Technical Communication and Rhetoric Doctoral Program
The Supervisory Committee
When you enter the program, you are assigned a preliminary Supervisory Committee consisting of four tenure-line faculty members from the department. The chair (aka major professor) and two members will be from within the core TCR faculty (Profs. Colton, Edenfield, Grant-Davie, McLaughlin, Moeller, and Walton). The fourth member will be the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), Prof. Christine Cooper Rompato.
This committee has three responsibilities:
- To approve the your choice of classes before you register each semester. By the final week of classes in each semester, you should email the proposed class details for the following semester to the committee members. They indicate their approval to the committee chair, who emails the committee’s approval to the DGS. The committee may question your proposed classes and advise other classes.
- To approve your Program of Study worksheet in the fall semester of your second year.
- To review the second-year annual review/progress report. You must submit this report by April 1 in your second spring semester and by that date in all subsequent spring semesters.
When you complete 36 credits at the 7000 level, your preliminary Supervisory Committee is dissolved and you must form a Dissertation Supervisory Committee composed of faculty members willing to supervise your Comprehensive Exam and dissertation. This committee will consist of a chair (aka major professor) and two members from within the core TCR faculty (Profs. Colton, Edenfield, Grant-Davie, McLaughlin, Moeller, and Walton), a fourth member from within the department but outside the core TCR faculty, and a fifth member from outside the department. All members of this committee must have doctoral degrees and be approved by the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies in accordance with the Utah State University General Catalog.
Program of Study Form
The Program of Study Form is designed to show the School of Graduate Studies that you have met their requirements. It lists (chronologically) all the classes that will count towards your degree, your contact information, and the working title of your dissertation. It is signed by you, all the members of your Supervisory Committee, the Department Head, and the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. Once the Program of Study Form has been submitted and approved, revisions can be made to it by a memo from the Director of Graduate Studies in English to the School of Graduate Studies. You must file the Program of Study Form with the School of Graduate Studies by the end of your third semester in the program. If you fail to meet this deadline, the School of Graduate Studies will stop granting you waivers of tuition.
Program of Study Worksheet
The Program of Study Worksheet is designed to show your Supervisory Committee chair how close you are to meeting all the TCR program course requirements. Unlike the Program of Study Form, the worksheet is organized by TCR curriculum categories. You will complete a Program of Study worksheet towards the end of your first academic year in the program. To prepare for your Qualifying Exam in April, submit the worksheet along with the other Qualifying Exam materials to your preliminary Supervisory Committee chair. During the following fall (at the start of your second year in the program), submit an updated copy of the worksheet to your committee chair for approval. This second version of the worksheet will serve as a final check on your coursework before you complete the Program of Study Form and submit that to the School of Graduate Studies.
English 7900 allows you to apply workplace field research theory and methods in an actual workplace setting. The questions that follow define the research internship, state prerequisites prior to beginning the internship, identify the time requirement, and outline student and supervisor responsibilities.
The research internship requires primary research—the systematic collection of information, data, or specific other source material, or the carrying out of research which can only be done in a specific location. Broadly defined, this component of our PhD program exists to:
- Provide you with research opportunities outside the context of the graduate coursework and immerse you in the processes of an actual professional communication culture.
- Involve you in primary research related to how professionals communicate in the workplace.
- Allow you to practice identifying, collecting, and analyzing evidence of specific communicative acts that frame professional communication.
Although the list below is not comprehensive, possible research projects could be envisioned in one or more of the following ways:
- Working for an extended period of time on-site in an organization as a participant-observer (e.g., a traditional internship with a research component).
- Working for an organization as a consultant, not necessarily at the physical site of the organization (e.g., telecommuting, again with a research component).
- Visiting the site of an organization regularly over a period of time as an observer, gathering data about communication as it happens (e.g., sitting in on meetings, monitoring email conversations, interviewing people who work in the organization) or studying the on-site archives (print or electronic) of the organization, but not necessarily operating as a productive member of the organization.
- Visiting a library or other archival site regularly over time to conduct primary research on a particular record of professional communication.
Prerequisites to the Research Internship Project
You will need to complete the following steps prior to beginning the research internship:
- Complete 7410 (fall).
- Complete 7000 (spring).
- Develop an acceptable proposal with research questions.
