A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Academic and Workplace Genres

Students will be asked to choose and research particular social situations, analyze texts produced in the contexts of these situations, and present the results of these explorations in written assignments and oral presentations. Students will be asked to go through drafting and peer review and revision processes while working on the course assignments. In-class time will be provided for peer review sessions.

Artemeva, Natasha. Carleton University (2003). Academic>Courses>Genre


Achieving Objectivity Through Genred Activity: A Case Study   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Finding itself at the center of highly publicized legal and political deliberations over fairness in testing, personnel credibility, and legal liability, the training department at a North American transit authority adopted a genre system that enabled the production of objective evidence of job competence, which was then used to make objective decisions about who passed and failed various training programs. The ongoing genre-structured activity of the department involved not only the regularization of organizational texts but also the regularization of social interaction mediated by those texts, which, while producing the types of interpretively stable documents required for successful public deliberation, led to a shift in authority and social relations within the department that instigated considerable resentment and loss of morale among many veteran instructors.

Little, Joseph. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Writing>Instructional Design>Genre


Are Automated Genres Still Genres?

Clay Spinuzzi's Genre 2012 presentation on genre development in partially-automated environments.

Spinuzzi, Clay. Slideshare (2012). Presentations>Rhetoric>Genre>Information Design


Building Context: Using Activity Theory to Teach About Genre in Multi-Major Professional Communication Courses   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Instructors in multi-major professional communication courses are asked to teach students a variety of workplace genres. However, teaching genres apart from their contexts may not result in transfer of knowledge from school to workplace settings. We propose teaching students to research genre use via activity theory as a way of encouraging transfer. We outline theory and research relevant to teaching genre and provide results from a study using activity theory to teach genre in two different professional communication courses.

Kain, Donna and Elizabeth Wardle. Technical Communication Quarterly (2005). Articles>Education>Business Communication>Genre


Content Management and the Production of Genres   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In this paper, I suggest that granularized content management introduces as-yet-unexplored issues to genres of technical communication. I argue that content management, while it can, as advertised, free content and make it easy to reuse that content in multiple genres, that flexibility can create new problems for genres and genre systems, leading to problematic reuse, inflexible genre systems, rigid and proprietary genres, and uncritical internationalization.

Clark, Dave. ACM SIGDOC (2007). Articles>Content Management>Genre>Localization


Crossing the Boulevard: The Action of "Genre as Social Action"

My first encounter with Carolyn Miller’s article Genre as Social Action had such a powerful impact on me that I remember exactly where I was when I discovered it and exactly my first thoughts.

Devitt, Amy J. Composition Forum (2015). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre


The Cultural Context of Web Genres: Content vs. Style   (PDF)

The question we raise here is whether what is culturally established for a given genre in the brick and mortar world applies equally on the World Wide Web. Can we effectively use the styles of one genre to design the site of another genre? Are we wedded to the culturally established attributes of the real world when designing for the Web? We compared users' performance and preference for shopping-vs.-news-styled sites. We found that on the whole users liked the 'shopping' layout better than the news layout, even when viewing news content. This was especially surprising in light of the fact that our users had so much more experience with news sites over shopping sites. This perhaps shows how popluar the shopping style is in our culture. People chose News as Shopping as their favorite site, even though it was difficult to use. People who preferred News as Shopping did better on both News as Shopping and News as News that those who preferred News as News.

Badre, Albert and Sharon Laskowski. Georgia Institute of Technology (2001). Design>Web Design>Genre


Echoes of a Reading: Genre as Social Action as Formative Influence on Genres and Ideology

Carolyn Miller’s article on Genre as Social Action had a formative influence on my own article Records as Genre, and the story of that influence might give heart to new scholars. So here’s what happened.

Schryer, Catherine F. Composition Forum (2015). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre>Theory


Features of Success in Engineering Design Presentations: A Call for Relational Genre Knowledge   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study explores design presentations that were graded by engineering faculty in order to assess the distinguishing features of those that were successful. Using a thematic analysis of 17 videotaped, final presentations from a capstone chemical engineering (CHE) course, it explores the rhetorical strategies, oral styles, and organizational structures that differentiate successful and unsuccessful team presentations. The results suggest that successful presenters used rhetorical strategies, oral styles, and organizational structures that illustrated students’ ability to negotiate the real and simulated relational and identity nuances of the design presentation genre—in short, they illustrated students’ relational genre knowledge.

