A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication (and technical writing).

Journal of Technical Writing and Communication

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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


The Added Value Features of Online Scholarly Journals   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Online scholarly journals have become an important tool for the generation of knowledge and the distribution and access to research. The purpose of this article is to analyze the features of online scholarly journals and to determine whether they incorporate new Internet-enabled features and functions which help to meet the needs of the members of the scholarly community more effectively. Drawing on Taylor's concept of added value [1], the features of online scholarly journals were classified into the following types: features which enhance ease of use and facilitate access to data, features that provide selected information and thus reduce noise, features which improve quality, features which address specific user needs, and features which contribute to time or cost savings. The analysis revealed that, although some online journals operate in the same way as print journals, there are others which incorporate innovative features which are transforming the journal to make it a more effective tool for scholarly activity.

Luzón, María José. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Research>Publishing>Online


Aligning Theme and Information Structure To Improve The Readability Of Technical Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The readability of technical writing, and technical manuals in particular, especially for second language readers, can be noticeably improved by pairing Theme with Given and Rheme with New. This allows for faster processing of text and easier access to the "method of development" of the text. Typical Theme-Rheme patterns are described, and the notion of the "point of a text" is introduced. These concepts are applied to technical writing and the reader is then invited to evaluate the improvements in readability in a small sample of texts.

Moore, N.A.J. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2006). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Rhetoric


Analysis of the Communication Components Found Within the Situational Leadership Model: Toward Integration of Communication and the Model   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article identifies and assesses the effectiveness of communicating expectations, listening, delegating, and providing feedback in relation to the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership model. It reviews the correlation between task versus relationship behavior that forms the basis of the Situational Leadership model. Then the article summarizes information found in literature on effective techniques for the four skills stated above. As these techniques are identified, they are discussed in relation to their effective use in the Situational Leadership model. To understand the application of the model in businesses and its impact on managers communication effectiveness, we conducted a study of an operational department of a Fortune 500 financial services company. The results and content analysis of a survey we administered by random selection of the managers in this department indicate that successful use of the Situational Leadership model relies on effectiveness in four communication components: communicating expectations, listening, delegating, and providing feedback. Finally, we recommend areas of future research such as comparison analysis of surveys, interviews, and focus groups with subordinates of managers who have been trained on the Situational Leadership model and those who have not.

Brown, Nicole A. and Randolph T. Barker. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2001). Articles>Business Communication>Management


Answering the Call: Toward a History of Proposals   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

While scholars have begun to write a history of reports and instructions, little scholarship exists on the history of proposals. To fill this gap, I analyze proposals written by Dorothy Wordsworth and Anne Macvicar Grant, ca. 1800. My analysis uses contemporary rhetorical theory to determine how they structured their writing and incorporated rhetorical appeals to achieve their goals. My findings show that their texts should be placed on a continuum of the history and development of the proposal genre. Further findings suggest that their use of contemporary rhetorical theories authorized Wordsworth's and Grant's discourse to successfully affect change.

Meloncon, Lisa. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2010). Articles>Grants>Proposals>History


Anti-Employer Blogging: An Overview of Legal and Ethical Issues   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Anti-employer blogs, those which criticize companies or their employees, are posing significant legal and ethical challenges for corporations. The important legal issue is the conflict between the employee's legal duty of loyalty to the employer and the employee's right to free speech. Although U.S. and state law describes what an employee may or may not say in a blog, corporations should encourage employees to contribute to the process of creating clear, reasonable policies that will help prevent expensive court cases. The important ethical issue concerning anti-employer blogs is whether an employee incurs an ethical duty of loyalty. In this article, I conclude that there is no such ethical duty. The legal duty of loyalty, explained in a company-written policy statement that employees must endorse as a condition of employment, offers the best means of protecting the legal and ethical rights of both employers and employees.

Markel, Mike. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Blogging>Ethics


Aristotelian Rhetorical Theory as a Framework for Teaching Scientific and Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Classical rhetorical theory has been used for relatively discrete, practice-oriented purposes in its application to teaching Scientific and Technical Communication. However effective these appropriations are, they isolate these resources from a comprehensive framework and from that framework's role in shaping disciplinary practice. Because these theoretical assets are integral to each student's preparation to be an effective, responsible practitioner, I have developed and taught an upper level rhetorical theory course for STC majors that is grounded in Aristotle s <em>On Rhetoric</em> and in his understanding that effective communication is a systematic <em>tekhne</em>/art.

