Skip to Content

New Student FAQ

Welcome to the MATC Program and to your graduate education experience. The following are a list of questions that students have about the MATC program and graduate school with some collective and concise answers. Please note that the official name of our program is a Master of Arts in Technical Communication. There is no “s” at the end of Technical Communication. You need to get the name of your program accurate, especially on your resume.
Expand or Collapse all.

How is the MATC program related to the Texas State Graduate College?

American universities are divided into various levels. The lower division courses, freshman and sophomore classes, are to give you a broad range of subjects and a general education. Upper division courses are to narrow your education to the major of your choice. A master’s program is to further narrow your educational focus and introduce you to theory, research, and teaching in your field, and a doctoral program is to continue the practice of teaching in a field and to encourage further research within a field. Just like research in the sciences, research is done in the Liberal Arts. One of the reasons America is a great country is that research done at universities enhances and strengthens our lives.
 
You are not only a MATC student but also a graduate student at Texas State University. The Graduate College oversees all of the graduate programs like ours and sets policy for many aspects of a graduate education. Carefully read the Graduate College catalog’s pages handout regarding many of these important policies. Although we have our own unique program, there are times when you will need to contact the Graduate College about matters such as an official graduation check. The Graduate College has a face-to-face orientation at the beginning of the fall semester, but it also has an online orientation that provides a great deal of helpful information. You need to review this website: http://www.gradcollege.txstate.edu/Orientation.html.
 
In addition, you will have to contact Financial Aid about financial matters of your own. We do not have anything whatsoever to do with your financial or money matters. However, be aware that going on academic probation could affect your financial aid.

How are graduate courses different from undergraduate courses?

Graduate courses are more work and more intense. We advise full-time students to take no more than nine hours (3 courses) and part-time graduate students who work full-time to take no more than six hours (2 courses). The MATC program has many excellent students, and we expect students to learn from each other. Moreover, we expect students who have personal motivation and personal initiative to do the best they can.
 
Graduate courses tend to have a lot of reading. Graduate faculty expect you to keep up with the readings, complete assignments, participate in discussions about the readings, and submit your work on time. This is the foundation for a successful graduate school experience. Successful graduate students always go beyond the minimum requirements of a course. They have the personal “drive” and motivation to engage in the ideas of the course and often to take them in new directions. 

How does grading "work" in graduate courses?

Unlike undergraduate school, graduate students are expected to make no lower than a B in their courses. If you earn a C or lower in a graduate course, the Graduate College will put you on academic probation, which could affect your financial aid. Academic probation is not where you want to be. You will have to work your way off of academic probation. If you have some kind of major problem during a semester, talk with your faculty member or the MATC Graduate Director. You may need to drop or withdraw, but you never want to walk away from a course and receive an F. Failing grades in graduate courses carry onto your permanent record. Depending on the circumstances, the graduate faculty member can possibly work out an Incomplete grade. The Graduate College requires that I grades only be given when there is an unusual circumstance beyond the student’s control and the student has a significant portion of the course such as a term paper or examination left to complete. If a students does not complete the course within a year, the Graduate College will immediately convert the I grade to an F grade.
 
Regarding the ENG 5312 internship courses, those courses only offer credit or noncredit. If you successfully complete those courses, you will earn three hours credit. However, for those students, who may be getting reimbursed for tuition from their companies, you need to let the responsible people in your company know about the grading criteria for this course.

What is the Graduate Degree Audit?

The Graduate Degree Audit is your official degree plan throughout the course of the program. You can find a copy of your degree audit from the campus website. This audit is based on curriculum established by the MATC faculty, and, a copy of the “unofficial” degree plan is available so you can track yourself. Please be aware that courses rotate during various years and semesters, and certain courses may not be available while you are here. However, we will offer other interesting and useful courses. We (and you) want the MATC program to be flexible to coincide with the “times.” The MATC Director has some discretion to recommend to the Graduate College to substitute some courses for others. As you work through the curriculum, if there are problems with courses in conjunction with your Degree Audit, let the MATC Director know.

How many courses do I need to take, and what is the difference between the internship track and thesis track?

The MATC program is a 30-hour degree, which translates to 10 three-hour courses. The only required courses for everyone are Foundations in Technical Communication and Rhetorical Theory (or Composition Theory). We advise those students who want to enter or return to the professional world to take the internship route. This requires taking the internship course, ENG 5312, plus an additional course. For those students who plan to go onto doctoral programs, we recommend writing a thesis. However, not all doctoral programs require theses, and many students who plan to go out into the work world find writing a thesis as a means of further researching a particular aspect of technical communication that interests them.

