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Upcoming Course Offerings


Summer I


English 5313.501: Studies in Technical Communication

Topic: Ethics in Technical Communication

 T and Th 5:30-9:50 pm: FH 257;

Hybrid Schedule: Face-to-face classes, June 6, 8, 13, 20;

Online classes June 15, 22, 27, 29   


Instructor: Libby Allison
Description: This course focuses on the ethical issues in the burgeoning and complex field of technical communication. We will study ethical philosophies, current and historical ethical cases, and the scope of ethical dilemmas in the field. 

Goals: Students will do the following:

  • learn the history of technical communication ethical cases;
  • learn the complexity of ethical issues with emerging technologies;
  • learn the possible solutions to ethical matters;
  • create persuasive arguments for ethical decisions;
  • research in-depth an ethical issue in technical communication;
  • practice researching and writing in scholarly ways;
  • become aware of current ethical issues in the field;
  • practice participating in discussions on ethical issues.

Required Readings:

Ethics in Technical Communication by Paul Dombrowski. The Allyn and Bacon Series in

Technical Communication. Needham, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

Beautiful Evidence by Edward R. Tufte. Graphics Press. Copyright by Edward R. Tufte.

2006. Available at

Supplemental readings may be assigned during the semester.

Format:  Graduate discussion seminar.
Evaluation:   Attendance and participation: 30% of grade

Midterm and/or Homework: 30% of grade
Research paper: 40% of grade

Office: FH 136

Office Hours: TBA



English 5314.501: Specializations in Technical Communication

Topic: Writing Software Documentation

Meets Online M and W 6:30 to 9:20 pm



Instructor: Pinfan Zhu

Description: English 5314 develops students’ expertise in the management and production of writing for both print and online media that supports the efficient and effective use of software in its intended environment.  Major genres include software and hardware manuals such as tutorials, procedures, and reference.  Students will learn how to manage projects, and how to address issues of user analysis, text design, graphics design, task orientation, and translation. Class activities will include exercises and presentations focused on student project works. The course is totally online, but we do meet every Monday and Wednesday evening from 6:30 pm to 9:20pm.

Goals: Apply important theories, principles of software documentation, as well as skills to create and evaluate effective and efficient software documentation for both online and print media. Specific objectives include:

·         How to create task-oriented user manuals

·         How to create effective tutorials, procedures, and reference

·         How to choose and analyze your users

·         How to plan and write your document

·         How to get useful reviews

·         How to conduct a usability test

·         How to edit language, graphics, and page layout

·         How to create an index

Books: Textbook: Writing Software Documentation: A Task-oriented Approach, 2nd ed. by Thomas T. Barker. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2003. ISBN 1: 0-321-10328-9

Format: Primarily discussion, with brief background lectures, and students’ oral reports

Evaluation: Three short documentation projects, one semester documentation, exercises, and mid-term exam.


Office: FH 142

Office hours: TH 4:30-6:30pm, and by appointment




English 5311.001: Foundations of Technical Communication

Monday, 6:30-9:20 pm, Meets in Round Rock/Hybrid

Face-to-face meeting on 8/28 in Round Rock



Instructor: Miriam F. Williams

Course Overview: Foundations of Technical Communication is an introduction to technical communication history, theory, and practice. At the end of the course you will be able to do the following: 

  • Discuss technical communication history, practices, theories, and research methods;
  • Discuss the relationship between theory and practice in technical communication;
  • Negotiate various definitions of technical communication and evaluate the legitimacy of these definitions;
  • Improve your knowledge of a technology of your choosing; and
  • Write and design common genres of technical communication

Required Readings:

  • Central Works in Technical Communication by Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart A. Selber
  • Solving Problems in Technical Communication by Johndan Johnson-Eilola and Stuart A. Selber
  • Selected articles are available in the Texas State University Library Online Databases

Format: Seminar and online discussions. Synchronous class discussions will be held in TRACS Meetings room; asynchronous discussions will be held in the TRACS Forums.


