Twin Cities campus
 
Twin Cities Campus

Rhetoric, Scientific and Technical Communication Ph.D.

Writing Studies Department
College of Liberal Arts
Link to a list of faculty for this program.
Contact Information
Department of Writing Studies, 214 Nolte Center, 315 Pillsbury Drive, SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455 (612-624-3445; fax: 612-624-3617)
  • Program Type: Doctorate
  • Requirements for this program are current for Spring 2022
  • Length of program in credits: 67
  • This program does not require summer semesters for timely completion.
  • Degree: Doctor of Philosophy
Along with the program-specific requirements listed below, please read the General Information section of this website for requirements that apply to all major fields.
The Department of Writing Studies trains students to understand how people use written communication (textual, digital, and visual) to shape the world around them, with a particular emphasis on communication in scientific and technical areas. The PhD program prepares students to become researchers and teachers with expertise in rhetoric, writing studies, and technical communication. Students in the RSTC program also pursue special interests in areas such as digital, textual, or visual literacies; rhetorics of science, health, medicine, law, and/or the environment; professional communication; internet studies; theories of writing; composition; and writing pedagogies. Students work in collaboration with faculty mentors and peers to develop the expertise required to make original contributions to the scholarship in their fields. The curriculum, professional development training, and funding are structured to support students in making early and regular contributions to the published literature, and in teaching first-year writing and advanced writing courses at the college level. Most graduates of the program pursue careers teaching at the college level, although some have developed careers in industry or non-governmental organizations. Each student also develops a supporting program of courses outside the department. Coursework outside the department is commonly pursued in fields such as communication studies; curriculum and instruction; history of medicine; or gender, women's and sexuality studies.
Program Delivery
  • via classroom (the majority of instruction is face-to-face)
Prerequisites for Admission
Master's in a related discipline, e.g., rhetoric, technical and professional communication, English, communication studies.
Other requirements to be completed before admission:
Individuals who do not yet have a masters degree in a related discipline are encouraged to apply to Writing Studiesí Rhetoric, Scientific and Technical Communication MA. Students in the MA program who are making satisfactory progress will, in their second year of study, have the opportunity to apply to the PhD program. For students who continue in the program, most MA courses transfer to the PhD. Continuing students must complete their MA no later than the end of the first semester in the PhD program.
Special Application Requirements:
Nonnative speakers of English are required to take an appropriate test with satisfactory scores. All applicants must submit a departmental supplemental application, personal statement, curriculum vitae or resume, three letters of recommendation and two writing samples. Applicants are also strongly encouraged to submit a diversity statement and, if appropriate, an extenuating circumstances statement. All PhD applicants should apply by the January 5 application deadline; all admitted students begin in the fall semester.
International applicants must submit score(s) from one of the following tests:
  • TOEFL
    • Internet Based - Total Score: 79
    • Internet Based - Writing Score: 21
    • Internet Based - Reading Score: 19
    • Paper Based - Total Score: 550
  • IELTS
    • Total Score: 6.5
  • MELAB
    • Final score: 80
Key to test abbreviations (TOEFL, IELTS, MELAB).
For an online application or for more information about graduate education admissions, see the General Information section of this website.
Program Requirements
31 credits are required in the major.
12 credits are required outside the major.
24 thesis credits are required.
This program may be completed with a minor.
Use of 4xxx courses toward program requirements is permitted under certain conditions with adviser approval.
A minimum GPA of 3.00 is required for students to remain in good standing.
Up to 6 credits from a master's program, upon consultation with the advisor and approval of the director of graduate studies, can be applied to the PhD. All coursework offered on both the A-F and S/N grade basis must be taken A-F, with a minimum grade of B earned for each. Students must write a formal prospectus outlining the plan for their dissertation and present it to committee members within a year of passing the preliminary oral exam. Upon committee approval of the prospectus, the student must obtain their advisor's signature on the prospectus form and file it with the department's graduate studies office.
