Academic Programs

Academic Units: Institute of Technical and Scientific Communication

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Mission Statement
The B.A. and B.S. degree programs in technical and scientific communication offer students instruction in the study of communication in fields traditionally associated with technical or scientific content, such as biology, chemistry, computer science, geology, mathematics, nursing and physics. The degree programs also provide instruction in components of professional communication that are applicable to technical and scientific communication, such as document design and production, Web design, publications management, knowledge management, organizational and managerial communication, instructional design and training, rhetoric, and communication studies.

The range of courses in technical and scientific communication provides B.A. and B.S. students with advanced communication skills and training that enable them to build productive careers in business, industry, government or academia. The undergraduate programs also introduce students to current communication technologies such as desktop publishing and Web page construction that not only enable them to produce documents of professional quality during their studies but also train them in the technological tools that they will use throughout their careers. In addition, students learn the kinds of research, analytical and reasoning skills that will allow them to become leaders in technical and scientific communication. Finally, courses in international technical communication, including linguistic theory and application in technical and scientific communication, technical translation, international publication management and document internationalization, prepare TSC majors for the global market within the field.

The B.A. and B.S. programs emphasize scholarly, humanistic and social scientific perspectives on the function and application of technical and scientific communication. The central mission of both the B.A. and B.S. degrees, then, is to enable program graduates to grow as professionals and, ultimately, to contribute to the developing field of technical and scientific communication.

Finally, in addition to offering students the rhetorical tools with which to excel in the professions as technical communicators, the B.A. and B.S. programs also prepare graduates for academic studies at the master’s level.

  Goals
The central objectives of the programs are to help students:
  • develop into accomplished writers and editors in the field.
  • learn how to solve communication problems, whether in written or graphic form.
  • enhance their understanding of how and why communication works.
  • develop criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of technical and scientific communication.
  • apply communication technologies that enhance their ability to design and produce print and online documents of professional quality both in terms of writing and graphics.
  • improve the efficiency and effectiveness of their communication management.
  • develop advanced research and analytical skills.
  • create for themselves a concentration or cognate area of study within the technical or scientific field in which they intend to work as professional technical communicators.
Back to top of page Career Opportunities
The TSC B.A. and B.S. degrees are designed primarily for students seeking specialized education in technical communication theory and its application in work-world contexts. They combine work in theory, writing, text design and analysis of communication systems and contexts to help students acquire the knowledge and skills needed to begin careers in technical or scientific communication.

The TSC programs are designed to prepare students for a range of communication careers in the field – primarily those focusing on technology and science. According to state and federal labor statistics, technical communicators can expect to enjoy one of the fastest expanding career markets. TSC graduates obtain writing, editing or production positions with a variety of business and industry employers, most notably the computer hardware and software industry, law firms, health care providers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, engineering companies, publishing houses, environmental concerns, political organizations, and technical translation groups of multinational corporations.

Back to top of page Professional Activities and Organizations
  TSC Internship
The technical or scientific communication internship serves as an essential professional experience for B.A. and B.S. students. It requires students to call upon the preparation that they received from their TSC course work to design, write, edit and produce professional documents for internship providers in academia, business, industry and government.

The B.A. and B.S. programs require a 15 week (or 150 hour) internship. Many internships are taken with local and regional providers affiliated with the TSC program in such fields as telecommunications, writing and editing for publications, graphic design, production and printing, computer software documentation, medical writing, legal writing, and government writing. Internships are offered on a competitive basis. To apply for an internship, students must:

  • make an appointment with the internship director.
  • submit a TSC internship application.
  • have completed 12 hours of course work: the three core courses in TSC (TSC 210, Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication or TSC 220, Technical and Scientific Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English; TSC 230, Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication; and TSC 240, Technical and Scientific Editing), plus one TSC elective (must be a TSC course).
Applicants should submit a completed dossier of the TSC internship application, writing samples and transcript to the TSC director the semester before which they hope to take the internship.
  STC Student Chapter
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) offers a unique opportunity for members to seek recognition for their work and obtain professional contacts. STC is comprised of over 23,000 individual members throughout the world, making it the largest organization of its kind.

