Re: Advanced Degrees -
David Hailey <FAHAILEY -at- WPO -dot- HASS -dot- USU -dot- EDU>
Tue, 10 Dec 1996 13:38:56 -0700
George Hayhoe and Eric and others have made some very profound
comments--education (especially training) is not going to guarantee good
writing, and there are those who have commented that they would rather hire
someone with professional experience than with an approximately equal
I certainly would. Most schools I have seen teach what the skills they own
because they cannot teach what you need--when was the last time you saw a
school teach rhetorical approaches to help file authoring? Instead, they
teach business and rhetoric courses and call that a professional writing
program. These schools have no idea (nor interest in) what the market
demands. They call a professional approach to technical writing education
"mercenary" and argue that there is no point in teaching skills that require
software because the software will be obsolete in six months-- I use
everything from Word to RoboHELP to PhotoShop, to Fractal Painter, to Toolbook
and Director, while I have seen them change, I have yet to see an important
software go obsolete--well, maybe Multi-Mate.
MY point? I have a request. We have developed a new program which we believe
is designed exactly for working, professional writers. We are presenting the
Mission and goals statement in the morning. It stands a very good chance of
being approved. But I would like one final sanity check. If you are
interested and have time, would you examine the attached document (one version
is WP, the other TXT). Let me know what you think.
All of the seminars will eventually be taught online. Most of the F2F classes
will be held so that a person could take them in a one week vacation. A
person going part-time could complete this program in three or four years and
come here perhaps twice for intense sessions. However, we would also take
non-matriculated students who wanted to take a course or two here and transfer
them elsewhere, or simply wanted to better understand help file authoring.
What do you think? Please respond to me; I'm sure the group, as a whole, has
heard more than enough about this subject.
GRADUATE PROGRAM IN TECHNICAL WRITING
DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH
UTAH STATE UNIVERSITY
MISSION AND GOALS STATEMENT
The graduate Technical Writing Program is designed for students who already have some
training and/or experience as practitioners of technical writing. The program's mission is to
prepare students to enter or reenter non-academic workplaces not just as practitioners but as
developers and managers of technical documents. When they finish the program, students will
be qualified to determine and defend writing policy and practices in their workplaces.
To prepare students for these leadership roles, the program provides them with a strong
theoretical understanding of their profession. In their graduate seminars, students will read
widely in research and theory relating to workplace writing practices. They will critically
examine both the theories and the practices, and they will explore ways in which each can
enhance the other. They will also learn how to manage teams of writers, and they will explore
ethical issues in the profession. The program will balance the theoretical training with
opportunities for students to improve their own practical skills as technical writers, learning how
to apply theory and current technology to the production of a variety of technical documents.
This practical training will include multimedia presentations and graphic design.
The program is designed primarily for non-traditional students--working professional writers
who want to enhance their credentials and build a strong theoretical understanding of their
profession. However, it may also accept some traditional students who have just finished their
Technical writing as a profession goes back for decades, but technical writing as an education is
new, so most professional writers have degrees in English or a technical professional field like
engineering, rather than in technical writing. They may be excellent technical writers, but they
have no theoretical foundation for their writing skills: they already know how but they need to
know how else and why. This lack has created a substantial demand amongst practicing technical
writers for the knowledge we can provide them through a Master's Degree in Technical Writing.
This demand is particularly strong along the Wasatch Front, where the community of
professional writers ranks among the largest in the country. There is, however, no program in
the intermountain states (and only one other in the nation) capable of addressing this demand.
Our program will focus largely on this community, and instructional formats will be designed to
meet their needs. Seminars may be conducted largely online, with students meeting face-to-face
only periodically or for week-long intensive workshops. Some seminars may meet at night
and/or at sites in Ogden or Salt Lake City. The program may also accommodate some non-matriculated students who want to take just one or two courses but not complete the M.S.
Presently, largely because we have made no effort to tap the community of professional writers,
we have a very small program. On the other hand, we are ranked by the Society of Technical
Communicators as the premier program in this part of the country, and among the best
nationally. Our students are recruited by important companies in the region, including Novell,
Iomega, Allen Communications, University of Utah, and Micron. By adjusting our methods of
delivery only slightly, we anticipate growth potential comparable to our undergraduate program.
We plan to advertise the graduate Technical Writing Program via the Internet and by directly
contacting companies along the Wasatch Front. As members of this community begin passing
through the program we anticipate considerable word-of-mouth advertising.
The needs of many traditional students interested in careers as technical writers are more than
adequately met by our undergraduate Professional Writing Option. However, some students may
want to enter the graduate Technical Writing Program straight from other programs of study,
rather than from non-academic careers already in progress. For example, some students
graduating from the PWO may want to stay in school for another two years to add a stronger
command of theory and management skills to the writing skills they learned in the PWO.
