A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication

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Assessing Proficiency in Engineering English   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Though engineers around the world conduct their work in nearly every language on the planet, there are very few who never use English for some aspect of their job. The largest professional engineering organizations use English as their primary language; most of the world’s engineering publications are written in English; and nearly all cooperative ventures with multinational participation choose English for their common language of communication. Unfortunately, most of the world’s engineers are not native speakers of English and thus are considerably disadvantaged in professional terms.

Orr, Thomas. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Articles>Language>Assessment


Assessing Technical Communication within Engineering Contexts Tutorial   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

A major challenge in engineering education is to prepare professionals for communicating well in writing and speaking, using appropriate technologies, within professional contexts. Communication in the global engineering world includes collaboration on cross-functional teams, virtual-project team management, and writing for multiple, complex audiences. This tutorial discusses how one small engineering school has integrated technical communication teaching and assessment throughout the curriculum with demonstrated success. The integrated curriculum, formative and summative assessments, and real-world contexts offer one model to address growing communication challenges.

Davis, Marjorie T. and William H. Harris II. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2010). Articles>Education>Engineering>Assessment


Assessment in Professional Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The assessment of engineering products and services is central to the work of engineering, but the evaluation of human communication and its development in engineering and other technical professions has not yet received enough attention in IEEE research and publications. This special section begins to remedy this situation by calling for more research in the assessment of professional communication skills and training programs as well as in the development of better assessment tools and procedures. It features four new articles on the topic in the hope that these will inspire even more research related to the assessment of human communication in scientific and technical professions.

Orr, Thomas. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2010). Articles>TC>Assessment>Engineering


Breaking the Rules: Teaching Grammar "Wrong" for the Right Results in Technical Communication Consulting for Engineers   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Technical communication consultants steeped in conventional academic notions of writing pedagogy may encounter different assumptions about the nature of writing and the significance of grammar in writing instruction when they consult with professional engineers. This paper examines historical, theoretical, and practical reasons for these sometimes contradictory beliefs and traces the authors' efforts to reconcile these differences while planning and conducting a writing seminar for an engineering firm. A strong emphasis on grammar and mechanics can lead to numerous benefits, including a stronger sense of shared purpose between consultants and engineers and a point of entry into additional conversations about institutional writing practices and writing environments.

Knievel, Michael, April Heaney and Meg Van Baalen-Wood. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2010). Articles>Consulting>Education>Engineering


Choosing the Right Graph   (PDF)   (members only)

When it comes to graphing data, most professionals show little method or creativity. They typically limit themselves to a small repertoire of graph types and select from it on the basis of habit, if not sheer ease of production. Similarly, the many books on graphing devote much attention to graphical integrity and readability, but little or none to graph selection. We developed a methodology to help engineers, scientists, and managers choose the “right graph” on the basis of three criteria: the structure of the data set in terms of number and type of variables, the intended use of the graph, and the research question or intended message. The first and third criteria allow one to construct an effective two-entry selection table.

Doumont, Jean-luc and Philippe Vandenbroeck. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Design>Graphic Design>Technical Illustration>Charts and Graphs


Complementing Business Case Studies with Humanitarian Case Studies: A Means of Preparing Global Engineers   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Business case studies have been a standard pedagogical tool in technical communication classrooms. However, the expansion of engineering practice-including the design and implementation of appropriate technology in the developing world-suggests the need to complement such studies. This paper analyzes three business and three humanitarian case studies. It highlights the complexities of audience and context that distinguish the humanitarian case studies, and it argues that incorporating humanitarian cases into technical communication courses would promote higher levels of learning, student engagement, and the global citizenship that will be requisite for all engineers in the twenty-first century.

Berndt, Annette and Carla Paterson. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2009). Articles>Education>Engineering>Globalization


Connecting Usability Education and Research with Industry Needs and Practices   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Ideally, academic research should inform workplace practices and workplace practices should inform academic research and education. However, as many researchers have noted, a gap often exists between academia and industry. This article begins to bridge that gap by reporting the results of a small-scale study at Microsoft in which 12 individuals were interviewed about their views on usability education and research. This study addressed two questions: (1) What knowledge, skills, and abilities should technical communication teachers stress in teaching usability and (2) how can academic research in usability benefit practitioners? The results indicate that usability education needs to be expanded to include additional usability evaluation methods and that students need strong critical assessment and communication skills when they enter the workplace. The results also reveal that usability research in the areas of return-on-investment, online help, and cognition would be of great use to practitioners.

