Master of Technical and Professional Communication (MTPC)
In Auburn’s MTPC program—the only one of its kind in Alabama—you will learn the theory and practice of technical communication and prepare yourself for a job as a writer, editor, information analyst, web developer, or proposal specialist, as well as other interesting and often well-paid positions. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, technical writers will continue to be in demand, and our graduates can do far more than write. Moreover, the MTPC program also can prepare you for doctoral study in technical and professional communication.
Classes are taught by five full-time MTPC faculty with both academic and workplace experience. The MTPC program will provide you with opportunities to practice document design, writing, editing, web development, and production techniques for online and print media.
These recommendations are intended to keep you on track for graduation. The sequenced list assumes that you began the MTPC program in fall semester and that you are taking or have taken 9 hours for each semester during your first year.
First Year, Fall and Spring Semesters
- Try to complete required courses (ENGL 7000, 7010, 7060, 7080, 7940).
- If you are a graduate teaching assistant within the English department, you must complete 18 hours of coursework in English before fall semester of your second year. If not, you will lose your GTA.
- Begin thinking about elective courses in technical and professional communication, rhetoric and composition, or linguistics (9 hours) and a coordinated minor (9 hours in English or in another department).
- Begin thinking about an MTPC faculty member to act as chair of your advisory committee and two other English department faculty (at least one other MTPC) to serve as committee members. Be aware that your first choice may not be available, as professors sometimes take research leaves or may already have committed to chair or serve on their maximum number of advisory committees.
Second Year, Fall Semester
- Early in the of fall semester: Confirm faculty members to act as chair and members of your advisory committee.
- Gather documents for your portfolio.
- Complete your Plan of Study and submit it for approval through the Graduate School. The form is listed under Forms and Policies on the Graduate School website. The name is GSPOST for Students (Graduate Plan of Study).The Plan of Study must be approved by the day of graduation the semester before the student intends to graduate.
- Have your Graduation Check performed before the end of the semester and register for graduation. The form is listed under Forms and Policies on the Graduate School website. The name is GAAAP (Graduate Application and Approval Process). This form must be completed by the day of graduation the semester before you intend to graduate.
- Before the end of the semester: Meet with the chair of your advisory committee to discuss your portfolio and decide on the documents to be included, as well as your overall approach to the portfolio and presentation.
Second Year, Spring Semester
- Mid-January: Meet with the chair of your advisory committee to select possible date(s) for your portfolio presentation and oral exam. The date must be confirmed by the Director of Graduate Studies-MTPC and by all members of the advisory committee. Once that date is set, you and your committee chair must agree on deadlines for submitting the completed portfolio. When setting deadlines, keep in mind that (a) the chair will need two weeks to review the portfolio before asking for suggestions from the rest of the committee, and (b) the committee will need to receive the portfolio at least three weeks before the portfolio presentation and oral exam.
- As you work on your portfolio, please keep in mind the MTPC faculty's rubric for assessing the MTPC program. We ask that you use two or three keywords from this rubric (e.g., "theory: approaches," and "theory/research: document design") as keyword labels for your memo and each of your meta-analyses.
- Early February: Be sure that all incomplete grades are cleared.
- Early February (or before): Submit a complete draft of the portfolio to your advisory committee chair for review. Based on the chair's suggestions, revise the portfolio.
- At least 3 weeks before the scheduled oral presentation and exam: Submit the revised portfolio to the chair and the other members of the advisory committee. Establish a time to meet with the entire committee to discuss the portfolio and portfolio presentation and exam.
- At least 1 week before the scheduled oral presentation and exam: Meet with committee to receive further suggestions for revision and ask the committee to review the PowerPoint presentation. You must revise your portfolio according to the recommendations made by the chair and other members of the committee. You may also ask for guidance on how to prepare for oral exam questions.
- No later than early April: Present your portfolio and pass the oral exam.
- Immediately after your portfolio presentation and after passing your oral exam: Submit the website and PDF of your revised portfolio on CD-ROM to the chair of your advisory committee so that it can be archived. You will then receive a signed copy of Form 8, confirming that you have met the requirements for the MTPC, to take to the Graduate School. You cannot graduate without submitting Form 8. It must arrive at the Graduate School before April 15.
Students must complete a minimum of 30 semester hours of course work beyond the bachelor's degree. Students may take these courses in any sequence:
- Four required courses (12 hours):
ENGL 7000: Technical and Professional Editing (3 hours)
ENGL 7010: Technical and Professional Communication: Issues and Approaches (3 hours)
ENGL 7060: Web Development (3 hours)
ENGL 7080: Document Design in Technical and Professional Communication (3 hours)
ENGL 7940: GTA Practicum (2 hours)
- Three elective courses in English (9 hours) approved by the student's advisory committee.