Required Core Areas (15 credits)
Select a total of 15 credits from the following three categories:
Rhetoric (6 to 9 credits)
Select at least 6 credits from the following in consultation with the advisor:
WRIT 5775 - Rhetorical Traditions: Classical Period (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5776 - The Rhetorical Tradition: Modern Era (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8510 - Seminar in Rhetoric (3.0 cr)
Writing Studies (3 to 6 credits)
Select at least 3 credits from the following in consultation with the advisor:
WRIT 8540 - Seminar in Technical Communication and Composition Pedagogies (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8560 - Seminar in Writing Studies (3.0 cr)
Technical Communication (3 to 6 credits)
Select at least 3 credits from the following in consultation with the advisor:
WRIT 8520 - Seminar in Scientific and Technical Communication (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8550 - Seminar in Technology, Culture, and Communication (3.0 cr)
Methods and Pedagogies (7 credits)
Take the following courses:
WRIT 8011 - Research Methods in Writing Studies and Technical Communication (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5531 - Introduction to Writing Theory and Pedagogies (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5532 - Practicum in Writing Pedagogies (1.0 cr)
Writing Studies Specialty Area (9 credits)
Courses should be selected to develop a coherent specialty area/concentration. Specialties include areas such as rhetoric, literacies, professional and technical communication, internet studies, theories of writing, writing pedagogies, rhetorics of science, medicine, or law, and the environment.
Writing Studies Courses (9 credits)
Select at least 9 credits from the following in consultation with the advisor:
WRIT 5112 - Information Design: Theory and Practice (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5501 - Usability and Human Factors in Technical Communication (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5561 - Editing and Style for Technical Communicators (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5662 - Writing With Digital Technologies (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5664 - Science, Medical, and Health Writing (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5671 - Visual Rhetoric (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5775 - Rhetorical Traditions: Classical Period (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5776 - The Rhetorical Tradition: Modern Era (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8505 - Professional Practice (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8510 - Seminar in Rhetoric (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8520 - Seminar in Scientific and Technical Communication (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8540 - Seminar in Technical Communication and Composition Pedagogies (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8550 - Seminar in Technology, Culture, and Communication (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8560 - Seminar in Writing Studies (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8792 - Independent Study, Reading, and Research (1.0-4.0 cr)
WRIT 8794 - Directed Research (1.0-4.0 cr)
Outside Coursework (12 credits)
Select at least 12 credits of outside coursework from the following, in consultation with the advisor to form a coherent supporting program. Other courses may be applied to this requirement with advisor approval.
AMST 8202 - Theoretical Foundations and Current Practice in American Studies (3.0 cr)
BTHX 5300 - Foundations of Bioethics (3.0 cr)
BTHX 8xxx
CI 5xxx
CI 8xxx
COMM 5xxx
COMM 8xxx
ENGL 5xxx
ENGL 8xxx
GWSS 5xxx
GWSS 8xxx
HMED 5xxx
HMED 8xxx
HSCI 5xxx
HSCI 8xxx
IDSC 5xxx
IDSC 8xxx
OLPD 5xxx
OLPD 8xxx
PUBH 6101 {Inactive} (2.0 cr)
PUBH 6414 - Biostatistical Literacy (3.0 cr)
STAT 5021 - Statistical Analysis (4.0 cr)
Thesis Credits
Take 24 or more credit(s) from the following:
· WRIT 8888 - Thesis Credit: Doctoral (1.0-24.0 cr)
 
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WRIT 5775 - Rhetorical Traditions: Classical Period
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Fall Odd Year
This course provides an intensive survey of rhetoric as understood and practiced in ancient Greece and Rome, and serves as an introduction to graduate-level study of historical rhetoric more generally. The course attends to the development of the discipline of rhetoric in the Classical world and to the recurring themes that constitute "the rhetorical tradition." Class discussions and assignments assess the epistemological foundations, ethical status, and socio-political importance of ancient rhetorical training and discourse. Primary readings (in English) include works by sophists and orators of the Greek Classical period, Isocrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and others. Secondary readings and class discussion will consider political, cultural, and philosophical contexts for ancient rhetorical theory, oratorial practice, and the teaching of speech and writing. This course will prepare graduate students for preliminary exams, research, and pedagogical encounters in rhetoric.