- Select a research supervisor from your Supervisory Committee.
- Receive approval of the project by the selected research supervisor.
You should aim to complete the research internship as soon as possible after completing your fourth semester.
The research internship must be completed and graded before you may register for Dissertation credits.
Research Internship Requirements
Research Internships constitute six credits of your program of study. To earn these six credits, you should plan to work approximately 300 hours on the research project. These 300 hours should include the time spent at the research site and work completed there, time spent collecting and analyzing data, and time spent creating the required research internship documentation.
Student and supervisor responsibilities for the research internship
|Develops proposal, including timeline for documentation and project completion.||Approves proposal; agrees to supervise.|
|Writes and maintains work documentation, including required progress report.||Reviews documentation and responds to progress report.|
|Consults with supervisor on a regular basis in one or more of the following ways:
||Provides consultation, as needed and as appropriate to the student’s fieldwork project. Typically, supervisor and student will consult on a bi-weekly schedule, but this schedule may be modified, as the supervisor deems necessary.|
|Writes final fieldwork report, which may take a variety of forms (for example, publication-ready article, pilot study, dissertation chapter).||Assesses report and determines fieldwork experience grade.|
|Presents the fieldwork orally, with visual aids, in a public forum (usually a classroom in the English Department with faculty and other students in attendance).||Assesses oral presentation|
The Qualifying Examination
At the end of your first year in the PhD program, you must pass a Qualifying Exam, which is a formal evaluation of your progress by the Qualifying Exam committee. That committee consists of the entire TCR faculty, the Writing Program Director (if you are employed as Graduate Instructors), and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).
You are evaluated on the criteria listed below, based on the evidence of your transcript, your Curriculum Vitae(CV), your Program of Study worksheet, and your Annual Progress Report Form. You will also be evaluated based on testimony from the faculty who have observed your performance as a graduate student and Graduate Instructor.
|Criterion||Examples||Source of Evaluation|
|Quality of written work in class||Writing strong seminar papers and other class assignments||Transcript, faculty observation|
|Quality of contributions to oral or online class discussions||Participating frequently and well in class discussion, either face-to-face or online||Transcript, faculty observation|
|Scholarly activity||Submitting proposals and presenting conference papers; submitting journal articles; participating in grant proposals||CV, annual review form, faculty observation|
|Evidence of taking initiative and making progress towards the degree||Completing a steady, committee-approved coursework load; approaching faculty members with ideas for research projects for the dissertation; actively working towards forming a Dissertation Supervisory Committee||CV, annual review form, faculty observation|
|Participation in civic life of the department||Attending workshops, guest speaker presentations, meetings, committees, and other events that PhD students are encouraged to attend||CV, annual review form, faculty observation|
|Evidence of professional conduct||Listening to advice from faculty, following suggestions, collaborating respectfully with faculty, fellow students, and staff||Faculty observation|
|Ability to deliver on required tasks||Completing assignments; meeting class and program deadlines; attending class; fulfilling teaching duties; avoiding Incomplete grades or completing them in a timely manner||Transcript, faculty observation|
Based on the criteria listed above and a meeting with you, the Qualifying Exam committee will make one of the following assessments:
|Pass with distinction||You are excelling in all areas.|
|Pass||You are performing satisfactorily, though there may be a few areas for improvement.|
|Pass with probation||You have underperformed significantly in some or all areas. The committee will provide a remediation plan—a list of needed improvements that you must make during the second year in order to advance to a third year in the program.|
|Dismiss||You have failed to make adequate progress during the first year. The committee will recommend to the DGS that you be dismissed from the program.|
If you receive a “pass with probation,” you will be evaluated again by the Qualifying Exam committee the following year. If you fail to meet the conditions of the remediation plan after a year of probation, the committee will recommend that you be dismissed from the program.
Once you have passed the Qualifying Exam, you will be reviewed each spring semester by your Supervisory Committee. If you have performed poorly since the previous review, the committee may recommend to the Qualifying Exam committee that you be put on probation or dismissed.
The Comprehensive Examination
At the end of your formal course work, you will write a Comprehensive Exam. This exam is comprised of two essays:
- The first essay asks you to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge in the field of rhetoric and professional communication and requires that you demonstrate a good understanding of foundational theories, chronologies, and methodologies. The first essay requires that you synthesize knowledge by reflecting on your coursework and study.