The JMU STC Student Chapter was established in the fall of 1999 to foster professional development between the undergraduate and graduate students in TSC. The JMU STC Student Chapter allows each of its members the opportunity to:

  • network and make connections that could lead to a career.
  • learn technical communication skills and techniques from experts in the field.
  • get involved at JMU and become a student leader.
  • access STC’s salary survey and jobs database.
  • have an edge when applying for a job or internship by having STC on his or her resume.
The JMU STC Student Chapter provides significant resources to its members through several media:
  • STC Annual Conference. This conference is the largest gathering of technical communicators. It can provide members with various networking and employment opportunities.
  • Publications. In addition to the quarterly journal, Technical Communication, and the student chapter’s newsletter, Bytes & Pieces, members have the opportunity to receive information on a wide variety of subjects.
  • Competitions, Scholarships and Grants. Members have the opportunity to become recognized and win awards through the many competitions the Society organizes.
Back to top of page Admission Requirements
Any student coming into JMU as a first year student without previous college experience may declare TSC as a major. However, any student who has completed one semester at JMU, or another university, must apply to TSC. To be admitted into the TSC B.A. or B.S. program, students must first satisfy all university general admission requirements. In addition, applicants to the program must submit to the director of the TSC institute an application dossier that contains the following material:
  • A completed TSC application form
  • A copy of the student’s Degree Progress Report
  • A background and goals statement of no more than 500 words that explains how the B.A. or B.S. program would prepare the student for his or her anticipated career
A student’s SAT verbal, quantitative and analytical scores are considered in the admission process. Nonnative speakers of English must take the Test of English as a Foreign Language and receive a score of at least 550. Applicants may use letters of recommendation and writing samples to support an application for financial aid.
Back to top of page Degree and Major Requirements
Course requirements differ between the B.A. and B.S. programs. Students in either program must successfully complete a minimum of 39 credit hours of undergraduate course work, which includes four core courses (twelve credit hours) in TSC, nine credit hours of course work in a cognate area and 18 hours of TSC electives, of which 15 must be at the 300/400 level. In core courses (TSC 210 [TSC 220], TSC 230 and TSC 240), the student must make a “C” or better. If the student does not, he or she may not register for future TSC courses until a grade of “C” or better is earned in the core course(s). Of the TSC electives taken, only two courses may be outside TSC; the remaining must be TSC courses. B.A. and B.S. majors are required to complete a TSC internship.

The B.A. and B.S. programs in TSC are highly interdisciplinary and encourage students to take courses in a variety of fields. Many program electives are offered in academic units outside the institute, such as communication studies, computer information systems, computer science, integrated science and technology, and media arts and design. Students should check prerequisites for upper-level electives offered in other academic units. Students should also work with department advisers to design a program that fits their unique educational needs and career aspirations. Requirements of the TSC degree might mean that some students will take courses beyond the 120 hour university requirement for B.A. and B.S. degrees.

  Bachelor of Arts in Technical and Scientific Communication
Degree Requirements
Required Courses
Credit Hours
General Education1
41
Foreign Language classes (intermediate level required)2
0-14
Philosophy course (in addition to General Education courses)
3
University electives
23-37
Major requirements (listed below)
39