Do I need a minor to complete the program?

Although you may have been asked when you filled out the graduate application to designate a minor to go along with your Technical Communication major, you do not have to minor. However, you are welcome to minor in another program or discipline. Please keep in mind that not every program or discipline has a minor, and that often programs that do allow a minor at the graduate level require a number of undergraduate courses before you can take a graduate course. If you choose to minor, please talk it over with the MATC Director to make sure it is an appropriate minor that works in conjunction with the MATC program. However, the MATC Director does not advise about courses or have anything to do with the requirements of the minor. The Graduate College can recommend an advisor in that program or discipline for you. The advisor in that program or discipline helps you make decisions about what courses to take.

What are some of the important things to know about courses?

ENG 5312 is an internship course. Different faculty teach the course with different approaches—all of which can add to your resume. You can take two 5312 courses to fit into your degree; however, you cannot take the ENG 5312 course, the Front Porch/MFA Literary Journal, because it is for MFA students.
 
Regarding the degree outline and course rotation, the MATC faculty create our course schedule typically from the most recent courses we have offered, what required courses are needed, and how to divide them between two campuses (San Marcos and Round Rock). What is available when a student enters the program, how many courses he/she takes, and how long he/she takes to complete the program makes a difference in what courses he/she gets to take. We do not offer all courses every semester, but we always strive to offer interesting and useful ones.
 
Please be aware that courses such as ENG 5313 and 5314 ones cover a wide range of topics, and you are allowed to only take nine hours of each course. However, partly because we are stretching across such a wide area of the region and two campuses, the MATC Director can ask permission of the Graduate College to allow a student to take more than nine hours in one of the numbered categories of courses. Regardless, a student must take different topics for each course because taking the same topic twice will not count as two courses on your degree outline.
 
All MATC courses are held at night. (Please be aware that the MATC program offers a 5312 at least once an academic year, but the ENG 5312: Editing the Professional Publication taught by Dick Heaberlin and William Jensen, which is also course for credit in the MATC program, meets late on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in San Marcos. This course was created for the other programs in the English Department prior to the beginning of the MATC program.)

Why are there a variety of types of courses in the MATC curriculum?

The MATC faculty have established a curriculum in which we try to offer three types of courses each semester: theory, applied writing or specifically career-based (such as writing for the government or teaching) and technology-related. We cannot promise that you will get each specific course or type of course each semester, but by the time you graduate you will have some of each type.
Regarding course categories on the Degree Audit, the MATC Director has some latitude for substituting some courses within those categories. It depends on the course. You should ask the MATC Director about the possibility of substitution prior to taking the course.

How are courses offered on both campuses?

Each semester, the MATC program has typically offered two or three online/hybrid courses in Round Rock and two or three face-to-face classes in San Marcos. As our enrollments grow we will likely be adding more courses per semester. We typically offer one course during the summer session I and one course in summer session II, although that may also increase depending on interest and enrollments. A student can complete a MATC degree taking only online/hybrid courses, but it may take longer to complete the degree than for students who take both online/hybrid Round Rock courses and face-to-face San Marcos courses. At some time in their graduate school experience, almost all Round Rock students go to San Marcos for courses and almost all San Marcos students go to Round Rock for courses.

What are hybrid/online Round Rock courses?

These are courses that meet occasionally face-to-face at the Round Rock Higher Education Center and the remainder of the time they are online, which means that students work online with their faculty member and classmates. These are not entirely online classes, and you should expect to leave the night the class is scheduled open for real time work such as real-time online chats. Different faculty use both the TRACS program (see information on it later) and the Adobe Connect program (see information on it later). Also different faculty require different numbers of times to meet in Round Rock. Generally, and this information is on the course descriptions and/or you can contact the faculty member about the specific dates for meetings in Round Rock.

What constitutes good class participation?

A good class participant is a student who has a thorough knowledge of the required assignments, makes thoughtful comments and responses, asks thoughtful questions, and shows an eagerness to engage in the work of the course. We expect good class participation from our graduate students. Many of you have terrific ideas and experiences to share, which we want you to share, but please be considerate of your classmates and don’t try to talk over them or take over the class from the faculty member. Participation is part of your grade whether you are in a face-to-face course or an online course. Also, keep up with class assignments deadlines and other important deadlines. Procrastinating can affect your grades and your progress through graduate school.

