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 on the Graduate School website. (Look near the bottom of the homepage for Forms Directory). The name is Graduate Plan of Study in DegreeWorks. 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 Graduation Application on My Academics tab in AU Access. 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 Coordinator of the MTPC Program 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. Bring a filled-out, ready-to-sign copy of Form 8 to your 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 32 semester hours of course work beyond the bachelor's degree. Students may take these courses in any sequence:
- Five required courses (14 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 this course 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 latest edition of the Chicago Manual of Style 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 and is theoretical in nature. Topics for this course have been diverse, from Writing Public Policy (with a rhetoric, ethics, and social justice focus) to Rhetoric of Science. 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 7070: Grant and Proposal Writing
This course introduces students to proposals as important tools for putting ideas into action—gaining permission, approval, or funding—whether in business and industry, the sciences or academia, nonprofits, or the government. This course particularly focuses on foundation grants and the rhetorical and situated nuances of the process. Students will work through the grant-writing process from start to finish, from finding and interpreting grant opportunities, to soliciting support, to writing and presenting the grant, and, finally, to planning for following up with a foundation after the funding announcement.
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 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.
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 7000: Technical and Professional Editing and one document from ENGL 7080: 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 USB drive.
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 you to do the following when transferring their web portfolio site and materials to USB drive:
1. If this has not been done already, name the home page of the web 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 USB drive. In other words, we should be able to see the index.html file immediately and without drilling down when we open the drive and look in File Manager.
3. Revise any hyperlinks on sub-pages of the site to reflect these changes so that all of the site’s links to pages work.
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 USB drive to the chair of your advisory committee, your committee members will sign your prepared copy of Form 8. After you make copies of the form, you will bring the original to the Graduate School.
MTPC graduate students can enjoy a range of activities that provide opportunities for professional development, including academic and industry conferences, opportunities to publish, and opportunities to network with people in industry. Whether you are headed to work in industry or academia, we encourage you to be involved and are happy to help you become actively and professionally engaged in multiple ways.
Local and Regional Opportunities
Our program has hosted speakers and regional conferences over the years, both student organized and faculty organized. Conferences typically include guest speakers from both industry and academia, poster presentations, and tours of LUCIA (Lab for Usability, Communication, Interaction, and Accessibility), a CLA research facility co-developed by our program. These opportunities allow you to do more than learn about research: they give you a chance network and to discover more about pragmatic issues in field.
National Conference Opportunities
Technical and Professional Communication faculty are active in a variety of professional associations, including ATTW, STC, NCTE, and ACM SIGDOC, to name a few.
Conferences help you build knowledge as you attend sessions. Furthermore, any conference that allows you to present your student work in a talk or poster session helps you build a professional reputation. If you are academically oriented, you can receive feedback to help you turn you work into publications. If you are industry oriented, you can establish connections for the job market.
Publishing not only raises your professional profile but also engages you in larger disciplinary conversations. We encourage you to publish in venues suitable for your work and are happy to mentor you through the process. Here’s a sample of what students have published from their work during the program:
Baker, J., & Ross, D. G. (2012). The genesis of a disaster-response plan in two parts. In Auburn Speaks, produced by the Office of the Vice President for Research, pp. 98-103. Auburn University.
Carradini, S. (2015). Let’s talk about Jane: The ethics of “other” knowledge. Intercom, May: 18–19.
Gosser, R. (2015). Hurricane Sandy: The perfect storm of ethical dilemmas. Intercom, February: 29–31.
Hockenhull, D., Martin, A., Mayhall, V., & Stude, S. (2013). Ethics scenario: Facebook use in the workplace. Intercom, March: 45.
Honnell, R., & Ross, D. G. (2014). Comic Sans gets neue lease of life—but it may end in tragedy. The Conversation, April 21, 2014, http://theconversation.com/comic-sans-gets-neue-lease-of-life-but-it-may-endin-tragedy-25558
Lambert, J. (2016). That’s [unethical?] edutainment!. Intercom, January: 25–27.
Lewis, H. (2018). Contextualizing place as type: Creating an Auburn Typeface. Xchanges, 12(2)/13(1), http://www.xchanges.org/contextualizing-place-as-type-creating
Loftin, K., & Cryer, M. Everyday ethics and the practicing communicator. Intercom, May: 25–26.
McDonnell, A. (2015). Ethics of visual rhetoric and photo manipulation. Xchanges,10(1)/11(1), http://xchanges.org/issue10.1/McDonnell/McDonnell1.html
Graduate students in the MTPC program (as well as prospective MTPC students): Please 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.
For more information
Director of Graduate Studies
9096 Haley Center
Last Updated: August 01, 2014