Master of Arts Degree in English: Concentration in Composition

Program Description

This program is intended to train, or give additional training to, professionals in the field of composition, whether they teach or intend to teach at the college, community college, or advanced high school levels, supervise writing programs, or pursue doctoral work in composition or English education.

The English Department developed its Composition program in order to increase and disseminate knowledge in a field of study which is central to the success of all students in higher education.  The field of Composition Studies, in which much remains to be discovered and understood, has emerged rapidly as a new frontier for exploring the nature of human knowledge, learning and communication.  Because of its growth as a field independent of literature and linguistics, the graduate Composition program has permanent faculty hired specifically for its expertise in and enthusiasm for Composition Studies.  There are seven permanent composition and reading faculty members, each with substantial publications in the field and a particular area of expertise.

The required courses in the program cover three areas of study:  the practical business of teaching regular and remedial composition, developments in research in composition, and developments in the study of language that bear directly or indirectly on composition studies.  At the same time, elective units are allowed which the student may use to pursue one or more of these areas further or to become acquainted with an associated area of work, such as teaching reading or teaching English as a Second Language.  Concluding the program is an integrative seminar in which students sum up and focus their work and prepare for the comprehensive examinations.

Students in the graduate Composition program find themselves in a dynamic rather than a static learning environment, and take courses that change as the field develops, and in which they are not merely encouraged but expected to contribute both to knowledge in the field and to one another's growth.  These are demanding and challenging courses conducted in a friendly, informal atmosphere.  While students are expected to work to very high standards, the individual receives close personal attention and support.

The English Department offers superior students in the graduate Composition and Reading programs the possibility of teaching undergraduate Composition courses as teaching associates or lecturers.  The Composition and Reading staff, numbering between 40 and 45 instructors, is hired primarily from among students in the Certificate and M.A. programs through competitive written examinations and interviews.  Part-time instructors join an innovative, energetic staff with a long tradition of cooperation and they gain experience teaching at all levels, from remedial freshmen to upper-division students.  Graduates and instructors from San Francisco State University have gained an excellent reputation among schools in Northern California, and far more are employed in this area than those from any program of any size.  Graduates of our programs have taught or are teaching at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley, U.C. Davis, U.C. Santa Cruz, the University of Santa Clara, and Sonoma State University, as well as at colleges and universities in many other parts of the country and the world.  Many hold tenured positions at California community colleges.

Course Requirements

Students of any undergraduate major may apply to the program.  Students who have not taken any linguistics courses as part of their undergraduate training are typically admitted conditionally and must complete a linguistics/language studies course during their first year in the program.

English 700: Introduction to Graduate Study in Composition

Introduces students to key issues in the field of composition and provides a link between research and practice. Includes readings in the composing process, discourse studies, evaluation, writing and thinking, writing and speaking, writing and reading.

English 704: Pedagogy in Composition I

This course aims to provide the theoretical and practical tools with which to work with student writing in the classroom.  The course focuses on central issues involved with student writing, including theories and principles of assignment design, responding to student writing, and working with students' literacy practices.

English 709: Seminar in Teaching Integrated Reading and Writing I

Exploration of the integration of reading and writing from both a theoretical and pedagogical perspective.

English 710: Seminar in Teaching Integrated Reading and Writing II

Exploration of the integration of reading and writing from both a theoretical and pedagogical perspective.

English 89O: Seminar in Research in Composition

Introduces students to major research methods current in the field of composition. Students in this course will design an original research project.

English 895: Field Study

Field study or research project incorporating application of knowledge and techniques acquired in the student's program of study. CR/NC grading only.

Career Options/Alternatives

  • Teaching composition and reading
  • Writing program administration
  • Learning center administration
  • Professional writing and consulting
  • Editing
  • Preparation for doctoral work in composition

Admission Procedures

Part I: Application to Graduate Studies:

  • Complete an online application with Graduate Studies through CSU Mentor at NOTE: Do not submit your Statement of Purpose to Graduate Studies, as it will be included with the materials you send to the department. On page 9 of the Graduate Studies Application, simply state that your personal statement has been sent directly to the English Department.
  • Send one set of transcripts from all colleges attended to Graduate Studies.

The phone number for Graduate Studies is (415) 338-2234.

Part II: Application to the English Department:

Send the following materials together in one package directly to the English Department, M.A. Composition:

  • A 1-2 page typed statement of purpose detailing why you are interested in the Composition concentration.
  • A recent writing sample (approximate length: between 7 and 10 pages). This writing should be analytic in nature. It may be from a previous course you have taken or it may be writing you undertook in your professional pursuit beyond the classroom. Please include a statement with your signature that certifies that the writing sample is your own.
  • One set of official transcripts from all colleges attended.
  • Two letters of recommendation that speak to your academic potential.

