Professional and Technical Writing
The Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing (PTW) program provides extensive and intensive study of and practice in writing designed to prepare students for careers in business and government, publishing, and education. It focuses on developing individual abilities and on helping students become articulate, informed scholars and writers able to adapt to a wide range of situations and tasks. The program offers two concentrations, one technical and the other nonfiction. The technical concentration focuses on writing for industry, science, business, and government. The nonfiction concentration focuses on composition and rhetorical theory, essay and extended nonfiction writing, and a general application of writing skills, including the teaching of writing.
The Little Rock Writing Project, housed in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing, offers PTW students opportunities to work with teachers and administrators from all grade levels to improve writing education in Arkansas schools. It offers graduate courses, writing and special topics workshops, and other services to teachers and students across the state.
As part of a university community that acknowledges the importance of assessment, we gather assessment data through student portfolios and exit surveys, employer surveys, doctoral student progress reports, and faculty idea exchanges. We then use these findings to improve our programs. Visit the program’s website for more information.
All applicants to the MA program in Professional and Technical Writing must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally or internationally accredited institution. The program accepts applicants from a wide range of disciplines; a prior degree in writing is not required.
Applicants must submit to the Graduate School all of the application materials described on the Graduate School website, including transcripts from previous institutions. In addition, all applicants must submit the following documents directly to the Professional and Technical Writing graduate coordinator:
- A statement of purpose
- A current resume
- 3-4 writing samples
- A cover piece introducing and providing context for the writing samples
Applicants should also arrange for three letters of recommendation to be sent directly from their recommenders to the program’s graduate coordinator.
Prospective students are strongly urged to contact the graduate coordinator before completing the application process.
Applicants will be considered for regular admissions if they have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better on a previous baccalaureate or graduate degree, or if they have achieved a GPA of 3.0 or better on their last 60 hours of coursework. The quality of the applicant’s writing- including the statement of purpose, writing samples, and cover piece- is a major factor in the admissions decision, along with the applicant’s references.
Students must have regular admission status in order to be eligible for teaching, research, or administrative assistantship positions.
Applicants will be considered for conditional admission if they have achieved a cumulative GPA between 2.7 and 3.0 on a previous baccalaureate or graduate degree, or if they have achieved a GPA between 2.7 and 3.0 on their last 60 hours of coursework. The quality of the applicant’s writing- including the statement of purpose, writing samples, and cover piece- is a major factor in the admissions decision, along with the applicant’s references. Some applicants with GPAs higher than 3.0 may be conditionally admitted based on the admission committee’s evaluation of the writing samples and references.
Conditionally admitted students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 in their first 9 hours of coursework in order to remain in the program. Conditionally admitted students may also be subject to other conditions for enrollment, such as required courses in the first 9 hours of study specified by the admission committee. Conditionally admitted students completing their MA coursework with a GPA of 3.0 or higher after their first 9 credit hours will become regularly admitted students.
Special Conditional Admission
Applicants with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.69 who demonstrate extraordinary potential for achievement may petition the MA admission committee for special consideration.
Applicants must discuss and provide evidence regarding two or more of the following criteria as part of their petition:
- GPA in previous writing courses
- Amount of time elapsed since the previous degree (5+ years recommended)
- Professional experience in writing, teaching, or editing
- Professional accomplishments that demonstrate the applicant’s abilities with respect to time management or focused, intensive study
- Extraordinary circumstances related to the low overall GPA
Applicants whose petitions are approved by the admission committee will be subject to the same requirements and restrictions as listed above for conditionally admitted students.
A limited number of graduate assistantships, both teaching and non-teaching, are available each year. Most students who are granted assistantships teach 1-2 sections of first-year composition or are involved in training tutors and administration in the University Writing Center. Students who wish to apply for teaching assistantships must first complete RHET 7310 Composition Theory . Students who wish to apply for Writing Center assistantships must have served at least one semester as a writing center tutor during their undergraduate degree, or they must first complete at least one semester of RHET 7360 Internship/Practicum . The number of non-teaching assistantships varies each year; these positions are highly competitive, and they are awarded in part based on the student’s particular skill set. Contact the program coordinator for more information.
The PTW program offers two options for completing the master’s degree: a 36-hour option that culminates in a thesis project and a 42-hour option that culminates in a portfolio defense. Students will choose which option to complete in consultation with the program’s graduate coordinator, as well as with the student’s portfolio mentor (a faculty member assigned to assist with the student’s development as a writer when the student is admitted to the program). Students are required to meet with both their portfolio mentor and the graduate coordinator at least once per semester for advising and review of the student’s progress in the program.
