A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Emergent Genres in Young Disciplines: The Case of Ethnological Science   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Although the rhetoric of relatively stable scientific disciplines has been studied extensively, less attention has been paid to discourse formation in young disciplines. The author extends recent theories of genre and disciplinary discourse in a close rhetorical analysis of early papers in ethnological science. Practitioners apply extant rhetorical resources to new disciplinary problems as they learn to identify themselves as participants in a collective project. The young discipline 'learns' its discourse from its practitioners.

Henze, Brent R. Technical Communication Quarterly (2004). Articles>Research>Scientific Communication>Ethnicity


Enhance Usability by Highlighting Search Terms

Google's cache offers users a copy of your website with their search terms highlighted. You can do the same thing and make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for — whether they're coming from an external search engine or your own site search — by making their search terms easy to spot.

Suda, Brian and Matt Riggott. List Apart, A (2004). Design>Web Design>Usability>Search


Enhancing User Research with Emerging Technology

As technology evolves and new gadgets and electronics emerge in the marketplace, our options for the use of technology in conducting our user research continue to expand. The processes through which we have long gathered data—such as surveys and interviews—are no longer the only ways in which we can understand people and how they respond to our clients’ products and services. As professional user researchers, we have the opportunity to devise new and innovative ways of more accurately understanding user experience through the use of technology.

McClain, Brian and Demetrius Madrigal. UXmatters (2010). Articles>User Centered Design>Research>Methods


An Ergonomic Format for Short Reporting in Scientific Journals Using Nested Tables and the Deming's Cycle   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The typical structure of a scientific report involves highly standardized sections. The key concept of a scientific report is the reproducibility of results. Because not only clarity but also conciseness is a tool for the advancement of science, a new format using nested tables is proposed with the aim of improving the design of short reports in scientific journals, namely short communications, short technical reports, case reports, etc. This format is based on the ergonomic philosophy of visual encyclopaedias (one topic, one page) and on the quality system of the Deming's cycle (plan--do--check--act) for continuous improvement. This new editing tool has several advantages over existing forms, because it provides quick and ergonomic, reader-friendly research reports that, at the same time, would render a saving in terms of available space and publishing costs of the printed version of scientific journals.

Hortol, Policarp. Journal of Information Science (2008). Articles>Scientific Communication>Research>Technical Writing


Ethical and Legal Aspects of Human Subjects Research on the Internet   (PDF)

Many IRBs recognize their unfamiliarity with the nature of Internet research and their lack of technical expertise needed to review related research protocols. To both protect human subjects and promote innovative and scientifically sound research, it is important to consider the ethical, legal, and technical issues associated with this burgeoning area of research.

AAAS (1999). Articles>Research>Ethics>Online


Ethnographic Research in Business and Technical Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Two widely disseminated approaches impose reductive boundaries on ethnographic research by privileging one context of meaning over other essential contexts. The first, emphasizing statistical validity, privileges the research community by recommending that the ethnographer's data analysis via coding agree with that of other raters from the research community. The second asserts that the ethnographer who comes closest to validity comes closest to presenting only the subject's point of view. Ethnography, however, comprises four essential, overlapping contexts: the phenomenal context (that which is observed/recorded), the site's cultural context (the subjects' outlook), the research community context, and the researcher's interior context, shaped by experience and education. Each of the four vantages has dominating tendencies, but if one does dominate to the exclusion of others, the reductive result is data-centered, thin description; subjects-centered groupthink; research community-centered groupthink; or researcher-centered solipsism. Although all contexts of meaning are important, none should fully eclipse the others.

Cross, Geoffrey A. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (1994). Articles>Business Communication>Research>Ethnographies


Evaluating E-Contents Beyond Impact Factor - A Pilot Study Selected Open Access Journals In Library And Information Science   (peer-reviewed)

Scholarly communication through Open Access (OA) journals has become a global phenomenon. This article reports on a study that measures the value of OA journals based on citation counts (ISI's Journal Impact Factor). It compares three highly ranked commercial electronic journals to five OA electronic journals. The non-OA journals are MIS Quarterly, Journal of American Medication Informatics Association, and Annual Review of Information Science and Technology; the five OA journals are Ariadne, D-Lib Magazine, First Monday, Information Research, and Information Technology and Disabilities. The criteria are established by ten major databases: Thompson's ISI, American Psychological Association's PsycInfo, Latin American and Canadian Health Science's LILCS, National Medical Library's MEDLINE, Scientific Electronic Library's SciELO, The IOWA Guide, CSA's LISA, EBSCO's LISTA, H.W. Wilson's Library Literature and Information Science, and R.R. Bowker's Ulrich International Periodical Directory. These basic criteria are categorized under 11 broad issues: availability, authority and review policy, scope and coverage, exhaustiveness of articles, page format, availability of hyperlinks, currency, updating policy, search facility, and other miscellaneous issues. Ten years' growth of Library and Information Science (LIS) OA journals has been measured by counting articles manually. During the last ten years the highest number of articles was published by First Monday, followed by D-Lib Magazine and Ariadne; the average number of articles per issue reported in Ariadne ranks first.

