-to-degree limit require approval of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Please refer to the Graduate Studies  policies on “Continuous Enrollment Requirement and Time-Limit to Degree.”

Failed Thesis Defense

The student will be put on probation if s/he fails the oral defense of the thesis prior to the time limit for the degree. The student will be dropped from the program if s/he fails the oral defense of the thesis after having reached the time limit for the degree. The student may petition the LTWR Graduate Studies Committee for specific consideration to repeat the oral defense. The petition must give reasons why the defense ought to be repeated and a specific timeline to prepare for an oral defense in the following semester. The LTWR Graduate Studies Committee will respond to the petition in writing.

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