A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

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The Abductive Inference: An Effective Tool for Science Communication

Suggests that the interrelated skills of understanding and representing (re-presenting) the abductive inference (often neglected in technical and professional communication pedagogy) are critical for the scientific communicator vis-a -vis kairos, and that science communication instructors ought to develop a pedagogy that includes the instruction of this skill.

Graham, S. Scott. Orange Journal, The (2005). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Academic Writing: Scientific Reports

This handout describes an organizational structure commonly used to report experimental research in many scientific disciplines, the IMRAD format: Introduction, Methods, Results, And Discussion. (This format is usually not used in reports describing other kinds of research, such as field or case studies, in which headings are more likely to differ according to discipline.) Although the main headings are standard for many scientific fields, details may vary; check with your instructor, or, if submitting an article to a journal, refer to the instructions to authors.

University of Wisconsin (2003). Articles>Scientific Communication>Reports


Accessibility and Order: Crossing Borders in Child Abuse Forensic Reports   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Physicians write child abuse forensic reports for nonphysicians. We examined 73 forensic reports from a Canadian children's hospital for recurrent strategies geared toward making medical information accessible to nonmedical users; we also interviewed four report writers and five readers. These reports featured unique forensic inserts in addition to headings, lists, and parentheses, which are typical of physician letters for patients. We discuss implications of these strategies that must bridge the communities of medical, social, and legal practice.

Spafford, Marlee M., Catherine F. Schryer, Lorelei Lingard and Marcellina Mian. Technical Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Scientific Communication>Reports>Biomedical


Agency and the Rhetoric of Medicine: Biomedical Brain Scans and the Ontology of Fibromyalgia   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Recent agency scholarship has provided compelling accounts of how individuals can strategically occupy authoritative positions, in order to instantiate change. This article explores the discursive mechanisms of this type of agency in the legitimization of disease. Drawing on ethnographic research, this article investigates how a non-human agent (brain scans) contributed to fibromyalgia's acceptance within the highly regulated discourses of western biomedicine.

Graham, S. Scott. Technical Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Amusing Titles in Scientific Journals and Article Citation   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The present study examines whether the use of humor in scientific article titles is associated with the number of citations an article receives. Four judges rated the degree of amusement and pleasantness of titles of articles published over 10 years (from 1985 to 1994) in two of the most prestigious journals in psychology, Psychological Bulletinand Psychological Review. We then examined the association between the levels of amusement and pleasantness and the article’s monthly citation average. The results show that, while the pleasantness rating was weakly associated with the number of citations, articles with highly amusing titles (2 standard deviations above average) received fewer citations. The negative association between amusing titles and subsequent citations cannot be attributed to differences in the title length and pleasantness, number of authors, year of publication, and article type (regular article vs comment). These findings are discussed in the context of the importance of titles for signalling an article’s content.

Sagi, Itay and Eldad Yechiam. Journal of Information Science (2008). Articles>Publishing>Research>Scientific Communication


AMWA Position Statement on the Contributions of Medical Writers to Scientific Publications   (PDF)

AMWA formed a new task force in 2001 to develop a statement regarding AMWA’s position on the contributions of biomedical communicators to scientific publications.

Hamilton, C.W. and M.G. Royer. Hamilton House (2003). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Analysis of the Behaviour of the Users of a Package of Electronic Journals in the Field of Chemistry   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The purpose of this research is to analyse the behaviour of the users of a package of electronic journals using the data of consumption per IP address. The paper analyses the data of consumption at the University of Barcelona of 31 electronic journals of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in 2003. Data of sessions, articles downloaded and abstracts viewed were analysed.