Mukherjee, Bhaskar. Journal of Electronic Publishing (2007). Articles>Publishing>Research>Assessment


Evaluating Online Sources: A Tutorial by Roger Munger

This tutorial presents a brief overview of the reasons to evaluate information you find on the Internet, offers guidelines to assist you in the process, and helps you assess the information found on sample Web pages. Although the principles presented here apply to all kinds of information found on the Internet, the primary focus is on sites from organizations and companies-sites that you will likely visit while conducting research-rather than on personal Web sites.

Munger, Roger H. Bedford-St. Martin's (2007). Articles>Research>Online>Assessment


Evaluating Sources of Information

We live in an information age. The quantity of information available is so staggeringly huge that we cannot know everything about a subject. For example, it's estimated that anyone attempting to research what's known about depression would have to read over 100,000 studies on the subject. And there's the problem of trying to decide which studies have produced reliable results.

Purdue University. Academic>Research>Assessment


The Evolution of Visual Information Retrieval   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This paper seeks to provide a brief overview of those developments which have taken the theory and practice of image and video retrieval into the digital age. Drawing on a voluminous literature, the context in which visual information retrieval takes place is followed by a consideration of the conceptual and practical challenges posed by the representation and recovery of visual material on the basis of its semantic content. An historical account of research endeavours in content-based retrieval, directed towards the automation of these operations in digital image scenarios, provides the main thrust of the paper. Finally, a look forwards locates visual information retrieval research within the wider context of content-based multimedia retrieval.

Enser, Peter. Journal of Information Science (2008). Articles>Content Management>Visual Rhetoric>Search


Examining the Usability of Web Site Search   (PDF)

One of the most pressing usability issues in the design of web sites is that of how to improve navigation and search. We are conducting a series of usability studies to address this problem, focusing on web sites that con- sist of large collections of loosely organized information. This article describes our method and presents prelim- inary results which suggest that use of faceted meta- data can be useful both for the initial stages of highly constrained search and for the intermediate stages of less constrained browsing tasks. We also find that users state an interest in using different search interface types to support different search strategies.

English, Jennifer, Marti Hearst, Rashmi Sinha, Kirsten Swearington and Ping Yee. University of California Berkeley (2002). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Search


Expanded Information Retrieval Using Full-Text Searching   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The value of full text for expanding information retrieval was examined. Two full-text databases were used: Textpresso for neuroscience and ScienceDirect. Queries representing different categories were used to search different text fields (titles, abstracts, full text and, where possible, keywords). Searching the full-text field relative to the commonly used abstracts field increases retrievals by one or more orders of magnitude, depending on the categories selected. For phenomena-type categories (e.g. blood flow, thermodynamic equilibrium, etc.), retrievals are enhanced by about an order of magnitude. For infrastructure-type categories (e.g. equipment types, sponsors, suppliers, databases, etc.), retrievals are enhanced by well over an order of magnitude, and sometimes multiple orders of magnitude. Use of combination terms along with proximity specification capability is a very powerful feature for retrieving relevant records from full-text searching, and can be useful for applications like literature-related discovery.

Kostoff, Ronald N. Journal of Information Science (2010). Articles>Information Design>Databases>Search


Explicitly Teaching Five Technical Genres to English First-Language Adults in a Multi-Major Technical Writing Course   (peer-reviewed)

In this paper, I report the effects of explicitly teaching five technical genres to English first-language students enrolled in a multi-major technical writing course. Previous experimental research has demonstrated the efficacy of explicitly teaching academic writing to English first language adults, but no comparable study on technical writing exists. I used a mixed-method approach to examine these effects, including a control-group quasi-experimental design and a qualitative analysis to more fully describe the 534 texts produced by 316 student writers. Results indicated the genre participants constructed texts demonstrating a significantly greater awareness to audience, purpose, structure, design, style, and editing than participants taught through more traditional approaches. Within the technical genres, participants demonstrated greater awareness to audience, purpose, and editing in the job materials text type than with correspondence or procedures text types.

Boettger, Ryan K. Journal of Writing Research (2014). Journals>Research>Technical Writing>Research


Extracting Pearls from Other People's Brains: The Art of Interviewing

Perhaps one of the bigger challenges faced by white paper writers is coming up with good content. The default course of action is to do a Google search. While this approach can yield valuable information, the best pearls reside inside someone else's head.

Stelzner, Michael A. WhitePaperSource (2006). Articles>Interviewing>Research>White Papers


Extreme User Research

What is the biggest problem I face almost every time a client hires me to do something about a web project going awry? They don't know a thing about their users. They don't have a clue, whatsoever. Unbelievable but true!

Lafreniere, Daniel. Boxes and Arrows (2008). Articles>User Centered Design>Research>Usability


Faceted Metadata for Image Search and Browsing   (PDF)

The authors present a new method of image searching based on conceptual descriptors. This method differs from the traditional methods of image searching that are based on keywords and visual similarity.

