A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Technical Communication Quarterly

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Technical Communication Quarterly (TCQ) is a peer-reviewed journal, published four times a year by the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing, which publishes research focused on technical communication in academic, scientific, technical, business, governmental, and related organizational or social contexts.



The Academic Job Market in Technical Communication, 2002-2003   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Analysis of the academic job market in 2002-2003 reveals that 118 nationally advertised academic jobs named technical or professional communication as a primary or secondary specialization. Of the 56 in the "primary" category that we were able to contact, we identified 42 jobs filled, 10 unfilled, and 4 pending. However, only 29% of the jobs for which technical or professional communication was the primary specialization were filled by people with degrees in the field, and an even lower percent (25%) of all jobs, whether advertised for a primary or secondary specialization, were filled by people with degrees in the field. Search chairs report a higher priority on teaching and research potential than on a particular research specialization, and 62% of all filled positions involve teaching in related areas (composition, literature, or other writing courses).

Rude, Carolyn D. and Kelli Cargile Cook. Technical Communication Quarterly (2002). Careers>Academic>TC>History


Accessibility and Order: Crossing Borders in Child Abuse Forensic Reports   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Physicians write child abuse forensic reports for nonphysicians. We examined 73 forensic reports from a Canadian children's hospital for recurrent strategies geared toward making medical information accessible to nonmedical users; we also interviewed four report writers and five readers. These reports featured unique forensic inserts in addition to headings, lists, and parentheses, which are typical of physician letters for patients. We discuss implications of these strategies that must bridge the communities of medical, social, and legal practice.

Spafford, Marlee M., Catherine F. Schryer, Lorelei Lingard and Marcellina Mian. Technical Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Scientific Communication>Reports>Biomedical


Agency and the Rhetoric of Medicine: Biomedical Brain Scans and the Ontology of Fibromyalgia   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Recent agency scholarship has provided compelling accounts of how individuals can strategically occupy authoritative positions, in order to instantiate change. This article explores the discursive mechanisms of this type of agency in the legitimization of disease. Drawing on ethnographic research, this article investigates how a non-human agent (brain scans) contributed to fibromyalgia's acceptance within the highly regulated discourses of western biomedicine.

Graham, S. Scott. Technical Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


An Approach for Applying Cultural Study Theory to Technical Writing Research   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

When the idea of culture is expanded to include institutional relationships extending beyond the walls of one organization, technical writing researchers can address relationships between our power/knowledge system and multiculturalism, postmodernism, gender, conflict, and ethics within professional communication. This article contrasts ideas of culture in social constructionist and cultural study research designs, addressing how each type of design impacts issues that can be analyzed in research studies. Implications for objectivity and validity in speculative cultural study research are also explored. Finally, since articulation of a coherent theoretical foundation is crucial to limiting a cultural study, this article suggests how technical writing can be constituted as an object of study according to five (of many possible) poststructural concepts: the object of inquiry as discursive, the object as practice within a cultural context, the object as practice within a historical context, the object as ordered by language, and the object in relationship with the one who studies it.

Longo, Bernadette. Technical Communication Quarterly (1998). Academic>Research>Cultural Theory>Technical Writing


"Aristotle's Pharmacy": The Medical Rhetoric of a Clinical Protocol in the Drug Development Process   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article analyzes the clinical protocol within the rhetorical framework of the drug development and approval process, identifying the constraints under which the protocol is written and the rhetorical form, argumentative strategies, and style needed to improve and teach the writing of this document.

Bell, Heather D., Kathleen A. Walch and Steven B. Katz. Technical Communication Quarterly (2000). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


The Association of Teachers of Technical Writing: The Emergence of Professional Identity   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article attempts to summarize the history of ATTW. It focuses on issues that led to the need for an organization devoted to technical writing, and the individuals who were leaders in ATTW, as well as in NCTE and CCCC, whose efforts provided the foundation for the presence of technical writing as a legitimate teaching and research discipline. We draw on existing historical pieces and the contributions provided by many of the first ATTW members to capture the history of ATTW. We describe the major changes in ATTW from 1973-2007 and conclude with our reflections, as well as important questions we believe to be critical to the future of ATTW.

Kynell, Teresa and Elizabeth Tebeaux. Technical Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>TC>History>Case Studies


Beyond Foucault: Toward a User-Centered Approach to Sexual Harassment Policy   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Our current national policy regarding sexual harassment, expressed through legal, economic, and popular discourses, exemplifies the Foucauldian paradigm in its attempt to regulate sexuality through seemingly authorless texts. Arguing that regulation through such discursive technologies need not lead to the effects of domination that Foucault recognized, I propose a user-centered approach to policy drafting that values the knowledge of workers as users and makers of workplace policy.