Dannels, Deanna P. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2009). Articles>Presentations>Engineering>Genre


Forming Perceptions of Entrepreneurial Discourse: The Effectiveness of Oral or Transcribed Communication   (PDF)

This paper explores the possibility that trained business communication professionals might perceive differentially the quality of the identical entrepreneurial presentations, depending on whether they are in audio or print form. By conducting a comparative analysis of heard and read versions of these speeches, we uncovered evidence which frames the following discourse. Results point to the variables which shape either (1) oral communication with an immediately- present audience, or (2) written transcripts with a distanced or imagined set of readers. This has aided us in identifying the funding for new ventures.

Sokuvitz, Sydel and Stephen Spinelli. Association for Business Communication (2004). Articles>Business Communication>Collaboration>Genre


Forms as Boundary Genres in Medicine, Science, and Businesss   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article examines medical treatment forms as boundary genres, drawing on genre and disciplinary studies theories to argue that medical forms represent a commingling of the business, science, and medical professions in ways that show evidence of tension and conflict between the disciplines.

Popham, Susan L. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2005). Articles>Scientific Communication>Genre>Forms


Genre Analysis in Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

An increasing body of research relies on genre to analyze academic and professional communication and to describe how members of a community use language. The purpose of this paper is to provide a review of genre-based research in technical communication and to describe the different approaches to genre and to genre teaching. While some research focuses on the textual analysis of genres, other studies focus on the analysis of the social context and the ideology and structure of the discourse community that owns the genre, and on the role of genres as social rhetorical actions of the community. These two perspectives are also reflected in the teaching of genre in technical communication.

Luzón, María José. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2005). Articles>TC>Genre


Genre as Social Action   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Although rhetorical criticism has recently provided a profusion of claims that certain discourses constitute a distinctive class, or genre, rhetorical theory has not provided firm guidance on what constitutes a genre.

Miller, Carolyn R. Quarterly Journal of Speech (1984). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre>Theory


"Genre as Social Action": A Gaze into Phenomenology

Genre as Social Action opened up a whole new connection for me, which even now, some 20 years later, I am still exploring. That connection is between genre and everyday human activity, especially the relation between schooling and the other social institutions beyond it. In the early 1990s I was very taken with Bazerman’s idea of genre systems (1994), based on Miller’s 1984 article. I went around the house, the office, the kids’ school activities, imagining genres working together in my (and their) everyday life—including going to the store with my daughter, Madeleine (then 10). She loved using our new homemade grocery list, arranged by aisles and printed on our brand new printer, for our trips to Save-U-More. Diagrams of genre systems and activity systems danced in my head for months.

Russell, David R. Composition Forum (2015). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre>Theory


Genre in a Changing World   (peer-reviewed)

Genre studies and genre approaches to literacy instruction continue to develop in many regions and from a widening variety of approaches. Genre has provided a key to understanding the varying literacy cultures of regions, disciplines, professions and educational settings. Genre in a Changing World provides a wide-ranging sampler of the remarkable variety of current work. The twenty-four chapters in this volume, reflecting the work of scholars in Europe, Australasia, North and South America, were selected from the over 400 presentations at SIGET IV (the Fourth International Symposium on Genre Studies) held on the campus of UNISUL in Tubarão, Santa Catarina, Brazil in August 2007 — the largest gathering on genre to that date. The chapters also represent a wide variety of approaches including rhetoric, Systemic Functional Linguistics, media and critical cultural studies, sociology, phenomenology, enunciation theory, the Geneva school of educational sequences, cognitive psychology, relevance theory, sociocultural psychology, activity theory, Gestalt psychology, and schema theory. Sections are devoted to theoretical issues, studies of genres in the professions, studies of genre and media, teaching and learning genre, and writing across the curriculum. The broad selection of material in this volume displays the full range of contemporary genre studies and sets the ground for a next generation of work.

