Course Requirements

The Technical Communication program offers a foundation of courses in theory and practice supplemented by elective courses in technical disciplines. The required core courses are designed to emphasize technical writing and editing, teamwork, audience analysis, document usability and field testing, and publication management. The courses also give students principles and strategies to apply in technical fields such as engineering, computer science, medicine, and environmental science.

Beyond the required five courses, students can select a mixture of applications courses and theory and method courses from the technical communication program and from other departments. Students can select elective courses so that they design their area of specialization. See, for example, the elective clusters in web design and development, environmental communication, medical/health communication , industrial communication, agricultural communication, and information systems communication. Those who prefer not to specialize can select from dozens of related graduate courses offered by other departments, including communications, psychology, computer science, business, graphic design, public administration, and others.

Students must complete a minimum of 33 semester hours of graduate credit that includes 15 credits of required core courses and a minimum of 18 credits divided between the Applications courses and Theories and Methods courses. Thus, to fulfill requirements for graduate course work in Applications and Theories and Methods, students can choose any of the following options:

  1. 12 hours of Applications courses and 6 hours of Theories and Methods courses (18 credits),
  2. 9 hours of Applications courses and 9 hours of Theories and Methods courses (18 credits),
  3. 9 hours of Applications courses and 9 hours of Approved Electives (18 credits), or
  4. 12 hours of Applications courses and 6 hours of Approved Electives (18 credits).

Required Courses (15 Credits)

ENG 512 Theory and Research in Professional Writing

The process of writing, the functions of texts, methods of teaching and evaluating writing, introduction to research design.

ENG 515 Rhetoric of Science and Technology

The relationship between language and science, critical analysis of texts from science/technology, public controversy in science/technology.

ENG 517 Advanced Technical Writing and Editing

Advanced study of specialized documents, technical editing and publications management for students planning careers in writing and editing.

ENG 518 Publication Management for Technical Communicators

Advanced study of publication and team management issues such as staffing, scheduling, project management, and tracking.

ENG 675 Projects in Technical Communication

This is a capstone course, taken in the last semester of study. In lieu of a thesis, students design a comprehensive project of their choosing. Typical projects cover a wide range of technical communication outputs, including web sites, web-based training programs, revised corporate documents, scholarly articles for possible publication in peer-reviewed research journals, instructional manuals, etc.

Information regarding the MSTC Capstone Project can be found at the following pages:

Developing the Proposal

Formatting the Proposal

The Final Project

Title Page and Final Submission Procedures

MS Capstone Project Archive


Applications Courses (6, 9, or 12 Credits)

These are sample courses; for a comprehensive list, see the complete Electives listing.

ENG 506 Verbal Data Analysis

Research strategies for understanding how spoken and written language shapes activities [e.g., design, instruction, counseling, gaming interactions, e-commerce, etc.]. Tracking patterned uses of language as verbal data [e.g., grammatically topically, thematically], formulating research questions, and designing studies to answer those questions through quantitative descriptive means. Sampling, collecting and managing data, developing coding schemes, achieving reliability, using descriptive statistical measures, and reporting the results.

ENG 508 Usability Studies for Technical Communication

Advanced study of usability inspection, inquiry, and testing theories and practices related to instrumental and instructive texts (i.e., computer-related, legal, medical, pharmaceutical, financial, etc.). Practical experience testing a variety of texts using several testing methods, including completion of a substantial, lab-based usability test. For students planning careers in technical communication, human factors, software design, and multimedia design.

ENG 519 Online Information Design and Evaluation

Planning, collaboratively writing, revising, designing, and linking online information using workstation-based technology. Theory and practice of human-computer interaction and online support systems design.

ENG 520 Science Writing for the Media

Coverage of three areas: how to write science articles for a variety of mass media, how to think critically about how mass media cover science, and how to think critically about science itself. Preparation for careers not only in mass media, but also in scientific and technological organizations.