Borrego, Angel and Cristabal Urbano. Journal of Documentation (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>User Centered Design


An Analysis of the Public Scientific Literacy Study in China   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In March 2006, the State Council of the People's Republic of China issued "The Outline of the Action Plan for Improving Scientific Literacy for All (From 2006--2010 and then 2010--2020)" (the "Scientific Literacy Outline"), in which the official notion of scientific literacy named "Public Scientific Literacy in China" was put forward for the first time in the history of China. Subsequently, the program of "Study on Measurement Indicators of Scientific Literacy of Chinese Citizens and its Demonstration" was funded by the China Association for Science and Technology the following September. However, the notion as well as its measurement indicators still need more clarification. After reviewing some relevant literature and introducing the historical background to the concept of "Public Scientific Literacy in China" along with a detailed interpretation of its connotation, the authors do a closer examination of the measurement indicators established by the Research and Development Center for Science Communication at the University of Science and Technology of China, based on a systematical analysis of the sample surveys.

Chen, Fajun, Yumin Shi and Fei Xu. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Surveys>China


"Aristotle's Pharmacy": The Medical Rhetoric of a Clinical Protocol in the Drug Development Process   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article analyzes the clinical protocol within the rhetorical framework of the drug development and approval process, identifying the constraints under which the protocol is written and the rhetorical form, argumentative strategies, and style needed to improve and teach the writing of this document.

Bell, Heather D., Kathleen A. Walch and Steven B. Katz. Technical Communication Quarterly (2000). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Assessing Excellence: Using Activity Theory to Understand Assessment Practices in Engineering Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In the workplace, communication serves not as an end in itself, with features that are “good” or “bad,” but as a tool for mediating a range of professional activities, and effective documents are presentations are those that achieve their goals. Yet assessment methods in technical and professional communication often continue to rely on an evaluation of features apart from the intended work of the document. In this paper, we use activity theory as a lens to explore both the criteria for effective communication and the degree to which portfolio assessment methods can be applied to effectively assess student learning in this domain.

Paretti, Marie C. and Christine Bala Burgoyne. IEEE PCS (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Engineering>Assessment


Assessing Information Needs of Diverse Users to Guide Web Design and Content Development   (PDF)

This paper presents a qualitative study of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's diverse users and their mental models regarding injury-related content. The study employed an innovative modified contextual inquiry method utilizing tailored, in-depth interviews with five distinct user groups. Included in this paper is a detailed description of the background, framework, and method used for this study. Analysis of the full results was still in process at the due date of this paper. The results will be in the presentation's slide set and available from the STC website www.stc.org.

Pettit Jones, Colleen and Susan J. Robinson. STC Proceedings (2004). Articles>Web Design>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Assessment of Slovene Secondary School Students' Attitudes to Biotechnology in Terms of Usefulness, Moral Acceptability and Risk Perception   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Quantitative and qualitative studies among 469 high school students of average age 17 years were conducted. The students’ attitudes to four practical applications of biotechnology were examined: genetically modified plants (Bt corn), genetically modified animals (salmon), and hemophilia germ line and somatic gene therapy. Each of the four applications was examined from three different viewpoints: usefulness, moral acceptability and risk perception. Bt corn production proved to be the most acceptable in terms of both usefulness and risk perception. Values for genetically modified salmon and germ line gene therapy were comparable, but much lower than those for the other two applications; this was true for both usefulness and moral acceptability. In addition, students found genetically modified salmon to be ethically much less acceptable than Bt corn. Significant gender differences were observed in the case of germ line gene therapy and genetically modified salmon.

Črne-Hladnik, Helena, Cirila Peklaj, Katarina Košmelj and Aleš Hladnik. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Eastern Europe


Authorship for Research Groups   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Major clinical research investigations, especially large multicenter trials, require the involvement, cooperation, and dedication of many individuals. Roles and responsibilities range from conceiving the study and designing the protocol to collecting and analyzing the data, and numerous essential steps in between. Following completion of the study, the most important responsibilities are prompt preparation of a manuscript that reports the study findings, and timely submission of the paper to a journal for peer review, publication, and communication of the study findings to the scientific and clinical communities. The number of collaborative studies and multicenter clinical trials seems to be growing, with increasing numbers of published articles involving a study group. For instance, 22% of the 185 research articles published in JAMA as Original Contributions in 2001 specifically identified a study group, compared with 6% of 172 Original Contributions published 10 years earlier. Authorship of these studies increasingly involves some indication of group participation and responsibility, reflecting the cooperative nature, multidisciplinary teamwork, and complexity of such investigations.