Cooke, L. and S. Mings. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2005). Articles>Usability>Research>Publishing


Corporate Software Training: Is Web-Based Training as Effective as Instructor-Led Training?   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Web-based training has been both acclaimed as a self-paced, consistent, stand-alone alternative to traditional instructor-led training and disparaged for its high development costs and dearth of qualified trainers. Critics especially question its effectiveness. This case study tests the effectiveness of a stand-alone web-based training program and compares the results to that of an identical instructor-led course. The course provides highly task-oriented instruction for a computer software package and was developed using a proven instructional design methodology. The data from this study show that web-based training is as effective as instructor-led training for stand-alone software application training in a corporation.

Coppola, Nancy W. and Robert Myre. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Articles>Education>Instructional Design>Online


The Culture(s) of the Technical Communicator   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The role of the technical communication practitioner stems from the need for members from two distinct professions to connect; for example, engineers have created some new technology, and users who are (assumedly) unfamiliar with the technology want or need to understand that technology.

Amare, Nicole. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Articles>TC


Deep Linking: An Ethical and Legal Analysis   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Deep linking, the practice of linking to a subsidiary page rather than the home page of another organization’s website, is the subject of considerable controversy. In several recent lawsuits, plaintiffs have alleged violations of copyright, trademark, and commercial laws. In this article, I review the legal and ethical issues regarding deep linking and comment on how the ethical conflict between rights and utility motivates the controversy. I conclude that protecting site owners’ rights to control deep linking to their sites is a stronger value than enhancing the utility of the Web for users by allowing completely unrestricted deep linking. Finally, I recommend a collection of resources for Web developers interested in staying current with the evolving controversy.

Markel, Mike. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Design>Web Design>Hypertext


Demand Modeling, New Mode Problems, and the $64 [sic] Question: Technological Utopianism in America's Race to Develop High Speed Rail Technology   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article analyzes reports describing a proposed MagLev rail system, reports which employ idiosyncratic rhetorical devices to argue for funding. The analysis discusses ethical and rhetorical dilemmas which face writers seeking funding for 'new mode' problems.

Sauer, Beverly A. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (1993). Design>Information Design>Assessment


Devising Collective Knowledges for the Technical Writing Classroom: A Course-Based Approach to Using Web 2.0 Writing Technologies in Collaborative Work   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Technical and professional writing pedagogies have traditionally understood collaborative writing as an aggregate, cooperative venture between writers and subject matter experts. In contrast, this tutorial argues that Web 2.0 technologies offer technical and professional communication pedagogies more advantageous conceptions and practices of collaborative writing. The tutorial analyzes how new media technologies create a different collaborative writing environment and then discusses how these environments help collaborative writing methods create an alternative writing situation. The study concludes by examining the outcomes of student Web 2.0 research projects and by offering technical and professional writing instructors new pedagogical strategies for teaching collaborative writing.

Rice, J.A. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2009). Articles>Education>Writing>Collaboration


Disease Classification and the Organization of Large-Scale Web Sites   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The International Classification of Diseases (ICD) has been employed by the world's public health officials to chart the nature, frequency, and geographic origins of diseases and causes of death in human populations since the late nineteenth century. The ICD has been modified every decade since the 1890s, and a study by Bowker and Star of these changes, in concert with the work of others on the practices employed in information mapping, can be used to better understand the organization of large-scale web sites. Specifically, web designers must adapt classification schemes to fit multiple social worlds. Additionally, we need to understand that these systems can become so entrenched in our thinking that they become "invisible," thus undermining our ability to adapt them as future needs or insights arise.

Applen, J.D. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2001). Articles>Information Design>Web Design>Biomedical


The Engineer as Rational Man: The Problem of Imminent Danger in a Non-Rational Environment   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Mine safety instruction manuals and training guides reflect an engineering perspective based on the concept of a Rational Man, a perspective which obsstructs effective risk management.

Sauer, Beverly A. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (1992). Articles>Documentation>Risk Communication>Rhetoric


Evaluating What Students Know: Using the RosE Portfolio System for Institutional and Program Outcomes Assessment Tutorial   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Currently, colleges and universities have developed assessment systems that can collect student work products for evaluation in an effort to make student learning transparent and ensure accountability in higher education. At the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, we have developed a digital portfolio system, the RosE Portfolio System (REPS), that allows for efficient data collection; the results of portfolio evaluations are used by academic departments and programs to improve curricula and provide evidence to external accrediting agencies. The results of evaluations of student performance are also used to ensure the quality of academic curricula.

Williams, Julia M. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2010). Articles>Education>Assessment>Case Studies


Experiential Learning Prepares Students to Assume Professional Roles   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Educators need to prepare their students to assume roles as communicators in the corporate world. By providing experiential education--active learning both inside and outside the classroom--teachers can ensure that students succeed.

