Doctoral students must apply for admission to both the School of Graduate Studies and the English Department’s Technical Communication and Rhetoric (TCR) Doctoral program.

For the 2017-2018 academic year, the application deadline has passed. The deadline for the 2018-2019 academic year is January 15, 2018. No applicants will be considered until all required information arrives in the School of Graduate Studies office. All application materials must be postmarked before or by the deadline.

The strongest applicants are those who reference the work of our faculty, suggesting how your own interests fit with the focus of our program and convey familiarity with the broader field.

For an overview of the technical communication field, we point applicants to the following four touchstone articles:

  • A humanistic rationale for technical writing: Positioning technical communication as humanistic and rhetorical, this 1979 article is one of the most influential and heavily cited articles in the field.
  • Relocating the value of work: This 1996 article argues for technical communicators to convey more clearly the value of our expertise, rejecting classification as low-skill support workers and instead embracing and articulating our role as critical information brokers.
  • Has technical communication arrived as a profession: Exploring the role of technology in the professional identity of the field, this 2005 article acknowledges the centrality of ever-changing technologies to our work but concludes that "people [...] are the ultimate end, not the technology" (p. 369).
  • Disrupting the past to disrupt the future: Winner of the 2017 Nell Ann Pickett award, this article calls the field of technical communication to embrace social justice and inclusivity as part of its core narrative. Co-authored by Dr. Rebecca Walton, this article reflects our program's explicit commitment to social justice broadly defined.

Application materials

  • A completed application form, which you submit electronically through the Graduate School website. We are in the process of changing our degree name from PhD in Theory and Practice of Professional Communication to PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric. Be aware that the Graduate School forms may still have the old program name.
  • A $55 application fee.
  • All official undergraduate and graduate transcripts showing your GPA. The minimum requirement is 3.00 on a 4.00 scale for the last 60 credits taken.
  • Three letters of recommendation, two of which must be from former teachers if you have been enrolled in school during the last five years. These letters should be sent directly to the Graduate School by the letter writers using the forms you downloaded from the Graduate School website.
  • Test scores from all three sections of the Graduate Record Examination. The minimum acceptable score is at or above the 40th percentile in the Verbal and Analytical sections. The GRE Subject test is not required.
  • International applicants from non-English-speaking countries must also take the following two tests unless their undergraduate degree is from a university in an English-speaking country: Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). The minimum score for the paper-based TOEFL is 550; for the computer-based TOEFL, 213; and for the Internet-based TOEFL, 80.

International Students

International students must also submit an I-20 application form and a financial guarantee. Please visit the Graduate School web page describing international application procedures and the Utah State web page providing information for international students.

Letter of intent

While you are assembling the materials to send to the Graduate School, also prepare a letter of intent of around 1,000 words, addressed to the PhD selection committee. This should explain your career goals and research agenda. Below are some questions and prompts to give you a sense of what the selection committee would like you to include in your letter of intent. We encourage you to illustrate your answers to these questions with relevant anecdotes and specific examples from your academic or non-academic experience.

  • Why are you applying for a PhD and why have you chosen our Technical Communication and Rhetoric program?
  • What aspects of our program particularly interest you and why? Which faculty do you see yourself working with most closely and why?
  • Describe one or two particular research projects on which you worked for your Master’s degree.
  • Why did this work interest you and what research questions motivated these projects?
  • If you were to continue working on the projects, what further research questions might you pursue, especially in a Technical Communication and Rhetoric program?
  • What professional and/or academic experiences have led you to believe you are ready for the kind of work that our PhD program will involve?
  • What research questions in Technical Communication and Rhetoric do you want to pursue in the program?
  • What career goals will this PhD in Technical Communication and Rhetoric help you to meet?
  • Do you wish to apply for a Graduate Instructorship (please see below)?

Graduate Instructor application

This face-to-face doctoral program prepares students for careers in academia, so applicants are strongly encouraged to apply for a Graduate Instructorship (GI-ship). A GI-ship pays an annual salary of $20,000.00 in addition to a tuition waiver and benefits, in exchange for teaching a 2/2 load (two courses each semester) and performing other responsibilities. USU provides excellent teacher training to PhD students, and our PhD students usually get the opportunity to teach a variety of courses during their program, which builds their Curriculum Vitae and positions them well for jobs in academia.

PhD students will establish residency in their first year. They must remain in residence at least until achieving doctoral candidacy (ABD) and be engaged as active members of the USU academic community. Students must be Utah residents to maintain their GI-ship after the first year.

Please note the following related to establishing residency: Students in the Technical Communication and Rhetoric (TCR) PhD program should be aware that while portions of some PhD classes are online, there is a once-a-week, in-person, face-to-face meeting that is required of PhD students in all TCR courses. A student's physical presence is expected at these meetings. On rare occasions, with the proper documentation from medical professionals, a student may petition an instructor to attend a particular class meeting via Skype or other video platform because of extenuating medical conditions. Such periods should not typically last longer than the equivalent of two weeks of class time. The student should receive permission from the instructor in writing prior to the class meeting, and the instructor has the right to refuse based on the particular class activities planned for that meeting if those activities are not conducive to remote attendance. This policy is part of our residency requirement for PhD students.

Renewal of the GI-ship is contingent upon satisfactory performance in teaching, coursework, tutoring, and all other GI responsibilities. If a PhD student does not meet these requirements, the department may reevaluate and decide between a plan of remediation or dismissal from teaching duties. To be eligible for a GI-ship, PhD students must be considered to be full time by the Graduate School, a designation that includes teaching two courses per semester and being enrolled in at least 6 credit hours per semester as a student.

To apply for a GI-ship, write a paragraph of interest in a GI-ship in your Letter of Intent. This paragraph should describe any previous teaching experiences you have had that would make you a good candidate for a GI-ship. Also, indicate any teaching experience in the CV that you send to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) with your application materials.

Curriculum vitae

Submit the most current version of your curriculum vitae. For help building a CV please visit Purdue's OWL on "Writing the Curriculum Vitae."

Writing Samples

Two writing samples (a total of 20-40 pages), exhibiting your best writing. These samples may include academic or non-academic writing, but at least one of the samples should demonstrate your critical and research skills. For each writing sample, write a one-page preface, contextualizing the sample: please describe your purpose for writing the document, the readers for whom you wrote it and how they affected your decisions while composing and revising the piece, and what you believe the sample demonstrates about your abilities to address a communication challenge.