WRIT 5776 - The Rhetorical Tradition: Modern Era
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: Comm 5611/Writ 5776
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Spring
Core works in modern/contemporary rhetorical theory. Twentieth-century revivals of and challenges to the Aristotelian rhetorical tradition. Units devoted to Enlightenment rhetorics; the New Rhetorics of I. A. Richards, Kenneth Burke, and Chaim Perelman; feminist rhetorical theory, historiography, and critique; deconstruction/post-structuralism. Prepares students for preliminary examinations/seminars in rhetoric.
WRIT 8510 - Seminar in Rhetoric
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include theories, history, criticism, major figures, movements, visual or material rhetoric. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8540 - Seminar in Technical Communication and Composition Pedagogies
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include theories of pedagogy or research studies that inform the classroom or workplace, social and ethical concerns, landmark studies, current controversies. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8560 - Seminar in Writing Studies
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include literacy, genre, history of writing, narrative theory and practice, writing as textual practice. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8520 - Seminar in Scientific and Technical Communication
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include theories, landmark studies, history, gender, ethics. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8550 - Seminar in Technology, Culture, and Communication
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include computer-mediated communication, democracy/technology, controversies over digital communication, privacy/ethical issues, feminist theory and interactions of gender with science and technology, communication in legal or medical settings. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8011 - Research Methods in Writing Studies and Technical Communication
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall
Survey of quantitative/qualitative research methods. Theoretical perspectives that demonstrate/test analytical approaches to scientific/technological rhetoric. prereq: STC/RSTC grad student or instr consent
WRIT 5531 - Introduction to Writing Theory and Pedagogies
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Every Fall
This course explores the nexus of theory and practice in terms of writing instruction and of technical writing and communication to help students identify their pedagogical positions and concrete practices. Designed as a collaborative, exploratory space for a community of teacher-scholars, it approaches the teaching of writing as a process that is both practiced and studied, is aided by reflection with others, and requires ongoing revision. Course texts address the scholarship of Composition, Rhetoric, and Technical Writing. Students put these texts in dialog, including with the ?texts? of their classrooms, to examine and reflect on their teaching practices. The course centers acts of engagement and reflection and emphasizes pedagogical inquiry. Students learn to: place a range of theories on writing instruction in conversation with their teaching; reflect on classroom practices and pedagogical theories; articulate individual philosophies of teaching; explore pedagogical issues of personal interest; foster pedagogical ?habits of mind? that serve students in classrooms at the UMN and beyond; and contribute to an active, supportive, and collaborative teaching community. prereq: Grad student
WRIT 5532 - Practicum in Writing Pedagogies
Credits: 1.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: S-N only
Typically offered: Every Fall & Spring
WRIT 5532 is designed as a collaborative, developmental, and exploratory space for graduate instructors in the First Year Writing (FYW) program. The course approaches the teaching of writing as an iterative and situated process that is both practiced and studied, is aided by reflection with others, and requires ongoing revision. Course texts include scholarship in Teaching and Learning, in Writing Studies, and in First-Year Composition. These texts will be brought into dialog with the WRIT 1301 classes all students are teaching. The course addresses such questions as: How do people learn, how do they learn writing, and how can instructors teach writing based on those understandings? How can instructors design environments, materials, and practices that equitably help students learn about writing and develop as writers? Class discussions and assignments also invite students to identify and address challenges, tensions, and pedagogical issues of personal interest; to develop habits of mind that will serve them in other classrooms in their teaching careers; and to articulate the classroom practices and pedagogies informing their teaching philosophies. Students in the RSTC MA and PhD programs take WRIT 5532 in spring of their first year after taking WRIT 5531 in fall term. Graduate instructors from other departments who teach WRIT 1301 must register for one credit of WRIT 5532 in the fall and one credit of WRIT 5532 in the spring during their first year teaching in the FYW program. Spring sections of WRIT 5532 are organized as biweekly reflective practice groups (RPGs). RPGs will build on fall term course content in discussions of readings, in teaching journal reflections, and to build teaching portfolios.