- The second essay requires that you project forward. In this essay, you are asked to demonstrate depth of knowledge in a specific aspect of rhetoric and professional communication, the area in which you will be conducting your dissertation work. If the first essay provides context, the second should articulate clearly how the specific area of interest extends the conversations in the field and furthers a line or series of questions.
Although you take the Comprehensive Exam at the completion of coursework, you should begin preparing for this exam upon starting the program. To complete the exam, you are responsible for generating a reading list and four contextualizing paragraphs from which exam questions will be formulated. Given the scope of the Comprehensive Exam, the reading list should equally exemplify breadth and depth in the field.
You will work with your Supervisory Committee chair to develop a Comprehensive Exam reading list around four themes central to the theory and practice of professional communication:
- Theory & Rhetoric
- Technology & Design
- Research Methods
Context: For each of the four themes, you will write a contextualizing paragraph, defining the theme and situating your specific research focus within the broader theme. In these four paragraphs, you will bound and contextualize your approach to the themes, highlighting how your own research focus fits within the field of professional communication and explaining your strategy for selecting appropriate works to include on the reading list.
Content: You are strongly encouraged to draw from seminal, well-cited, and award-winning works relevant to professional communication, such as those on the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Awards for Excellence in Technical and Scientific Communication list, in Central Works in Technical Communication (Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart Selber, Eds.), and in Elizabeth Overman Smith’s 2000 article, “Points of reference in technical communication scholarship,” as well as other scholarly publications specifically applicable to your research focus.
Length: The reading list will have approximately 100 works total, comprised of a well-balanced mix of scholarly books and articles. The reading list must address all four themes in a proportion to be negotiated with the committee chair.
After submitting your reading list, you should meet with the members of your Supervisory Committee to discuss your readings. From these conversations the exam questions will be drawn. For each essay, you 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 references list in APA format. You will have 72 hours from the time you are given the exam questions to complete both essays.
Your Supervisory Committee will be responsible for reviewing the completed Comprehensive Exam. Within one week of completing the exam, the chair of your Supervisory Committee will notify you of the results, and the Supervisory Committee may ask to meet with you. At this time you will be told whether you are ready to proceed to the dissertation research phase of the TCR program. If you do not pass the Comprehensive Exam, you will be allowed to retake the exam within one calendar year. If you do not pass the exam the second time, you will be asked to discontinue the program.
The PhD dissertation is a book-length written project based on original research undertaken by you as the candidate. It serves two purposes:
- Expand the knowledge of the field.
- Demonstrate that you are capable of original and meaningful research.
You should be working toward the selection of a dissertation topic from the moment of matriculation in the program, if not before. By the end of the first year in the program, you should have a good sense of the direction your research will take.
During your first year, you should take the opportunity to meet with the members of USU’s cadre of professors to get a sense of which of them might be most compatible with your research aspirations. As you are considering your options, you should keep in mind that your research topic needs to be somewhat compatible with at least one of the faculty’s. If not, you may have to adjust your topic. The idea is that the advisor you select will mentor you as you advance your research ideas. If none of the faculty is familiar with or interested in your topic, there is no one to mentor you.
Second and Subsequent Years
During your second year, you should select a dissertation advisor and begin thinking about your research topic (you are strongly encouraged to do this before the end of the third semester).
Often, you will be able to advance your research in the courses you take over the next few years. Your advisor can help you select these courses and help you advance your research in them. Work in these classes can often be adapted to conference papers and journal articles, giving you the opportunity to see what others, in the profession, think about your ideas and giving you the opportunity to integrate their suggestions.
After you complete your coursework, you will do a 6 hr research internship. Students often use this internship as an opportunity to examine the problem they will address in the dissertation.
The formal dissertation proposal is your opportunity to refine the problem to be researched and design the research methods. It is also the Supervisory Committee's opportunity to review and evaluate your research plans and advise you about the value and feasibility of the proposed project.
The Dissertation Proposal
The dissertation proposal is usually 20-30 pages in length. In it, you must:
- Define the scope of the research
- Convince the Supervisory Committee that your research project will produce knowledge valuable to the field
- Demonstrate that the research methods are valid and appropriate to the question at issue
A Supervisory Committee's signature to the Application for Candidacy Form, signals that the dissertation proposal has been approved and attests that you are ready to conduct independent dissertation research (though completion of the requirement is not guaranteed).