Project I –Project Proposal: 20%

Project II – Mid-Semester Status Report: 20%

Project III – Instructional Manual: 20%

Project IV – Oral Presentation: 20%

TRACS Reading Responses: 20%

For more information: Contact Dr. Miriam F. Williams at




ENG 5313.001: Studies in Technical Communication

Topic: Technical Communication History

 T 6:30-9:20 pm, FH G04 and some online class sessions



Instructor: Libby Allison

Description: Although this course focuses on the history of Technical Communication, ultimately, the purpose is to make us better technical communicators. Education Activist John W. Gardner (1912-2002) once said, “History never looks like history when you are living through it.” Although we may not be aware of it, we are pioneers in what will be considered the greatest revolution since the Industrial revolution, the Technological Revolution. From personal computers, to cell phones, to social media, future generations will study the way technology has impacted our home and work lives here and abroad. Technical communication students are pioneers in another way too. Technical Communication is a burgeoning field that has only recently begun to be recognized and its history uncovered.

As Greek Philosopher Aristotle (385 BC to 323 BC) held, “If you want to understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.” This History of Technical Communication course will not only explore the research that has been done in the field, but moreover we will focus on how technical communication in the past has laid the foundation for and set the threads and trends for what we do today and in the future. An example is the medical and technical drawings of the great Italian Renaissance painter Leonardo Da Vinci. These drawings have been credited with contributing to the development of the contemporary surgical robot, artificial limbs, synthetic organs, and contact lenses ( Another example is the work of John M. Carroll, a linguist and social-cognitive scientist, who in the 1980s focused on computer/software user experience, and based on the ideas from Dewey, Vygotsky, and Bruner, Carroll developed the minimalist model for designing instruction and information ( This minimalist model has and will likely continue to impact the size and scope of technical communication instructions (Popular Science Jan. 26 2015.

This History of Technical Communication course is about how technical communication history helps us understand the practices we do as technical communicators today, how to envision innovation, how to problem solve, and ways to enhance our communication effectiveness now and in the future. Ultimately, the purpose of the course is to make us better technical communicators.

Goals: Students will learn the following:

  • The history of Technical Communication, as it has been researched and published about so far.
  • The importance of technical communication in people’s lives and in society at-large.
  • The value of technical communication history for envisioning innovation, problem solving, and enhancing effective communication.
  • How to research the history of technical communication for understanding technical communication practices today and in the future.


Spurious Coin:  A History of Science, Management, and Technical Writing, by

Bernadette Longo. Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000.

The Flowering of a Tradition: Technical Writing in England, 1641-1700, by Elizabeth

Tebeaux. Amityville, NY: Baywood, 2014.

The Emergence of a Tradition: Technical Writing in the English Renaissance, 1475-

1640, by Elizabeth Tebeaux. Baywood Technical Communication Series. Amityville, NY: Baywood, 1997.

Supplemental readings may be assigned during the semester.

Format: Graduate discussion seminar.

Evaluation:    Attendance and participation: 20%

Midterm and/or Homework: 30%
Research paper: 30%
Class Facilitations and Presentations: 20%

Email: Contact Dr. Allison at


English 5313.003: Studies in Technical Communication

Topic: Digital Media Theory and Design

Th 6:30-9:20 pm, FH G14

Online/Hybrid: Meets 8/31, 9/21, 10/12, 11/2, and 12/7, all other times online



Instructor: Aimee Roundtree

Description: You will learn core issues related to digital media writing, such as usability, captology, remediation, information architecture, networks and multimodality. You will learn specific tools and digital media writing practices and standards, such as those maintained by W3C and others. We will emphasize informative content, theory-driven planning, and responsive design. 