Newman, Sara. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>Education>TC>Rhetoric


The Banality of Rhetoric? Assessing Steven Katz's "The Ethic of Expediency" Against Current Scholarship on the Holocaust   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Since 1992, Steven Katz's "The Ethic of Expediency" on the rhetoric of technical communication during the Holocaust has become a reference point for discussions of ethics. But how does his thesis compare to current understandings of the Holocaust? As this article describes, Katz was in step with the trend two decades ago to universalize the lessons of the genocide but his thesis presents key problems for Holocaust scholars today. Against his assertion that pure technological expediency was the ethos of Nazi Germany, current scholarship emphasizes the role of ideology. Does that invalidate his thesis? Katz's analysis of rhetoric and his universalizing application to the Holocaust are two claims that may be considered separately. Yet even if one does not agree that "expediency" is inherent in Western rhetoric, Katz has raised awareness that phronesis is socially constructed so that rhetoric can be unethically employed. Thus, rather than remain an uncritically accepted heuristic for technical communicators, "The Ethic of Expediency" can be a starting point for ongoing exploration into the ethical and rhetorical dimensions of the genre.

Ward, Mark. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2009). Articles>Education>History>Ethics


Bibliography of Articles on the History of Technical Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This collection of thirty-six articles exposes the problem and the promise of historical research in technical writing. The central problem is that historical research in technical writing has too often been focused only on celebrated authors or scientists as technical writers. The central promise contained in some very recent essays is that historical research in technical communications is beginning to consider the slow evolution of technical communication taking place across a broad spectrum of both celebrated and uncelebrated writers. This historical approach, though more difficult to carry out, is immensely more accurate and meaningful.

Brockmann, R. John. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1983). Resources>Bibliographies>Technical Writing>History


Breaking Professional Boundaries: What the MacCrate Report on Lawyering Skills and Values Means for TPC Programs   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In 1992, the American Bar Association released the MacCrate Report, which listed the ten skills and four professional values that all attorneys need and critiqued law schools and state bars for not doing enough to teach and encourage the development of these skills and values. In response, law schools have significantly increased the skills-based components in their curricula, and most state bar exams now include a performance test. Technical and Professional Communication (TPC) programs already provide substantial instruction in all of the skills and values described in the MacCrate Report; further, an education in TPC prepares graduates to excel in law school and on the bar exam. This knowledge offers opportunities for growth if educators, administrators, and scholars take steps to encourage students to consider not only writing for but also joining in the legal profession.

Todd, Jeff. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2008). Articles>Education>Legal>Business Communication


The Browser War: An Ethical Analysis of the Struggle between Microsoft and the U.S. Department of Justice   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The ongoing antitrust battle between the U.S. Department of Justice and Microsoft Corporation presents technical communicators with two ethical questions: 1) Is it right, good, or fair for Microsoft to give away its Internet Explorer browser? 2) If Microsoft gains monopoly control over the PC browser market, will this be good for us? This article examines these questions using traditional rights-based ethical theory (Kant), utilitarianism, and John Rawls principles of justice, concluding that it is neither good nor fair for a company having a near-monopoly over a market to sell products below fair market value, nor is it good that one company stands to gain monopoly control over the PC browser market. When the discussion turned to Netscape, one Intel executive, who asked not to be identified, recalled Martiz [Paul Martiz, Microsoft Group Vice President, Platforms & Application] saying: "We are going to cut off their air supply. Everything they re selling, we re going to give away for free" [1]. "We re giving away a pretty good browser as part of the operating system. How long can they survive selling it?"--Statement by Steve Ballmer, Microsoft President and CEO [2]. "Our business model works even if all Internet software is free," says Mr. Gates. "We are still selling operating systems." <em>Netscape</em>, in contrast, is dependent upon its Internet software for profits, he points out.--Statements by Bill Gates, Microsoft Chairman [3]. Only a monopolist could study a competitor and destroy its business by giving away products--Statement by Scott McNealy, Sun Microsystems Chairman [4].

Meier, Dennis. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>TC>Ethics>Web Browsers


Burkean Invention in Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article supplements existing rhetorical scholarship by returning to the notion of invention as general preparation of the communicator. Although much scholarship about invention in technical communication exists, it consists mainly of heuristics, checklists, ethical considerations, and audience awareness. Part of invention is using basic strategies to prepare the communicator to assess any communication situation and its context and to generate the appropriate discourse. Rhetorician Kenneth Burke s theories of dialectic and rhetoric are a twentieth-century version of this; this article explains important Burkean strategies such as etymological extension, limits of agreement with the thesis, finding the complex in the simple, expanding the circumference, translation or alembication, the four master tropes, and the pentad, and it shows how to apply these in technical communication. The article closes with a classroom assignment that uses Burkean invention strategies.