Because the choice of a topic and research design is so critical to your success, Committees will rigorously review these proposals and may require multiple revisions.
In general, the proposal will consist of the following components (which may be tailored somewhat for each project):
- Statement of the question at issue (problem): What problem or question have you identified as the focus of your research? Provide a brief overview of the theoretical and methodological frameworks within which you intend to work. You will explicate these in more detail later.
- Literature review: The literature review accomplishes several things:
- It helps provide a context in which to locate your project, showing the existence of a scholarly conversation in which you are about to participate.
- It provides evidence that the subject is important enough to your field to have generated discussion.
- It establishes your authority to enter the conversation, showing that you are knowledgeable about the discussion and would be a credible participant.
- It allows you to formulate an argument for the exigency and value of the project you are about to undertake. In addition to showing that your topic has generated scholarly debate, you need to shape your review to show that your topic represents a gap in current knowledge, an area that has been inadequately or incompletely researched, and/or an area that warrants a revisit because new theoretical perspectives or research tools might provide new knowledge.
- Procedures: This section of your proposal explains how you will go about your research.
- What methods of gathering data will you use, and why?
- What methods will you use to analyze the data and why?
- Contextualize your collection and analysis methods in the theoretical assumptions and approaches that guide your research.
As you construct your research methodology, be aware that any research involving human beings must receive approval from the Institutional Review Board (IRB). You must have IRB approval before your dissertation proposal can be accepted by the committee.
- Outline: Provides a tentative outline of your dissertation, with chapter headings and a few lines of explanation under each. Add forecasts and transitions to help explain the rationale for your organization. Your readers will want to know why you have divided it this way and why you have chosen this sequence for the sections.
- Timetable: Presents a schedule that you plan to follow for completing the research and writing the dissertation. Bearing in mind the deadlines published by the School of Graduate Studies and your own plans for graduation, identify a tentative defense date and work backwards from that.
- Completion: You should plan to complete your proposal as soon after passing the Comprehensive Exam as you are able, but no later than one semester after completion.
- Work with your major professor to develop your proposal, consulting with him/her about essential literature to read, about focusing your topic effectively, about selecting research and analysis methods, and about a feasible timetable.
- You should also meet with other members of the Supervisory Committee, especially those who have specialized knowledge in areas important to your work.
You will meet with your Supervisory Committee as a whole once each Spring semester for a formal review of progress on the dissertation. You will also meet informally with the major professor on a fairly regular basis and with other Committee members as necessary.
You must consult the Utah State University Publication Guide for Graduate Students for style rules for the dissertation.
You and your major professor will decide when the manuscript is ready to submit to the Supervisory Committee for final review prior to the oral defense. The oral defense consists of a 90-minute public discussion of your research. All members of the Supervisory Committee must be present. The Supervisory Committee must unanimously approve the dissertation.
According to University regulations, you have 8 years from matriculation to finish the PhD degree.
Timetable for the Dissertation Proposal and Dissertation
- Before the end of your third semester in the program, invite an eligible faculty member to serve as your major professor, and consult with him/her to form the Supervisory Committee.
- Meet with the Supervisory Committee (now replacing the Director of Graduate Studies and the Exams Committee as advisors) in the Spring semester of each year after the first to discuss the direction of your research, possible methods and essential literature.
- Begin reading for the literature review, refining your research question as you do.
- After passing the Comprehensive Exam, write your dissertation proposal.
- Submit a request for approval of your research to the Human Subjects Board, if using human subjects.
- Schedule the proposal review with your Supervisory Committee.
- Submit copies of the proposal to the Supervisory Committee at least two weeks before the scheduled Review.
- Meet with the Supervisory Committee to discuss approval of the proposal. The Committee may require extensive revision of the proposal.
- When the proposal is approved, submit the Application for Candidacy for Doctoral Degree Form to the School of Graduate Studies. (Research using human subjects must have been approved by the IRB before the School of Graduate Studies will approve the Application for Candidacy. No human subject research may be implemented before approval.)
- Begin collecting data for the dissertation.
- Write the dissertation.