- Three courses in a coordinated minor or three additional courses in English (9 hours). Students can select graduate courses for their coordinated minors from a range of departments, including Communication and Journalism; Political Science; Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology. Choice of courses depends on student qualifications and professional goals. Occasionally, students may prefer to take three additional graduate English courses rather than taking graduate courses from other departments. Regardless of whether they are English graduate courses or graduate courses from other departments, all courses must be approved by students' advisory committees.
Students must develop an academic portfolio of work acceptable to their advisory committees, present the portfolio, and pass an oral exam. Students' advisory committees serve as the examining committees.
The program has no language requirement and no thesis requirement.
Listed below are general course descriptions of the courses offered for MTPC students.
For a listing of courses offered during the current semester, please see the English Department's Course Descriptions and Schedules.
ENGL 7000: Technical and Professional Editing
Students in ENGL 6000 develop the knowledge and skills to edit technical and professional documents, including how to copyedit for correct usage, grammar, punctuation, and spelling, as well as for consistency in format and style. Editing to improve content and organization is also covered. The Chicago Manual of Style, 16/e is used in this course.
ENGL 7010: Technical and Professional Communication: Issues and Approaches
This course is an introduction to the discipline and profession of technical and professional communication. ENGL 7010 will cover the historical and current practices in technical and professional communication; the major forms, modes, and genres of technical and professional communication; and also the chief stylistic and rhetorical features of technical and professional communication.
ENGL 7020: The Pedagogy of Technical and Professional Communication
Students enrolled in this course will develop an understanding of educational theory as it relates to the teaching of technical and professional communication and to the teaching of writing generally. Students will discuss various pedagogical approaches to technical and professional communication and the data-collecting methods used in educational research. Students will learn how to conduct educational research applied either to technical communication or composition.
ENGL 7030: Studies in Technical and Professional Communication
This course's focus is dependent upon the interests of the professor and the students. Recent topics for this course have been IText and Emerging Technology, The Rhetoric of Major Reports, and Theories of Science and Technology. This course differs from ENGL 6030 in that its focus is more theoretical in nature. Students spend time learning about the historical and social context of the course's topic and complete a semester-long research paper or project, as well as other smaller projects.
ENGL 7060: Web Development
This course focuses on the current research and the practice of web development and design. Students will learn how to develop websites using HTML as well as web development programs. They will also conduct primary research (lab-based usability research) and secondary research (library-based research) on web development.
ENGL 7080: Document Design in Technical and Professional Communication
This course studies the concepts of and rationale for using document design in technical communication. Students learn techniques for designing and producing technical and professional documents, including instruction in typography, page layout, and color use. The goals of the course are to inform students about the principles of technical and professional communication and to help them gain experience working both individually and collaboratively in designing documents. This course also provides instruction in using software programs for document design.
ENGL 7090: Topics in Technical and Professional Communication
Students enrolling in this seminar course explore various topics related to the field of technical and professional communication. The focus of the course varies annually, depending on the interests of the professor and student demand. Previous topics have included proposal and grant writing, the correlation between science and public policy, biotechnology, usability and writing in the health professions.
ENGL 7910: Practicum in Technical and Professional Communication
This course offers instruction in the practical and theoretical dimensions of workplace writing and design activity. Toward that end, this course incorporates two principle components. The first is a 60-hour internship in which students work for a professional client in a local organization. The second is a weekly class meeting where students convene to discuss course readings, analyze the function and production of workplace documents, and, generally, refine the ways in which they engage with writing as a socio-cultural practice and a situated rhetorical activity. Combined, these foci will enable students to investigate and assess how writing, and written genres more broadly, mediates activity in and across different professional settings and workplace practices.
Along with the four required courses, MTPC students take three elective courses in English and a three-course minor. The minor can be fulfilled with English courses or courses from other departments. Below are some suggestions for elective courses in English and for courses from other departments.
Suggestions for Courses Offered in the English Department
Besides the four required courses, three other MTPC courses are available:
- ENGL 7020: The Pedagogy of Technical and Professional Communication
- ENGL 7030: Studies in Technical and Professional Communication
- ENGL 7090: Topics in Technical and Professional Communication
- ENGL 7910: Practicum in Technical and Professional Communication
These courses are offered every two years; at least one is available during each academic year.