Ranney, Frances J. Technical Communication Quarterly (2000). Careers>Management>Discrimination>Sexual Harassment


Beyond the Screen: Narrative Mapping as a Tool for Evaluating a Mixed-Reality Science Museum Exhibit   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article describes the authors' work as formative evaluators of a mixed-reality science museum installation, Journey with Sea Creatures. Looking beyond the focal point of the screen to the spatial and temporal surroundings of the exhibit, the authors employed a technique they call retrospective narrative mapping in conjunction with sustained on-site observations, follow-up interviews with museum visitors, and the development of personas to better understand the user experience in multimodal informal learning environments.

Kitalong, Karla Saari, Jane E. Moody, Rebecca Helminen Middlebrook and Gary Saldana Ancheta. Technical Communication Quarterly (2009). Articles>Information Design>Education


Building Context: Using Activity Theory to Teach About Genre in Multi-Major Professional Communication Courses   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Instructors in multi-major professional communication courses are asked to teach students a variety of workplace genres. However, teaching genres apart from their contexts may not result in transfer of knowledge from school to workplace settings. We propose teaching students to research genre use via activity theory as a way of encouraging transfer. We outline theory and research relevant to teaching genre and provide results from a study using activity theory to teach genre in two different professional communication courses.

Kain, Donna and Elizabeth Wardle. Technical Communication Quarterly (2005). Articles>Education>Business Communication>Genre


The CCCC Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication: A Retrospective Analysis   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article presents the history, purposes, outcomes, and significance of the CCCC Outstanding Dissertation Award in Technical Communication during its first five years. It analyzes the topical areas and research methods of the 34 dissertations nominated for the award from 1999 to 2003, as well as the evaluations of the judges. Methods of the nominated dissertations are interpretive (41%) and empirical (59%), but many dissertations combine methods. In the empirical category, qualitative methods (17) outnumber quantitative methods (3). The most frequent topical areas are workplace practice (8), rhetoric of the disciplines (7), and information design (6). Topics that are not widely investigated include issues of race and class and international communication.

Selber, Stuart A. Technical Communication Quarterly (2004). Articles>Research>TC>History


Certification in Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The debate over certification of technical and professional communicators has occurred with periods of relative intensity and quiescence for more than twenty years. This article surveys the historical developments of the debate; describes the arguments for and against certification; surveys technical communication curricula and theoretical arguments for literacies, standards, and competencies; and examines various efforts to study certification, including a description of published documents regarding certification.

Turner, Roy K. and Kenneth T. Rainey. Technical Communication Quarterly (2004). Careers>Certification>TC>Education


Changing the Center of Gravity: Collaborative Writing Program Administration in Large Universities   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Technical communication practices have been changed dramatically by the increasingly ubiquitous nature of digital technologies. Yet, while those who work in the profession have been living through this dramatic change, our academic discipline has been moving at a slower pace, at times appearing quite unsure about how to proceed. This article focuses on the following three areas of opportunity for change in our discipline in relation to digital technologies: access and expectations, scholarship and community building, and accountability and partnering.

Johnson-Sheehan, Richard D. and Charles Paine. Technical Communication Quarterly (2004). Articles>Education>Writing>Collaboration


Chrysler's “Most Beautiful Engineer”: Lucille J. Pieti in the Pillory of Fame   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The case of Lucille Pieti, a technical writer at Chrysler, serves as a discipline-specific illustration of some of Rossiter's (1995) generalizations about women scientists and engineers after World War II. Like other women with engineering degrees, Pieti emerged from college with high hopes, only to find herself consigned to one of the traditional ghettos for women scientists and engineers: technical communication. Her case is unusual, however, because she became a national celebrity.

Malone, Edward A. Technical Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>History>TC>Gender


Communicating Values, Valuing Community through Health-Care Websites: Midwifery's Online Ethos and Public Communication in Ontario   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Drawing on the rhetorical concept of ethos, this study explores the professional identities, health-care relationships, and forms of community constructed by two midwifery websites in Ontario. Rather than facilitating communal and dialogic modes of communication with the public, these websites enact primarily a unidirectional consumption model. This design structure both reflects and reinforces the complexities of midwifery's recent shift from being an explicitly alternative form of health care, to becoming part of the dominant health-care framework.

Spoel, Philippa. Technical Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Scientific Communication>Web Design>Biomedical


Communication in Technology Transfer and Diffusion: Defining the Field   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Provides an introduction to our field’s connections with technology transfer and diffusion. Technology transfer, the complex social process that moves technology from bench to market, drives global economic growth; technology diffusion, the market-driven process by which innovations are adopted and implemented, follows similar patterns. Indeed, technology transfer and diffusion may be considered synonymous with the phenomenon of growth in a global economy.

Coppola, Nancy W. Technical Communication Quarterly (2006). Articles>Communication>Technology>Technical Writing


Complicating Technology: Interdisciplinary Method, the Burden of Comprehension, and the Ethical Space of the Technical Communicator   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

There is much for technical communicators to learn from the burgeoning field of technology studies. Technical communicators, however, have an obligation to exercise patience as they enter this arena of study. Using interdisciplinary theory, this article argues that technical communication must assume the 'burden of comprehension': the responsibility of understanding the ideologies, contexts, values, and histories of those disciplines from which we borrow before we begin using their methods and research findings. Three disciplines of technology study--history, sociology, and philosophy--are examined to investigate how these disciplines approach technology. The article concludes with speculation on how technical communicators, by virtue of their entrance into this interdisciplinary arena, might refashion both their practical roles and the scope of their ethical responsibilities.

