A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

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A Brief History of the Role of Technical Communication in Developing Environmental Literacy   (PDF)

This paper introduces a two-part grouping of papers on “Ecological Literacy and Advocacy through Technical Communication.” Both technical communication and environmental rhetoric have historical roots in the professionalization of science and government in the late 1800s. The association of technical communication with “patrons” in industry has limited the roles of technical communicators to purveying ecological literacy within the relatively tight constraints of “risk communication.” But with the blurring of contemporary communication genres and the growth of ecological consciousness, technical communicators may follow science writers into roles more closely associated with environmental advocacy.

Killingsworth, M. Jimmie and Jacqueline S. Palmer. STC Proceedings (1998). Presentations>Scientific Communication>Environmental>Civic


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


Common Use of PowerPoint versus the Assertion-Evidence Structure   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Since 2001, harsh criticism of PowerPoint’s presentation slide structure has surfaced in several popular publications. Because Microsoft PowerPoint controls 95% of the market for presentation slideware (Parker 2001), its default structure certainly deserves scrutiny. However, what is more important than analyzing the default structure of PowerPoint is to analyze the slide structures that people actually use. For that reason, in technical communication, the key question is the following: what slide structures are commonly used for presenting science and technology?

Garner, Joanna K., Michael Alley, Allen F. Gaudelli and Sarah E. Zappe. Technical Communication Online (2009). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Microsoft PowerPoint


A Communications Renaissance: Developing Tomorrow’s Developers   (PDF)

Mathematics and computer science can be difficult subjects for the communications teacher to penetrate. In 1997, the Faculty of Mathematics at the University of Waterloo initiated the development of a pilot course in communications for Mathematics and Computer Science students. This paper explores the research and discoveries that built a successful course: a definition of “numeracy” that equates with academic “literacy” as knowledge creation; perceiving the students as “end users” and doing ongoing “usability tests” during the pilot course; and using case studies as social action to empower students and envision math and technology as dynamic, socially rich fields through communications.

McKenzie, Andrea. STC Proceedings (2000). Presentations>Education>Scientific Communication>Mathematics


Continuity Bugs in Linear Slide Presentations

Whenever you take a non linear media and flatten it (make it linear), you introduce problems of two kinds: 1) Discontinuities in logic. The audience needs to remember what was connected to what, earlier in your presentation, to see the connection logic. 2) Discontinuity in time. As time passes, the audience remembers less and less of what they heard and saw. As a result, the memory fails to reconnect the time-broken strands of a disrupted argument.

When The Scientist Presents (2009). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Microsoft PowerPoint


Review: The Craft of Scientific Presentations: Critical Steps to Succeed and Critical Errors to Avoid   (members only)

As the word craft in the title of the book suggests, the ability to give good presentations is not a genetically linked trait but a craft that can be learned.

Armbruster, David L. Technical Communication Online (2004). Articles>Reviews>Presentations>Scientific Communication


Designing conference posters

A scientific poster is a large document that can communicate your research at a scientific meeting, and is composed of a short title, an introduction to your burning question, an overview of your trendy experimental approach, your amazing results, some insightful discussion of aforementioned results, a listing of previously published articles that are important to your research, and some brief acknowledgement of the tremendous assistance and financial support conned from others. If all text is kept to a minimum, a person could fully read your poster in under 10 minutes.

Purrington, Colin. Colin Purrington (2012). Design>Presentations>Posters>Scientific Communication


Designing Effective Graphics Using MATLAB

This PowerPoint file of 40 slides explains the types of graphs (line graphs, column or bar charts, pie charts, and ribbon graphs) that may be prepared with Matlab software. It tells how to choose the right one for the type of data to be displayed, taking into consideration the engineer’s purpose, audience, and context. It also demonstrates the commands used to make the graphs legible and easy to interpret.

conneXions (2008). Presentations>Scientific Communication>Technical Illustration>Charts and Graphs


Effective Presentations

An essential aspect of any research project is dissemination of the findings arising from the study. The most common ways to make others aware of your work is by publishing the results in a journal article, or by giving an oral or poster presentation (often at a regional or national meeting). While efforts are made to teach the elements of writing a journal article in many graduate school curricula, much less attention is paid to teaching those skills necessary to develop a good oral or poster presentation - even though these arguably are the most common and most rapid ways to disseminate new findings. In addition, the skills needed to prepare an oral presentation can be used in a variety of other settings - such as preparing a seminar in graduate school, organizing a dissertaton defense, conducting a job interview seminar, or even addressing potential philanthropic sources!