Courses in linguistics, rhetoric, and composition are often useful electives, depending on your interests:
- ENGL 6840: Modern Grammars
- ENGL 7040: Composition: Issues and Approaches
- ENGL 7050: Studies in Composition
- ENGL 7280: Studies in Linguistics
- ENGL 7300: Rhetoric Theory and Practice
Suggestions for Courses Offered in Other Departments
The courses listed here are suggestions only. See the website for each department for a longer and more up-to-date list.
- COMM 7230: Rhetorical Criticism
- COMM 7300: Approaches to Studying Language and Social Interaction
- COMM 7410: Development of Rhetorical Theory
- COMM 7480: Seminar in Organizational Communication
And many more–There are courses in media not listed.
- COMP 6000: Web Application Development
Economic & Community Development Institute Graduate Minor
Auburn University's ECDI program offers the state's only graduate minor in economic development. Students should visit the ECDI website to learn more and determine which courses have prerequisites. Courses include:
- POLI 7700: Economic Development and Competition
- AGEC 7110: Agricultural Economic Development
- RSOC 7620: Sociology of Community
- BUSI 7130/7136: Strategic Analysis and the Competitive Environment (prerequisite–departmental approval)
- CPLN 6000: History and Theory of Urban Form
Educational Foundations, Leadership, and Technology
- ADED 7050: Methods of Teaching in Adult Education
- ADED 7060: Curriculum and Program Planning in Adult Education
- ADED 7640: Workforce Education
- EDMD 6000: Instructional Technology for Teaching and Learning
- EDMD 7000: Instructional Design and Development
- EDMD 7010: Instructional and Information Technologies
Educational Research, Measurement, and Analysis
- ERMA 7200/06: Basic Methods in Educational Research
- ERMA 7210: Theory and Methodology of Qualitative Research
- ERMA 7220: Applied Qualitative Research (prerequisite–7210)
- ERMA 7300/06, 7310/16, 8320/06 Design and Analysis in Education I, II, and III (prerequisite–7200)
- ERMA 8100: Program Evaluation
- ERMA 8200: Survey Research
Master in Public Administration courses
The director suggests that you might be interested in anything except courses about budgeting. Be sure to check for prerequisites.
A satisfactory academic portfolio, a presentation of the portfolio, and an oral exam are required for graduation from the MTPC program. The portfolio, the presentation of the portfolio, and the oral exam are reviewed by your advisory committee. The advisory committee consists of three faculty members—a chair and two other faculty. The chair must be a member of the MTPC faculty; the other two may be from other areas of the Department. One member may be from outside the Department.
Parts of the Academic Portfolio
The academic portfolio will consist of five parts:
- A portfolio website. This site should be your original design and follow best practices. The site should be usable, accessible, well conceived, well executed, and attractive. You may adapt images and snippets of code as appropriate as long as the design remains your own and you have appropriately addressed permissions, copyright, and attribution. See the MTPC Portfolio Supplement for more information.
- An introductory memo of no more than 2000 words to the advisory committee. This memo must address these two general questions: (a) Based on your coursework, what do you see as the major issues in technical and professional communication as a discipline? (b) How do you as a professional and the work presented in this portfolio address those issues? At least 10 sources must be cited following Chicago, APA, or IEEE style. After responding to these two questions, you should provide an overview of the documents in the portfolio. Also, please label the memo with two, three, or four most relevant keywords (e.g., "Theory/research: usability and accessibility") from the rubric that the MTPC faculty use to assess the program.
- A résumé or curriculum vita.
- Five documents—print or online—that you have worked on during your two years in the MTPC program. These should include at least one document from ENGL 6000: Technical and Professional Editing and one document from ENGL 6010: Document Design in Technical and Professional Communication.
- For each of those five documents, a 500-word meta-analysis. The meta-analysis should include:
- Name of the course and the professor.
- Two or three keyword labels (e.g., "Application: document design") from the rubric for MTPC program assessment.
- Audience(s) and purpose(s) for the document.
- Your role in creating the document if the document was prepared collaboratively.
- Your goals for the document and a description of the document-development process.
- Theories and principles that informed the development of the document.
- In-text and reference list documentation of secondary sources that support the document-development choices. Again, you can follow Chicago, APA, or IEEE style.
The portfolio should be submitted to your advisory committee as a usable website and PDF on CD-ROM.
Review Process for Academic Portfolio
When you are ready to start work on the portfolio, you should talk with the advisory committee chair to clarify any questions and to decide which documents to include. Before you submit the portfolio to the rest of the advisory committee members, give the chair at least two weeks to review the portfolio. You are required to make any revisions that your committee chair suggests.
