Masters Program

Masters Program (the following regulations pertain to MA students beginning their studies in Fall 2011 and thereafter)

The Master of Arts degree serves as a foundation for the Ph.D. in Communication and Culture. Students work with one or more members of the Graduate Affairs Committee to construct a curriculum that addresses individual needs and interests while benefiting from the broad expertise of our faculty.


Degree Requirements

Candidates for the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree must complete a minimum of thirty credit hours of approved graduate coursework as designated below:

  1. Two of the following three introductory courses: C501 - Introduction to Rhetoric and Public Culture, C502 - Introduction to    Performance and Ethnography in Communication and Culture, or C503 - Introduction to Media Aesthetics. 
  2. One of the following three methods courses: C505 - Productive Criticism of Political Rhetoric, C506 - Methods of Ethnography, or C507 - Media research Methods.  The course should be in the same area (Rhetoric and Public Culture, Film and Media Studies, or Performance and Ethnography) as one of the introductory courses from Requirement 1.
  3. C700 – Independent Readings in Communication and Culture. Students choose to be examined on two reading lists drawn from the three departmental areas of research (rhetoric and public culture, film and media, and performance and ethnography), most of which they will study in the framework of the introductory and methodological courses mentioned in (1) above. In C700, students also work independently with the reading lists in preparation for the M.A. Comprehensive Examination. Much of the work for C700 is normally taken during the summer following the first full year of coursework but it is also spread across the whole period preceding the MA exams. Students will be graded in C700 on the basis of the outcome of their examination, with a high pass being recorded as an A+, a pass on the first attempt as an A, a pass after rewriting one question as A-, and a pass after retaking the exam as B+, and a fail as F.
  4. An additional eighteen hours of graduate coursework, of which no more than six hours will be at the 400-level, and no more than three hours of C710. Students may take a maximum of eight hours of coursework outside of the Department of Communication and Culture.  Courses taken at the 400-level must be specifically approved for graduate credit.
  5. Students may transfer a maximum of eight hours of graduate coursework with grades of B+ or better with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies and the Dean of the University Graduate School. 
  6. Nine thousand word, take-home, written comprehensive examination to be administered in January or May of the second year of coursework.
  7. Coursework taken towards the M.A. must be completed no more than five years prior to the awarding of the degree. Coursework that does not meet this criterion may be revalidated. For the rules governing revalidation, see the University Graduate School Bulletin.
  8. Students must achieve a GPA of 3.5 in order to be awarded an M.A.


M.A. Comprehensive Examination

The M.A. Comprehensive Examination asks students to draw synthetically on reading lists in two of the department’s three focal areas (rhetoric and public culture, film and media, and performance/ethnography).  In that sense, it both fulfills the interdisciplinary mission of the department and provides students with a vehicle through which to integrate three semesters of course material. The purpose of the MA examination is for students to demonstrate (a) their knowledge and understanding of key concepts, theories and critical issues in their chosen two topoi; (b) their ability to synthesize the scholarly literature of their chosen topoi by bringing it to bear on critical issues within the topoi; (c) their ability to think productively across their chosen topoi by relating the scholarly literature of two topoi to issues of concern to both; (d) capacities for critical thinking, analysis and effective written communication appropriate for students at the Masters level.

Students prepare for the exam, via an independent study readings course (C700). In addition, throughout their coursework and reading, students should draw together and synthesize readings from the two topoi they have selected, in preparation for writing the exam. The exam is posted on the CMCL website and is administered electronically.

The M.A. reading list in Communication and Culture consists of three separate lists, each calibrated to one of the department's three areas of research. Students are expected to complete the readings from any two of the three lists, in the topoi for which they have taken the introductory and methods classes, in order to prepare for the 9,000 word M.A. Exam. Current reading lists are posted on the CMCL website.

The examination consists of a 3,000 word response to a question in one topos or research area, a second 3,000 word response to a question in a different topos, and a 3,000 word response to a question that asks the student to articulate relationships between those two areas of research. Each student determines which two areas of research s/he will select for the examination. If, for example, a given student chooses to prepare for exams on rhetoric and media, s/he will write a 3,000 word response in rhetoric and another 3,000 word response in media, followed by a 3,000 word response that relates rhetoric and media.

The exam questions will be drafted by the most recent instructors of C501, C502 and C503 (including the questions that cross topoi) and revised by the M.A. Examination Committee in consultation with the instructors. The M.A. Examination Committee will consist of one faculty member from each topos. All students will answer the same question in a given topos. Thus, for example, one question in performance and ethnographic studies will be prepared for all students who have selected this topos as one of the two areas of research in which they wish to be examined. Similarly, one question will be prepared in rhetoric and one in media for students who wish to write in either or both of those areas.

The M.A. exam is regularly scheduled two times each year – in January and May, (with an opportunity for those who took but failed the exam in May to retake it in August). Students applying for the PhD in CMCL should consult the DGS about the best time to take the exam. A student who does not plan to pursue the PhD may elect to take the M.A. exam during a regularly scheduled exam period in May.

Examination procedures

The M.A. exam is evaluated by the M.A. Examination Committee plus one faculty member of the student’s choosing. The identity of the student will be masked to all evaluators except for the faculty member of the candidate’s choosing. Once the student determines which areas the examination will cover, and no later than one month prior to when the examination will be taken, the student needs to file the Application for the M.A. Examination with the Graduate Secretary. Note that members of the Graduate Affairs Committee are ineligible to serve as graders for the MA exam.

The results of the exam will be graded pass, high pass, or fail. Passing the exam requires that each of the three examination answers has been passed by the examiners. A high pass requires that all three examination answers have been graded as a high pass by the examiners. If two or more of the examination answers are graded as fails by the examiners, the student is deemed to have failed the exam. If only one of the examination answers is deemed to have failed, the student is deemed to have failed the exam in part.

All exams with fewer than three passes will be reviewed by the Graduate Affairs Committee, which may uphold or overturn the M.A. Committee’s assessment. The evaluation of the Graduate Affairs Committee is final within the department.

Exam results will be reported to the student by the Director of Graduate Studies. In the case of a failing exam, the Director of Graduate Studies will hold a face-to-face meeting with the student and will provide a written evaluation of the exam.

Students who fail the M.A. Exam in whole will be placed immediately on academic probation. Such students will have the opportunity to retake the exam questions that they failed during a subsequent regularly scheduled examination period. Any student who fails the examination a second time will be formally dismissed from the program.

Students who fail the M.A. Exam in part will be deemed to not be in academic good standing in the Department. Such students will have the opportunity to rewrite the exam question they failed within one month of having received the result, when it will be re-assessed as above. If the answer is deemed to have failed once again, the student will be placed immediately on academic probation. Such students will have the opportunity to retake the question they failed during a subsequent regularly scheduled examination period. Any student who fails the examination a second time will be dismissed formally from the program.