Why do I have to use Texas State email and not my personal email?

For legal and practical reasons we need students to use their Texas State email address. For instance, when we announce information about the MATC Portfolio Comprehensive Exam, we need to know that the email was sent to an email address belonging to you only. Even if you know you have a personal email, we have an obligation to make sure it gets to you, so we only use Texas State email addresses. You need to read your email every day.  

Second, and, from a practical standpoint, we have some 50 students, and we cannot keep up with a campus email and a personal email. In fact, you can easily access your email from the Texas State homepage on the Bobcat mail link. You should set up your Texas State email account right away, and if you have not, you can do so through the Information Technologies Assistance Center (ITAC) office at this link:http://www.tr.txstate.edu/itac.html .

If I have a question about a course fitting in my degree, for instance, what do I do?

After you have tracked your work on the unofficial degree plan, contact the MATC Director about your questions. Please be specific and provide the details pertaining to your question. Although we would like to think we know everyone, we cannot keep up with all the details of your specific situation. For instance, please do not just ask something like: “Does the course I took two years ago fit into my degree plan?” Always provide the Director with your unofficial degree plan filled out to the fullest with the names and numbers of the courses you have taken (or expect to take), and then pose your question. Always include your student ID number on email correspondence for questions like ones about your degree. In some other matters you will need to contact the Graduate College.

What is the MATC TRACS website and distribution list?

The MATC TRACS site and the MATC email distribution list is a way to communicate information among everyone in the program. Once you activate your Texas State email address, we will no longer send emails to your personal email account. In the same vein, we keep an alumni distribution list. Once you graduate, we will add your personal email address to the alumni distribution list. Our alumni are a great networking resource and help out the program in many ways.

How much technology do I need to know?

The MATC program is a marriage of technology and communication. We do not expect beginning students to have a lot of technology experience, but we do expect all of our students to have a continuing interest and propensity for technology. Although we can help you, we expect that you will take the initiative to find your technology answers first before asking us. For instance, if you have never used a database in the library, try to figure it out and/or contact the library before approaching the faculty member to tell you how to use it. Taking responsibility for practicing technology is expected of technical communicators.
 
Dealing with technology can be frustrating; however, it can be particularly frustrating for students who typically have an easy time reading and grasping concepts, and yet they do not understand why they cannot “master” the computer. First, no one “masters” the computer; it is always practice. Students need to have a propensity for wanting to learn the technology and for problem solving. Most software programs have a Help menu, but even googling a question about a program/software can yield an answer.
 
On the other hand, students often overlook how much technology they use and learn. It is easy to forget how much you have learned about technology, but give yourself credit for what you have learned. If you are not interested and willing to learn technology, you should reconsider staying in this program.
 
 
Information Technologies Assistance Center (ITAC)
Contact ITAC for all your computer hardware and software issues. Technicians are available via telephone, online chat, or face-to-face during business hours. ITAC is the best place to start to resolve any technological issues you are experiencing. If they cannot help you, they can direct you to someone who can. For more information, visit ITAC’s website at:
http://www.tr.txstate.edu/itac.html
 
TRACS Support
TRACS is a web-based program that students and faculty use to share documents and communicate with each other. The tools available to students in TRACS allow them to submit an assignment, check course grades, congregate in an online chat room, and receive important messages from instructors. Support for TRACS is from the Educational Technology Center (ETC). The ETC Support Team will answer all your TRACS-related questions via online chat or phone. You can find TRACS Help feature on the left-hand side of the page when you log in. For more information about TRACS Support, visit the TRACS Facts website: http://tracsfacts.its.txstate.edu/.

 
Adobe Connect
The ETC Support Team is also responsible for supporting Adobe Connect, a tool used to host online classrooms, conferences, and presentations. For more information regarding Adobe Connect Support, visit:
http://www.its.txstate.edu/departments/etc/connect/connectsupport.html.

Why don't we just learn software?

Our program is a graduate program, not a vocational program. That does not mean that you won’t learn some software; it is that we won’t be focusing on it solely in any course.

Why do we need to learn theory?

Theory is a model of a way of doing and thinking about things. Graduate school is about learning theory and about doing and learning about research in your field.

