A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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"Advanced Composition" And Occasion-Sensitivity

As writing teacher but also freelance writer and editor, I rejoice to see current advanced composition textbooks emphasize sensitivity to occasion. For real-world writing profoundly requires audience-awareness. Out there, students will not be writing yet another typical theme for the teacher, concerned mainly with correctness. Nor will they be writing expressively, concerned mainly with self and authenticity. They must be writing for the occasion, to achieve specific purpose with specific readers, and hence must be concerned with effectiveness above all. But what about actual current classroom practice on this point?

Beck, James P. JAC (1981). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


The Affective Domain and the Writing Process: Working Definitions   (peer-reviewed)

Since the time of classical Greece, we have been accustomed to viewing humans as both thinking and feeling individuals. The dichotomy of cognition and affect is so ingrained in Western thought that it seems a natural one; the two elements have seldom, however, been deemed equally important in the scientific community. During the nineteenth century and early twentieth century, psychology gave primacy to affect; humans were thought to be at the mercy of various drives and passions. As behaviorism became more domiúnant in the field, affect was discounted; indeed, there were those who wished to exclude affect from scientific study altogether. More recently, with the ascendancy of cognitive psychology, humans have been viewed as problem-solvers whose thinking processes operate rather like a computer. Often in such a view, affect is seen as “a regrettable flaw in an otherwise perfect cognitive machine” (Scherer 293). But most researchers who study human behavior and human nature agree that the views of both extremes—emphasizing only affect or only cognition—are undesirable.

McLeod, Susan H. JAC (1991). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


Are Shared Discourses Desirable?

Some kind of shared discourse is needed for the shared work of the academic community to continue; and even more so, this paper argues that the nation needs some kind of shared discourse in which to address the pressing problems that confront us all.

Bizzell, Patricia. JAC (1994). Articles>Rhetoric>Theory


A Bibliography of Basic Texts in Technical And Scientific Writing

Instruction in writing beyond the freshman level takes a variety of forms, all of which may be thought of as 'advanced' composition. One of the best established forms and one that shows all signs of continuing growth is technical writing. Although some teachers of traditional advanced composition may blanche at the comparison, I believe it helpful to take the relationship seriously. Technical writing is a form of advanced composition that relies upon well defined audiences and writer-roles, and that addresses itself to specific purposes found in industrial, manufacturing, research and development, and other bureaucratic and technological contexts. It is its specificity that makes technical writing distinct, but, like all advanced composition, its general function is to help students muster their linguistic and rhetorical resources to have effects on readers.

Miller, Carolyn R. JAC (1982). Resources>Bibliographies>TC


The Canisius Project: From Field-Work To Classroom   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)

In the Canisius Project for Writing Across the Curriculum, we have studied the writing worlds of business, social services, science and technology, and 'public life' (the media, public relations, law, fund raising, and the like). For all these fields, our research has followed the same basic pattern. We begin with an initial interview, using a questionnaire which asks about the range of tasks, the problems, the methods, and the significance of the person's work world writing. Then we collect a portfolio of the person's writings. As an ideal, we request at least one sample of each kind of writing, with several samples of the most frequent and important kinds. After studying the portfolio, we return for a taped interview which focuses on specific features of selected pieces of writing. At the end of each research sequence, we hold a workshop which brings together researchers, faculty from the relevant departments, and as many as possible of our work world writers. Near the end of the workshop, the group defines some of the goals and methods most important for an upper level writing course which is to be aimed at, but not restricted to, business majors, or social science majors, or science majors, or humanities majors. (The groups of majors correspond to our research sequences: business, social services, science and technology, and, for want of a better term, public life.)

Schroeder, Melvin W. and Kenneth M. Sroka. JAC (1981). Articles>Education>Writing Across the Curriculum


Catching up with Professor Nate: The Problem with Sociolinguisitics in Composition Research   (peer-reviewed)

In Professional Academic Writing, Susan Peck MacDonald makes the observation that recent debates in rhetoric and composition about whether to initiate students into disciplinary practices or 'resist' current practices have frequently been framed in terms of 'accommodation' versus 'resistance,' and adds that 'these may be destructive dichotomies for us to be working with' particularly 'given the lack of close rhetorical and linguistic scrutiny we have spent on describing the nature, variation, or effects of textual practices in the humanities and social sciences'. When a field finds itself trapped in a particular dichotomy, it's time to re-examine research methods and agendas.

