Twin Cities campus

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Twin Cities Campus

Scientific and Technical Communication M.S.

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)
Email: WRIT@umn.edu
  • Program Type: Master's
  • Requirements for this program are current for Fall 2016
  • Length of program in credits: 30
  • This program requires summer semesters for timely completion.
  • Degree: Master of Science
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 master's of science in scientific and technical communication focuses on applying basic theory and research to the practice of scientific and technical communication in the workplace.
Program Delivery
  • via classroom (the majority of instruction is face-to-face)
  • partially online (between 50% to 80% of instruction is online)
Prerequisites for Admission
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
Plan C: Plan C requires 21 major credits and 9 credits outside the major. There is no final exam. A capstone project is required.
Capstone Project: The capstone course (WRIT 8505), this is the final course necessary to complete the degree requirements. The course is primarily for students seeking the MS in scientific and technical communication, but is also suitable for graduate students in any program who want structured support to write an extended project report. Classes are conducted in a "writers' workshop" format, during which each student receives feedback and support for his or her individual research report writing.
This program may be completed with a minor.
Use of 4xxx courses toward program requirements is permitted under certain conditions with adviser approval.
Required Courses
Take the following courses for a total of 18 credits:
WRIT 5001 - Foundations and Futures of Technical Communication (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5112 - Information Design: Theory and Practice (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5561 - Editing and Style for Technical Communicators (3.0 cr)
WRIT 8505 - Professional Practice (3.0 cr)
WRIT 5671 - Visual Rhetoric (3.0 cr)
WRIT 4501 - Usability and Human Factors in Technical Communication (3.0 cr)
Electives
Take at least 3 credits of electives, in consultation with the advisor.
WRIT 4573W - Writing Proposals and Grant Management [WI] (3.0 cr)
or WRIT 4664W - Science, Medical, and Health Writing [WI] (3.0 cr)
Related Field Competency Area
Take at least 9 credits outside the Department of Writing Studies, in consultation with the director of graduate studies.
Possible areas of study include, but are not limited to: Health sciences International technical communication Food science and nutrition Technical communication and software engineering Technical communication and environmental science Technical communication and law
 
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WRIT 5001 - Foundations and Futures of Technical Communication
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Every Fall
This course offers an overview of the field of technical communication. Students learn about the history of the field including job titles, industries that hire technical communicators, and trends in the field. Students also learn about research methods (including audience analysis and usability testing); software and apps commonly used in technical communication; social issues in technical communication (including legal, ethical, and organizational); and international issues (including writing for regulated environments such as in the medical device industry). Projects are multi-modal and include written reports; slide presentations with and without voice recordings; visual communication including user documentation and movies. Some projects are done individually but most are done in virtual teams. Weekly discussion forums provide students with opportunities to lead and summarize key themes from each week?s topic. Students in this class participate within a community of technical communication professionals and typically have a background in technical communication, medical/science communication, engineering, software, usability, customer support, writing and communication, marketing, or similar area.
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 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 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 5671 - Visual Rhetoric
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F only
Typically offered: Periodic 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 4501 - 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 Fall & 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 4573W - Writing Proposals and Grant Management (WI)
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Grading Basis: A-F or Aud
Typically offered: Periodic Fall & Spring
This advanced-level Writing Studies course introduces students to the activities, responsibilities, challenges, and opportunities that characterize proposals for nonprofits and/or research/business. Students analyze unique proposal writing situations, including audiences (customers, reviewers, and teammates) and resources (collaborators, templates, and time). Students practice the entire process of proposal and grant writing: 1) describing the problem in context; 2) identifying sponsors and finding a match; 3) designing, writing, revising, and completing all proposal components; 4) conceptualizing and using persuasive visual elements; and 5) presenting and responding to stakeholders and sponsors.
WRIT 4664W - Science, Medical, and Health Writing (WI)
Credits: 3.0 [max 3.0]
Course Equivalencies: Writ 4664W/ Writ 5664
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.