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 teaching at the community college level, for study at the doctoral 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.
Program Student Learning Outcomes
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:
- Closely analyze texts at an advanced level, using a range of critical and theoretical approaches.
- 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.
- Recognize, describe, and apply advanced theories and practices in translation studies.
- Recognize, describe, and apply advanced theories and practices that inform the fields of literature, composition pedagogy, and creative writing.
- 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.
- 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 Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and receive a minimum score of 550 on the paper-based test (PBT) or a minimum of 80 on the internet-based test (IBT).
A complete application consists of the following:
Application Materials Submitted Directly to the Admissions Office of Cal State San Marcos:
- A completed university application form for admission to Cal State San Marcos via CSU Apply.
- Application fee (paid via CSU Apply).
- One set of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, with indication of graduation.
Application Materials Submitted to the Literature and Writing Studies Department via CSU Apply:
- A completed online application form for admission to the Master’s Program in Literature and Writing Studies.
- Unofficial transcripts from all colleges and universities attended (including CSUSM), 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 ten pages on a literary topic with secondary sources. The essay should not be written for the purpose of admission, but instead provide a sample of the applicant’s best undergraduate work.
- Three letters of recommendation from faculty in the humanities or arts (except undergraduate Literature and Writing Studies majors at CSUSM, who may list names and e-mails of LTWR faculty who have agreed to recommend them).
The application deadline for Fall admission is March 1, 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, but no later than May 1st.
The program requires 30 semester hours of studies (10 courses, including thesis work). At least eighteen (18) units must be graded coursework at the 500- and 600-level. No more than six (6) units may be taken at the 400-level, and these must include additional assignments that are pre-approved by the faculty member and the Literature and Writing Studies Graduate Coordinator. No more than six (6) units taken before admission to the graduate program may be applied to the degree.
Units earned not in residence at Cal State San Marcos are limited to six (6) and must be pre-approved by the Literature and Writing Studies Graduate Coordinator. A maximum of nine (9) units of courses graded credit/no credit (i.e., internships, independent study, and thesis work) will be accepted in the program.
The typical full-time student will complete the program in four semesters. Required courses are LTWR 511 , LTWR 600 (must be taken in first semester), LTWR 601 , LTWR 602A , LTWR 602B , and LTWR 699 . A substantial thesis project, 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.
To continue in the graduate program, students must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 (A=4.0). 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 Information policies on “Continuous Enrollment Requirement and Time-Limit to Degree” and “Graduate Student Leave of Absence.”
All students 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 (18) units are completed for part-time students. In addition, students must defend the completed thesis in front of their thesis 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.
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 draft of the thesis proposal to the members of the thesis committee. The proposal must be approved by the seventh week of the same semester, accompanied by a signed Thesis Committee Membership Form, submitted to the Literature and Writing Studies Graduate Coordinator.
Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL)
Students need to fulfill the Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL) before advancing to candidacy. The final paper in LTWR 600 serves as evidence of completion of the GWARGL, unless an alternative assignment has been pre-approved by the Literature and Writing Studies Graduate Coordinator. Please refer to Graduation Writing Assessment Requirement – Graduate Level (GWARGL) for more information regarding this requirement.
Advancement to Candidacy
To advance to candidacy, the student must:
- Be classified as in good standing;
- Have completed at least fifteen (15) units;
- Have a 3.0 GPA or above; and
- Have a thesis committee formed and a thesis proposal approved.
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. Literature and Writing Studies graduate students may choose among only LTWR tenure-track faculty members for their thesis committee chair. The thesis chair ensures that the thesis conforms to program and university standards. The thesis chair 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
The LTWR Master’s thesis is between 50-80 pages in length. The format of the thesis can vary, with the following representing the most common options:
- a sustained textual analysis on a focused topic in literary and/or cultural studies;
- a collection of scholarly textual analyses accompanied by a critical introduction;
- a collection of creative writing or a sustained piece of creative writing accompanied by a critical introduction; or
- a combination of creative and critical approaches accompanied by a critical introduction.
Research leading to the thesis will be the culminating experience for each student enrolled in the Master’s program.
To earn credit for work on their theses, students must sign up for LTWR 690C (Graduate Research) while conducting research and writing thesis drafts, and LTWR 699 (Graduate Thesis) in the semester of the thesis defense. LTWR 690C 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, and the thesis.
Graduate Teaching Assistantships and Internships
A limited number of competitive Teaching Assistantships in the GEW program may be available to students who complete LTWR 602A . 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 602B the first time they teach, requesting classroom observations from the GEW Director and/or LTWR faculty, and submitting a professional portfolio of relevant teaching materials in LTWR 602B .
Teaching/professional internships supervised by Literature and Writing Studies faculty may be arranged for course credit (LTWR 695A (1 unit), LTWR 695B (2 units), LTWR 695C (3 units), LTWR 695D (4 units), LTWR 695E (5 units), LTWR 695F (6 units)). 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 Literature and Writing Studies Graduate Coordinator and the campus Office of Internships.
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 and the Literature and Writing Studies Graduate Coordinator. If the matter cannot be resolved informally, then the student may file a formal grievance in accordance with CSUSM 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 CHABSS Dean’s Office.
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 Literature and Writing Studies 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 may 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 that student fails to complete the thesis four semesters after the approval of the thesis proposal. The student may petition the Literature and Writing Studies 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 Information policies on “Continuous Enrollment Requirement” and “Time-Limit to Degree.”
Failed Thesis Defense
The student will be put on probation if that student fails the oral defense of the thesis prior to the time limit for the degree. The student will be dropped from the program if the oral defense of the thesis is failed after having reached the time limit for the degree. The student may petition the Literature and Writing Studies 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.