Curriculum-Department of English - Carnegie Mellon University

Curriculum

The three-semester MAPW program requires a total of 12 courses (minimum of 39 credits) plus a required professional internship, usually done in the summer between the second and third semesters. The 12 courses include 6 required core courses, which provide basic skills foundational to all communications careers, and 6 electives, which allow you to customize the degree to match your specific interests. In addition to the 12 courses, students take a one-credit Professional Seminar during both their first and second semesters to provide guidance in options for electives and internships and support in the job search. The standard curriculum follows the sequence illustrated below. The sequence is designed to develop fundamental skills in the first semester and allow for flexibility and choice in the remaining two terms. While the curriculum, particularly the first semester, is structured to meet the needs of full-time students, it is also flexible enough to support part-time enrollment using the sequence below as a general guide.


Fall

 

Professional
& Technical Writing

Style

Rhetorical Grammar

Communication Design Fundamentals


Spring

Document
Design

Elective

Elective

Elective


Summer

Required Internship

Fall

Organizational Communication

Elective

Elective

Elective


The broad options available for the 6 electives allow you to customize the degree to support a range of career options. All 6 are "free" electives; the only restrictions are that your selections must be approved by your MAPW advisor and that within the set of 6, one must be a course designated by the department as a Rhetoric course, and one must be a course that includes a substantive focus on research or research methods relevant to your career plans as a professional writer. 

You may use your elective courses to pursue a broad interest in communication or to focus on a chosen area of concentration. Concentrations and related career paths most commonly pursued by MAPW students include writing for print and new media, information architecture and web design, technical writing, public and media relations/corporate communication, editing and publishing, and science/healthcare communication. The section on Customizing Your MAPW Degree provides detailed information on possible concentrations and career paths and the elective course options relevant to each. The PDF of Elective Course Descriptions available on the website provides course descriptions for electives as well as guidance on rhetoric and research requirements. 

Core Course Descriptions

Professional and Technical Writing

This course introduces you to the theory, research, and practice of professional writing. Through reading, discussion, projects, and writing workshops, you develop a rhetorically-grounded approach to analyzing communications problems and producing a range of professional documents. The user-centered approach views professional documents not as examples of generic formats but as a means to accomplish specific purposes, for example, learning to construct a web page, securing publicity for an organization, or getting funding for a project. Because writers need a range of skills that go well beyond the actual inscribing of words on a page or screen, you learn how to interview experts, work with clients, test documents on actual users, manage collaborative writing projects, and related professional skills. The course includes five or six major writing assignments and a final portfolio of finished work that serves as the foundation for the professional portfolio you'll use in applying for internships and full-time positions.  [return to top]

Style

This course is designed to help you develop the professional judgment to make stylistic choices appropriate for particular audiences and contexts, and the skill to implement those choices. Students develop a vocabulary of style, assess the effect of stylistic choices on readers, and become better editors of their own writing and that of others. The intellectual foundation for the course is derived from the "Plain English" movement; its principles help professional writers achieve clarity, precision, coherence, and conciseness in their writing. Students also gain experience working with clients and explaining the rationale for recommended stylistic changes.  [return to top]

Rhetorical Grammar

The primary objective of this course is to provide professional writers with a framework for identifying and authoritatively discussing the grammatical forms and constructions they will be using. The course also includes some linguistic analysis, a consideration of English orthography, and discussion of the notions of standards and correctness in language. The concern throughout is to develop an understanding of those elements of grammar and usage that are the foundation for good professional writing and for leadership in professional writing settings.  [return to top]

Communication Design Fundamentals (CDF)

This course, taught through the Carnegie Mellon School of Design, introduces writers to the role of page and document design in effective communication, the field of graphic design and the fundamentals of designing print documents: page and grid design, basic compositional concepts, and typography. Through a series of readings, discussion, demonstrations, and hands-on studio projects, students become familiar with the visual and verbal vocabulary of communication designers, the design process, and the communicative value of word and image. The course includes instruction in the relevant software used by writing and design professionals (InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop) and is designed as a pre-requisite for the Document Design course taken in the second semester.  [return to top]

Document Design

Document Design builds on the visual design skills introduced in CDF and the rhetorical approach to communication common throughout the curriculum. Through a series of hands-on and increasingly complex projects, students learn to integrate visual and verbal elements to create complex and synergistic meanings that neither element would be able to produce on its own. Projects are tied to class instruction on perceptual composition, typography, grid features, the strategic use of images, and the cohesion of word, image, and design. Specific assignments vary by semester but generally include book chapters, informational documents, data presentations, technical documents, magazine layout, and newsletter design. Assigned readings complement the projects in exploring document design from historical, theoretical, and technological perspectives, and class discussions and critiques on work in progress are essential parts of this course. The course includes a weekly lab in which students learn to use the Adobe Creative Studio software (InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator) needed to create the assigned projects.  [return to top]

Organizational Communication

This course is designed as an overview of organizational communication and focuses on the tools and concepts professionals need to understand workplace situations and to take effective action as both members and managers of these organizations. The content blends the conceptual with the practical and examines specific examples and case studies of effective and ineffective communications. Topics include the attributes of effective organizational communicators; the challenges of communicating within organizations as we play particular roles (e.g., individual contributor, manager or team member); ways to build credibility and enhance internal resumes; and techniques to master the communication requirements related to performance management processes, conflict situations, negotiation, and changing work environments. The course also explores a range of organizational issues such as communicating across generations and cultures, communicating externally, and communicating through technology.  [return to top]

Professional Seminar

In this once-a-week seminar, practicing professionals in fields ranging from science journalism to public relations, corporate communication, marketing, print journalism, web design and information architecture come to campus to talk informally with students about the fields in which they work (please refer to the 2013 poster and schedule [.pdf]). Interaction with these professionals provides both workplace contacts and overviews of possible internship and career paths. Visiting professionals talk about their own and related careers, show samples of their work, and answer student questions. Related activities include resume workshops and portfolio reviews.  [return to top]