Learning Web Design: A Beginner's Guide to HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and Web

Graphics. Jennifer Niederst Robbins. O’Reilly Media. 5th edition. September 2017. ISBN:978-1-4919-6020-2 | ISBN 10:1-4919-6020-5; Early Release Ebook ISBN:978-1-4919-6013-4 | ISBN 10:1-4919-6013-2

The Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media. Paperback. Marie-Laure Ryan, Lori

Emerson, Benjamin J. Robertson. Johns Hopkins University Press. March 20, 2014. ISBN-10: 1421412241; ISBN-13: 978-1421412245

Format: Hybrid Seminar (every other Thursday online). Class meets August 31, Sept 21, October 12, November 2 and December 7

Evaluation: Presentations, Evaluations, Project Plans, Projects and Rationale

Office Hours: T 10:00-11:00, W 10:00-12:00



English 5314.002: Specializations in Technical Communication

Topic: Discourse Analysis

W 6:30-9:20 pm

 Online/Hybrid: Meets 8/30 at RRHEC



Instructor: Dr. Pinfan Zhu

Description: Discourse analysis is a qualitative research method; it has come to have different interpretations for scholars working in different disciplines. For a sociolinguist, it is concerned mainly with the structure of social interaction manifested in conversation, a way to understand power relationship, identities and institutions; for a psycholinguist, it is primarily concerned with the nature of comprehension of short written texts; for the computational linguist, it is concerned with producing operational models of text-understanding within highly limited contexts. Our course mainly approaches discourse analysis from linguistic and sociolinguistic perspectives. The purpose is to understand how forms of language are used in communication. The principal concern is to examine how any language produced by man, whether spoken or written, is used to communicate for a purpose in a context. In addition, we will understand how text reveals identities, feelings, and different social relationships. We will learn the specific ways to do social analysis, discourse analysis, text analysis, and conversational analysis. The course is a hybrid course. We have three face-to-face class meetings in Round Rock: possibly 8/30,10 /11 and 12/06. I reserve the right to update any course information in case there is such need.

Books: Norman Fairclough, Critical Discourse Analysis: The Critical Study of

Language 2nd Edition   

Format: Primarily discussion and exercises, with some background lectures and presentations.

Evaluation:    10%    Mid-term Exam

                        10%     Class participation

                        20%     Written exercises

                        30%     Text Analysis Projects  

                        20%     Term Paper

                        10%    Presentation   

For more information: see Dr. Pinfan Zhu or


 Phone: 245-7665.

Spring Office Hours:  W 4:30-6:30 pm, and by appointment.




English 5314.003: Specializations in Technical Communication

Topic: Digital Video Writing and Production for Technical Communicators

W 6:30-9:20 pm

Online/Hybrid: Meets 8/30 at RRHEC; other times online



Instructor: Dr. Mogull

Description: In this course, students will learn to create professional-quality digital videos as technical communicators. Students should expect to plan and write short, but well-developed, video scripts. Specifically, this course will cover the following phases of video writing and production: (1) planning informative and instructional videos, (2) scriptwriting and storyboarding, (3) directing, shooting, and filming, and (4) video editing and distribution (focusing on sharing the video on the Web).

Goals: Upon successful completion of this course, students should be proficient in the entire process for creating and sharing of videos as technical communicators.


  • Creating Video for Teachers and Trainers by Spannaus (ISBN: 9781118088098)
  • Additional articles and chapters (will be made available through TRACS)
  • Online videos (typically available through YouTube)

Format: This course is a project-based class in which students will work individually and in teams to write and produce short instructional and informative videos on technical topics. Although technology and software are necessary for successful completion of the course, such tools are analogous to Microsoft Word and creating a document. This means that you must be able to effectively use software to create effective communications but effective communication requires much more thought and development than simply using these tools.

For filming, students may use cell phones or checkout video equipment from the library. For production, students may use any video-editing software (such as iMovie on the Mac or MovieMaker on the PC).

As part of the class, students will learn to use video-editing software and upload digital videos to YouTube. Students are not expected or required to have any prior experience using video-editing software or posting to YouTube. However, students will be expected to learn these skills to effectively produce professional-quality videos. Depending on each student’s familiarity with technology, he or she may need to search the Internet for tutorials and/or use the Help documentation of the software (we’re technical writers after all, right?). 

