Professional & Technical Writing

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Admission Requirements | Program Requirements | Graduate Courses

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Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing

The Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing (PTW) program provides extensive and intensive study of and practice in writing designed to prepare students for careers in business and government, publishing, and education. It focuses on developing individual abilities and on helping students become articulate, informed scholars and writers able to adapt to a wide range of situations and tasks. The program offers three concentrations, technical writing, nonfiction writing, and editing. The technical concentration focuses on writing for industry, science, business, and government. The nonfiction concentration focuses on composition and rhetorical theory, essay and extended nonfiction writing, and a general application of writing skills, including the teaching of writing. The editing concentration focuses on workplace and technical editing, as well as acquisitions and production editing for nonfiction periodicals and books.

The Little Rock Writing Project, housed in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, offers PTW students opportunities to work with teachers and administrators from all grade levels to improve writing education in Arkansas schools. It offers graduate courses, writing and special topics workshops, and other services to teachers and students across the state.

As part of a university community that acknowledges the importance of assessment, we gather assessment data through student portfolios and exit surveys, employer surveys, doctoral student progress reports, and faculty idea exchanges. We then use these findings to improve our programs. Visit the program’s website for more information at M.A. in PTW

Admission Requirements

  • Online application to Graduate School.
  • Baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or greater (4.0 scale) or 3.0 or greater in the last 60 hours.
  • Statement of purpose, explaining applicant’s interest and background in writing and outlining the applicant’s expectations and goals with regard to the program.
  • Current rĂ©sumĂ©.
  • Writing portfolio indicative of applicant’s range, ability, interests, and style (may contain work completed in college courses, writing from the workplace, and/or freelance work): three to four pieces.
  • Three letters of recommendation.

Online application and official transcripts should be sent to the Graduate School. Statement of purpose, resume, portfolio, and letters should be sent to the PTW program coordinator, Department of Rhetoric and Writing. Applicants are strongly urged to contact the coordinator before completing the application process.


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Program Requirements

The PTW program offers two options for completing the master’s degree: a 36-hour option that culminates in a thesis project and a 42-hour option that culminates in a portfolio defense. Students will chose which option to complete in consultation with the program’s graduate coordinator, as well as with the student’s portfolio mentor (a faculty member assigned to assist with the student’s development as a writer when the student is admitted to the program). Students are required to meet with both their portfolio mentor and the graduate coordinator at least once per semester for advising and review of the student’s progress in the program.

Thesis Option

The thesis option for the Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing requires 12 hours of core courses, 12 hours of concentration courses, 6 hours in a cognate area, and 6 final project hours. All students are welcome to select the thesis option, but it is especially recommended for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in writing (or a closely related area) and for students who want to use their master’s coursework as preparation for pursuing a Ph.D.

Core Courses

Core courses introduce students to important areas of theory necessary to the successful completion of the degree. Students must complete all 12 hours of core courses. Substitution courses, independent studies, and transfer hours are not acceptable for PTW core courses. The required courses include the following:

RHET 7310 Composition Theory
RHET 7311 Rhetorical Theory
RHET 7312 Language Theory
RHET 7313 Theory of Technical Communication

Professional and Technical Writing

Concentration Courses

Concentration hours allow students to develop a specialization within the program. Students typically choose to complete 12 hours from the technical writing concentration, the nonfiction writing concentration, or the editing concentration. With permission from the program coordinator, students may mix courses from among the concentrations if the course selection is appropriate to the student’s career goals. No more than three hours total of independent study or internship credit may be counted toward a student’s concentration hours.

Technical Writing Concentration Courses
RHET 5304 Technical Style and Editing RHET 5305 Document Design
RHET 5306 Writing for Business and Government RHET 5307 Writing Software Documentation
RHET 5346 Topics in Technical Communication RHET 5371 Writing on the Web
RHET 5375 Grant Writing RHET 7320 Working with Writers
RHET 7340 Topics in Technical, Business, and Government Writing RHET 7350 Independent Study
RHET 7360 Internship/Practicum1
Nonfiction Writing Concentration Courses
RHET 5202 Teaching Writing in Secondary Schools RHET 5301 Theories of Rhetoric and Writing
RHET 5305 Document Design RHET 5315 Advanced Persuasive Writing
RHET 5317 Advanced Nonfiction Writing RHET 5318 Writing Auto/Biography
RHET 7360 Internship/Practicum2 RHET 5325 Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Argument
RHET 5345 Topics in Persuasive Writing RHET 5347 Topics in Nonfiction Writing
RHET 7300 Introduction to Research Methods RHET 7330 Topics in Nonfiction Writing
RHET 7320 Working with Writers RHET 7331 Topics in the Essay
RHET 7332 Topics in Extended Nonfiction RHET 7335 Topics in Rhetoric
RHET 7350 Independent Study
Editing Concentration Courses
RHET 5304 Technical Style and Editing RHET 5321 Editing for Publication
RHET 5322 Advanced Editing RHET 5347 Topics in Nonfiction Writing 3
1 An internship for a company, nonprofit, or government organization
2 Internship in the University Writing Center or first-year composition teaching practicum
3 When the topic is Production Editing