Todd, Jeff. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2000). Articles>TC>Rhetoric


Can This Marriage Be Saved: IS an English Department a Good Home for Technical Communication?   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In partial answer to the many questions that have been raised about the definition and location of technical writing programs, a random sample of full-time teachers of professional writing was conducted. The results indicate that those located in English departments do not receive the respect and support they need. Those located in other departments are significantly more satisfied. Some strategies for improving the situation are suggested.

MacNealy, Mary Sue and Leon B. Heaton. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Academic>Education>TC>Professionalism


Can This Marriage Be Saved: IS an English Department a Good Home for Technical Communication?   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In partial answer to the many questions that have been raised about the definition and location of technical writing programs, a random sample of full-time teachers of professional writing was conducted. The results indicate that those located in English departments do not receive the respect and support they need. Those located in other departments are significantly more satisfied. Some strategies for improving the situation are suggested.

MacNealy, Mary Sue and Leon B. Heaton. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Academic>Programs>Collaboration>Technical Writing


Charles Morris's Semiotic Model and Analytical Studies Of Visual and Verbal Representations in Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In this article, the author demonstrates that the semiotic model proposed by Charles Morris enables us to optimize our understanding of technical communication practices and provides a good point of inquiry. To illustrate this point, the author exemplifies the semiotic approaches by scholars in technical communication and elaborates Morris's model through analyzing visual and verbal elements of technical communication brochures from semantic, syntactic, and pragmatic levels. The discussion of semiotic approach reinforced by various examples illustrates that the semiotic model can be a tangible theoretical and practical tool to help students and practitioners study and analyze the use of visual and verbal elements in technical communication.

Fan, Jiang-Ping. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2006). Articles>Document Design>Assessment>Semantic


Choose Sunwest: One Airline's Organizational Communication Strategies in A Campaign Against the Teamsters Union   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article presents a qualitative text analysis of persuasive documents written by a major U.S. airline in a 2004 counter-campaign against the Teamsters union. The methodology for this study is based on Stephen Toulmin's argument model, including his "double triad" and his interpretation of artistic proofs, which parallel the three classical rhetorical appeals. Actual corporate documents are featured in this article, supported by content from management conference calls that were attended by the researchers. The article concludes with implications for teaching and research in the field of technical and professional communication.

Ortiz, Lorelei A. and Julie Dyke Ford. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Business Communication>Management>Workplace


Coherence in Workplace Instant Messages   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In our case study, we examined the instant messaging (IM) workplace discourse of a pair of expert IM users. We found that the participants maintained discourse cohesion and thus coherence via short, rapidly sent transmissions that created uninterrupted transmission sequences. Such uninterrupted transmission sequences allowed each participant to maintain the floor. Also, the participants used topicalizations and performative verbs to maintain coherence. We also found that the participants' use of short transmissions may have ambiguated their enactment of their institutional roles and the rights afforded to them by those roles.

Mackiewicz, Jo M. and Christopher Lam. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2009). Articles>Business Communication>Correspondence>Instant Messaging


Communicating Style Rules to Editors of International Standards: An Analysis of ISO TC 184/SC4 Style Documents   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Committees within international standards organizations write standards. Prior to approval, these standards must pass through several reviews for technical accuracy and stylistic appropriateness. The style considerations are based on documents published by both the umbrella organization (International Organization for Standarization, or ISO) and the various committees and subcommittees within it. Because authors and editors who use these documents frequently do not have English as a first language, the documents must explain unambiguously just how committees should prepare their documents. This study looks at a sample of those instructional documents using Restricted and Elaborated Code and metadiscourse analysis to determine how easily users can read and understand the material. The findings suggest that the documents do not send a clear message to authors and editors and can be stylistically hard to understand. Consequently, the approved standards themselves are hard to read and interpret.

Warren, Thomas L. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2001). Articles>Editing>Style Guides>Standards


Communicative Practices in the Workplace: A Historical Examination of Genre Development   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Although studies of actual communication practices in the workplace are now commonplace, few historical studies in this area have been completed. Such historical studies are necessary to help researchers understand the often com-plicated origins of genre conventions in professional discourse. Historical research that draws on contemporary genre theory helps address this void. A genre perspective is particularly valuable for helping researchers trace a given type of document s emergence and evolution. This perspective also provides a way of accounting for the connections between communicative practices and the other activities that occupy the attention of workplace organizations. To illustrate what this perspective brings to historical research in professional communication, I examine the development of communicative practices at a national production company that relied on texts to mediate its organizational activities across geographically dispersed locations.