Evaluation: The anticipated projects are as follows:




Technical Video Script (requires multiple rounds of revision to prepare a script prior to filming)


Storyboard/Shot List (also requires a few rounds of revision)


Video Footage (Includes all raw footage from the shot list, includes at least 2 “takes”)


Final Video (Informative video, approximately 5-7 min. of content)


Participation in class discussions and peer review sessions (includes bringing complete drafts of your own assignments for peer review and comprehensive peer review/analysis of other student work based on class material)







English 5383.001/7383.001: Rhetorical Theory

Topic: Rhetorical History

Th 6:30-9:20 pm, FH G04



Instructor:  Deb Balzhiser

Description: This section examines the development and evolution of rhetoric from the classical era to the twentieth century. The course provides a broad, canonical view that encompasses how rhetoric has been defined and practiced, how its definitions and practices have been challenged and changed, and how it affects the fields of rhetoric, composition, and technical communication. While we will read canonical texts as assigned, you are invited to bring in counter or additional perspectives to class each week and into your assignments. Secondary works are useful to challenge what we cover or to explore more deeply.

            Rhetoric exists in our core understanding of writing and writing pedagogy; civic, professional, and institutional discourse; power, politics, participation, and voice. Rhetoric can even constitute, rather than merely reflect, reality. By studying rhetorical history, we better understand the impact this history has on contemporary notions of writing, writing instruction, language, literacy, textual production, agency, power, and culture. Through the seminar format, homework, and class activities, we will question, affirm, compare, contextualize, refute, and problematize the material and our understandings of it.  

The course revolves around these central questions: What is rhetoric? What does rhetoric DO? What does it mean to answer the question “What is rhetoric?” How have aims, definitions, and uses of rhetoric changed and evolved? What do changes in aims, definitions, and uses of rhetoric suggest about the relationship between language and knowledge? What presence does rhetoric occupy in the study, teaching, and practice of composition and technical communication? Of what value is the study of rhetoric as both a discipline and a tool? Who is included in traditional history of rhetoric? Who has been excluded? How might traditional rhetorics and history of rhetorics be rewritten? How does rhetoric relate to truth? To knowledge? To ethics?

Goals: Based on the learning opportunities provided in the course, by the semester’s end, students should be able to:

  • Articulate shifts in how rhetoric has been defined and practiced in historical periods
  • Identify key figures as covered in this class and identify reasons they are key figures
  • Trace the aims, end, and tenets of rhetorics in theory, practice, and culture
  • Identify key stasis points in conflicts between rhetoricians and philosophers
  • Map the place of rhetoric in relationship to knowledge and power
  • Discuss the influence of the Western rhetorical tradition on the field of rhetoric and composition or technical communication
  • Apply rhetorical theories to specific practices, products, and problems in rhetoric and composition or technical communication
  • Demonstrate research abilities and proper documentation procedures
  • Demonstrate effective uses of rhetorical theory and analyses using graduate level writing and the expected protocols therein
  • Communicate the issues, as stated in the above objectives, in rhetorically effective ways


  • Bizzell, Patricia and Bruce Herzberg (Eds.)  The Rhetorical Tradition:  Readings from Classical Times to the Present.  Current edition. Boston:  Bedford, 2001. (B&H)
  • Lucaites, John Louis, Celeste Michelle Condit, and Sally Caudill’s (Eds.) Contemporary Rhetorical Theory. Current edition. New York: Guilford, 1999. (LCC)
  • Supplemental readings
  • Your work

Format: Seminar but with activities

Evaluation:  Weekly Reading Responses [8-9] (20%); Short Texts [3] (10% each); Peer Discussions [ongoing] (20%); Presentations [1] (10%); Seminar Paper [1] (20%)

Office: ASBN 101A (in the Writing Center)