Sample Course List

Students in our certificate in technical communication and MS in scientific and technical communication programs take courses that:

  • Center research-driven approaches to create and adapt content to solve complex problems in technical communication workplaces.
  • Connect with workplace professionals through client projects, virtual and global teamwork, mentorships, and emerging technologies.
  • Enable development of unique strengths in digital, usability, and science/health/medical communication.

All of our professional courses are offered asynchronously to accommodate the schedules of working professionals.

Core Courses (Certificate and MS)

The certificate program consists of the following five courses. These courses also make up the core coursework for the MS program. Each course is three credits.

This course offers an overview of the field of scientific and technical communication. Students learn about the history of the field including job titles, industries that hire technical communicators, and trends in the field. Students also learn about research methods (including audience analysis and usability testing); software and apps commonly used in technical communication; social issues in technical communication (including legal, ethical, and organizational); and international issues (including writing for regulated environments such as in the medical device industry). 

Projects are multi-modal and include written reports; slide presentations with and without voice recordings; visual communication including user documentation and movies. Some projects are done individually but most are done in virtual teams. Weekly discussion forums provide students with opportunities to lead and summarize key themes from each week’s topic. Students in this class participate within a community of technical communication professionals and typically have a background in technical communication, medical/science communication, engineering, software, usability, customer support, writing and communication, marketing, or similar area.

This class prepares students for coursework in the rest of the program and also provides experience with specific skills seen in recent job positions such as:

  • Creating audience-sensitive documents in a range of media formats including written, visual, spoken, and digital 
  • Professionally managing projects, time, and resources
  • Interviewing and working with subject matter experts
  • Communicating technical content for non-expert audiences
  • Summarizing technical content for colleagues
  • Leading an online discussion
  • Working in virtual teams using a range of digital technologies

This course is offered each fall term.


This course examines how verbal, visual, and multimedia content can be designed and combined to create meaning, improve comprehension, and make information more usable. Emphasis is placed on the rhetorical roles of visual elements in print and digital communications, and how technical communicators can use visual means to reach audiences, convey information, and achieve rhetorical goals. Students read and discuss theory, practice information design skills, and apply both to real communications projects suitable for inclusion in a professional portfolio.        

Projects focus on print and web content design and development; the information design process (plan, design, develop, layout, testing); project planning toward deliverables (web sites, signage, wayfinding); and universal design (color, symbols, etc.).
This class prepares students for specific skills in recent job positions including:

  • Demonstrating audience-sensitive document design and outstanding writing skills
  • Efficiently managing time and resources within project schedule or budget constraints
  • Improving editorial and visual standards for documents and recommends new designs, layouts, and procedures as needed 

This course is offered each spring term.

Usability is concerned with how people interact with design and technology; usability is commonly known as the "ease of use" of products and technologies by a range of users. This course emphasizes usability and user research and will explore the intersection of usability and technical communication. We will investigate definitions of usability and user-centered design principles, and we will explore a variety of usability research methods including heuristic evaluation, personas, and usability testing. The course will focus heavily on usability testing of websites, a common technical communication task that involves observation and interviews of human participants interacting with a website.

This class prepares students for specific skills in recent job positions including:

  • Applying principles of user-centered design theory to usability designs and problems
  • Identifying and conducting a variety of usability research methods, including audience and task analysis, user stories, heuristic evaluation, and usability testing
  • Analyzing data and reporting results with accuracy and relevance

This course is offered each spring term.

In this course, students learn strategies for editing and revising writing for technical and non-technical audiences. Students practice three levels of editing skills: proofreading, copyediting, and comprehensive editing. Strategies include advanced grammar and style, editing tools, quantitative data, global documents, and various style guides. Students also examine an editor’s role with authors, in organizations, in global contexts, and in ethical situations. Editing projects focus on the three levels of editing, using proficient methods,  collaborating between authors and editors, identifying audience and contexts, editing documents according to style guides, and using rhetorical principles to analyze and edit final documents.

This class prepares students for specific skills in recent job postings including:

  • Analyzing writing genres for various audiences and purposes
  • Proficient skills in writing and editing for various authors      
  • Strong command of grammar, style, and language   
  • Proven attention to detail and excellent organizational skills including consistency, clarity, and quality in and across all types of documentation
  • Improve visual standards for various mediums to include data displays and web content 
  • Proficiency in formatting and quality assurance on their own work and the work of others 

This course is offered each summer term.

This course explores current and emerging digital writing technologies and teaches students to assess writing situations and make appropriate decisions about digital form, production, and scholarship. Students learn the basic building blocks of writing in Internet environments (text, sound, images, video, interactivity); the vocabularies, functionalities, and organizing structures of Web 2.0 environments and how each impacts understanding and use of information; and how to produce Web 2.0 environments (i.e., multimedia internet documents) that facilitate interactivity and use. This course includes design projects and practice with apps, markup language (HTML and XML), and content management systems.


This class prepares students for specific skills in recent job positions including:

  • Writing in HTML and XML (including DITA) publishing systems
  • Ability to adapt new technologies and tools and methodology changes
  • Proficiency with structured authoring systems and emerging technologies

This course is offered each fall term.



MS Electives, Outside Courses, and Capstone

Students in the MS program take additional courses in Writing Studies and other departments to develop specialized expertise aligned with career goals. These courses are selected in consultation with the student’s advisor to create a coherent competency area. Electives, as well as a selection of courses taken outside the department by recent MS students can be viewed in the MS curriculum listing in the Graduate Education Catalog.

All MS students also complete a capstone project:

This course is designed to provide a class structure to assist students in completing writing requirements and oral presentations associated with professional projects—research, scientific writing, and associated reports—as part of their graduate programs. Learning outcomes include the following:

  • To foster advanced skills in writing and editing scientific and/or technical documents for various audiences;
  • To design and develop research reports and related documents for graduate programs in scientific and technical communication and other technical disciplines;
  • To understand and apply theoretical and research perspectives in scientific and technical communication to professional practice projects;
  • To enhance skills in oral presentation of scientific and/or technical research information; and
  • To identify and reflect on the culture and value of professional practice from a disciplinary perspective.

Projects: Each student works with the professor and other class members to choose an individual project to complete and publish (or submit to a journal for publication) by the end of the term. Students submit regular progress reports, present posters at the Spring Research Showcase, and publish their work at the University’s Digital Conservancy.

This course is offered each spring term.


    Learn More About Graduate and Professional Course Offerings in Writing Studies

    Please see the University Catalog for a full list of graduate courses offered by the Department of Writing Studies. Current and upcoming courses are available in Schedule Builder, including descriptions of seminars.

    Non-Degree Graduate Credit

    The Department of Writing Studies welcomes non-degree-seeking students to take its graduate courses. Prospective students should contact the class instructor for permission. Non-degree seeking students can view our Non-Degree Graduate Credit page for more information about the registration process.