WRIT 5112 - Information Design: Theory and Practice
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Every Spring
This course examines how verbal, visual, and multimedia content can be designed and combined to create meaning, improve comprehension, and make information more usable. Emphasis is placed on the rhetorical roles of visual elements in print and digital communications, and how technical communicators can use visual means to reach audiences, convey information, and achieve rhetorical goals. Students read and discuss theory, practice information design skills, and apply both to real communications projects suitable for inclusion in a professional portfolio. Projects focus on print and web content design and development; the information design process (plan, design, develop, layout, testing); project planning toward deliverables (web sites, signage, wayfinding); and universal design (color, symbols, etc.)
WRIT 5501 - Usability and Human Factors in Technical Communication
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: Writ 4501/Writ 5501
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Spring
Usability is concerned with how people interact with design and technology; usability is commonly known as the "ease of use" of products and technologies by a range of users. This course emphasizes usability and user research and will explore the intersection of usability and technical communication. We will investigate definitions of usability and user-centered design principles, and we will explore a variety of usability research methods including heuristic evaluation, personas, and usability testing. The course will focus heavily on usability testing of web sites, a common technical communication task that involves observation and interviews of human participants interacting with a web site.
WRIT 5561 - Editing and Style for Technical Communicators
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Summer
In this course, students learn strategies for editing and revising writing for technical and non-technical audiences. Students practice three levels of editing skills: proofreading, copyediting, and comprehensive editing. Strategies include advanced grammar and style, editing tools, quantitative data, global documents, and various style guides. Students also examine an editor?s role with authors, in organizations, in global contexts, and in ethical situations. Editing projects focus on the three levels of editing, using proficient methods, collaborating between authors and editors, identifying audience and contexts, editing documents according to style guides, and using rhetorical principles to analyze and edit final documents.
WRIT 5662 - Writing With Digital Technologies
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: Writ 4662W/Writ 5662
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Fall
This course explores current and emerging digital writing technologies and teaches students to assess writing situations and make appropriate decisions about digital form, production, and scholarship. Students learn the basic building blocks of writing in Internet environments (text, sound, images, video, interactivity); the vocabularies, functionalities, and organizing structures of Web 2.0 environments and how each impacts understanding and use of information; and how to produce Web 2.0 environments (i.e., multimedia internet documents) that facilitate interactivity and use. This course includes design projects and practice with apps, markup language (html and xml), and content management systems.
WRIT 5664 - Science, Medical, and Health Writing
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Every Fall
This course explores the theories and practices of rhetoric and writing in science, medicine, and health (SMH). Students learn about genres of SMH communication including regulatory documents from the FDA, podcasts created by scientists for the public, patient blogs, and published research articles. The course also engages topics including accessibility, writing in regulated environments, writing for complex audiences, and engaging biomedical and scientific research in writing. Students are challenged to consider how language, science, biomedicine, and health intersect and how different stakeholders such as patients, healthcare providers, scientists, government officials, and insurance companies engage in SMH communication.
WRIT 5671 - Visual Rhetoric
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Spring
This course investigates current understandings of how visuals participate in and extend the rhetorical strategies long associated with speech and writing. Students explore developments in the discipline of visual rhetoric by engaging with an emerging canon of texts that survey the work of rhetoricians, graphic designers, graphic novelists, commercial artists, fine artists, and technical communicators. Emphasis is placed on the use of visuals in science and technology; identifying shared principles of persuasion through visual information; developing the vocabulary to comment on, critique, and create visuals; and assessing whether visuals meet the needs of intended audiences.
WRIT 5775 - Rhetorical Traditions: Classical Period
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Fall Odd Year
This course provides an intensive survey of rhetoric as understood and practiced in ancient Greece and Rome, and serves as an introduction to graduate-level study of historical rhetoric more generally. The course attends to the development of the discipline of rhetoric in the Classical world and to the recurring themes that constitute "the rhetorical tradition." Class discussions and assignments assess the epistemological foundations, ethical status, and socio-political importance of ancient rhetorical training and discourse. Primary readings (in English) include works by sophists and orators of the Greek Classical period, Isocrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, and others. Secondary readings and class discussion will consider political, cultural, and philosophical contexts for ancient rhetorical theory, oratorial practice, and the teaching of speech and writing. This course will prepare graduate students for preliminary exams, research, and pedagogical encounters in rhetoric.