Prendergast, Catherine. JAC (1997). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Changes In the Training of Writing Teachers   (peer-reviewed)

English departments are once again confronted with charges in the popular media that the illiteracy of the American people generally, and of recent high school graduates in particular, constitutes a disturbing or perhaps even a dangerous state which we should regard as having reached 'crisis' proportions. In the past, this public concern has been directed primarily at reading ability, but in its present form, it focuses on writing skill. Not surprisingly, much of the commentary has been directed at elementary and secondary school teachers. Time emblazoned the news that 'Teachers Can't Teach' across the cover of its June 16, 1980, issue, then devoted several pages to a critical analysis of the shortcomings in modern American education. The authors of that article estimated that up to twenty percent of certified teachers have not mastered the 'basic skills' that they are supposed to teach.1 If this estimate is accurate—and most Americans believe, intuitively at least that it is—then we must recognize that not only are teachers unskilled in areas outside their expertise, but also, more frightening, they are incompetent within areas in which they ostensibly are trained. And since, as Charles Moran and J. T. Skerrett recently pointed out two of the three traditional Rs of basic education are within the province of the English teachers, we must be particularly sensitive to the criticism presently being leveled at teacher inability.

Ward, Jay A. JAC (1981). Articles>Education>Writing


The Composing Process of Technical Writers: A Preliminary Study   (peer-reviewed)

Janet Emig's 1971 study, The Composing Process of Twelfth Graders, spurred an interest in the writing process: how writers compose rather than simply what they compose. However, a survey of current literature indicates that little has been published on the composing processes of technical writers. Perhaps we have assumed that technical writers compose as other writers do. In order to test this assumption, we conducted the research on which we base this study.

Roundy, Nancy and David Mair. JAC (1983). Articles>Writing>TC


The Creation of Metaphor: A Case for Figurative Language in Technical Writing Classes   (peer-reviewed)

It may perhaps seem strange to speak of metaphor in the same breath as instruction in technical writing. But based on Professor Mary Rosner's observations about changes in technical writing, as they are reflected historically in textbooks since the 1920s, and on my own perceptions of directions in technical writing today, I could justifiably assert that we have nearly come full circle.1 In the beginning was the word. When technical writing first began to be separated from other advanced writing courses, it retained many of the strategies and approaches of Advanced Exposition courses—the study of rhetoric, logical organization, conventions, formats. Early texts show this connection. Later, as technical writing teachers began to pursue their own directions in research, their teaching approaches and the textbooks they created began to reflect new discoveries and directions: psycholinguistics crept in; more materials on audience analysis began to show up in texts; management psycholoy of Abraham Maslow and others appeared; conventional report formats were reflected; readability formulas became a staple of textbooks. But for a while, rhetorical approaches still held sway. Today, of course, only a few commentators will argue for some return to the older liberal arts traditions, myself among them. But these few are a vocal lot.

Catron, Douglas M. JAC (1983). Articles>Education>Rhetoric>Tropes


Developing Industrial Cases For Technical Writing on Campus   (peer-reviewed)

At the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893, the World's Engineering Congress met and included special section, 'Division E, Engineering Education.' This division was the seed for The Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education, and one paper delivered in the section was 'Training of Students in Technical Literary Work,' evidencing early concern about engineers' education in technical writing. But concern alone did not solve the problem. Two decades later Edward D. Sabine, a terminal engineer, complained that most college graduated engineers could not even write a decent letter. And in the same year F. W. Springer, a professor of electrical engineering, spoke of the need for teaching 'engineering-English.' Fifty years ago Hale Sutherland, a professor of Civil Engineering, described how Case School of Applied Science had instituted a two-course, technical writing requirement to overcome 'the engineer's ancient weakness, his inability to speak and write effectively.' One approach to solving this problem has been cooperation. Seventy years ago C. W. Park wrote an article about the cooperative program at the University of Cincinnati, in which members of the Engineering and English Departments worked together to promote better writing; obviously the idea of teaming up is hardly new. Thirty years ago The Journal of Engineering Education published another description of a cooperative effort and just five years ago devoted an entire issue to technical writing. The need for teaching engineers to write and the difficulties in accomplishing the objective even cooperatively have been recognized for almost a century; we are still grappling with the problem.