Cognate Courses (6 hours)

Cognate hours are designed to allow writers to develop areas of additional knowledge and experience that support their PTW concentrations. Students in the technical writing and nonfiction writing concentrations may choose to develop a cognate area outside the Rhetoric and Writing Department if they wish; some popular options include cognate courses in speech communication, linguistics, literature, creative writing, mass communication, management, political science, psychology, computer science, and graphic design. Students in technical writing and nonfiction writing concentrations may also choose cognate courses from other areas of the PTW program, including internship and independent study courses. Cognate hours must be chosen from graduate-level courses. Graduate courses from other institutions are acceptable for transfer as cognate hours; students should inform the graduate coordinator immediately.

Students in the editing concentration are required to fill their cognate hours with six hours of editing internship credit by taking a combination of RHET 7161, 7261, and/or 7361. Editing internship hours must be approved in advance by faculty members coordinating the editing concentration.

Final Project Courses (6 hours)

Students choosing the thesis option must complete both RHET 8300 (the thesis proposal course) and RHET 8301 (the thesis completion course). These courses allow students to design, propose, and complete extended writing projects appropriate to their concentrations and career goals. A PTW thesis may take form of a traditional academic research project, or it may take the form of an extended, substantial applied project with an accompanying researched analytical essay.
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Graduation Requirements

  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a minimum of 36 hours of coursework. (as outlined above)
  • Successful completion and defense of thesis project.

Portfolio Option (42 hours)

The portfolio option for the M.A. in Professional and Technical Writing requires 12 hours of core courses, 12 hours of concentration courses, 6 hours in cognate area, and 12 additional hours of coursework selected by the student and his or her portfolio mentor. All students are welcome to select the portfolio option, but it is especially recommended for students who completed bachelor’s degrees in disciplines other than writing, English, or journalism. The portfolio option is also recommended for students who have chosen the editing concentration, as it enables them to choose more electives than allowed under thesis options.

Required Coursework

The requirements for the core courses, concentration courses, and cognate courses are identical to the requirements for the thesis option (see the thesis option requirements above for more details). After completing these courses, the student will consult with his or her portfolio mentor to choose four additional courses that will broaden the student’s range for writing abilities, strengthen his or her professional skill set, and produce a portfolio of writing and/or editing samples that will help students attain the next logical step in their career paths. These courses may be chosen from within the Rhetoric and Writing Department or from outside the department, depending on the needs and goals of the individual student. Portfolio option students may not count more than 9 total credit hours of internship, practicum, or independent study credit toward their degree.

If a student completes the core, concentration courses, and cognate hours and remains undecided about which degree option to pursue, the student may take RHET 8300 and count it toward either option. If a student completes RHET 8300 and wishes to undertake the thesis project proposed in that class, he or she will then register for RHET 8301 and complete the thesis option. If the student decides after completing RHET 8300 that he or she does not want to undertake the proposed thesis project, he or she may count RHET 8300 toward the 12 hours of additional coursework required for the portfolio option.

Portfolio Completion and Defense

Portfolio option students must consult with their portfolio mentor at the beginning of their final semester of coursework to choose two other faculty members to serve on the student’s portfolio committee. The student will then work with the committee to select five-six written pieces from the student’s coursework in the program and then revise those pieces to a level of professionalism appropriate for publication or for use in a corporate, nonprofit, or governmental organization. When all three members of the committee agree that the student’s writing samples have reached an appropriate level of professionalism the student must schedule a portfolio defense (a public presentation of the finished portfolio with time for questions from the student’s committee and audience members). If the committee members agree that the student’s performance at the defense is satisfactory, they will sign the student’s portfolio defense paperwork certifying that the student has completed all requirements for the degree.

Graduation Requirements

  • Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a minimum of 42 hours of coursework. (as outlined above)
  • Successful completion and defense of master’s portfolio.