120
1 The General Education program contains a set of requirements each student must fulfill. The number of credit hours necessary to fulfill these requirements may vary.
2 The foreign language requirement may be satisfied by successful completion of the second semester of the intermediate level (typically 232) of the student’s chosen language or by placing out of that language through the Department of Foreign Language’s placement test.
Major Requirements
Core Requirements
Credit Hours
Choose TSC 210 or TSC 220:
3
TSC 210. Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication
TSC 220. Technical and Scientific Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English
TSC 230. Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication1
3
TSC 240. Technical and Scientific Editing
3
TSC 495. Internship in Technical and Scientific Communication
3
Electives
18
TSC Genres
TSC 350. Science and Technology in Literature
TSC 410. Government Writing
TSC 420. Legal Writing  
TSC 430. Medical Writing
TSC 440. Proposal Writing
TSC 450. User Documentation  
Rhetorical Theory
ENG 420. English Grammar
PHIL 250. Introduction to Symbolic Logic
PHIL 310. Symbolic Logic  
SCOM 341. Persuasion
SCOM 342. Argument and Advocacy
TSC 310. Rhetorical Analysis  
TSC 481. Beginning Web Theory and Design  
TSC 482. Advanced Web Theory and Design  
Organizational Context
Oral Communication
SCOM 358. Business and Professional Communication Studies
TSC 360. Instructional Design and Training  
Communication Within Organizations
TSC 330. Intercultural Technical and Scientific Communication
TSC 455. Managerial and Entrepreneurial Communication  
SCOM 248. Intercultural Communication  
SCOM 270. Introduction to Health Communication  
SCOM 350. Organizational Communication  
SCOM 353. American Political Culture and Communication  
SCOM 431. Legal Communication  
Mediation and Negotiation  
MGT 481. Negotiation Behavior  
SCOM 331. Communication and Conflict  
SCOM 332. Mediation  
Communication Ethics and Law  
SMAD 330. Multimedia Law  
SMAD 370. Mass Communication Law  
SMAD 471. Media Ethics  
TSC 250. Ethical and Legal Issues in Technical and Scientific Communication  
Communication Technologies  
TSC 460. Beginning Topics in Electronic and Online Publication  
TSC 461. Intermediate Topics in Electronic and Online Publication  
TSC 462. Advanced Topics in Electronic and Online Publication  
CIS 301. Information Technology Tools and Methods  
CIS 304. Information Technology  
SCOM 361. Public Relations II: Visual Research Methods  
Research Methods  
COB 291. Introduction to Management Science  
GISAT 141. Analytical Methods I  
ISAT 142. Analytical Methods II  
MATH 325. Survey Sampling Methods  
SCOM 280. Introduction to Communication Research  
SCOM 383. Communication Research Methodologies  
SCOM 386. Communication Survey Research  
Special Topics in TSC  
TSC 480. Special Topics in Technical and Scientific Professional Communication  
TSC 490. Advanced Independent Study in Technical and Scientific Communication  
Cognate Course Work
9
Courses chosen from a cognate area

39
1 This course fulfills the College of Arts and Letters writing-intensive requirement for the major.
B.A. Cognate
All B.A. majors must complete nine hours of lower-level course work in one or more scientific and/or technical programs. These nine credits may not be double counted toward either the General Education requirements or the TSC major requirements. Six of these nine hours must be at the 300/400 level. The programs include: anthropology, industrial design (art), biology, chemistry, communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, computer science, economics, geographic sciences, geology, health sciences, human resources development, integrated science and technology, kinesiology, mathematics, media arts and design, military science, music industry, physics, psychology, public policy and administration, sociology, and statistics. COB 204 and computer information systems are also recognized as cognate course areas.

The cognate provides students with an understanding of fundamental terminology, theory and processes of a chosen technical or scientific discipline. While these students might not intend to work in professions that are highly technical or scientific, the working knowledge of a chosen cognate area allows them to converse at an introductory level in a technical or scientific discipline and enables them to build on this foundation should they later wish to seek mastery of a technical or scientific field.