WRIT 5776 - The Rhetorical Tradition: Modern Era
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: Comm 5611/Writ 5776
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Spring
Core works in modern/contemporary rhetorical theory. Twentieth-century revivals of and challenges to the Aristotelian rhetorical tradition. Units devoted to Enlightenment rhetorics; the New Rhetorics of I. A. Richards, Kenneth Burke, and Chaim Perelman; feminist rhetorical theory, historiography, and critique; deconstruction/post-structuralism. Prepares students for preliminary examinations/seminars in rhetoric.
WRIT 8505 - Professional Practice
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: S-N only
Typically offered: Every Spring
This course is designed to provide a class structure to assist graduate students in completing writing requirements and oral presentations associated with professional projects -- research, scientific writing, and associated reports -- as part of their graduate programs. Learning outcomes include the following: to foster advanced skills in writing and editing scientific and/or technical documents for various audiences; to design and develop research reports and related documents for graduate programs in scientific and technical communication and other technical disciplines; to understand and apply theoretical and research perspectives in scientific and technical communication to professional practice projects; to expand use of online tools for project development and management and data analysis; to enhance skills in oral presentation of scientific and/or technical research information; and to identify and reflect on the culture and value of professional practice from a disciplinary perspective.
WRIT 8510 - Seminar in Rhetoric
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include theories, history, criticism, major figures, movements, visual or material rhetoric. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8520 - Seminar in Scientific and Technical Communication
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include theories, landmark studies, history, gender, ethics. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8540 - Seminar in Technical Communication and Composition Pedagogies
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include theories of pedagogy or research studies that inform the classroom or workplace, social and ethical concerns, landmark studies, current controversies. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8550 - Seminar in Technology, Culture, and Communication
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include computer-mediated communication, democracy/technology, controversies over digital communication, privacy/ethical issues, feminist theory and interactions of gender with science and technology, communication in legal or medical settings. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8560 - Seminar in Writing Studies
Credits: 3.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
Topics may include literacy, genre, history of writing, narrative theory and practice, writing as textual practice. Topics vary. See the Class Schedule.
WRIT 8792 - Independent Study, Reading, and Research
Credits: 1.0 -4.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: S-N only
Typically offered: Every Fall, Spring & Summer
Supervised study, reading, or research on projects not covered in regularly scheduled offerings. prereq: instr consent
WRIT 8794 - Directed Research
Credits: 1.0 -4.0 [max 12.0]
Grading Basis: S-N only
Typically offered: Every Fall, Spring & Summer
Supervised research project. prereq: instr consent
AMST 8202 - Theoretical Foundations and Current Practice in American Studies
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Spring
Analysis of central theoretical work in the field and survey of key methodologies. prereq: grad AmSt major or instr consent or dept consent
BTHX 5300 - Foundations of Bioethics
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Typically offered: Every Spring
Overview of major contemporary frameworks used to approach ethical issues in bioethics. prereq: Grad student or instr consent
PUBH 6414 - Biostatistical Literacy
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Fall, Spring & Summer
Develop ability to read/interpret statistical results in primary literature. Minimal calculation. No formal training in any statistical programming software. Biostatistical Literacy will cover the fundamental concepts of study design, descriptive statistics, hypothesis testing, confidence intervals, odds ratios, relative risks, adjusted models in multiple linear, logistic and Poisson regression, and survival analysis. The focus will be when to use a given method and how to interpret the results, not the actual computation or computer programming to obtain results from raw data. prereq: MPH or certificate student or environmental health or instr consent
STAT 5021 - Statistical Analysis
Credits: 4.0 [max 4.0]
Typically offered: Every Fall & Spring
Intensive introduction to statistical methods for graduate students needing statistics as a research technique. prereq: college algebra or instr consent; credit will not be granted if credit has been received for STAT 3011
WRIT 8888 - Thesis Credit: Doctoral
Credits: 1.0 -24.0 [max 100.0]
Grading Basis: No Grade
Typically offered: Every Fall, Spring & Summer
(No description) prereq: Max 18 cr per semester or summer; 24 cr required