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Ph.D. in Technical Communication (TECH)

PhD requirements | courses | exams | dissertation | admission | application | contact

The doctoral program in technical communication at IIT prepares students for careers in research and teaching at the postsecondary level, as well as for advanced supervisory and research positions in business and government. Building on a base of skills in workplace practices, the program incorporates theory-oriented advanced readings, seminars, and dissertation research leading to original contributions to scholarship in the field.


(effective for students entering spring 2011)

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

Transfer Units

Students who have already earned master's degrees or undertaken graduate work in relevant fields 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)

Electives (at least 15 credit hours)

Other courses as approved by the student's 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 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 the student must re-pass the Qualifying Examination.

Examinations and Dissertation Proposal

Students 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 a student's analytical ability, writing skills, and research potential. The exam must be taken by the end of the student's third semester in the Ph.D. program. Each student prepares (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 the student's Program of Study. If the student fails 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 a student's expertise and ability to apply the literature in three research areas. The exam should be taken by the end of the student's 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. The student works 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 the student to respond to one or more questions in each area. The committee may recommend a re-examination over any area(s) that the student fails. 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 the student has passed the Comprehensive Examination. The proposal is developed under the guidance of the student's 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 the student begins further work on the dissertation. As part of the review process, the committee may request one or more meetings with, or presentations by, the student.

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. A student who fails the exam may be re-examined after 30 days. The second attempt at the exam is regarded as final.


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, the applicant must submit the following:

All applicants 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).

International students must submit TOEFL scores unless they 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. Students who enter as non-degree or certificate students should first discuss their 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 Graduate Admission website. Application deadlines are listed at www.iit.edu/graduate_admission/prospective_students/deadlines.shtml

For More Information

If you have questions about the Ph.D. degree, a career in technical communication, or your readiness for the program, please contact:

Prof. Matt Bauer or Prof. Karl Stolley
Co-Directors, Graduate Studies
Email: gradhuminfo@iit.edu