Recommended Schedule for B.A. Majors
All B.A. majors must complete nine hours of lower-level course work in one or more scientific and/or technical programs. These nine credits may not be double counted toward either the General Education requirements or the TSC major requirements. Six of these nine hours must be at the 300/400 level. The programs include: anthropology, industrial design (art), biology, chemistry, communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, computer science, economics, geographic sciences, geology, health sciences, human resources development, integrated science and technology, kinesiology, mathematics, media arts and design, military science, music industry, physics, psychology, public policy and administration, sociology, and statistics. COB 204 and computer information systems are also recognized as cognate course areas.
First Year
First Semester
Credit Hours
Foreign Language course1
3-4
General Education Cluster One
9
General Education Cluster Three
3

15-16
 
First Year
Second Semester
Credit Hours
Foreign Language course
3-4
TSC 210. Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication
3
General Education Cluster Three
3
General Education courses
6

15-16
 
Second Year
First Semester
Credit Hours
Foreign Language course
0-3
TSC 230. Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication
3
TSC 240. Technical and Scientific Editing
3
General Education Cluster Three
4
B.A. Degree Philosophy course
3
General Education courses
0-3

16
 
Second Year
Second Semester
Credit Hours
Foreign Language course
0-3
TSC elective course
3
General Education course
3
University elective courses
9

15-18
 
Third Year
First Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective course
3
B.A. cognate elective course
3
General Education course
6
University elective courses
3

15
 
Third Year
Second Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective course
3
B.A. cognate elective course
3
General Education course
3-6
University elective courses
6

15-18
 
Fourth Year
First Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective courses
6
B.A. cognate elective course
3
University elective courses
6-9

15-18
 
Fourth Year
Second Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective course
3
TSC 495. Internship in Technical and Scientific Communication
3
University elective courses
9

15
1 Completion of an intermediate level foreign language is required for the B.A. degree (usually six hours if begun at the intermediate level) unless the language requirement is satisfied by an exemption test. In that case, university electives may be substituted for additional hours indicated as foreign language courses.
Back to top of page Bachelor of Science in Technical and Scientific Communication
Degree Requirements
Required Courses
Credit Hours
General Education1
41
Quantitative requirement2
3
Scientific Literacy requirement2-4
3
University electives
33-34
Major requirements (listed below)
39

120
1 The General Education program contains a set of requirements each student must fulfill. The number of credit hours necessary to fulfill these requirements may vary.
2 In addition to course work taken to fulfill General Education requirement.
Major Requirements
Core Requirements
Credit Hours
Choose TSC 210 or TSC 220:
3
TSC 210. Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication
TSC 220. Technical and Scientific Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English
TSC 230. Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication1
3
TSC 240. Technical and Scientific Editing
3
TSC 495. Internship in Technical and Scientific Communication
3
Electives
18
TSC Genres
TSC 350. Science and Technology in Literature
TSC 410. Government Writing
TSC 420. Legal Writing  
TSC 430. Medical Writing
TSC 440. Proposal Writing
TSC 450. User Documentation  
Organizational Context
Oral Communication
SCOM 358. Business and Professional Communication Studies
TSC 360. Instructional Design and Training  
Communication Within Organizations
TSC 330. Intercultural Technical and Scientific Communication
TSC 455. Managerial and Entrepreneurial Communication  
SCOM 248. Intercultural Communication  
SCOM 270. Introduction to Health Communication  
SCOM 350. Organizational Communication  
SCOM 353. American Political Culture and Communication  
SCOM 431. Legal Communication  
Mediation and Negotiation  
MGT 481. Negotiation Behavior  
SCOM 331. Communication and Conflict  
SCOM 332. Mediation  
Communication Ethics and Law  
SMAD 330. Multimedia Law  
SMAD 370. Mass Communication Law  
SMAD 471. Media Ethics  
TSC 250. Ethical and Legal Issues in Technical and Scientific Communication  
Communication Technologies  
TSC 460. Beginning Topics in Electronic and Online Publication  
TSC 461. Intermediate Topics in Electronic and Online Publication  
TSC 462. Advanced Topics in Electronic and Online Publication  
TSC 481. Beginning Web Theory and Design  
TSC 482. Advanced Web Theory and Design  
CIS 301. Information Technology Tools and Methods  
CIS 304. Information Technology  
SCOM 361. Public Relations II: Visual Research Methods  
Special Topics in TSC  
TSC 480. Special Topics in Technical and Scientific Professional Communication  
TSC 490. Advanced Independent Study in Technical and Scientific Communication  
Cognate Course Work
9
Courses chosen from a cognate area