Flanagin, Annette, Phil B. Fontanarosa and Catherine D. DeAngelis. JAMA (2001). Articles>Scientific Communication>Collaboration


Beginning to Edit Physics   (PDF)

A physicist-turned-editor shows you the basics required for copyediting physics papers (physical quantities, symbols, units, scientific notation, the structure of mathematical expressions, the nature of graphs), and points the way to learning enough 'editorial physics' to begin substantive editing.

Murphy, Peter W. STC Proceedings (1995). Articles>Editing>Scientific Communication


Behind the Scenes of Scientific Debating

In analysing a scientific debate, there are at least two types of relevant information. One is the debate itself, experienced first hand or via a transcript. Another is what can be called backstage information, which includes the debaters’ preparations, plans, notes, thinking and reservoir of arguments and responses. Familiarity with backstage information can provide insights for understanding the dynamics of the debate. Often, the only individuals with much backstage information are the debaters themselves, plus perhaps one or two advisers or close friends. An observer of the debate seldom has access to backstage information. The next best thing, then, is generalisations based on backstage experience with debates of a similar nature.

Martin, Brian. University of Wollongong (2000). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Believing in Both Genetic Determinism and Behavioral Action: A Materialist Framework and Implications   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

A disparity exists between studies reporting that genetics discourse produces deterministic or fatalistic responses and studies reporting that the majority of laypeople do not hold or adopt genetically deterministic views. This article reports data from an interview study (n = 50), and an interpretation of those data grounded in materialist understandings of discourse, that explains at least part of the disparity. The article employs a detailed reading of an illustrative transcript embedded in a quantitative content analysis to suggest that laypeople have incorporated two sets of public discourses—one that describes genetic causation and another that describes behavioral causation. These different discourse tracks are presumed to be encoded in different sets of neural networks in people’s minds. Consequently, each track can be articulated upon proper cueing, but the tracks are not related to each other to produce a discourse for speaking about gene—behavior interactions. Implications for the effects of this mode of instantiation of discourse in human individuals with regard to genes and behavior are discussed, as well as implications for message design.

Condit, Celeste M., Marita Gronnvoll, Jamie Landau, Lijiang Shen, Lanelle Wright and Tina M. Harris. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Better Reporting of Randomized Trials in Biomedical Journal and Conference Abstracts   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Well reported research published in conference and journal abstracts is important as individuals reading these reports often base their initial assessment of a study based on information reported in the abstract. However, there is growing concern about the reliability and quality of information published in these reports. This article provides an overview of research evidence underpinning the need for better reporting of abstracts reported in conference proceedings and abstracts of journal articles; with a particular focus in the area of health care. Where available we highlight evidence which refers specifically to abstracts reporting randomized trials. We seek to identify current initiatives aimed at improving the reporting of these reports and recommend that an extension of the CONSORT Statement (Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials), CONSORT for Abstracts, be developed. This checklist would include a list of essential items to be reported in any conference or journal abstract reporting the results of a randomized trial.

Hopewell, Sally, Anne Eisinga and Mike Clarke. Journal of Information Science (2008). Articles>Scientific Communication>Research>Biomedical


Bias in the Exchange of Arguments: The Case of Scientists' Evaluation of Lay Viewpoints on GM Food   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Most perspectives on public participation share the notion that dialogues should be open, allowing participants to articulate and evaluate different views and knowledge claims. We hypothesize that participants' evaluation of claims may be biased because participants have a preference for a particular type or source of a claim. This would hamper an open dialogue. We tested the effect of three variables on scientists' evaluation of claims of the general public about GM food: the claim's favorability towards GM food, the phrasing, and the source of the claim. Results are based on a survey-experiment among 73 biotechnology-scientists. Biased processing occurred when scientists evaluated claims. Claims that were corresponding with the attitude of the scientists and that were phrased in a cognitive way were evaluated more positively than claims that were contrasting the attitude of the scientists and that were phrased in an affective way. Contrary to our expectation, scientists evaluated claims of the public more positively than claims of experts.