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Graduate Assistantships

A limited number of graduate assistantships, both teaching and non-teaching, are available each year. Most students who are granted assistantships teach 1-2 sections of first-year composition or are involved in training tutors and administration in the University Writing Center. Students who wish to apply for teaching assistantships must first complete RHET 7310 Composition Theory. Students who wish to apply for Writing Center assistantships must have served at least one semester as a writing center tutor during their undergraduate degree, or they must first complete at least one semester of RHET 7360 Writing Center Internship. The number of non-teaching assistantships varies each year; these positions are highly competitive, and they are awarded in part based on the student’s particular skill set. Contact the program coordinator for more information.


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Courses in Rhetoric and Writing

RHET 5202 Teaching Writing in Secondary Schools
Prerequisite: graduate standing. This is a methods course that is team-taught by the English and Rhetoric and Writing departments. The topics include making classroom presentations, managing small-group work, responding to student writing, evaluating and using secondary school literature and composition textbooks, and learning approaches to teaching literature and writing. It should be taken in conjunction with English 5202.

RHET 5301 Theories of Rhetoric and Writing
Prerequisite: graduate standing. An introduction to the formal study of classical and contemporary theories of rhetoric and writing. Emphasis on the practical understanding and application of techniques of rhetorical analysis and criticism.

RHET 5304 Technical Style and Editing
Prerequisites: RHET 3301 and RHET 3316 or RHET 3326, or consent of instructor. Institutional and industrial style manuals; editing technical, business, government, scientific reports.

RHET 5305 Document Design
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Study and practice of the use of visual elements in technical communication. Emphasis on typography, page layout, data displays, pictorial communication, and usability testing for both print and online documents.

RHET 5306 Writing for Business and Government
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Theory of and practice in writing for business and government organizations; includes writing strategies, appropriate diction, report formats.

RHET 5307 Writing Software Documentation
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Study and practice of writing documentation for computer software, including printed manuals, tutorials, reference guides, and online help systems. Emphasis on analyzing prospective users and their tasks, interviewing subject matter experts, developing help for different levels of users, writing user-friendly text, editing documentation for style and clarity, and working on a documentation team. Intensive practice with RoboHELP HTML software for composing online help.

RHET 5315 Advanced Persuasive Writing
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Intensive study of classical and new rhetorics. Emphasis on solving rhetorical problems and producing a variety of persuasive texts.

RHET 5317 Advanced Nonfiction Writing
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Writing to explore, investigate, explain; includes writing a variety of professional, scholarly, and popular essays.

RHET 5318 Writing Auto/Biography
Prerequisite: graduate standing. A workshop-centered course focused on developing extended nonfiction essays chronicling events in one’s own life or the lives of others.

RHET 5321 Editing for Publication
Prerequisite: graduate standing. A hands-on experience in pre-production editing for publication. Includes study of the editing process, manuscript acquisition, the peer review process, manuscript editing, editorial correspondence, and pre-production manuscript preparation.

RHET 5322 Advanced Editing
Prerequisite: RHET 4/5304 or RHET 4/5321, or comparable skills as determined by the instructor. Topics include editing graphics, illustrations, and document design; editing for comprehension and organization; editing text electronically, applying styles to text, and creating templates; studying legal and ethical issues in editing; acquiring project management and effective teamwork skills. Students work with actual clients and their document needs. Three credit hours.

RHET 5325 Legal Writing, Reasoning, and Argument
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Designed for all majors, particularly for pre-law students and writers interested in the discourse of the law. Students will read a variety of judicial decisions on current issues such as freedom of speech and complete several relatively short assignments focusing on legal reasoning and argument. Students will also learn how to find information on legal decisions and issues. Graduate students are encouraged to complete an introductory course in persuasive writing and/or rhetoric before taking this course.

RHET 5345 Topics in Persuasive Writing
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Theory and practice of persuasion with topics varying each semester. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

RHET 5346 Topics in Technical Communication
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Theory and practice of technical communication; topics vary each semester. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

RHET 5347 Topics in Nonfiction Writing
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Theory and practice of nonfiction writing with topics varying each semester. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

RHET 5371 Writing on the Web
Prerequisite: graduate standing. An introduction to the rhetorical aspects of web design and construction that emphasizes audience(s), purpose(s), and accessibility issues such as website navigation, readability, visual design, and ADA compliance.

