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Ph.D. in Technical Communication (TECH)

The doctoral program in technical communication at IIT prepares you for careers in research and teaching at the postsecondary level, as well as for advanced supervisory and research positions in business and government.

The program builds on a base of skills in workplace practices and incorporates theory-oriented advanced readings, seminars, and dissertation research leading you into original contributions to scholarship in the field.

Requirements

84 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree, including:

  • Technical communication core (30 credit hours)
  • Electives (minimum of 15 credit hours)
  • Dissertation research (minimum of 24 credit hours)
  • Additional electives or dissertation research (as needed to achieve total of 84)
  • Qualifying examination
  • Comprehensive examination
  • Dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation
  • Dissertation (final thesis) examination

Transfer Units

If you have already earned master's degrees or undertaken graduate work in relevant fields you may transfer credit hours toward the doctoral degree (up to 36 credit hours for graduate coursework in relevant fields at IIT, up to 30 credit hours for graduate coursework in relevant fields at other institutions).

Required Courses

Technical Communication Core (30 credit hours)

  • COM 521 Key Concepts in Technical Communication
  • COM 525 User Experience Research and Evaluation
  • COM 529 Technical Editing
  • COM 541 Information Structure and Retrieval
  • COM 542 Knowledge Management
  • COM 543 Publication Management
  • COM 601 Research Methods and Resources

One of the following:

  • COM 602 Qualitative Research Methods
  • COM 603 Quantitative Research Methods

One of the following:

  • COM 528 Document Design
  • COM 530 Standards-Based Web Design
  • COM 535 Instructional Design

One of the following:

  • COM 501 Introduction to Linguistics
  • COM 506 World Englishes
  • COM 508 Structure of Modern English
  • COM 509 History of the English Language
  • COM 515 Discourse Analysis

Electives (at least 15 credit hours)

  • COM 501 Introduction to Linguistics
  • COM 506 World Englishes
  • COM 508 Structure of Modern English
  • COM 509 History of the English Language
  • COM 515 Discourse Analysis
  • COM 528 Document Design
  • COM 530 Standards-Based Web Design
  • COM 532 Rhetoric of Technology
  • COM 535 Instructional Design
  • COM 536 Proposal and Grant Writing
  • COM 538 Entrepreneurship in Technical Communication
  • COM 545 Writing for Academic Publication
  • COM 553 Globalization and Localization
  • COM 561 Teaching Technical Communication
  • COM 571 Persuasion
  • COM 577 Communication Law and Ethics
  • COM 580 Topics in Communication

Other courses as approved by your advisor and one of the co-directors of graduate studies. No more than 9 hours of 400-level courses may be counted toward the degree.

Dissertation Research

COM 691 Research and Dissertation for Ph.D. degree (at least 24 credit hours)

Additional Courses

Additional coursework or dissertation research needs to be sufficient to meet the requirement of 84 credit hours beyond the bachelor's degree. All work for a doctoral degree should be completed within six calendar years after the approval of the program of study; if it is not, then you must re-pass the Qualifying Examination.

Examinations and Dissertation Proposal

You are responsible for reviewing additional policies, procedures, and deadlines detailed in the Graduate Bulletin section on Master's and Doctoral Examinations and on the Graduate College website.

Qualifying Examination

The Qualifying Examination assesses your analytical ability, writing skills, and research potential. The exam must be taken by the end of your third semester in the Ph.D. program. You will prepare (1) a brief statement of research interests and (2) a Qualifying Paper—a sole-authored research paper of at least 5,000 words, demonstrating original analysis and familiarity with existing research. The examining committee consists of three Category I faculty, at least two from the technical communication program. Based on exam results, the committee may recommend changes to your Program of Study. If you fail the Qualifying Examination, the committee may recommend a re-examination. The second attempt at the exam is regarded as final.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination assesses your expertise and ability to apply the literature in three research areas. The exam should be taken by the end of your third year in the Ph.D. program. The examining committee consists of three Category I faculty from the technical communication program and one from a Ph.D.-granting academic unit at IIT other than the Humanities Department. You will work with the committee to select research areas and develop a reading list for each one. Areas and reading lists must be approved by all committee members prior to the exam. A timed, written exam requires you to respond to one or more questions in each area. The committee may recommend a re-examination over any area(s) that you fail. The second attempt at the exam is regarded as final.

Dissertation Proposal

The Dissertation Proposal is a detailed written plan for original research that will culminate in the dissertation. The proposal is typically presented within one semester after you have passed the Comprehensive Examination. The proposal is developed under the guidance of your major advisor and typically addresses

  1. the research problem or issue to be investigated
  2. its significance for the field
  3. a thorough review of relevant research
  4. a detailed description of and rationale for the research method(s) to be used
  5. a plan of work
  6. a statement of anticipated results or outcomes.

The proposal review committee consists of four Category I faculty: three from technical communication and one from a Ph.D.-granting academic unit at IIT other than the Humanities Department. The committee must formally approve the proposal before you begin further work on the dissertation. As part of the review process, the committee may request one or more meetings with, or presentations by, you.

Final Thesis Examination

The Final Thesis Examination is an oral defense of the dissertation. The Dissertation Committee consists of four Category I faculty: three from technical communication and one from a Ph.D.-granting academic unit at IIT other than the Humanities Department. If you fail the exam you may be re-examined after 30 days. The second attempt at the exam is regarded as final.

Dissertation

The dissertation should constitute an original contribution to scholarship in technical communication and may address areas of interaction between technical communication and other disciplines (e.g., history, linguistics, literature, philosophy, and rhetoric/composition). The research topic and method may be empirical (perhaps employing the facilities of the Usability Testing and Evaluation Center or Speech Analysis Lab), pedagogical, historical, or theoretical.

Admission Guidelines

Students enter the Ph.D. program from a wide range of fields, but should have substantial academic preparation or professional experience related to technical communication.

Applicants must have completed a bachelor's or master's degree in a field that, in combination with the 27-credit-hour technical core, would provide a solid basis for advanced academic work leading to original research in the field. The relevance of previous degrees to the doctoral program will be assessed by the department's graduate admissions committee.

In addition to the application form, you must submit the following:

  • Professional statement discussing the applicant's professional and academic preparation, research interests, and goals
  • Three letters of recommendation from faculty or supervisors who can evaluate your potential for advanced academic work
  • Official transcripts, or certified copies thereof, of all academic work at the college level or above
  • Required test scores

You are required to submit Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores with a minimum combined score of 1000 quantitative + verbal (with a minimum score of 500 in each area) and 3.0 (analytical writing).

If you’re an international student you must submit TOEFL scores unless you are exempt as specified in the "International Applicant Requirements" of the Graduate Bulletin. The minimum TOEFL score is 95, with minimum section scores of 20 each in the Listening, Reading, and Writing sections.

Note: Enrolling in courses does not guarantee later acceptance into a degree program, nor does meeting the minimum admission requirements. If you enter as a non-degree or certificate student you should first discuss your plans with one of the co-directors of graduate studies.

Application Procedure

Applications to the Ph.D. program in technical communication are administered by Graduate Admission, which encourages an online application. Additional information is available at the admissions, with application deadlines listed at prospective students' deadlines.