PhD Coursework & Program of Study

For the Ph.D. in Rhetoric and Professional Communication, students complete a minimum of 60 credit hours above the B.A. or B.S., plus 12 credit hours of dissertation credit (a total of 72 credit hours of graduate coursework beyond the bachelor’s degree). Because students often enter with master’s degrees from many different disciplines, the curriculum is designed to be flexible, and advisers work with students to design an individual, flexible program tailored to their interests, using the many resources in the department and the university at large.

Area of CourseworkCoursesCredits
TOTAL 72 minimum
Engl 506
Engl 508
Engl/Sp Cm 547
Engl/Sp Cm 548
Students may complete courses in one area or in any combination of the listed areas.
Multimodal composition
Engl 500, 503, 504, 603, 631, Engl/Sp Cm 592B*
Professional communication
Engl 505, 529, 542, 549, 586, 587, Engl/Sp Cm 592C*
Engl 586, 611*, Engl/Sp Cm 592A*

*Courses are repeatable
Engl 602 cannot be used to fulfill the program’s requirement to complete two 600-level courses at
Iowa State University (see below).
Engl 501 (required before taking 602 sections below)
And two courses from:
Engl 602A Qualitative
Engl 602B Quantitative
Engl 602C Rhetorical Analysis
A set of courses (15 credits) from a coherent assembly of courses within the English Department (and may include RPC courses) approved by the POS Committee.
Choose five (5) courses. 15
A set of courses (6 credits) from a coherent assembly of courses outside the English Department approved by the POS Committee.
Choose two (2) courses. 6
Note: The POS must include at least one 600-level RPC course taken at Iowa State University (cannot be transfer credits). This course may not include Engl 602, but can include an RPC Elective, English Elective, or Outside English Elective.

RPC course selections

  • 500 Teaching Multimodal Composition
  • 501 Introduction to Research in Rhetoric, Composition, and Professional Communication
  • 503 Composition Theory
  • 504 Teaching Advanced Communication
  • 505 User Experience Architecture and Testing for Advanced Communication
  • 506 Professional Communication Theory
  • 508 Writing for Academic Publication (summer)
  • 513 Teaching Fundamentals of Public Speaking
  • 529 Content Management
  • 542 Document Design and Editing
  • 547 History of Rhetorical Theory I: From Plato to Bacon
  • 548 History of Rhetorical Theory II: From Bacon to the Present
  • 549 Multimedia and Interaction Design
  • 586 Visual Rhetoric in Professional Communication
  • 587 Internship in Business, Technical, and Professional Communication
  • 590 Special Topics (Independent Study)
  • 592A Core Studies: Rhetoric
  • 592B Core Studies: Composition
  • 592C Core Studies: Professional Communication
  • 602A Research Methods: Qualitative
  • 602B Research Methods: Quantitative
  • 602C Research Methods: Rhetorical Analysis
  • 603 Seminar in Composition Theory
  • 611 Seminar in Rhetorical Theory
  • 631 Administration and Organization of Multimodal Writing Programs

Portfolio Assessment and Comprehensive Preliminary Examinations

The examinations are also part of professional preparation. Students complete a portfolio during their first year from papers they have composed in their courses and revised with the help of faculty and peers. At the end of their coursework, they write a comprehensive written exam based on an approved reading list (three essays that show their grasp of the field) and give an oral presentation of their dissertation proposal as part of their preliminary examinations.

PhD Program Goals

The program in Rhetoric and Professional Communication at Iowa State meets the needs of its students, the university, and the community at large by:

  • addressing the natural relationship between practical communication and science/technology, since the dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge depends on well-trained communicators;
  • advancing research in science and technology through the education of teachers who will in turn train our future scientists and professionals to write;
  • serving students in scientific, technical, business, and social science disciplines across the campus;
  • expanding the outreach mission of the university to include all those professionals who depend upon communication skills for the effective practice of their professions.

Measures for evaluating a student’s success in meeting these objectives include: display of an ability to develop a clear and cogent argument using relevant evidence in coursework, annual reviews, portfolio, and comprehensive exams; and completion and defense of the dissertation.

Student Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate understanding and application of theories, research methods, and concepts in rhetoric, professional communication, and multimodal composition.
  • Use a variety of technologies and media for designing and implementing effective, audience-centered communication.
  • Analyze and critique communication in a variety of organizational and public contexts.
  • Synthesize multiple historical and contemporary sources within research projects.
  • Design and produce scholarship that makes a significant contribution to the field.