Mair, David and John Radovich. JAC (1985). Articles>Education>Writing>Technical Writing


Dichotomy, Consubstantiality, Technical Writing, Literary Theory: The Double Orthodox Curse   (peer-reviewed)

Where are the departments that are truly strong at the extremes of literature and technical writing, yet have a Rogerian discussion of the differences going on? The sort of department I mean would offer work in technical and professional writing comparable to that at Rensselaer or Carnegie Mellon and literary theory comparable to that at Duke or Berkeley. Am I wrong in assuming that technical writers can and do move all the way from one extreme to the other, while literature professors do not see themselves either at an extreme or as part of any sort of continuum that would, if followed far enough, reach to the writing of software documentation for a process control?

Neel, Jasper. JAC (1992). Articles>Education>TC


Fluency, Fluidity, and Word Processing   (peer-reviewed)

Despite the above maxim, numerous studies have been conducted over the past five years to determine whether student compositions improve significantly with the use of a computer. As Gail Hawisher (summarizing Seymour Papert) suggests, our field is so new that we seem lobe in a technoúcentric phase comparable to the egocentric phase through which Piaget’s children must pass on the way to maturity. We are searching for “THE effect” of the computer on the product (the text) rather than “the effects” of the computer both on the writer and on the context in which the product is produced. We have already passed judgment on what the computer should do (improve the product) rather than investigate what it does do. Thus, the results of the studies conducted to date appear contradictory.

Boiarsky, Carolyn. JAC (1991). Articles>Rhetoric>Computers and Writing


Functional Redundancy and Ellipsis as Strategies in Reading and Writing   (peer-reviewed)

Redundancy is widely seen as a kind of linguistic cholesterol, clogging the arteries of our prose and impeding the efficient circulation of knowledge. However, I will argue that, just as a more thorough understanding of cholesterol reveals the existence of good cholesterol (HDL) as well as bad (LDL), so a broader view on the principle of redundancy reveals its effectiveness in certain situations, particularly beyond the sentence level. In this article I aim to revive the beneficial or functional sense of redundancy and show that functional redundancy in writing need not be a contradiction in terms. I believe a discussion of redundancy should include its opposite, ellipsis, so I will define both terms, emphasizing the beneficial sense of each, and then show how they appear in both reading and writing. In the latter part of the article, to illustrate the pervasiveness of redundancy and ellipsis, I will discuss examples of each in document design and in figures of speech. My attention will mainly be on technical writing, but the principles I will discuss may apply to other genres, too.

Grant-Davie, Keith. JAC (1995). Articles>Writing>Rhetoric


Hot Cogntion: Emotions and Writing Behavior   (peer-reviewed)

Although contemporary psychologists generally acknowledge the significance of affect in human experience, few attempts have been made to understand its role in cognitive processes. Important books on cognition barely mention the subject of emotion, feeling, or sentiment. Unlike the strictly cognitive and physiological psycholoúgists, social psychologists are deeply concerned with affect. These psychologists contend that to consider people dispassionate, information processing systems is a poor if not badly inaccurate model of the human being. A positivistic psychology has been too “cold' to carry the entire motivational burden. What is needed is some way to heat up cognition—a theory that unites the cognitively blind but arousing system of affect with the subtle cognitive apparatus. In an otherwise cold-blooded tradition of cognitive science and flow chart intelligence, the idea of hot cognition became a major humanizing counterstatement during the mid 1960s and early 1970s.