What are the journals in our field and why do we read them?

Journals in any academic discipline are the “conversation” among people in any field that contain the most relevant and up-to-date information. See the handout with the list of journals in our field. Also each year the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW) compiles a categorized bibliography of scholarship—journal articles, books, reviews—that are of interest to technical communication practitioners, educators, and scholars.

What does "peer-review" mean?

Like in the sciences, articles, journals, and books in the Liberal Arts that are “peer-reviewed” are ones that have been reviewed by other specialists and experts in the field. Peer-revision ensures accuracy, research validity and verifiability. Traditionally most journals have been paper copy but increasingly these are online and peer-reviewed.

What are other resources are there?

There are professional associations in the Technical Communication field. Some of the professional associations are these:
 
Society for Technical Communication: http://www.stc.org/
 
The Austin Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication: http://www.stcaustin.org/
 
Council for Programs in Technical and Scientific Communication: http://www.cptsc.org/
 
Association of Teachers of Technical Writing: http://www.attw.org/
 
IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers): http://www.ieee.org/about/index.html
 
Writing Program Administration: http://wpacouncil.org
 
International Writing Centers Association: http://writingcenters.org/
 
National Council of Teachers of English: http://www.ncte.org/
 
 
Alliance for Computers and Writing (ACW): http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~sg7/ACW/index.html .
 
Also, because of the burgeoning technology, there are listservs and other online resources available such as the ATTW (Association of Teachers of Technical Writing)- http://www.attw.org/?q=node/28 and the WPA (Writing Program Administration)- http://wpacouncil.org/wpa-l.
 
Also see the handout with a list of professional associations.

What is the Portfolio Comprehensive Exam?

The Graduate College requires every graduate student pass a comprehensive exam in his/her program to be eligible for graduation. Several years ago, the MATC program began giving a Portfolio Comprehensive Exam rather than a traditional essay exam, which it had for many years.
 
For the MATC Portfolio Comprehensive Exam you will develop, organize, categorize, and present your best academic and practical work to demonstrate what you have learned in the MATC program. Your portfolio serves as the assessment tool for faculty to comprehensively review your work. The portfolio collection should provide evidence of your growth through the program and support for the ideas you offer in the Reflective Analysis Essay that you will write as part of the portfolio presentation. 

 The MATC Portfolio Comprehensive Exam is only given in the fall and spring semesters and not during the summer, so if you plan to graduate in spring or summer, you need to have passed the exam given in spring. A student can take the exam after 18 hours of course work, but most students wait until their last semester to take the exam. Begin collecting materials from your first class. Our faculty expects you to show how theory that you have learned underpins the various paper and online work you turn in with your portfolio.
 
At the beginning of the fall and spring semesters, we will route an email to “call” on for those students who are eligible and want to take the Portfolio Comprehensive Exam. If you begin early in your course work to keep track of your materials, make notes about theory related to your readings, you will be in good shape to put your own portfolio exam together when the time comes. However, you should make sure you allot yourself enough time to do the portfolio and not procrastinate until the last minute. The faculty member who is chairing the exam can answer questions you have as you prepare your work.
 
Two MATC faculty members read the Portfolio Comprehensive Exam and provide a grade to the chair of the exam. If there is a conflict between grades, the Exam is given to a third faculty member to break the tie. There is more about the Comprehensive Portfolio exam at this link:

MATC Comprehensive Portfolio Exam

What if I want to write a thesis?

We typically recommend that students who are interested in going onto doctoral programs write a thesis, but other students may find some particular aspect of the Technical Communication field that they want to pursue in-depth as well. You cannot simply register for thesis hours. First you have to find a chair among the MATC faculty to direct your thesis. You and the chair work together to come up with a committee of two other MATC faculty members and to find an appropriate thesis topic. Once the faculty member agrees to chair/direct the thesis, you need to contact the English Department Administrative Assistant to set up a thesis section in which you will register.

You should carefully read the Graduate College website information on thesis:

http://www.gradcollege.txstate.edu/Fac_Resources/Thes_Diss_Guide.html.

What is the difference between Thesis A and Thesis B?

