Texas Tech University


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Our Program

The PhD qualifies people to conduct independent research by various methods and thus to contribute to knowledge. The PhD is usually a qualification for a professorial position in a university. The aims of study are broad knowledge of the literature on technical communication and rhetoric, specialized knowledge of some aspect of technical communication or rhetoric as reflected in the dissertation research, and ability to conduct ongoing independent research using one or more methods.

The PhD in Technical Communication & Rhetoric (TCR) is designed for students with an interest in rhetoric, writing, technical communication, and composition. The degree in TCR requires 48 hours of graduate work in rhetoric and technical communication beyond the bachelor's degree, 12 hours of Qualification Exam research, and an additional 12 hours of Dissertation research for a total of 72 hours. Credits earned on a master's degree may count toward these totals.

The degree prepares students for wide array of positions at colleges, university writing programs, and industry positions. The keystone to our success is our specialized courses in qualitative and quantitative research methods taught by the largest TCR faculty program in the world. 

Areas of Emphasis

Students in our programs often specialize in one of three areas: Technical Communication and User-Centered Design; Rhetorical Theory and Practice; or Composition, Writing Studies, and Literacy. These emphasis areas are meant as heuristics to guide students in course selection and career preparation; students are encouraged to take courses in any emphasis area.

Technical Communication and User-Centered Design

Graduate students who specialize in technical communication and user-centered design gain experience in the theories, practices, histories, teaching, and management of workplace communication in institutional and non-institutional settings and in both global and local contexts. Students gain experience in a variety of technical genres; communicating with and about technologies; technical communication practices; design processes; and research methods around usability, user experience, design, and workplace communication—in preparation for positions in industry, consulting, nonprofit work, teaching, and/or research.


Rhetorical Theory and Practice

Graduate students who specialize in rhetorical theory and practice acquire knowledge in traditional study of ancient Greco-Roman rhetoric and build on that knowledge to consider myriad neglected and contemporary rhetorical practices. Students gain experience and knowledge that primes them to research and study public, embodied, visual and other sensory rhetorics; the rhetoric of science, technology, and medicine; material and environmental rhetorics; and digital and social media rhetorics. Studying how rhetors, writers, designers, and creators use available means and mediums of persuasion to engage a wide variety of contemporary audiences unites the disparate areas.


Composition, Writing, and Literacy Studies

Graduate students who specialize in composition, writing, and literacy studies gain experience that prepares them to research and study writing, the teaching of writing, composing practices, literacy practices and ideologies, online literacy and writing instruction, digital cultures and new media rhetoric, writing program administration, and other issues related to writing and literacy.




Dr. Beau Pihlaja
Program Director and Advisor