Skip to main content

Technical Communication and Rhetoric: PhD

Technical Communication and Rhetoric

The technical communication and rhetoric program is designed to meet the interests and needs of students who aspire to conduct advanced study of and research into the communicative practices of organizations.

Grounded in rhetorical inquiry, the program provides students with advanced study in the communicative and cultural dimensions of artifacts, processes, and technologies.

Researchers in professional communication pursue knowledge about discourse and communicative practices in organized contexts, including business, academic, scientific, technical, and nonprofit settings. They study communication as it is or has been practiced in actual, lived contexts. They primarily use theories and research methodologies associated with rhetoric and professional communication. These researchers are particularly interested in how communicative practices shape and are shaped by culture, technology, history, and theories of communication.

Students often work as professors of technical communication. Primarily they find work in teaching and academic research. Occasionally graduates have careers in non-academic environments as administrators or in research positions.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must have a master’s degree in a subject area that complements their professional reason(s) for pursuing a PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric.

Application Requirements:

  • Complete the online application
  • Pay the $55 application fee
  • Score at or above the 40th percentile on the GRE
  • Have a 3.0 or higher GPA on your last 60 semester or 90 quarter credits
  • Provide transcripts of all college/university credits
  • Provide three contacts for letters of recommendation
  • Provide a letter of intent
  • Provide a current curriculum vita
  • Submit two writing samples (a total of 20-40 pages), exhibiting your best writing. The samples may include academic or non-academic writing, but at least one of the samples should demonstrate your critical research skills.

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Admission Deadlines

The department has the following application deadline:

  • Fall semester – January 15

Program Requirements

Students must take a six-credit research internship course that is designed to immerse students in research that will lead to their dissertation.

PhD Qualifying Exams:

Students are also required to successfully complete two major exams in order to advance in the PhD program. The first of these is a portfolio (qualifying) exam, which is to be taken at the end of the first year. The second is a comprehensive exam, which is to be taken at the completion of formal coursework. Successful completion of the comprehensive exam is required before students can begin formal work on their dissertation research.

At the end of their first year in the program, students will submit an individual portfolio of their work. Professional and/or academic work may be selected for inclusion in the portfolio, though it must be work the student has completed during their first year. The portfolio must include at least four documents and their accompanying reflective statements. To proceed beyond their first year in the program, students must pass the portfolio (qualifying) exam with a grade of high pass, pass, or low pass. A grade of low pass, while allowing the student to continue in the program, does serve to indicate concern about the student's ability to successfully complete the program. There are no retakes, and decisions are final.

At the end of their formal course work, students will write a comprehensive exam. This exam is comprised of two essays. Though the comprehensive exam is taken at the completion of coursework, students should begin preparing for this exam upon starting the program. To complete the exam, students are responsible for generating a reading list from which exam questions will be formulated, which must include at least 100 items. After submitting their reading list, students should meet with the members of their committee to discuss their reading. It is from these conversations that the exam questions will be drawn. For each essay, students will be given two questions and asked to answer one. The average exam length is 15 pages per essay. In addition, each essay must also include a works cited list. Students will have 72 hours from the time they are given the exam questions to complete both essays.

Financial Assistance

A variety of funding opportunities are available on the graduate school website.

Lisa Gabbert, PhD, Indiana University
Associate Professor, Director of Folklore Studies
Area: Folklore
Office: RWST 204 C
Phone: (435) 797-2721

Keith Grant-Davie, PhD, University of California - San Diego
Associate Professor
Department: English Department
Area: Editing, technical writing, rhetorical theory
Office: RWST 310 A
Phone: (435) 797-3547

David Hailey, PhD, University of New Mexico
Associate Professor
Department: English Department
Area: Technical communication, rhetorical theory, computer writing, computer technologies
Office: RWST 313 A
Phone: (435) 797-2741

Ryan Moeller, PhD, University of Arizona
Associate Professor
Department: English Department
Area: Rhetorical theory, rhetoric of technology, professional and technical writing, computer game design and development
Office: RWST 312 B
Phone: (435) 797-8637

Rebecca Walton, PhD, University of Washington
Assistant Professor
Area: Cross-cultural communication, information and communication technology, technical communication, document design
Office: RWST 301 A
Phone: (435) 797-0263

Labs, Centers, Research

Learning Suite: The Learning Suite is comprised of two student computer labs: the Teaching Lab and the Open-Access Lab. The Learning Suite strives to foster an environment where communication can develop between students, instructors, and their audiences. It supports communication as any expression through the medians of written text, graphics, sound, and still and moving images, and updates its technology to provide as much support as possible for these forms of communication.