Brand, Alice G. JAC (1985). Articles>Rhetoric>Emotions>Cognitive Psychology


The Implied Author in Technical Discourse   (peer-reviewed)

The task of conveying technical information is usually taken to be the responsibility of the writer-researcher, aided possibly by editorial and supervisory reviews. And the test of success is usually understood to be a technically objective and accurate text, effectively presented to the intended reader. The subject of this paper is an inquiry into the existence of a fictitious personage, created by the writer-researcher, deliberately or not, to mediate between the author and the reader on the one side, and the author and the text on the other. If such a personage exists, the next question is whether this presence, often referred to as an implied author or 'second self' in literary studies, is an appropriate rhetorical device for technical discourse; whether it enhances or distorts the information transfer from writer to text to reader. Such questioning can, I believe, lead to a more refined understanding of the nature of technical discourse and its relation to the reality it addresses.

Coney, Mary B. JAC (1988). Articles>Rhetoric>TC


The Irony Game: Assessing a Writer's Adaptation to an Opponent   (peer-reviewed)

The study of composition processes describes what writers do. The study of the art of composition describes methods for giving writers better control over what they do. This essay makes a contribution to both research concerns. It contributes to the study of composition processes by describing what ironists do when they refute an opponent. It contributes to the study of the art of composition by offering methods for giving writers better control over the adaptive strategies they use when attempting refutations.

Kaufer, David S. and Christine M. Neuwirth. JAC (1981). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Review: New Essays in Technical and Scientific Communication: Research, Theory, Practice   (peer-reviewed)

Anderson, Brockmann, and Miller have compiled an anthology of essays devoted to research in technical and scientific communication that should be read by any professional writing teacher who hopes to maintain a career in this field and by graduate students who are contemplating applied communication as an area of concentration. While the editors have not dealt with the pragmatic reasons for doing research (preferring to stress the scholarly motives), this anthology could well be subtitled “How to Write for Promotion and Tenure if You Teach Technical Writing in an English Department.” For technical writing teachers facing the publish or perish mandate in English departments, the essays exemplify the kinds of research that will help one survive amid literature-oriented colleagues who often think that technical writing teachers have nothing to publish or teach that has any depth or value. The essays, 12 in all, cover five currently popular main research areas in scientific and technical communication.

Tebeaux, Elizabeth. JAC (1983). Articles>Reviews>TC


The Passive In Technical and Scientific Writing   (peer-reviewed)

Almost every discussion of technical or scientific style mentions the passive voice, usually as a stylistic evil to avoid. While I doubt that many of us would endorse such extreme prescriptions as 'Always use the active voice,' or 'A writer will almost automatically improve his style when he shifts from passive to active constructions,' we may be more ready to accept Freedman's position in 'The Seven Sins of Technical Writing.' His Sin 6 is 'the Deadly Passive, or, better, deadening passive; it takes the life out of writing, making everything impersonal, eternal, remote and dead,'3 but he adds that 'frequently, of course, the passive is not a sin and not deadly, for there simply is no active agent and the material must be put impersonally.'

Rodman, Lilita. JAC (1981). Articles>Writing>Style Guides


Political-Ethical Implications of Defining Technical Communication as a Practice   (peer-reviewed)

Let me present one possible version of the history of teaching writing in the last century and a half. When the tradition of classical rhetoric was restricted to composition in the nineteenth century, teachers of writing found themselves teaching service courses, usually defined as skills courses. Furthermore, having lost touch with the classical tradition, they began to teach writing particularly suited to current needs and, by extension, to teach thought forms that imitate modern consciousness —- a form of consciousness largely molded by forms of production, or technology. As Richard Ohmann says, much modern composition instruction reflects this technological consciousness: it casts the writing process in terms of problem solving, stresses objectivity and thereby denies a writer's social responsibilities, distances the interaction between writer and reader, deals with abstract issues, and denies politics (206). As a result, teachers of writing indoctrinate students, turning them into the sorts of people who will fill the slots available in our technological society.

Sullivan, Dale L. JAC (1990). Articles>Rhetoric>History


The Process of Writing: A Philosophical Base in Hermeneutics   (peer-reviewed)

There is no doubt that among those concerned with composition and the teaching of writing, one of the dominant concerns is the process of writing. Anyone who has attended the annual Conference on College Composition and Communication in the past five years can attest to this fact. Indeed, writing across the curriculum and the process method of teaching composition are probably the two most important innovations in the field of composition in the past ten years. Whole programs have been restructured to enable teachers to teach by the process method. At my own institution, John Ruszkiewicz added this dimension to an already fairly elaborate composition program. Many of us who have been teaching composition for a good number of years have substantially altered our own techniques of teaching to incorporate more process emphasis.