A few other students may approach the program with undergraduate degrees in other disciplines
besides English. If their particular needs would not be met by taking courses in the PWO and
completing a second B.S. in English, they may be accepted into the graduate Technical Writing
Program. Depending on their skills, they may need to take undergraduate writing courses before
acceptance. However, since the program assumes that students are already familiar with
technical writing practices, we would encourage most students who are just finishing
undergraduate degrees to apply to our Technical Writing Program only after they have gained
some experience as working professionals.
RELATIONSHIPS TO OTHER PROGRAMS
Relationships to our undergraduate Professional Writing Option
The PWO prepares writers with enough theoretical knowledge and practical experience to tackle
the wide range of technical writing tasks they may encounter in non-academic workplaces.
However, our undergraduate classes are largely "skills" driven. For example, our undergraduate
multimedia class examines one or two multimedia software applications and, in a studio
environment, builds two or three applications. In the graduate level multimedia class students
read, critique, and add to existing scholarship based on their professional experience. For
example, students might examine interface theory as advanced by the practical interface style
guides of Apple and Microsoft, comparing them to theories of interface style advanced by
academicians. Students who already work within these interfaces in their off-campus jobs would
therefore learn not only to understand the theories but to enhance them.
Relationships to our graduate Theory and Practice of Writing Program
The TPW Program is designed for current and future teachers of writing, rather than for
professional writers working in non-academic careers. However, a few students, depending on
their background and career plans, may choose to take some classes designed for students in the
other program. For instance, a practicing technical writer interested in teaching an occasional
class at a community college might benefit from taking Engl. 6460: Teaching Technical Writing.
Conversely, a student in the TPW Program with strong interests and background in technical
writing might take two or three classes from the TW curriculum.
Relationships to graduate programs at other schools
The major technical writing graduate programs (e.g., Michigan Tech, Texas Tech) expect their
students to move into the schools' Ph.D. programs immediately after completing the M.A.
Therefore their M.A. programs have a strong academic accent. Courses in such an environment
might, for example, examine gender research as ideology in professional communication, or
apply semiotic perspectives to assignments in technical and professional writing courses. In our
program, we would be much more likely to address such issues as theories of meaningful
information for the World Wide Web, or theories of interface design for practical help files.
After completing our graduate program, the vast majority of our students would continue their
non-academic careers, their skills and credentials vastly enhanced, although we have recently
noticed a growing demand within technical writing programs for faculty with professional
writing experience. Some of our Technical Writing M.S. students could move on to Ph.D.
programs in places such as Texas Tech, where they could be trained to fill this growing need.
FUTURE PROGRAM NEEDS
We urgently need a new faculty member who can teach both in this program and in the
undergraduate PWO. We can survive in the short term, but our present faculty will be fully
stretched to offer each course in the program just once every two years during the regular school
year (not counting summers). Adjusting our program to make more use of distance learning
methods will somewhat ease the staffing shortage, but without an additional faculty member it
will be hard to cover sabbaticals or leaves of absence to work on grants. Since we already have
technical writing practitioners on staff, the program most needs another theoretician.
If we are to attract working professionals to the program, we also need state-of-the-art software
and hardware to apply the theory we are teaching, and we will need to update this equipment at
regular intervals to keep it current. This equipment would also serve the undergraduate PWO.
TW faculty members have already shown they can supplement the department's computer
resources by successfully applying for external funding. We anticipate continuing this practice,
rather than relying on the department to provide all the program's technical needs.
CURRICULUM ON SEMESTER SYSTEM
GRADUATE TECHNICAL WRITING PROGRAM
To meet the 30-credit minimum to graduate, students need to take all courses listed below except
one of their choosing from either section B or section C. Students may also petition to substitute
an appropriate course in another department for a course under section C. Part-time students
may take several years to complete the program, but all courses will be offered at least once
during a two-year rotation for those who need to finish in that period.
Although 6800 is a core requirement, it is not prerequisite to any other course. Courses may be
taken in any sequence.
For the present, 6850 is a spare course number.
A. Core Requirement (3 credits)
6800 Technology and the Writer (3)
This course will cover issues of technology that affect the writing profession,
including experience with the Internet and distance computing; advances in
hardware and computer upgrade and maintenance; and such relevant software as
word processors, spreadsheets, data bases, and graphics.
B. Issues in Technical Writing (9-12 credits)
6810 Reading Theory and Document Design (3)
This course will cover how reading theory interacts with a rhetoric of graphics to
influence the way that documents are designed for maximum effect on the
6820 Advanced Editing (3)
This course will cover theories of editing and advanced editing methodology,
including editing for content and argumentation, and editing for audience focus.
It will also include principles of managing editing teams and coordinating the
efforts of multiple editors.
6830 Traditional Publications Management (3)
This course will focus on managing the publication effort for traditional hard-copy documents. Students will study the role of the publications manager,
examining approaches to calling for bids, scheduling, designing, producing, and
publishing documents. Beginning with the draft, the course will follow a
document through meeting with the client, with the potential audience, and with
publication professionals (e.g, graphic artists, printers, binders, and mailers).