These documents should be on file in the English Department no later than March 15 for fall admission, or November 1 for spring admission. International applicants should submit their materials by January 1 for fall admission or September 1 for spring admission.

Current Students Checklist

Obtaining Classified Status

Students admitted with Conditionally Classified status normally obtain Classified status after Graduate Division reviews and approves the Graduate Approved Program (GAP). Under certain circumstances, you may wish to obtain Classified status before filing the GAP. If you have met the conditions outlined in your Notice of Admission, contact your department office about the procedure for changing your status from Conditionally Classified to Classified. If your program requires you to provide evidence that you have met these conditions, bring proof of completion (such as a transcript) to the department office and ask that it be added to your file.

Semester Before Taking English 895

Submit your Graduate Approved Program (GAP)

  • Use this form to describe how you will fulfill the requirements of your degree.
  • The Graduate Coordinator of the M.A. Composition Program will guide you through the process of preparing and submitting your GAP. Prepare the GAP form online before printing. If necessary, print out a blank copy and type in the information. If the form is handwritten, it will be rejected by Graduate Division.
  • Submit your GAP to the department office.

Submit your Proposal for Culminating Experience (CE) and your Protocol Approval Form (PAF)

  • The Graduate Coordinator of the M.A. Composition Program will guide you through the process of preparing and submitting both your Proposal and the paperwork related to obtaining Protocol Approval for conducting research with human subjects.
  • You will use the Proposal form "895: Thesis with Human/Animal Subjects"; include the title of your thesis and a brief abstract, and list the members of your thesis committee, all of whom must sign the form. Your "committee chair" is your first reader.
  • Prepare your Proposal form online before printing. If necessary, print out a blank copy and type in the information. If your Proposal is handwritten, it will be rejected by Graduate Division.
  • Submit your Proposal and your Protocol Approval paperwork to the department office.

Do you have questions about the GAP, Proposal for Culminating Experience, or Protocol Approval Form? Ask in your department office, consult with your advisor, or visit the Graduate Division website. Note that we prefer that you submit your GAP and Proposal forms and your Protocol Approval paperwork to the department office at the same time.

Semester of Graduation

Enroll in ENG 895

  • Your ENG 895 instructor will give you a permit number to use for adding the class online.

Apply for graduation

  • The deadline to apply for graduation is the 4th Friday of the semester.
  • Prepare the Application for Graduate Degree online before printing, and then obtain an advisor’s signature.
  • Pay the application fee at the Bursar’s window, and then submit the application to Graduate Division.

Check your transcript

  • Complete any necessary paperwork to change Incomplete grades.

Submit your thesis to Graduate Division

When Graduation is Delayed

Re-apply for graduation

  • If you do not graduate during the semester in which you initially enrolled in 895, you must re-apply for graduation in the semester in which you will complete your requirements.

Maintain enrollment status

Students admitted before Fall 2008

  • If you do not submit your thesis by the deadline, your instructor will assign you a grade of ‘RP’ (report in progress).
  • You do not need to re-register for ENG 895 in subsequent semesters.
  • You do not need to pay fees for subsequent semesters.

Students admitted beginning Fall 2008

  • Graduate students who earn RP in ENG 895 have an additional “grace semester” after the posting of the RP grade to continue writing the thesis. To maintain current status during this grace semester, students do not have to pay fees or register for courses.
  • If students do not graduate at the end of the grace semester, they must enroll in a 0-unit Culminating Experience course via the College of Extended Learning for each subsequent semester.

Check your transcript

  • When you submit your thesis to your readers, you must also provide your 895 course instructor with a Petition for Grade Change.
  • Fill in your name, SFSU ID#, and the semester of enrollment in ENG 895; your professor will note that the RP grade should be changed to CR and will submit the petition to the department.

Note your seven-year deadline.

If you do not graduate during the semester of your initial enrollment in your culminating experience course, we recommend that you remain mindful of your seven-year deadline. Your degree must be awarded within 7 years from the start of the term of the earliest course listed on your GAP. EXAMPLE: if the earliest course listed on your GAP was taken in the Spring 2008 semester, you must graduate no later than the January, 2015. Students whose deadline has expired must petition for an extension of the seven-year limit; such an extension may be granted only once.

For more information contact:
Department of English
San Francisco State University
1600 Holloway
San Francisco, CA 94132

Inquiries concerning admission to the university, application forms, the university Bulletin, financial aid, etc. should be addressed to:
Graduate Studies Division, ADM 250
San Francisco State University
16OO Holloway Avenue
San Francisco, California 94132.

Graduate Division


SFSU on the Internet

For access to the University Bulletin (catalog), Class Schedule, academic department web-sites, and other campus information, visit the SFSU website.