Southard, Sherry. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (1988). Articles>Education>Workplace


Extensible Markup Languages and Traditional Abstracting and Indexing Strategies   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Object oriented coding languages are used to more accurately label and search for content embedded in electronic texts. An object can be a graphic, a row of specific data housed in a table, a written text, or any other piece of information that conveys meaning. XML, XLink and RDF are second-generation object-oriented coding languages and tools derived from SGML. I illustrate how these object-oriented languages can effectively deploy the indexing techniques and systems traditionally used by information professionals.

Applen, J.D. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2001). Articles>Content Management>Knowledge Management>XML


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, 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


Going Global: A Case Study of Rhetorical Invention, Packaging, Delivery, and Feedback Collection   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

When the primary aim of global, professional communication expands to include rapport building in addition to information sharing, basic parts of the communication process must be reevaluated. Such an assessment was conducted through a case study of a team that adapted a US training seminar for a Japanese audience. The team's strong emphasis on the communicative aim of relationship building illustrated how traditional conceptions of rhetorical invention, packaging, delivery, and feedback collection might be revised. For practitioners and educators, the findings of this case study prompt a reevaluation of the rhetorical abilities that are required in global professional communication contexts.

Melton, James H., Jr. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Globalization>Case Studies


The Grammar Instinct   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Back in 1990, Leonard and Gilsdorf presented 45 instances of questionable usage, in full-paragraph contexts, to both academics and working business executives. These usage elements included sentence fragments, assorted punctuation problems, pronoun–antecedent (dis)agreement, and various examples of questionable word choice. Their intent was to assess the “botheration level” of each usage “error”; their conclusions were that 1) academics are (nearly) always bothered by usage “errors” more than executives and 2) usage elements that bothered survey respondents the least were evolving over time into acceptable English usage. Just over ten years later, these same researchers have followed up on their original study and have drawn similar conclusions from the more recent data.

Manning, Alan D. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Articles>Language>Style Guides


The Influence of Gender on Collaborative Projects in an Engineering Classroom   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

Using a qualitative approach to data collection and analysis, this article discusses some of the findings from a larger study on collaboration and the role of gender. Here, we profile three student engineering teams as they participate in processes leading to the submission of a report for a team-based technical communication course. While some theorists suggest that gender can play a significant role in achieving a successful team dynamic, our study only partially supports that claim. A synopsis of two women from two predominantly male teams reveals glimpses of what the literature describes as traditional gender-linked behaviors by both men and women, but the all-female team does not conform to stereotypical patterns and their behaviors call into question the existence of these interactional styles. We suggest that factors other than gender and independent of a team’s gender composition—such as team commitment and a strong work ethic—exert a greater impact on collaboration. Nevertheless, the study does caution against assigning women to predominantly male teams since, when a team’s social structure is mostly male, traditional gender-linked interactional behaviors as well as manifestations of the culture of engineering are more likely to emerge. Overall, the study underlines the importance of examining specific face-to-face interactions to see how behavior is situationally produced in order to more fully understand the interactional strategies open to individuals.

Ingram, Sandra and Anne Parker. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2002). Articles>Collaboration>Writing


Legal and Ethical Issues of the Corporate Blogosphere   (members only)

In the increasingly competitive global economy, corporations throughout the world must take advantage of all the marketing and communication tools available to them, including blogging. Blogs allow corporations to connect with their stakeholders in a more personal way and, thus, strengthen their image, brand, and customer loyalty. Instant feedback is available through comments posted on the corporate blog, saving organizations large sums of money otherwise spent on market research. However, entering the blogosphere poses a number of risks for a corporation, such as potential damage to the corporate reputation and customer loyalty as well as legal liability. Conflicts still exist between the rights of bloggers and a corporation's interests. Blogs may be restricted by legal and ethical boundaries, which may differ across countries. This paper presents the benefits and risks associated with corporate blogging around the world and provides some interesting success stories as well as lessons learned. It also offers a compilation of guidelines for effective blogging and suggests topics for future research.

Strother, Judith B., Zohra Fazal and Melinda Millsap. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Blogging>Ethics


Listening as a Missing Dimension in Engineering Education: Implications for Sustainable Community Development Efforts   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Although listening is valued in engineering education literature, it is conspicuously absent from engineering curricula. Using interview data, data from published literature, reflective instructional experiences, and the intersection of those three data sources, this study investigates two primary issues: (1) engineering students' sources of resistance to listening instruction in a sustainable community development initiative, and (2) benefits from such instruction. Findings feature a proposed theory of contextual listening and suggest that sources of resistance include the paucity of listening instruction in the engineering curriculum and curricular components that may devalue listening. Benefits of a listening intervention are described, and implications are discussed.

Leydens, Jon A. and Juan C. Lucena. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication (2009). Articles>Education>Engineering>User Centered Design



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