Setting Up an Internship
Internships or job cooperatives can fulfill degree requirements and enhance career preparation for both undergraduate and graduate students in technical communication. Some companies hire permanent employees only from their intern pool. The faculty strongly recommend that students complete internships.
A student may arrange an internship for the job experience alone, but a student who seeks academic credit for the internship must enroll in a course and complete its requirements in addition to the internship responsibilities. Undergraduates enroll in ENGL 4378, and graduate students enroll in ENGL 5378.
The main academic course requirement is to complete an internship report and a portfolio (print or electronic) of work accomplished. The faculty supervisor may also require periodic meetings to review the work accomplished.
The internship should require the type of work that a professional technical communicator might be expected to do. Thus, it will involve substantial writing, editing, and design. The work plus the outside research and report should roughly equal the amount of work that an organized course would require. An estimate of that workload is 125-150 hours.
Both the undergraduate and graduate courses require a proposal and the approval of the Director of Technical Communication. Approval for the internship must be granted before registration and at least two weeks before the semester begins. The proposal for the research report may be submitted after the work begins and the intern understands job responsibilities.
The proposal is a form that states your internship position and responsibilities, probable topic for the internship report, the internship agreement, and includes a letter from a faculty member in technical communication who agrees to supervise the internship. The proposal form should be sent to both the Director of Technical Communication and the faculty sponsor for review and approval.
You can download the internship proposal form here.
The internship report is a substantial research report, not a log of daily activities. The report should relate to the internship work and should provide some basis for the decisions that the daily work requires. In addition, the report for graduate students must indicate knowledge of the literature related to the work assignment, much as an organized course requires reading of the professional literature to support class assignments.
Goals of the internship report
- to enable you to reflect on your work, not just do it (we hope you will take more from the experience because of this forced reflection)
- to research best practice before you just jump in there and do something because you can or like to do it that way (research is a good workplace behavior to reinforce!)
- to provide the equivalent of this course to an organized course (which also requires some kind of research paper)
- to provide a basis for a grade (since we can't be there to watch the quality of your work, nor can the people who are there give you a grade in a course because they are not on the faculty at TTU)
Examples of internship reports:
- A student whose internship required development of employee policy and procedure manuals for nonprofit organizations completed a literature review on the contents, structure, and style of policy and procedure manuals. She explored literature in management as well as in technical communication.
- A student who also worked on policy and procedure manuals reviewed some literature but also interviewed employees to test her drafts and learn their attitudes toward the policies and procedures and the wording in the manual. The report analyzed the responses and the implications for the manual.
- A student who developed an online help system for a computer company reported on the research about hypertext navigation and screen design.
The portfolio is a collection of documents that you developed as part of your internship. Each document should include a cover page explaining your achievements and the significance of the document.
A print portfolio is often collected in a ring binder with dividers separating the individual documents.
An electronic portfolio may be a web site with a home page identifying the contents and linking to the individual items. Like a print portfolio, the web site should include explanations of the documents, including your achievements and their significance.
Grades and Academic Requirements
You and your faculty supervisor will work out the details of meetings and grading. If your internship is local, your supervisor may require you to meet with him or her every week or two to review work assignments and progress. A long-distance internship may require correspondence by mail or email.
The grade is based largely on the internship report. At least 50% of the grade (and as much as 75%) is based on the report. The rest of the grade comes from a portfolio of work completed as part of the internship responsibilities. The work supervisor does not assign the course grade (because that person is not a Texas Tech faculty member in English), but that person may write an assessment of your performance and professionalism that the faculty member will consider in assigning the grade.
Before the internship begins, you, your faculty advisor, and your workplace sponsor should agree to the terms of the internship. These terms will include:
- hours you will work (per week, beginning and ending date)
- how much you will be paid (internships for community service organizations are often not paid, but interns for corporations should expect remuneration)
- your access to information: you may need to sign a statement that you will not disclose confidential information
- whether any of the products you develop will carry your name and whether you will be able to use the products in a portfolio
The proposal form specifically includes a section for the internship agreement between all parties.
Locating an Internship
Students must locate their own internships.
The Program Directors of Technical Communication may have some contacts and you are encouraged to contact them for more information.
The employers who participate each spring in the Undergraduate Technical Communication Job Fair interview prospective interns as well as prospective employees.
Internships may be paid or unpaid. The Texas Tech faculty encourage paid internships, but their main interest is that the type of work completed is technical communication. Some helpful internship opportunities are available through nonprofit organizations.