Cuppen, Eefje, Mattijs Hisschemöller and Cees Midden. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Assessment


Blasts from the Past

It does not matter if they were published 10 years ago or 100 years ago, old scientific papers may be more important than you think.

Marx, Werner and Manuel Cardona. Physics World (2004). Articles>Scientific Communication>History>Research


Boundary Objects as Rhetorical Exigence: Knowledge Mapping and Interdisciplinary Cooperation at the Los Alamos National Laboratory   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article uses qualitative material gathered at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to construct a model of the rhetorical activity that occurs at the boundaries between diverse communities of practice working on complex sociotechnical systems. The authors reinterpret the notion of the boundary object current in science studies as a rhetorical construct that can foster cooperation and communication among the diverse members of heterogeneous working groups. The knowledge maps constructed by team members at LANL in their work on technical systems are boundary objects that can replace the demarcation exigence that so often leads to agonistic rhetorical boundary work with an integrative exigence. The integrative exigence realized by the boundary object of the knowledge map can help create a temporary trading zone characterized by rhetorical relations of symmetry and mutual understanding. In such cases, boundary work can become an effort involving integration and understanding rather than contest, controversy, and demarcation.

Wilson, Greg and Carl G. Herndl. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Collaboration>Rhetoric


Building a Biodiversity Content Management System for Science, Education, and Outreach   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

We describe the system architecture and data template design for the Animal Diversity Web (http://www.animaldiversity.org), an online natural history resource serving three audiences: 1) the scientific community, 2) educators and learners, and 3) the general public. Our architecture supports highly scalable, flexible resource building by combining relational and object-oriented databases. Content resources are managed separately from identifiers that relate and display them. Websites targeting different audiences from the same database handle large volumes of traffic. Content contribution and legacy data are robust to changes in data models. XML and OWL versions of our data template set the stage for making ADW data accessible to other systems.

Parr, C.S., R. Espinosa, T. Dewey, G. Hammond and P. Myers. Data Science Journal (2005). Articles>Content Management>Scientific Communication


Can Two Established Information Models Explain the Information Behaviour of Visually Impaired People Seeking Health and Social Care Information?   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study provides a new and valuable insight into the information behaviour of visually impaired people, as well as testing the applicability of a specific and generic information model to the information behaviour of visually impaired people seeking health and social care information.

Beverley, C.A., P.A. Bath and R. Barber. Journal of Documentation (2007). Articles>Scientific Communication>Accessibility>Biomedical


Catastrophe Discourse in Microbiology, Its Rhetorical Form and Political Function   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Discourses evoking an antibiotic apocalypse and a war on superbugs are emerging just at a time when so-called "catastrophe discourses" are undergoing critical and reflexive scrutiny in the context of global warming and climate change. This article combines insights from social science research into climate change discourses with applied metaphor research based on recent advances in cognitive linguistics, especially with relation to "discourse metaphors." It traces the emergence of a new apocalyptic discourse in microbiology and health care, examines its rhetorical and political function and discusses its advantages and disadvantages. It contains a reply by the author of the central discourse metaphor, "the post-antibiotic apocalypse," examined in the article.

Nerlich, Brigitte and Richard James. Public Understanding of Science (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Risk Communication


Chalk Talk Checklist

This checklist summarizes how to approach content, delivery, white board management, and question handling in preparing an effective chalk talk.

conneXions (2008). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication


Challenges for Technical Communicators in Bioinformatics   (PDF)

Bioinformatics, a specialized field in the area of biotechnology, has been a major growth market for the last decade. Generally, bioinformatics companies serve pharmaceutical and other life science research institutes by providing powerful computational solutions for the analysis, storage, and integration of molecular data. The project-oriented organizational structures, international environment, and interdisciplinary approaches that characterize bioinformatics companies provide a wealth of challenges and opportunities. Technical communicators who want to work in this field must be willing to apply strategies and techniques that enable them to streamline communication channels and write effective documentation.

Weirich, Margaret. STC Proceedings (2003). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical



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