39
1 This course fulfills the College of Arts and Letters writing-intensive requirement for the major.
B.S. Cognate
The cognate provides B.S. students with a deeper understanding of the terminology, theory and processes of a chosen technical or scientific discipline than does the B.A. concentration area. B.S. students normally expect to work in professions that are highly technical or scientific and in which an advanced understanding of the discipline is essential.

B.S. students must complete at least nine hours of course work from one or more scientific and/or technical programs available at JMU. Six of these nine hours must be at the 300/400 level. These nine credits may not be double counted toward General Education requirements. The programs students may choose from include anthropology, industrial design (art), biology, chemistry, communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, computer science, economics, geographic sciences, geology, health sciences, human resources development, integrated science and technology, kinesiology, mathematics, media arts and design, military science, music industry, physics, psychology, public policy and administration, sociology, and statistics. COB 204 and computer information systems are also recognized as cognate course areas.

Students who double-major in TSC and a major that can serve as a cognate automatically satisfy the TSC cognate requirement.

Students are encouraged to begin their TSC course work as soon as possible in their degree plans. The following sample program of study illustrates how a TSC major might earn a B.S. degree.

Recommended Schedule for B.S. Majors
First Year
First Semester
Credit Hours
General Education Cluster One
9
General Education Cluster Three
3-6
General Education Courses
3

15-18
 
First Year
Second Semester
Credit Hours
TSC 210. Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication
3
General Education Cluster Three
3-4
General Education courses
9

15-16
 
Second Year
First Semester
Credit Hours
TSC 230. Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication
3
TSC 240. Technical and Scientific Editing
3
General Education Cluster Three
0-4
General Education courses
6-9

15-16
 
Second Year
Second Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective course
3
B.S. Quantitative requirement course
3
General Education courses
9

15
 
Third Year
First Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective courses
6
B.S. cognate elective course
3
B.S. Scientific Literacy course1
3
University elective course
3

15
 
Third Year
Second Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective course
3
B.S. cognate elective course
3
University elective courses
9

15
 
Fourth Year
First Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective courses
6
B.S. cognate elective course
3
University elective courses
9

15
 
Fourth Year
Second Semester
Credit Hours
TSC elective courses
3
B.S. cognate elective
0-3
University elective courses
7-9

13-15
1 Completion of the B.S. degree requires a student to complete either a natural science or a social science course in addition to those required for the General Education program. A student may double-count this course as one of the courses needed for the cognate with approval by the TSC director.
Back to top of page Concentrations
  Online Publications Concentration
This concentration prepares students to work in a variety of Web-based environments in business, information technology industries and nonprofit institutions. Employers of TSC graduates tend to expect them to develop the same information for both print and online sources. This concentration prepares students for employers with this expectation.

Students learn theories of Web design and navigation as they apply the theories to technical communication in an online environment. They also learn single-sourcing techniques. Graduates will be able to evaluate, revise, negotiate, manage, sustain and reorganize large Web sites. They learn the differences in design and layout principles between print and online documents. They develop competence in designing, writing, coding and producing online Web documents. They also compare industry-standard authoring tools and programs, and learn to write and edit authoring programs and online databases. In sum, students learn the importance of the integration of all elements of an effective online technical communication document.