Hearst, Marti, Kevin Li, Kirsten Swearingen and Ka-Ping Yee. University of California Berkeley (2003). Design>Web Design>Graphic Design>Search


Faceted Metadata for Image Search and Browsing

The authors present a new method of image searching based on conceptual descriptors. This method differs from the traditional methods of image searching that are based on keywords and visual similarity.

Hearst, Marti, Kevin Li, Kirsten Swearingen and Ka-Ping Yee. University of California Berkeley (2003). Design>Information Design>Search>Metadata


Faceted Metadata for Information Architecture and Search   (PDF)

The purpose of this course is to introduce and explain a systematic approach to designing information architecture for web sites consisting of large collections of items. The main goals of the approach are to produce websites with multiple different views to reflect differences in user's preferred search and browsing methods, to incorporate search uniformly throughout the design of the site, and to do this in a manner that makes use of standard technology and allows non-experts to be able to add to the content of the site without disturbing the other properties.

Hearst, Marti A., Preston Smalley and Corey Chandler. Proceedings of SIGCHI 2006 (2006). Resources>Information Design>Metadata>Search


Facilitating Data Exploration with Query Previews: A Study of User Performance and Preference

Current networked and local data exploration systems that use command languages (e.g. SQL), menus, or form fillin interfaces do not give users an indication of the distribution of data in their databases. This often leads users to waste time, posing queries that have zero-hit or mega-hit results. Query previews are a novel visual approach for browsing and querying networked or local databases. Query previews supply users with data distribution information for selected attributes of a database, and give continuous feedback about the size of the result set as the query is being formed. Subsequent refinements might be necessary to narrow the search sufficiently. Because there is a risk that query previews are an additional step, leading to a more complex and slow search process, we ran a within subjects empirical study with 12 subjects who used interfaces with and without query previews and with no network delays. Even with this small number of subjects and minimized network delays we found statistically significant differences showing that query previews could speed up performance 1.6 to 2.1 times and lead to higher subjective satisfaction.

Tanin, Egemen, Amnon Lotem, Ihab Haddadin, Ben Shneiderman, Catherine Plaisant and Laura Slaughter. SHORE (1999). Design>User Interface>Usability>Search


Faculty Attitudes and Behaviors Regarding Scholarly Communication: Survey Findings from the University of California   (PDF)

Faculty are strongly interested in issues related to scholarly communication.a Faculty generally conform to conventional behavior in scholarly publication, albeit with significant beachheads on several fronts. Faculty attitudes are changing on a number of fronts, with a few signs of imminent change in behaviors. The current tenure and promotion system impedes changes in faculty behavior. On important issues in scholarly communication, faculty attitudes vary inconsistently by rank, except in general depth of knowledge and on issues related to tenure and promotion. Faculty tend to see scholarly communication problems as affecting others, but not themselves. The disconnect between attitude and behavior is acute with regard to copyright. University policies mandating change are likely to stir intense debate. Scholars are aware of alternative forms of dissemination but are concerned about preserving their current publishing outlet.

University of California Berkeley (2007). Articles>Publishing>Research



Findability refers to the quality of being locatable or navigable. At the item level, we can evaluate to what degree a particular object is easy to discover or locate. At the system level, we can analyze how well a physical or digital environment supports navigation and retrieval. This website is a selective, seriously incomplete, and perpetually evolving collection of links to people, software, organizations, and content related to findability.

Findability. Resources>Information Design>Usability>Search


Findability/SEO Cheat Sheet: Quick Guide to Web Standards SEO

A findability strategy cheat sheet that will guide you through all of the stuff you should be doing when creating new websites or even redesign existing ones.

Walter, Aarron. AarronWalter.com (2008). Articles>Web Design>Usability>Search Engine Optimization


Finding Out Who Likes What: A Research Tool Kit for Technical Communicators   (PDF)

As new technologies revolutionize our communication options, technical communicators must be increasingly accountable for the outcomes of our products and messages. Research in the behavioral and cognitive sciences has provided many data tools that can be very useful to technical communicators. Techniques such as simple descriptive statistics, the Delphi method, trained observers, chi-square analysis, and aptitude/treatment interaction analysis can help technical communicators discover and document the impact of your messages by revealing what you did right, who says so, and who disagrees.

Ausburn, Lynna J. and Floyd B. Ausburn. STC Proceedings (1996). Articles>Research>Writing>Technical Writing


First Impressions: Writing a Good Abstract

Because an abstract often determines if a published paper or dissertation will be read or ignored, a writer needs to pack a lot of persuasive information into a few words. Despite word limits, if an abstract answers the following Seven Key Questions, it is likely to be complete and enticing.

Hewitt, Janice. conneXions (2008). Articles>Writing>Research>Publishing


Five Rules for Communication between Machines and People

The Human Research Institute has conducted extensive studies of the proper form of Machine-Human Interaction (MHI). Most of our work has been summarized in our technical report series and was presented at the last global MHI symposium. This report summarizes the key findings in nontechnical language, intended for wider distribution than just the specialized designer machines.

Norman, Donald A. uiGarden (2008). Articles>Human Computer Interaction>Research



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