The thesis option for the Master of Arts in Professional and Technical Writing requires 9 hours of core courses, 15 hours of concentration courses, 6 hours in a cognate area, and 6 final project hours. All students are welcome to select the thesis option, but it is especially recommended for students who already have a bachelor’s degree in writing (or a closely related area) and for students who want to use their master’s course work as preparation for pursuing a Ph.D.
Concentration hours allow students to develop a specialization within the program. Students typically choose to complete 15 hours from the technical writing concentration, the nonfiction writing concentration, or the editing concentration. With permission from the program coordinator, students may mix courses from among the concentrations if the course selection is appropriate to the student’s career goals. No more than three hours total of independent study or internship credit may be counted toward a student’s concentration hours.
Core courses introduce students to important areas of theory necessary to the successful completion of the degree. Students must complete all nine hours of core courses. Substitution courses, independent studies, and transfer hours are not acceptable for PTW core courses. The required courses include the following:
Cognate Courses (Six hours)
Cognate hours are designed to allow writers to develop areas of additional knowledge and experience that support their PTW concentrations. Students in the technical writing and nonfiction writing concentrations may choose to develop a cognate area outside the Rhetoric and Writing Department if they wish; some popular options include cognate courses in speech communication, linguistics, literature, creative writing, mass communication, management, political science, psychology, computer science, and graphic design. Students in technical writing and nonfiction writing concentrations may also choose cognate courses from other areas of the PTW program, including internship and independent study courses. Cognate hours must be chosen from graduate-level courses. Graduate courses from other institutions are acceptable for transfer as cognate hours; students should inform the graduate coordinator immediately.
Students in the editing concentration are required to fill their cognate hours with six hours of editing internship credit by taking a combination of RHET 7161 ,RHET 7261 , and/or RHET 7361 . Editing internship hours must be approved in advance by faculty members coordinating the editing concentration.
Final Project Courses (Six hours)
Students choosing the thesis option must complete both RHET 7390 (the thesis proposal course) and RHET 7391 (the thesis completion course). These courses allow students to design, propose, and complete extended writing projects appropriate to their concentrations and career goals. A PTW thesis may take form of a traditional academic research project, or it may take the form of an extended, substantial applied project with an accompanying researched analytical essay.
Portfolio Option (42 hours)
The portfolio option for the M.A. in Professional and Technical Writing requires 12 hours of core courses, 15 hours of concentration courses, six hours in cognate area, and 12 additional hours of coursework selected by the student and his or her portfolio mentor. All students are welcome to select the portfolio option, but it is especially recommended for students who completed bachelor’s degrees in disciplines other than writing, English, or journalism. The portfolio option is also recommended for students who have chosen the editing concentration, as it enables them to choose more electives than allowed under thesis options.
The requirements for the core courses, concentration courses, and cognate courses are identical to the requirements for the thesis option (see the thesis option requirements above for more details). After completing these courses, the student will consult with his or her portfolio mentor to choose four additional courses that will broaden the student’s range for writing abilities, strengthen his or her professional skill set, and produce a portfolio of writing and/or editing samples that will help students attain the next logical step in their career paths. These courses may be chosen from within the Rhetoric and Writing Department or from outside the department, depending on the needs and goals of the individual student. Portfolio option students may not count more than nine total credit hours of internship, practicum, or independent study credit toward their degree.
If a student completes the core, concentration courses, and cognate hours and remains undecided about which degree option to pursue, the student may take RHET 7390 and count it toward either option. If a student completes RHET 7390 and wishes to undertake the thesis project proposed in that class, he or she will then register for RHET 7391 and complete the thesis option. If the student decides after completing RHET 7390 that he or she does not want to undertake the proposed thesis project, he or she may count RHET 7390 toward the 12 hours of additional coursework required for the portfolio option.
Portfolio Completion and Defense
Portfolio option students must consult with their portfolio mentor at the beginning of their final semester of coursework to choose two other faculty members to serve on the student’s portfolio committee. The student will then work with the committee to select five-six written pieces from the student’s coursework in the program and then revise those pieces to a level of professionalism appropriate for publication or for use in a corporate, nonprofit, or governmental organization. When all three members of the committee agree that the student’s writing samples have reached an appropriate level of professionalism the student must schedule a portfolio defense (a public presentation of the finished portfolio with time for questions from the student’s committee and audience members). If the committee members agree that the student’s performance at the defense is satisfactory, they will sign the student’s portfolio defense paperwork certifying that the student has completed all requirements for the degree.
Thesis Option Graduation Requirements
- Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a minimum of 36 hours of coursework (as outlined above)
- Successful completion and defense of thesis project
Portfolio Option Graduation Requirements
- Cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a minimum of 42 hours of coursework (as outlined above)
- Successful completion and defense of master’s portfolio