Writing and Rhetoric
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Information for Current PWR MA and Certficate Students

Course Sequences

While there are few requirements regarding the general sequence of your coursework, the department strongly recommends that you take 501 Introduction to Professional Writing and Rhetoric during your first semester, and 502 Research Methods in Rhetoric and Writing during your first year. Both courses are prerequisites for the 797 project and 799 thesis courses, but they also provide an important introduction to the program and the field, as well as providing theoretical and methodological tools that will assist you in future coursework.

Scheduling Considerations

  • English 501 is only offered in the Fall semester.
  • English 502 and 797 are only offered in the Spring semester.
  • English 505 and 508 are currently offered every other year.
  • English 565 is only open to PWR students in the spring semester.
  • English 565 is a pre-requisite for English 616.
  • English 615 is only open to students who are not graduate TAs in the fall semester.

Specific courses may require completion of prerequisite courses before you can enroll in them. Consult the course catalog to see which courses have prerequisite requirements.

Not all courses are offered each semester or year, and some special topics courses are taught only once. Many courses are on a two-year rotation, some on a one-year rotation, though even in these the content may vary from semester to semester. Few courses are offered in the summer (usually ENGH 507 - Web Authoring and Design, as well as one or two Literature courses and a selection of Linguistics courses that may be taken as electives); you should plan carefully if you include summer classes in your planned sequence of coursework. Consult the University Catalog, the English Department Course Description book, and the English Department each term to see which courses in Professional Writing and Rhetoric are offered. You should also discuss with your advisor when classes will be available and how you should plan your coursework in order to fulfill the program requirements

Note that the same course may differ when taught by different faculty members. For example, ENGH 505, Document Design, may focus mainly on print documents, mainly on web documents, or both, depending on who is teaching the course; ENGH 503 typically cycles between a technical editing focus anda literary editing focus. You should discuss these options with your advisor when planning your coursework.



The capstone project or thesis represents the culmination of your work in the PWR program. You will take the 797 Capstone Course or 799 thesis option in the last year of your curriculum. Either option will focus on the fields of rhetoric, professional writing, or technical communication and will likely grow out of a project or question from one of your PWR courses. See the listing of past theses and projects for examples.

The capstone project should address a question or problem of writing or communication that grows out of work experience, coursework, or a new interest. It should demonstrate your ability to apply academic knowledge to practical problems as a reflective practitioner and, conversely, to build academic knowledge by assessing theory in light of practical situations. Class sessions will be conducted as seminars, and you will produce a proposal, review and revise drafts, and make a final presentation.
If you plan to go on to a doctoral program, you should choose to complete the thesis option instead of the capstone project. The thesis should contribute new knowledge to the fields of professional writing, rhetoric, or technical communication. It can be about professional or public discourse in a general sense or it can focus on a particular aspect of professional or technical writing. The thesis will pose a question, often motivated by and situated within previous coursework, and through research, pursue answers through appropriate research methods. If you choose the thesis option, you will not need to fulfill the elective course requirement.

Foreign Language Requirement

To pursue an MA in English, you must also demonstrate intermediate proficiency in a foreign language. Intermediate proficiency corresponds to George Mason's coursework through the 202 or 209 levels and represents four consecutive semesters in a given language. You may satisfy this requirement in one of the following ways:

  • Confirm that your undergraduate or continuing education transcript includes courses corresponding to this level of proficiency.
  • If you do not have the necessary coursework and your language proficiency is in a Romance language or German, take a proficiency exam administered by the English Department. Contact the Graduate Programs Manager, to schedule the exam. If your proficiency is in a language other than a Romance language or German, contact a local university where this language is taught and arrange to sit for an exam.
  • Take courses through the intermediate level at George Mason or elsewhere, making sure that the intermediate level elsewhere corresponds to that at George Mason. Please contact your advisor soon after enrolling to determine how you will meet the language proficiency requirement. Once you have made this determination, contact the Graduate Programs Manager to complete the necessary paperwork.


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