RHET 5375 Grant Writing
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Survey, theory, and practice of grant writing (solicited and non-solicited) and the philanthropic sector. Topics include, but are not limited to, finding and researching a foundation, finding and using resources for each stage of the grant writing process, developing a problem statement, creating objectives and goals, creating a budget, and working with foundations.

RHET 7150, 7250, 7350 Independent Study
Prerequisites: graduate standing and consent of instructor. Intensive research and writing under faculty supervision on an approved topic in an area not covered in regularly scheduled course offerings; written proposal and final product required. No more than three hours may count toward concentration requirements. Additional hours may fulfill cognate requirements. May be repeated once for degree credit.

RHET 7161, 7261, 7361 Editing Internship
Prerequisite: graduate standing, recommendation of the departmental editing track coordinator. Hands-on editing experience in a professional workplace. Work hours, activities, and responsibilities must be specified in a written agreement between employer and the student in consultation with the editing track coordinator. Credit hours may very (1-3). May be repeated for credit.

RHET 7300 Introduction to Research Methods
Prerequisite: graduate standing. An introductory course in research methods used to study writing in the classroom and workplace; quantitative and qualitative design; ethics of human subject research.

RHET 7310 Composition Theory
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Contemporary research and theory on composing processes; includes the text itself, writing behavior, relationship between cognition and writing, writing contexts and communities, development of the individual writer; requires extensive research.

RHET 7311 Rhetorical Theory
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Nature, extent, practice of rhetoric; emphasis on necessity of integrating a solid understanding of rhetorical theory with extensive writing in a variety of modes for a variety of audiences and reasons.

RHET 7312 Language Theory
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Research and theory concerning acquisition and nature of functional language competence, including oral and written language and the movement from oral to written discourse.

RHET 7313 Theory of Technical Communication
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Research and theory concerning writing in professional settings; includes study of processes and products of writing in the workplace, theories informing technical communication, influence of new technologies, implications for pedagogy and practice. Requires extensive research and writing.

RHET 7320 Working with Writers
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Study of a variety of writing processes, strategies, skills for writers. Emphasis on practical applications for writers and writing teachers in academic, work, and other settings.

RHET 7330 Topics in Nonfiction Writing
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Advanced study of theoretical, practical, or pedagogical topics related to nonfiction writing. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

RHET 7331 Topics in the Essay
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Advanced study of theoretical, practical, or pedagogical topics related to the essay. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

RHET 7332 Topics in Extended Nonfiction
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Advanced study of theoretical, practical, or pedagogical topics related to extended nonfiction writing. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

RHET 7335 Topics in Rhetoric
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Advanced study of theoretical, practical, or pedagogical topics related to rhetoric. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

RHET 7340 Topics in Technical, Business, and Government Writing
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Advanced study of theoretical, practical, or pedagogical topics related to technical communication. May be repeated for credit when topic varies.

RHET 7360 Internship/Practicum
Prerequisites: graduate standing, recommendation of the departmental internship/practicum coordinator. Hands-on writing experience in a professional workplace. Work hours, activities, and responsibilities must be specified in a written agreement between the employer and student in consultation with the internship/practicum coordinator. May be repeated for credit.

RHET 7370 Theory of Computer-Mediated Communication
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Studies in various theories of computer-mediated communication. Includes areas such as uses and abuses of power online and explorations of writing processes in online environments.

RHET 7380 Writing and Service Learning
Prerequisite: graduate standing and permission of the instructor. Community service projects involving writing. Initiatives will vary according to community needs and abilities of students. Final reflection paper required. Three hours may be applied to either concentration. May be repeated for cognate credit.

RHET 7395 Cooperative Education
Prerequisites: graduate standing and recommendation of the departmental cooperative education coordinator. Hands-on writing experience in a professional workplace. Work hours, activities, and responsibilities must be specified in a written agreement between the employer and student in consultation with the cooperative education coordinator and in coordination with the Office of Cooperative Education. May be repeated for credit.

RHET 7399 Writing Research Proposals and Reports
Prerequisite: graduate standing. Reference bibliography methods, research methods, proposal and report writing; includes a research project in an area chosen by the student with a faculty sponsor from the research area responding to the project’s substance and methodology.

RHET 8300 Final Project
RHET 8300 Prerequisites: completion of PTW graduate course work, consent of graduate coordinator. Attend class, develop and present final project proposal (including project description, survey of literature, timetable, names of committee members) to graduate faculty for approval; complete portfolio.

RHET 8301
Prerequisite: RHET 8300. Completion and defense of final project, approval of supervisory committee, and acceptance of project by Graduate School.
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