Kinneavy, James L. JAC (1987). Articles>Rhetoric>Methods


Purpose and Composition Theory: Issues in the Research   (peer-reviewed)

Unlike audience and context, rhetorical purpose has not been the subject of concentrated, comprehensive research. For example, we do not have a bibliographic overview of purpose as we do for audience (Coney; Ede, “Audience”), and we have not explored the meaning of purpose as we have audience (Park; Kroll; Ede and Lunsford) and context (Brandt; Piazza). However, we need answers to a number of questions concerning purpose. How is it defined? Is it a synonym for goal, intention, end, or aim, as certain research seems to suggest? If so, do these terms differ at all; and if not, what does purpose mean and how does it figure in our theory and pedagogy? Answering questions such as these would assist all composition specialists by encouraging more informed research and teaching about the rhetoric of purpose. In the following article, I begin the task of surveying research on purpose. Although not an exhaustive bibliographic survey, this article can serve as an introduction to the subject.

Blyler, Nancy. JAC (1989). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing


Rabbit Trails, Ephemera, and Other Stories: Feminist Methodology and Collaborative Research

As a basis for our exploration, we have analyzed our own experiences to date in four ongoing collaborative research groups. In using self-reflective critique as our method of analysis, we are keenly aware that the evolving nature of these collaborative groups has influenced the construction of our arguments here. And, conversely, we realize that our critique may in turn influence the evolution of these groups. Moreover, we recognize as a formative constraint our interest in preserving and continuing to work with colleagues in these groups. Plainly stated, we continually asked ourselves, 'Will the colleagues in our collaborative groups ever speak to us again after reading this article?' Because of this concern, we shared drafts with all of these colleagues, asked for their comments, and provided an opportunity for them to offer alternative interpretations.

Burnett, Rebecca E. and Helen Rothschild Ewald. JAC (1994). Articles>Rhetoric>Collaboration


Reading and Writing for Engineering Students   (peer-reviewed)

Since numerous engineering colleges are currently creating or expanding programs in technical communication, many universities are debating whether the program should be placed in the English department or in the college of engineering itself. In arguing for the latter option, a number of technical writing teachers have published the opinion that our courses are markedly different from general courses on expository prose which are taught in English departments. This is true; there are essential points of departure. However, one difference that is frequently cited is the requiring of a good deal of reading during a writing course. This approach is generally associated with English departments, having no relevance to the way technical writing is properly taught. In this paper, I shall present two reasons for including numerous reading assignments when teaching technical writing to engineering students, and I shall suggest methods by which to do so.

Spretnak, Charlene M. JAC (1983). Articles>Education>TC


The Rhetoric of the Paragraph: A Reconsideration   (peer-reviewed)

Efforts to define the fundamental structures that enable meaning in discourse have a long history, beginning with ancient speculation. Classical logic, rhetoric, and grammar imposed restrictions on the processes of composing, as well as the shapes of finished texts, in order to safeguard the truth by attending to prerequisites for its effective communication. From earliest times, a concern for vindicating some larger moral order, and for teaching others to appreciate it, has often motivated pronouncements on the nature of verbal form. From Quintilian to the present, for example, teacher-scholars have striven to insure that logical and aesthetic values celebrated in the classical doctrine of decorum are made suitably manifest in student performance, as though to enforce publicly accepted styles of thought and action by reference to acceptable forms of language.

Knoblauch, C.H. JAC (1981). Articles>Writing>Style Guides


A Scheme for Representing Written Argument   (peer-reviewed)

A scheme for representing argument is a formalism used to describe the structure or pattern within argumentative discourse. The value of any such scheme lies in its ability to focus attention on certain aspects of perceptually complex argument and direct interpretation and use of these aspects in detail. Formal logic, beginning with the syllogism, represents a large class of argument schemes. So too do the schemes of classical rhetoric.

Kaufer, David S. and Cheryl Geisler. JAC (1991). Articles>Rhetoric>Writing



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