Sample Courses

Coursework for the MA and PhD programs in rhetoric and scientific & technical communication (RSTC) balance the required, foundational courses in methods and pedagogies with a range of courses from our core areas of rhetoric, writing studies, and technical communication.

Methods and Pedagogies

WRIT 5531: Introduction to Writing Theory and Pedagogies

This course explores the nexus of theory and practice in terms of writing instruction and of technical writing and communication to help students identify their pedagogical positions and concrete practices. Designed as a collaborative, exploratory space for a community of teacher-scholars, it approaches the teaching of writing as a process that is both practiced and studied, is aided by reflection with others, and requires ongoing revision. Course texts address the scholarship of composition, rhetoric, and technical writing. Students put these texts in dialog, including with the “texts” of their classrooms, to examine and reflect on their teaching practices. The course centers acts of engagement and reflection and emphasizes pedagogical inquiry. Students learn to: place a range of theories on writing instruction in conversation with their teaching; reflect on classroom practices and pedagogical theories; articulate individual philosophies of teaching; explore pedagogical issues of personal interest; foster pedagogical “habits of mind” that serve students in classrooms at the UMN and beyond; and contribute to an active, supportive, and collaborative teaching community.

WRIT 5532: Practicum in Writing Pedagogies

WRIT 5532 is designed as a collaborative, developmental, and exploratory space for graduate instructors in the First-Year Writing (FYW) program. The course approaches the teaching of writing as an iterative and situated process that is both practiced and studied, is aided by reflection with others, and requires ongoing revision. Course texts include scholarship in teaching and learning, in writing studies, and in first-year composition. These texts will be brought into dialog with the WRIT 1301 classes all students are teaching.

The course addresses such questions as: How do people learn, how do they learn writing, and how can instructors teach writing based on those understandings? How can instructors design environments, materials, and practices that equitably help students learn about writing and develop as writers? Class discussions and assignments also invite students to identify and address challenges, tensions, and pedagogical issues of personal interest; to develop habits of mind that will serve them in other classrooms in their teaching careers; and to articulate the classroom practices and pedagogies informing their teaching philosophies.

Students in the RSTC MA and PhD programs take WRIT 5532 in spring of their first year after taking WRIT 5531 in fall term. Sections are organized as biweekly reflective practice groups (RPGs). RPGs will build on fall term course content in discussions of readings, in teaching journal reflections, and to build teaching portfolios.

WRIT 8011: Research Methods in Writing Studies and Technical Communication

The primary objectives of this course are to provide students in the rhetoric and scientific & technical communication (RSTC) MA and PhD programs with an understanding of research literature and approaches in the field and to help students gain insights into the arguments made by researchers. This course trains students in strategies for designing and developing their own research, and provides a groundwork in the field's most common approaches to gathering and analyzing data. Students also learn about the research of the RSTC graduate faculty and PhD alumni and complete a University-based course for ethics in human participants research. Upon completion of WRIT 8011, students should be able to create a persuasive research proposal and justify the means of data collection, analysis, theory, and positioning of the project.

Sample Seminars

Seminars are offered on a rotating basis in our three core areas of rhetoric, writing studies, and technical communication. Faculty often develop new seminar topics that are responsive to the current state of the field and new directions for future research.

WRIT 8510: Seminar in Rhetoric

Spring 2021 topic: Trust & Ethos

Instructor: Laura Gurak

Topic Description: This graduate seminar in rhetorical theory focuses on the relationship between the rhetorical appeal of ethos and the social-psychological concept of trust. All forms of human communication depend heavily on trust; yet although connections between theories of trust and theories of rhetoric may seem obvious, to date little if any rhetorical scholarship has focused on trust as established by rhetorical means. Studying the relationship between trust and ethos offers the potential to understand trust in an entirely new way: trust as a rhetorical dynamic, associated closely with the character and credibility of the speaker/message and thus, central to any rhetorical theory. A thorough understanding of the underlying features and functions of trust is essential and is especially important in our digital age, when identities can be anonymous or unknown and when messages can have powerful social effects across political, social, and global boundaries.

WRIT 8520: Seminar in Scientific and Technical Communication

Spring 2021 topic: Social Justice in Technical Communication

Instructor: Dan Card

Topic Description: This seminar takes its cue from Jones, Moore, and Walton’s antenarrative of technical communication (2016). We will explore many threads of research that many are referring to collectively as “the social justice turn” in technical communication. These threads include feminism and gender studies, race and ethnicity, international/intercultural communication, community/public engagement, user advocacy, disability and accessibility, and diversity, equity, inclusion. We will consider the implications of the social justice turn-- its theories, values, contexts, and practices-- for us as technical communicators, researchers, teachers, and citizens.

WRIT 8550: Seminar in Technology, Culture, and Communication

Fall 2020 topic: Writing Futures: Collaborative, Analytic, Robotic

Instructors: Ann Hill Duin and Molly Kessler

Topic Description: Designed for future scholar-professors, this seminar provides a framework to prepare for the social, literacy, and civic implications of collaborative, analytic, and robotic writing futures. Themes include the socio-technical construction of knowledge through human-human and human-device collaboration; analytics, including exploration of learning management systems and artificial intelligence; and robotics, including understanding and deployment of pedagogical assistants. COVID-19 will also be discussed regarding technological deployments that have been discussed as solutions; students will review a COVID-19 collection in the Fabric of Digital Life that was created to document technologies related to crisis. Resources for the seminar will include selected readings from the Technical Communication and Culture and Writing Studies and Pedagogy RSTC PhD exam reading lists. National and international experts will join us to provide guidance on building and applying critical and ethical expertise when designing and encountering future writing landscapes. Students will be invited to join in collaborative study and critique of technological emergence.

WRIT 8560: Seminar in Writing Studies

Fall 2020 Topic: Post-Truth Rhetoric and Composition

Instructor: Pat Bruch

Topic Description: Amidst claims and counterclaims of false news, alternative facts, and a post-truth society, teachers of writing and their students today can feel that language has lost its capacity to enable deliberation and understanding across differences. One tempting response is to emphasize facts, objectivity, and impartiality in hopes of purifying public discourse of all the false claims and misleading arguments. In this seminar, we will explore intellectual resources available to compositionists that point to a larger understanding of the challenges of truth and the best ways to respond. Specifically, we will attempt to historicize, analyze, and creatively re-engage post-truth rhetoric as a resource rather than an obstacle for our work as scholars and teachers of writing. To historicize the phenomenon, we will situate post-truth rhetoric in the technologies and political environment of neoliberalism. Next, we will analyze contemporary debates and assessments of post-truth rhetoric in scholarly and popular venues and consider the implications of these analyses for the work of Writing Studies. Finally, we will work to define research and teaching projects that imagine contemporary public discourses as resources for inquiry into writing and the meanings of democratic engagement.

Learn More About Graduate 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

We welcome 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.