PhD in RPC: 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
Engl 506
Engl 508
Engl/Sp Cm 547
Students may complete courses in one area or in any combination of the listed areas.
Multimodal composition and speech communication
Engl 500, Sp Cm 513, Engl 503, Engl 504, 603, 631,
Engl/Sp Cm 592B*
Professional communication
Engl 505, 529, 542, 549, 586, 587, Engl/Sp Cm 592C*
Engl/Sp Cm 548, Engl 586, Engl 611*, Engl/Sp Cm 592A*

*Courses are repeatable
Engl 602 cannot be used to fulfill the program’s requirement to complete at least one 600-level RPC course at Iowa State University.
Engl 501
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.
A set of courses (6 credits) from a coherent assembly of courses outside the English Department approved by the POS Committee.
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.
TOTAL 72 minimum

RPC Course Selections

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

Brief course descriptions of the above courses can be found in the ISU Catalog under the English Department section.

Portfolio Assessment and Comprehensive Preliminary Examinations

The examinations are also part of professional preparation. Students complete a portfolio assessment 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.

RPC Learning Outcomes

At the time of graduation, RPC students will demonstrate an ability to:

  • Understand theories, research methods, and concepts in rhetoric, professional communication, and multimodal composition.
  • Apply these theories, research methods, and concepts in scholarly activity, including research and teaching.
  • Use a variety of technologies and media for scholarly research and for developing audience-centered communication.
  • Analyze, synthesize, and critique communication in a variety of organizational and public contexts.
  • Analyze, synthesize, and critique research related to rhetoric, professional communication, and multimodal composition.
  • Develop scholarship that makes a significant contribution to the field.
  • Develop communication that helps build a socially just society.

Measures for evaluating a student’s success in meeting these objectives include these:

  • Display of an ability to develop a clear and cogent argument using relevant evidence in coursework
  • Annual reviews
  • Qualifying examination (i.e., portfolio assessment)
  • Preliminary exams (written and oral)
  • Completion and defense of a dissertation.