Zachry, Mark. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2000). Articles>Business Communication>Workplace>History


Comparative User-Focused Evaluation of User Guides: A Case Study   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

A comparative evaluation of two user guides,--the document traditionally used by a company and a model document designed on the basis of research results and recommendations,--was carried out using a number of complementary approaches focusing on the user. The quality and suitability of these documents for the target audience were assessed in terms of content, structure, presence of certain organizational devices (such as headings) and pictures included. The results revealed that the model document was more attractive, more efficient, and better adapted to users' needs, thanks to its modular organization (being structured according to "functions"), a large number of pictures, the presence of headings, and rationalization of the vocabulary used.

Ganier, Franck. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2007). Articles>Documentation>Assessment>User Centered Design


Comparing Powerpoint Experts' and University Students' Opinions About PowerPoint Presentations   (members only)

Technical communication instructors want to help students, as well as professionals, design effective PowerPoint presentations. Toward this end, I compare the advice of academic and industry experts about effective PowerPoint presentation design to survey responses from university students about slide text, visual elements, animations, and other issues related to PowerPoint presentation design and delivery. Based on this comparison, I suggest some topics, such as PowerPoint's Slide Sorter view, that technical communication instructors and other presentation instructors might address when they cover presentations in their classes or seminars.

Mackiewicz, Jo M. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2008). Articles>Presentations>Assessment>Microsoft PowerPoint


Composition Studies, Professional Writing and Empirical Research: A Skeptical View   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article builds upon the work of Richard Haswell's "NCTE/CCCC's Recent War on Scholarship" by providing an alternative framework for empirical inquiry based on principles of skepticism. It examines the literature relating to empirical research and argues that one of the issues at hand is the perceived link of empirical research to positivism, which clashes with the dominant social constructivist paradigm. It draws upon classical rhetoric and the work of radial empiricist William James to formulate an alternative framework for empirical research based on skeptical principles.

Driscoll, Dana Lynn. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2009). Articles>Education>Research>Business Communication


A Computer Writing Environment for Professional Writers and Students Learning to Write   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

While some models of computer writing environments have emerged in the literature on writing, most of them are done with the purpose of helping writers in an academic context and very few, if any, with the aim of facilitating the work of professional writers or students in professional writing. We think, however, that we can learn from the previous models to build a multi-purpose computer writing environment that will take into account the needs of the professional writers as well as those of the students learning to write. We will begin by looking at some models of writing proposed by Hayes and Flower in 1980 and also at the model of White and Arndt. Afterwards, we will review the model of professional writers developed by Clerc and link it with the previous models. We will then have to look at some computer writing environments described in the literature and see how these environments take into account the process and tasks identified in writing. Finally, we will suggest our model.

Bisaillon, Jocelyne, Isabelle Clerc, and Jacques Ladouceur. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>Education>Computers and Writing>Writing


Computers and Aging: Marking Raced, Classed and Gendered Inequalities   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article begins with an overview of cognitive psychology research on the effects of aging on literacy and suggests the additional complications facing older adults who consume and produce text within the frame of technology, particularly on-line usage. From an overview, the text moves to patterns corporations are using to target older adults, namely as consumers and as producers. The text then explores the use of philanthropy in the corporate literacy initiatives and suggests that there are complicated issues at hand in attempting to integrate the knowledge of aging and corporate strategies into our technical writing classrooms because we enter this discussion concerned about non-traditional students, older adults who are challenged to participate in contemporary literacy initiatives, and ourselves as aging participants as well. The article ends with suggestions of possible ways of addressing concerns regarding aging. Half the people in the world, one half the people in the world don't have electricity. How are you going to get a computer in their hands, Bubba? They gotta have a little electricity first. You know, you can't go to the bathroom unless you got a toilet. You know, I mean, over a billion people don't have access to clean drinking water. Forget about the digital divide. They, they got to have food, water, clothing, shelter, and a chance for education. I mean, you know, digital divide, you know. Ted Turner cited in [1].

Crow, Angela. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (2002). Articles>Technology>Usability>Elderly


Confusion in the Classroom: Does Logos Mean Logic?   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The redefinition of logos as an appeal to logic is a mistaken association found all too often in the technical communication classroom. Logic inheres in all three proofs of persuasion; moreover, Aristotle used <em>logos</em> within the context of classical rhetoric to refer to the argument or speech itself. In this light, the proofs of persuasion represent the set of all logical means whereby the speaker can lead a "right-thinking" audience to infer <em>something</em>. If that <em>something</em> is an emotion, the appeal is to <em>pathos</em>; if it is about the character of the speaker, the appeal is to <em>ethos</em>; and if it is about the argument or speech itself, the appeal is to <em>logos</em>. This interpretation reinstates all three proofs of persuasion as legitimate, logical means to different proximate ends and provides a coherent definition of <em>logos</em>, consonant with Aristotle's <em>Rhetoric</em>, to the next generation of technical communicators.

Little, Joseph. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication (1999). Articles>TC>Education>Rhetoric



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