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Application Procedures

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.

The deadline for the 2020-2021 academic year is January 15, 2020. 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 2018 CCCC award for Best Article on Philosophy or Theory of Technical or Scientific Communication, as well as 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

The following materials are general application materials required by the USU Graduate School:

  • An electronically completed application form, available through the Graduate School website
  • 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. You will enter their contact information as part of your online application to the Graduate School, and the Graduate School will contact them directly regarding how to submit their letters.
  • Test scores from all three sections of the GRE (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 students must also submit an I-20 application form and a financial guarantee. The Graduate School website details these requirements.
  • International applicants from non-English-speaking countries must also provide evidence of English language proficiency. The Graduate School website details these requirements.
The Technical Communication and Rhetoric doctoral program also requires two writing samples, a curriculum vitae, and a letter of intent. You will submit these materials as "Supplemental Items" with your online Graduate School application. These items are essential for assessing your potential fit with the PhD program, so we have described each of these items in detail below. If you have any questions, feel free to contact the English Department Director of Graduate Studies, Jared Colton (, or the Chair of the PhD committee, Rebecca Walton (

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 thinking and research skills. For each writing sample, write a one-page preface, contextualizing the sample. In this preface, 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.

Curriculum Vitae

Submit the most current version of your curriculum vitae (CV). For guidance on creating a CV, please visit Purdue's OWL on "Writing the Curriculum Vitae." You can also review our faculty's CVs as examples of this genre: e.g., Colton, Grant-Davie, McLaughlin, and Walton

Letter of Intent

Prepare a letter of intent of around 1,000 words, addressed to the PhD selection committee. This letter should explain your career goals and research agenda by addressing the following prompts. We encourage you to illustrate your answers with relevant anecdotes and specific examples from your academic or non-academic experience.

  • Why are you applying for a PhD? 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 PhD 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.

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 your CV.