ENG 583B Seminar on Communication in Health and Environmental Sciences

COM 556 Organizational Communication

Theoretical and applied approaches for studying communication perspectives of organizational behavior. Topics relate communication with organizational theories, research methods, leadership, power, attraction, conflict and theory development.

COM 566 Crisis Communication

Working within theoretical perspectives of communication, conflict management and organizational designs, a theoretical understanding for crisis communication, including thorough guidelines for strategic communication planning for, managing and evaluating crises.

CSC 461 Computer Graphics

Principles of computer graphics with emphasis on two-dimensional and aspects of three-dimensional raster graphics. Topics include: graphics hardware devices, lines and polygons, clipping lines and polygons to windows, graphical user interface, vectors, projections, transformations, polygon fill. Programming projects in C or C++.

ECI 716 Design and Evaluation of Instructional Material

Characteristics and selection of various media for instruction and their use in educational settings. Design and production of instructional materials. Analysis of research in the field. Application of grounded research and theory concerning learning to design of instructional materials.

GD 417, 517 Advanced Typographical Systems

Experimentation in typography for the purpose of subjective expression. Analysis of historical precedent, contemporary usage and the semiotics of shaped writing provide a basis for the advanced student to study and use typography as image, metaphor, and symbol.




Theories and Methods Courses (6 or 9 Credits)


These are sample courses; for a comprehensive list, see the complete Electives listing.

ENG 524 Introduction to Linguistics

Introduction to theoretical linguistics, especially for students in language, writing and literature curricula. Phonology, syntax, semantics, history of linguistics; relation of linguistics to philosophy, sociology and psychology; application of theory to analysis of texts.

ENG 525 Variety in Language

Language variation description, theory, method and application; focus on regional, social, ethnic and gender varieties; sociolinguistic analysis; basic discourse analysis.


ENG 527 Critical Discourse Analysis

Pragmatic, discourse-analytic and sociolinguistic theories; application of methods analysis to different varieties of text; particular emphasis on literary text.


ENG 513 Empirical Research in Composition

Reading and evaluation of empirical research in written composition; guided practice in qualitative and quantitative methods. Basic principles of research problem definition, research design and statistical analysis, description and assessment of written products and processes.


ENG 514 History of Rhetoric

Contemporary rhetorical theory and its development from classical rhetoric; emphasis on differences between oral and written communication and the relevance of traditional theory to purposes and constraints of writing. Special attention to current issues: revival of invention, argumentation and truth, contributions of research in composition.


ENG 516 Rhetorical Criticism

Development, achievements, limitations of major critical methods in the 20th century, including neo-Aristotelian, generic, metaphoric, dramatistic, feminist, social-movement, fantasy-theme, and postmodern approaches. Criticism of political discourse, institutional discourse, discourses of law, medicine, religion, education, science, the media. Relations between rhetorical and literary criticism and other forms of cultural analysis.


ENG 541 Contemporary Literary Theory

Survey of major developments in 20th-century literary theory. Introduction to central concepts, issues and theorists in contemporary literary criticism. Examination of range of modern critical practices. Study of relations between literary theory and such adjacent disciplines as linguistics, anthropology, social theory, psychology, and philosophy.

COM 462 Cross-Cultural Communication

Communication across cultural boundaries with emphasis on comparative analysis of communication strategies and tactics as well as overall communication systems of various cultures: problems, barriers, patterns of communication.

COM 552 Communication Theory

Role of theory in study of human communication. General social scientific theories as well as context-based theories including interpersonal, public, group, organizational and mass communication contexts.

PA 515 Research Methods and Analysis

A focus on behavioral approach to study of political and administrative behavior. Topics including philosophy of social science; experimental, quasi and non-experimental research design; data collection techniques; basic statistical analysis with computer applications.

ST 500 Statistics for the Behavioral Sciences

A general introduction to the use of descriptive and inferential statistics in behavioral science research. Methods for describing and summarizing data, followed by procedures for estimating population parameters and testing hypotheses concerning summarized data.