When the chair gives permission, you can submit the portfolio to the other two members of the advisory committee. This submission of the portfolio to the other committee members should occur at least three weeks before the scheduled date of your portfolio presentation and oral exam. You should set up a meeting with the advisory committee for about 10 days before the presentation of the portfolio/oral exam. You must incorporate any suggestions that you receive during that meeting. The advisory committee may also review a draft of your oral presentation.
Presentation of Portfolio and Oral Exam
Besides the portfolio, you are required to pass an oral presentation of the portfolio and an oral exam. The oral exam follows the presentation of the portfolio.
The time and day for the presentation of the portfolio and oral exam should be set early during the semester you plan to graduate, and it should afford enough time for you to make multiple revisions to the portfolio. According to a Graduate School requirement, you must satisfactorily complete your portfolio presentation and oral exams before mid-April to graduate in May.
The presentation of the portfolio is usually a PowerPoint presentation showing three or four documents from the portfolio. Other MTPC students, faculty, and friends are invited to attend. Besides showing the documents, you should discuss them, according to what you did and how the theory you learned in the MTPC program informed your choices. The talk should not last more than 30 minutes, and questions will follow.
After the presentation of the portfolio ends, the invited guests leave the room, and the advisory committee conducts the oral exam. Because graduates of the MTPC program will be expected to have well-rounded knowledge of technical and professional communication as a discipline, questions in the oral exam may involve theory and practice beyond what is demonstrated in the portfolio. Some committee members may be willing to talk with you about the questions they plan to ask before the exam, but some may not.
So that we can navigate the electronic versions of the portfolios easily in future years, the MTPC faculty would like for students to do the following when transferring their web portfolio site and materials to CD-ROM:
1. If this has not been done so already, name the home page of the portfolio "index.html."
2. Ensure that this file sits at the root of the site file structure, preferably at the top level of data on the CD-ROM. In other words, we should be able to see the index.html file immediately and without drilling down when we put the disc in our drives and look in File Manager.
3. Revise any hyperlinks on sub-pages of the site to reflect these changes so that there will not be any broken links.
4. Finally, ensure that all examples, reflections, and other materials are accessible via hyperlink from within the site.
When you have successfully defended the portfolio and turned in the CD-ROM to the chair of your advisory committee, you will be given a Form 8 to take to the Graduate School.
MTPC graduate students can enjoy a range of activities that provide opportunities for professional development, including academic and industry conferences and opportunities to network with people in industry.
At April in Auburn (AiA), Technical and Professional Communication faculty and students team up with the Birmingham, Huntsville, and Atlanta Chapters of the Society for Technical Communication (STC) for a day-long meeting. The most recent AiA took place on Saturday, April 28, 2012. Events included:
- Keynote speaker: Dr. Carlos Evia (Virginia Tech).
- Poster presentations by current MTPC students (and posters on display throughout the day).
- A tour of the new CLA research facility LUCIA (Lab for Usability, Communication, Interaction, and Accessibility) and demonstrations of the lab's resources, including Perception Analyzer and Morae.
AiA is as much about networking as it is about sharing research and experience. AiA brings together industry professionals, technical communication scholars, and graduate students who are approaching the job market.
Whether students are headed to work in industry or academia, conferences are an important part of their professional development, in part for the knowledge they build by attending sessions. Furthermore, any conference that allows students to present their work in a talk or poster session helps them to build a professional reputation. Academically-oriented students can receive feedback to help them turn their work into publications. Industry-oriented students can establish connections for the job market. Graduate students in the MTPC program (as well as prospective MTPC students) should go to Facebook and "Like" the Auburn University MTPC Program to have access to our Notes (where we list conference CFPs and job opportunities) and to our status updates.
Society for Technical Communication Involvement
Technical and Professional Communication faculty and students have developed associations with the three regional chapters of our most important professional association, Society for Technical Communication (STC). The regional chapters are located in Birmingham, Atlanta, and Nashville. These chapters are very supportive of the MTPC program at Auburn and provide students with numerous opportunities. Through STC participation, one student acquired an internship in Atlanta, and another student found a job opportunity in Nashville. Also, a number of positions in Birmingham have been filled by MTPC students through their involvement with the STC.
Active involvement in the STC allows the MTPC program to stay current with regional activities, participate in meetings, and gain business contacts in the surrounding areas. Some recent field trips have included visits to Atlanta and Birmingham STC meetings. The Birmingham Chapter stays actively involved with the Auburn Technical and Professional Communication programs through holding an annual meeting at the university (see April in Auburn) and providing a scholarship award.
For more information
Hollifield Professor of English Literature
Director of Graduate Studies
8058 Haley Center
Last Updated: August 01, 2014