Radel, Jeff. University of Kansas. Articles>Presentations>Rhetoric>Scientific Communication


An Effective Variant on the Assertion – Evidence Paradigm

Does Assertion follow Evidence, or Evidence follow Assertion as in the traditional scientific order? Some do not care about the order. But some prefer to see the evidence before an assertion is made – particularly if a question is raised prior to showing the enlightening visual evidence. When asked to probe this visual evidence for answers, their mind leaves the passive show-me mode to enter the active let-me-see mode. They are more involved and interested. When they discover the yet-to-appear assertion by themselves, under the friendly guidance of the presenter, they are more likely to be convinced by it and more likely to remember it when it is revealed. Two visuals illustrate the two cases.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. Scientific Presentations (2010). Presentations>Scientific Communication>Instructional Design>Microsoft PowerPoint


Environmental Design Matters   (PDF)

Each of us has some opportunity to make the environment part of our consideration when designing technical communication. The environment is not something “out there” beyond our concern or our ability to respond. Rather it is a part of our everyday life and can be a part of our everyday decision making process. This paper explores how environmental considerations can and should be a part of design matters in technical communication. The paper elaborates a set of environmental guidelines that can be used by professionals working in the field and made a part of technical communication teaching. Even small changes can make a difference. Environmental design matters!

Gordon, Myra. STC Proceedings (2000). Presentations>Scientific Communication>Environmental


Experimental Error: Lies, Damned Lies, and Seminars

One key to understanding seminars, should you fail to escape one before it begins, is realizing that seminar speakers couch their abundant jargon in half-truths. Euphemisms fly by so fast that inexperienced audience members may not be able to translate them in real time -- hence this handy guide.

Ruben, Adam. Science (2011). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication


From Presenter Ghost to Presenter Host

The classic ghostly figure of a presenter plunged in semi-darkness casting shadows created by the light of a giant projected image is one presenters dread. To avoid this situation, presenters are not defenseless. This blog entry provides 10 ways to regain the upper hand over your thunder stealing co-host, the computer.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When The Scientist Presents (2010). Academic>Scientific Communication>Presentations>Advice


Health and Safety Information for Specialized Vocational Audiences   (PDF)

Using examples from commercial fishing and farming, this article shows how models of health beliefs and risk communication can inform the creation of health and safety materials and campaigns for specialized vocational audiences. These models state that risk communication efforts must balance strong statements of risk with equally strong statements of ways to reduce or avoid risk if they are to motivate change. Audience research can help communicators address attitudes that impair workers’ perceptions of risk, as well as workplace practices, norms, and conditions that the limit the methods that can be used to reduce risk.

Freeman, Krisandra S. STC Proceedings (2001). Presentations>Communication>Scientific Communication>Risk Communication


Insights on the Poster Preparation and Presentation Process   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Dissemination of research findings and effective clinical innovations is key to the growth and development of the nursing profession. Several avenues exist for the dissemination of information. One forum for communication that has gained increased recognition over the past decade is the poster presentation. Poster presentations are often a significant part of regional, national, and international nursing conferences. Although posters are frequently used to disseminate information to the nursing community, little is reported about actual poster presenters' experiences with preparation and presentation of their posters. The purpose of this article is to present insights derived from information shared by poster presenters regarding the poster preparation and presentation process. Such insights derived from the personal experiences of poster presenters may assist others to efficiently and effectively prepare and present scholarly posters that disseminate information to the nursing community.

Weaver Moore, Linda, Phyllis Augspurger, Margaret O'Brien King and Charlotte Proffitt. Applied Nursing Research (2001). Design>Presentations>Posters>Scientific Communication


Interactive Media to Communicate Environmental Research Findings   (PDF)

An emerging body of research suggests that interactive multimedia presentation technologies offer unique advantages for technology transfer and training programs. A research and development team is evaluating this claim by developing and testing an interactive multimedia tutorial on a complex environmental research topic: in-situ capping of contaminated sediments. A World Wide Web site has been created using text and animations to illustrate basic processes about capping technology. The tutorial’s effectiveness will be tested through evaluations of subject-matter experts and end users. Supplemental technical information will be added before the site is promoted widely.