- Submit chapters as they are completed to your major professor. He/she may require revision, and will determine when the chapters are ready for circulation to other Committee members.
- With the major professor, determine when the completed, revised manuscript is ready for final review by the Committee.
- Schedule the oral defense of the dissertation at least 7 weeks before the anticipated degree-completion date. He/she will submit the completed dissertation to the Committee at least one month before the defense. Each committee member must read and approve the dissertation before signing the Appointment for Examination form. Signed by all Supervisory Committee members, this form affirms that the members believe the dissertation is ready for defense (see the General Catalog). You will circulate the Appointment for Examination Form to the Supervisory Committee and submit it to the School of Graduate Studies a minimum of 10 working days prior to the oral defense (see the General Catalog).
- After scheduling the oral defense, receive several forms for completion of the degree process (see the General Catalog).
The Oral Defense
The Supervisory Committee records the results of the defense and any additional requirements on the Record of Examination Completion form and submits it to the Graduate School Office.
You submit the dissertation to the thesis coordinator for final review of format, style and mechanics. You must revise in compliance with the thesis coordinator's requirements before the thesis coordinator will submit the dissertation to the graduate dean for approval.
The Dean of the School of Graduate Studies gives final approval to the dissertation, and has the authority to require further review.
All graduation forms must be completed, fees paid, and forms submitted to the School of Graduate Studies before a degree can be closed out.
Forms for Doctoral Students
All students in the Technical Communication and Rhetoric (TCR) Doctoral program should complete this form every year by April 1. First-year students submit the completed form to the TCR Curriculum Committee Chair prior to taking the qualifying examination. All other students submit the form to their major professors.
Identifies five faculty members who will supervise your thesis and program of study. Choose a major advisor, three committee members, and an outside member. (Three members must be from within and at least once must be from outside the student's department or interdepartmental degree-granting program). Should be filled out by the end of second semester and sent to the DGS (who will forward it to the Graduate School). When completing the form, please follow instructions on the second page of the form. Note that this form is updated frequently so make sure you are using the most current. Version on the USU Grad website (see link above).
Program of Study Form
Lays out the course work you will take to earn a degree in your specific program. Found in your Banner account under “Degree Works.” TCR doctoral students need to fill out a Program of Study Worksheet before they fill out the official Program of Study Form. When you are ready to fill in the official Program of Study Form in Banner, you may do this on your own or you can make an appointment with the English Graduate Program Assistant for help. After completing the form, email the DGS for approval. Should be filled out by end of first year.
Due three months prior to the final dissertation defense; it must be accompanied by a signed copy of the Proposal Cover Sheet. The Application for Candidacy form, signed by all members of the committee and the department head, attests that the student is ready to conduct independent dissertation research.
Due at least 10 working days before the final defense. Notifies the Grad School that you will be defending your dissertation. Ensures that committee members have read the dissertation ahead of time and agree that it is ready to be defended.
Record of Exam Completion
This form is brought to your dissertation defense by the outside member of your dissertation committee, who serves as the representative of the Grad School at the defense. The form is mailed to the outside committee member prior to the defense.
This form must accompany a dissertation presented to the School of Graduate Studies for approval.
Use this form if you have not completed your degree in four years and need to apply for an extra year of teaching.
Use this form when you will not be registering for a spring or fall semester during your program of study. Work with your department to complete this form.
Length of Program
The Grad School allots eight years from the time you matriculate (i.e. from the time you are accepted into the program). Coursework that is more than eight years old may not be used for a graduate degree. If permitted by the departmental or interdepartmental degree program policy, a supervisory committee may allow revalidation through testing, following a plan developed by the supervisory committee and approved by the dean of the School of Graduate Studies. The results must be verified in writing to the graduate dean by your major professor or other person(s) responsible for the testing. Work experience cannot be substituted for out-of-date coursework or used for revalidation.
The PhD is designed to prepare you for a career as a faculty member, researching and teaching at post-secondary institutions. To ensure that you have experience working in-person (rather than just remotely) in an English Department, a number of the doctoral classes are taught on campus rather than online, and doctoral students in online classes are required to meet with the instructor on campus once a week while taking an online class. Also, you are expected to attend presentations and events on campus as requested by Technical Communication and Rhetoric (TCR) faculty members.