Bazerman, Charles and Adair Biondi. WAC Clearinghouse (2009). Books>Rhetoric>Genre>International


Genre Patterns in Language-Based Communication Zones   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article modifies and elaborates the language-based communication zones model. The authors distinguish between potential zones and activated zones, add MegaZone Two and MegaZone Three to the model, define language competency more completely and precisely, and identify three types of genre patterns (i.e., professional genre, commercial genre, and relational genre). Concentrating on the language patterns in the direct channels of language-based communication zones, they focus on determining the language competencies required to communicate directly in different communication situations and about different communication tasks. Professional, commercial, and relational genre patterns in Zone One, MegaZone Two, and MegaZone Three are identified and described. Research-based examples are included to illustrate the genre patterns.

Du-Babcock, Bertha and Richard D. Babcock. JBC (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Genre


Genre, Rhetorical Interpretation, and the Open Case: Teaching the Analytical Report   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Analytical reports, being one of the most difficult genres to teach in a technical writing course, are best taught through the “open case” method. Open cases take advantage of the fact that students are already situated in a workplace environment, the college campus. Engineering students can use the genre to impose order on this chaotic environment, conducting various forms of research on engineering-related campus issues. A process for developing open case assignments is provided.

Johnson-Sheehan, Richard D. and A. Flood. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (1999). Articles>Education>Genre


A Grounded Investigation of Genred Guidelines in Cancer Care Deliberations   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Genred documents facilitate collaboration and workplace practices in many ways—particularly in the medical workplace. This article represents a portion of a larger grounded investigation of how medical professionals invoke a wide range of rhetorical strategies when deliberating about complex patient cases during weekly, multidisciplinary deliberations called Tumor Board meetings. Specifically, the author explores the role of one key document in oncological practice, the Standard of Care document. Each Standard of Care document (one for every known cancer) presents a set of national guidelines intended to standardize the treatment of cancer. Tumor Board participants invoke these guidelines as evidence for or against particular future action. In order to better understand how genred, generalizable guidelines like Standard of Care documents afford decision making amid uncertainty, the author conducts a temporal and contextual analysis of the document's use during deliberations as well as a modified Toulminian analysis of a representative sample. Results suggest that, while on its own the document achieves an authoritative, charter-like purpose, it fails to make explicit a link between individual patients' experiences and the profession's expectations for how to act. Implications for how genred, generalizable guidelines—given the way they encourage certain ways of seeing over others—organize and authorize work are discussed, and a modified Toulminian approach to understanding the relationship between claim and evidence in multimodal texts is modeled.

Teston, Christa B. Written Communication (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Genre


An Interactive Genre Within the University Textbook: The Preface   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article examines the communicative categories and linguistic features of university textbook prefaces. The textbook preface is a highly interactive genre, with a double purpose: informative and promotional. The analysis of the genre moves and of their realization reveals that the preface is used by the author both to help the audience use the book and to convince them of the value of the book. This twofold purpose accounts for the most relevant features of prefaces: the frequent use of textual metadiscourse and the pervasive presence of evaluation. The criteria used in the preface to evaluate the textbook are related to the audience s expectations about introductory textbooks: novelty, usefulness, accessibility, comprehensiveness, importance, and interest.

Luzón, María José. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>TC>Publishing>Genre


Learning to Write in a Genre: What Student Writers Take from Model Texts   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

While studying examples is known to benefit other skills, providing model texts in writing tasks has often produced mixed results. We pursued the effects of models by varying their quality and labeling. Ninety-five psychology majors were given basic facts, including relevant and irrelevant information, on one of two simple experiments and wrote a method section. The control group (n=22) saw no models. The models groups (n=73) saw three student-written method sections--either three good models (AAA) or one good, one moderate, and one poor model (ABC). Half of each quality group saw the models labeled with their grades and the other half saw them unlabeled. The students' texts were rated holistically and analyzed for content. The models group's texts were rated as better organized than those of the control group. The models also influenced content. Seeing a proposition in the models increased the likelihood that students would include it in their texts. This effect was smaller for propositions appearing only in moderate or poor models. For the more difficult writing topic, the models group included more topical information than the control group, including more essential propositions but also more unnecessary ones. No systematic benefits emerged from labeling the models or providing only good models. Students seemed able to judge the relative quality of the models, even without labels. Overall, providing models seems to increase the salience of topical information they contain.