Hodges, Mark H. and William Evans. STC Proceedings (1996). Presentations>Scientific Communication>Environmental>Multimedia


Is “Less is More” a Presentation Law as Universal as the Law of Gravity?

This blog entry explores the limits of the "less is more" presentation maxim when applied to scientific presentations. Can the contents of slides be reduced to a few words to reduce their electronic carbon footprint? The less-is-more advice found in popular presentation skills books, if followed to the letter, would leave an audience of scientists gasping for more data to gain sufficient understanding to be able to appreciate the scientific contribution. The author identifies lower boundaries below which "less is less", and also considers the cases where "more is more." Our short active working memory sets boundaries to that maxim.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Minimalism


Keep What the Audience Sees in Sync with Your Speech

Audience divided attention is the greatest danger facing presenters. This blog entry provides visual examples on how to avoid such disconnects while using Microsoft PowerPoint of Apple Keynote.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When The Scientist Presents (2010). Academic>Scientific Communication>Presentations>Information Design


Learning from Henri Poincaré

Henri Poincaré, the French physicist and mathematician was an outstanding scientist. In his book, La Science et la Méthode (Science and Method – Dover publication translated by Francis Maitland), he states that “to understand” means different things to different people. The scientists in your audience expect to be able to “understand” what is presented, so it is worth thinking about what people require to reach understanding. Poincaré identifies two classes of people: the validating and connecting type, and the associative and transformative type (my choice of words).

When The Scientist Presents (2009). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication


Managing Technology Transfer: Issues for Scientific Communicators   (PDF)

Technology transfer is arguably one of the greatest communication opportunities of our day. In this panel presentation, we will define technology transfer terms and issues, identify technology transfer issues in private industry as well as in government R & D labs, and discus how today’s technical communicators can play a key role in technology transfer.

Cuba, Laurence L., Rich McGillick, Suzanne S. Roberts, Donna G. Roper and David Schuelke. STC Proceedings (1995). Presentations>Scientific Communication>Technology>Technology Transfer


Nothing Reveals Personal Expertise Better than Questions; Therefore…

Slides never proved expertise. Confidence never proved expertise. Correct answers to unprepared questions prove personal expertise.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. Scientific Presentations (2010). Presentations>Scientific Communication>Advice


Presentation Tips for Non-Native Speakers

In an international field like science, it's hardly a rare challenge. The official language of the most important events is typically English, but you could also be called upon to deliver your talk in a local language. One remedy, says Michael Alley, a presentation expert and an associate professor of engineering communication at Pennsylvania State University, University Park, is "to prepare significantly more." Another approach that is often successful is to allow yourself some leeway on the rules. Here are some more specific tips for presenting more effectively in a non-native language.

Pain, Elisabeth. Science (2011). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Language


Presentation Traps 1: Hazardous Comparisons

In your presentation, usually at the beginning in the motivation part, a slide appears, and on that slide you compare your method to previous state of the art methods, or methods widely accepted and recognised as adequate by practitioners in the field. Of course, you carefully chose the topics of comparison to ensure your work appears superior... This is a trap. The author explains why.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric


Presentation Traps 10: The Room Trap

Because the environment of a presentation, in this case the meeting room, is frequently the cause of many glitches, the author proposes guidelines to avoid such glitches.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When The Scientist Presents (2010). Presentations>Scientific Communication>Communication>Planning


Presentation Traps 2: Forced Audience Interaction

“Probe the audience”, “Interact with the audience”, the pundits say. And out on a limb they go, the misfortunate presenters for whom good advice but poor timing garner nothing but the deathly silence of an unsympathetic audience. Do not rush the audience into action. An audience that has had time to be interested in both the presenter and his topic is easier to engage. By the time the talk ends, the audience is ready to interact through the Q&A: the time is right, and the audience is ready.

Lebrun, Jean-Luc. When the Scientist Presents (2010). Articles>Presentations>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric



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