Students will research the available texts and will hold instructional workshops
and demonstrations for other students. In addition, students will produce
conference quality presentations and submit a scholarly or technical paper.
6840 Electronic Publications Management (3)
Students will examine the process for publishing online journals, help files and
other online instruction, and online marketing approaches in CD-ROM and web
page environments. Students will also examine online approaches not yet
available to the general public. Students will research and present relevant topics
for others in the class. Students will produce a conference quality presentation
and submit research as a scholarly paper or as a technical article.
C. Specialized Publications (9-12 credits)
6860 Multimedia Documents (3)
Students will build complex hypermedia documents. In addition, they will
research and present on topics in multimedia design and rhetorical theory,
examining existing scholarship and technical information. Projects will be graded
based on quality of design and quality of online writing. (Repeatable)
6870 Online Writing (3)
Students examine reading theory and rhetorical theory in help file authoring. The
class will dissect existing help files and reconstruct new and better documents.
This is not a class in specific software (RoboHELP, WinHelp, Doc-to-Help, etc),
it is a writing class; however, students will be expected to learn to use one of the
help file authoring softwares as a part of the class. Final projects will be help
files. Other classes in this topic include online journalism and online marketing.
All classes focus on theory of writing online. (Repeatable)
6880 Informative Documents (3)
This course will focus on documents designed for company-internal use or for
reporting on a product to an outside agency or audience without sales as an
objective. These documents include manuals, technical reports, environmental
impact statements, etc. The course will cover the essential elements of
constructing these documents, such as client interviews, in addition to advanced
issues related to managing the effort of creating them. (Repeatable)
6890 Marketing Documents (3)
This course will focus on documents designed for sales. These documents include
proposals, brochures, public relations materials, etc. The course will cover the
essential elements of constructing these documents, such as customer analysis and
competitive assessment, in addition to advanced issues related to managing the
effort of creating them. (Repeatable)
D. Directed Studies (6 credits)
6900 Internship (3)
Students will analyze a work environment. Selecting a focused topic, students
will research theory and practice as it relates to that topic and to the work
environment. Students will write a paper and will present their findings orally.
6910 Portfolio (3)
Students will present a portfolio containing a minimum of five different kinds of
technical writing. Each work will be accompanied with a justification and
discussion of approximately 1,000 words. Students will meet with their
committee for an oral defense of the portfolio.
COMPETENCIES FOR THE
GRADUATE TECHNICAL WRITING PROGRAM
In this document, we address two types of competencies:
1. Those things students should know about,
2. Those things students should know how to do.
GENERAL COMPETENCIES FOR THE PROGRAM
When they complete the TW program, students will
1. Know about
Traditional and online media's values as information and training sources.
Evolution of editorial trends in technical documentation.
Interaction with clients and customers, determining and meeting needs,
the politics of professional relationships.
Publication processes for traditional and online documents.
Rhetorical theory for both traditional and online information sources.
Visual design and color theory.
2. Know how to
Move forward in the professional writing profession.
Organize and manage traditional publications programs.
Organize and manage multimedia publications programs.
Move into more advanced academic (Ph.D.) programs and thrive.
SPECIFIC COMPETENCIES FOR COURSES
[These will follow when the inventory of courses has been approved.]
CURRICULUM ON SEMESTER SYSTEM
GRADUATE TECHNICAL WRITING PROGRAM
SAMPLE TWO-YEAR COURSE ROTATION OF COURSE OFFERINGS
This rotation assumes:
1. Each course is offered just once every two years.
2. A full teaching load is 5 courses per year.
3. Shook has a reduced load of X courses per year as Director of Technical Writing.
4. McLaughlin's commitment to Linguistics lets him teach only one graduate Technical Writing
course and one undergraduate Professional Writing course during the two year rotation.
5. Students could take their Internship and Portfolio credits in any semester.
6350 Technology and the Writer Hailey (+ 2 courses in PWO)
6352 Advanced Editing Shook (+ X courses in PWO?)
6359 Marketing Documents McLaughlin (+ 2 courses in Ling.)
O'Rourke (2 courses in PWO)
6353 Traditional Publications Management O'Rourke (+ 2 courses in PWO)
6356 Multimedia Documents Hailey (+ 1 course in PWO)
McLaughlin (2 courses in Ling.)
6351 Reading Theory and Document Design Shook (+ X courses in PWO?)
6357 Online Writing Hailey (+ 2 courses in PWO)
O'Rourke (2 courses in PWO)
McLaughlin (1 course in PWO)
6354 Electronic Publications Management Hailey (+ 1 course in PWO)
6358 Informative Documents O'Rourke (+ 2 courses in PWO
McLaughlin (2 courses in Ling.)
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