Charney, Davida and Richard Carlson. Research in the Teaching of English (1995). Articles>Education>Writing>Genre


Letters and the Social Grounding of Differentiated Genres   (peer-reviewed)

Several times in my research over the years, I have noticed letters playing a role in the emergence of distinctive genres: the early scientific article emerging from the correspondence of Hans Oldenburg, the first editor of the Philosophic Transactions of the Royal Society; the patent, originally known as letters patent; stockholders' reports evolving from letters to stockholders; and internal corporate reporting and record forms regularizing internal corporate correspondence. was not the first to notice any of these; however, in putting the four cases together, it struck me that these may be part of a more general pattern. As I pursued the thought that letters might have a special role in genre formation, many other examples of genres with strong connections to correspondence came to my attention, including newspapers and other periodicals, financial instruments such as bills of exchange and letters of credit, books of the New Testament, papal encyclicals, and novels. The letter, in its directness of communication between two parties within a specific relationship in specific circumstances (all of which could be commented on directly), seemed to provide a flexible medium out of which many functions, relationships, and institutional practices might develop--making new uses socially intelligible at the same time as allowing the form of the communication to develop in new directions.

Bazerman, Charles. UCSB. Articles>Rhetoric>Correspondence>Genre


Memo Writing

This handout will help you solve your memo-writing problems by discussing what a memo is, describing the parts of memos, and providing examples and explanations that will make your memos more effective.

Purdue University (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Genre


Mode, Medium, and Genre: A Case Study of Decisions in New-Media Design   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Recently, scholars of new media have been exploring the relationships between genre theory and new media. While these scholars have provided a great deal of insight into the nature of e-genres and how they function in professional contexts, few address the relationship between genre and new-media theories from a designer's perspective. This article presents the results of an ethnographic-style case study exploring the practice of a professional new-media designer. These results (a) confirm the role of dynamic rhetorical situations and hybridity during the new-media design process; (b) suggest that current genre and new-media theories underestimate the complexity of the relationships between mode, medium, genre, and rhetorical exigencies; and (c) indicate that a previously unrecognized form of hybridity exists in contemporary e-genres.

Graham, S. Scott. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2008). Articles>Multimedia>Genre>Theory


The Nature, Classification, and Generic Structure of Proposals   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

A study of forty current business/technical/professional writing textbooks suggests that little disciplinary agreement exists about what proposals are and how they differ from some kinds of reports; how the various types of proposals should be classified; and what structural features characterize the genre. Though many texts blur the distinction between proposals and internal recommendation reports, the two are never the same. The textbooks present a bewildering array of classification systems, often failing to distinguish between situation and function. A function-based system could divide all proposals into two categories - analytic (research proposals, R&D proposals, and consulting proposals) and service/product, with bids representing a special case. The lack of disciplinary agreement also makes it difficult for textbook users to internalize a generic structure that will serve for all proposal-writing tasks. Such a structure would include the following: situation, objectives, methods, qualification, costs, and benefits. The major advantages of such a generic structure are its slots, which make it like a schema; its event sequence, which makes it like a script; and its ability to help writers and teachers understand the relationship among the macropropositions that exist explicitly or implicitly in all proposals.

Freed, Richard C. and David D. Roberts. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1989). Articles>Business Communication>Proposals>Genre


Orality and the Process of Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The aim of this article is to show that a better awareness of the relationship between written and spoken communication can help the writer to improve his/her effectiveness. The focus will be on written texts that precede (formal and informal) discussions. The analysis will start with a description of the differences between orality and literacy. We shall deal with the functions of orality-based texts for the readers. Then we shall move to the writing process and explain how orality can find a place in this process, how it can be linked to creativity, and how it affects the way we plan the writing process. An oral way of writing is related to an important feature of speaking, namely fluency; but it also means a specific receiver orientation, dynamic rather than static and social rather than individual. Computer mediated communication could influence a more oral approach to written texts.

Van Woerkum, C.M.J. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Rhetoric>Genre



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