  Description of Curriculum
The concentration requires a minimum of 15 hours of course work beyond the core requirements, counting toward the major but not toward a cognate. The following is a description of the curriculum:

The following are the core requirements:

  • TSC 210. Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 230. Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 240. Technical and Scientific Editing
  • TSC 495. Internship in Technical and Scientific Communication
Online Publication electives (choose five from the following):
  • TSC 450. User Documentation
  • TSC 460. Beginning Topics in Electronic and Online Publication
  • TSC 461. Intermediate Topics in Electronic and Online Publication
  • TSC 462. Advanced Topics in Electronic and Online Publication
  • TSC 481. Beginning Web Theory and Design
  • TSC 482. Advanced Web Theory and Design
  Publications Management Concentration
This concentration prepares students to manage a variety of publications for an organization. The specialized nature of our degree moves our students into managerial positions quickly, and this concentration prepares them with training in management of publications for the business and government fields. Also, many of our graduates are hired to start up companies, and they are expected to work as independent worker-managers. This concentration keeps students competitive in the industry and, once hired, prepares them to be promoted quickly.

Some of the roles publications managers perform are the following: prepare and manage editorial policy of professional publications; plan and manage the life-cycle of publications, including managing and working within project teams; create document publication schedules; review and edit submissions for print and electronic publications; and collaborate with authors.

  Description of Curriculum
The concentration requires a minimum of 15 hours of course work beyond the core requirements, counting toward the major but not toward a cognate. The following is a description of the curriculum: The following are the core requirements:
  • TSC 210. Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 230. Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 240. Technical and Scientific Editing
  • TSC 495. Internship in Technical and Scientific Communication
Publications Management electives (choose five from the following):
  • TSC 250. Ethical and Legal Issues in Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 330. Intercultural Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 410. Government Writing
  • TSC 440. Proposal Writing
  • TSC 450. User Documentation
  • TSC 455. Managerial and Entrepreneurial Communication
  • TSC 480. Special Topics: Student Publications
  • TSC 480. Special Topics: Project Management
  • A TSC electronic-intensive course (choose from 460, 481, 482)
  Technical and Scientific Communication in the Public Sector Concentration
This concentration prepares students to work in government, government-related and nonprofit organizations. TSC graduates working in these organizations manage teams and work with clients and prepare a range of technical and scientific print and online documents. The skills and knowledge emphasized in this concentration make our graduates attractive to employers in metropolitan areas nationwide.

JMU is located between Washington, D.C., and Richmond, and this location makes working in the public sector a wise and beneficial choice.

  Description of Curriculum
The concentration requires a minimum of 15 hours of course work beyond the core requirements, counting toward the major but not toward a cognate. The following is a description of the curriculum:

The following are the core requirements:

  • TSC 210. Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 230. Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 240. Technical and Scientific Editing
  • TSC 495. Internship in Technical and Scientific Communication
TSC in the Public Sector electives (choose five from the following):
  • TSC 250. Ethical and Legal Issues in Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 310. Rhetorical Analysis
  • TSC 330. Intercultural Technical and Scientific Communication
  • TSC 410. Government Writing
  • TSC 420. Legal Writing
  • TSC 440. Proposal Writing
  • A TSC electronic-intensive course (choose from 460, 481, 482)
Back to top of page Minor Requirements
  Technical and Scientific Communication Minor
The minimum requirement for a TSC minor is 18 credit hours. Nine of the 18 hours must be TSC core courses (TSC 210, Introduction to Technical and Scientific Communication or TSC 220, Technical and Scientific Communication for Nonnative Speakers of English, TSC 230, Bibliographic Research in Technical and Scientific Communication, and TSC 240, Technical and Scientific Editing). The remaining nine hours may be from any upper-level TSC elective. In core courses (TSC 210 (TSC 220), TSC 230 and TSC 240) the student must make a “C” or better. If the student does not, he or she may not register for future TSC courses until a grade of “C” or better is earned in the core course(s). Students majoring in disciplines within the School of Media Arts and Design or the School of Communication Studies can count no more than three hours of SMAD or SCOM course work toward the TSC minor.