Thesis A is for developing the research proposal for your thesis. There is a form from the Graduate College to fill out. You can find it here:

http://www.gradcollege.txstate.edu/Fac_Resources/Thes_Diss_Guide.html

The thesis proposal can range from about five pages to as many as you and your chair want it to go. At the end of the Thesis A semester, you need to have completed the proposal with the signatures of your committee members and have it submitted to the Graduate College. Thesis B is for the writing of your thesis. Please be aware that students typically need more than one Thesis B semester to write a thesis. Your faculty will help you as much as we can, but we have many other responsibilities and duties to students and the campus. Likewise, students should keep track of all deadlines. Not meeting deadlines for theses means it is likely that students have to wait for the next full semester to finish their work. Please note that deadlines, particularly in spring, are early in the semester.

Can I write my thesis over the summer months?

As students plan their schedules, they should be aware that not all faculty are available during summer for theses. (This does not mean faculty are not working; it likely means we are doing some work that we need to complete with uninterrupted time.) If you do not finish the thesis by the end of spring, it is likely that you may have to wait until fall to finish. A MATC faculty member offers this advice:
 
“Plan your thesis schedule backwards, taking into consideration that faculty need two weeks to review your materials, you need time to revise them, and faculty need time to review them again. When you do this, you will see that Thesis B only gives you just more than a month to write.” Individual faculty members can help you narrow your topic before you enroll in Thesis A, but the Graduate Catalog says, “A student will be required to enroll in and pay the fee for at least three hours of the thesis course during any semester in which the student will receive thesis supervision or guidance” (Graduate Catalog 2009-2011: 54).

Do faculty members write letters of recommendation?

Yes, we do; however, if we have reservations about a student’s work, we can say no and/or suggest that he/she ask other faculty. Some MATC faculty will not do online recommendations for websites such as Linked In for any students. Faculty will submit recommendations for sites such as those for graduate school applications. Students should give faculty at least two weeks to write letters of recommendation, longer if they are applying for graduate school, especially if students are applying to multiple places. While opportunities come up more quickly, things like graduate school applications have deadlines long in advance.
 
When asking for letters of recommendation:
    1. Ask if the faculty member could write a letter to X for X by X date which involves ______ (such as filling out a form, mailing a letter through the postal service, sending a PDF—these influence the amount of time it takes to meet your deadline).

      2. If the faculty member agrees, be prepared to provide the needed information:
                                                            i. About the position
                                                           ii. About the place student is applying
                                                          iii. Anything else student knows about this that may be helpful
                                                          iv. Why this position?
                                                           v. Why this place?
                                                          vi. Curriculum vita or resume, whichever is appropriate
vii. Reminders about the work you did in class that might be relevant or stand     out and/or other experiences familiar to the faculty member that the letter writer can speak to in some detail or with some knowledge (such as an award or special completed project)
                                                       viii. Identify addressees and addresses
ix. Identify what materials need to be included and how the recipient should receive them (faculty member mails it directly along with a form; faculty member completes online form; faculty member gives student letter in a sealed envelope)
x. Other notes that will help the faculty member say something specific about you that are relevant to the position.
 
Some faculty recommend that if students are given an option to waive your rights about your letter, that you do so because it gives more confidence to the recipient that the letter is not biased. Other faculty members recommend that you do not waive your rights because a student may never know why he/she has not been accepted if he/she does not know what is in the letters.

 

What documentation style are we expected to use?

The MATC program is in the English Department and as a result much of our work is done in MLA (Modern Language Association) documentation style. However, the MATC faculty are aware that there are other documentation styles used in the technical communication field such as APA (American Psychological Association) and the Chicago Manual of Style. Each faculty member may have a preference for the style you use in his or her classroom, but overall we all expect that whatever documentation style that you use that it is accurate and consistent.

Are there mailboxes available for graduate students?

Yes, there are mailboxes on the third floor of Flowers Hall across from graduate suite, which is FH 361. Every MATC student has a mailbox there. This makes it handy for students, who come to Flowers Hall, to leave and receive materials from faculty and classes. However, if you are not going to be coming to Flowers Hall for classes, be sure your faculty member knows that you cannot pick up materials in the mailboxes and work out another way for you to leave or receive materials.

On my last semester, what should I expect to do to graduate?

You will need to do the following:

  • Pass with As or Bs and complete all of your coursework
  • Apply to take the Portfolio Comprehensive Exam and pass it
  • Apply for graduation, and, apply for commencement services--if you want to go through them (The Graduate College website and campus academic calendar have the dates for application.)
  • Have a graduation check through the Graduate College
  • Celebrate the hard work you completed to earn your degree