Johnson, Robert R. Technical Communication Quarterly (1998). Articles>Technology>Ethics


Conservation Writing: An Emerging Field in Technical Communication   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article discusses the rise of conservation writing as a new field of technical communication, and it offers pedagogical strategies for teaching conservation writing and building curricula. Conservation writing is an umbrella term for a range of writing about ecology, biology, the outdoors, and environmental policies and ethics. It places the natural world at the center of readers' attention, often viewing sustainability as a core value. A course or curriculum in this kind of writing would likely need to help students master a variety of genres, while providing a working knowledge in environmental law, ethics, and politics.

Johnson-Sheehan, Richard D. and Larry Morgan. Technical Communication Quarterly (2008). Articles>Education>Environmental>Technical Writing


Constructive Interference: Wikis And Service Learning In The Technical Communication Classroom   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Four service-learning projects were conducted in technical communication courses using wikis. Results confirm previous findings that wikis improve collaboration, help develop student expertise, and enact a “writing with the community” service-learning paradigm. However, wikis did not decenter the writing classroom as predicted by previous work. Instructors using wikis to scaffold client projects should calibrate standards for evaluation with students and client, and they may need to encourage clients to stay active on the wiki.

Walsh, Lynda. Technical Communication Quarterly (2010). Articles>Education>Service Learning>Wikis


A Contrary View of the Technical Writing Classroom: Notes Toward Future Discussion   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Rather than acting as training departments for students’ future employers (a mission reflected in most textbooks and journal scholarship), technical writing programs should be teaching skepticism, critical thinking, and paradigm-breaking. They should be highlighting the agendas and “narratives” inherent in any text, rather than sustaining a positivist faith in neutrality and objectivity, because students who understand the power of language to shape the workplace (not simply to transmit information) turn out to be the most effective, most successful professionals. This article questions the widespread, largely uncritical importing of corporate paradigms into the technical writing classroom and calls for the university to remain separate from the corporation in its purpose. The article goes on to describe a recently developed senior seminar that challenges students’ assumptions about scientific and technical writing, including their own. Through courses like this, it is hoped that students will enter their professions as savvy, questioning thinkers rather than simply as efficient, problem-solving doers.

Bushnell, Jack. Technical Communication Quarterly (1999). Articles>Education>Writing


Corporate Image and the Establishment of Euro Disney: Mickey Mouse and the French Press   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Drawing upon publications in the French press, this article considers three interweaving themes that characterized the construction of the Euro Disney park. It then offers an analysis of the historical context for and the implications of the park's construction, using the literature of French cultural studies and cross-cultural studies for support. It concludes with a discussion of the possible consequences to the company of Disney's negative image in the French press.

Forman, Janis. Technical Communication Quarterly (1998). Articles>Rhetoric>Branding


Critical Engagement with Technology in the Computer Classroom   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article proposes a model for critically engaging technology in technical communication graduate curricula. While computers and writing studies concentrates on academic writing, the development of the field provides a model for engaging technological issues in professional and classroom contexts. Technical communicators have an ethical as well as intellectual responsibility to engage the interface between technology and culture. This article describes one example, a graduate class in information architecture, as a model for engaging the nexus of literacy, technology, and culture.

Salvo, Michael J. Technical Communication Quarterly (2002). Articles>Education>Technology


The Culture of Distance Education: Implementing an Online Graduate Level Course in Audience Analysis   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This essay details the experience of designing, implementing, and evaluating an online course in audience analysis at the graduate level. Through a discussion of the culture of this online course, I describe how the educational culture of the Land Grant Mission flowed into our efforts to create a quality learning experience, and how the Web modules and asynchronous (listserv) and synchronous (MOO) conversations influenced communication and learning.

Hill Duin, Ann. Technical Communication Quarterly (1998). Articles>Education>Audience Analysis>Online


"Curb Cuts" on the Information Highway: Older Adults and the Internet   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

With demographic and social trends in mind, technical communicators should be examining the online communication needs of elderly people who may share certain characteristics with other Internet users, particularly the disabled community. Although education, universal design, and accessibility initiatives help us address many of the developmental and cultural barriers elderly Internet users face, this article examines some current offerings, analyzing the growing elderly audience to better incorporate usability into Web design.

O'Hara, Karen. Technical Communication Quarterly (2004). Design>Web Design>Audience Analysis>Elderly


Debate-Creating vs. Accounting References in French Medical Journals   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article investigates the quantitative and qualitative evolution of debate-creating (DEB) vs. accounting (ACC) references in 90 French medical articles published between 1810 and 1995. My findings suggest that nineteenth-century French academic writing tends to be more polemical oroppositional than cooperative by contrast to its twentieth-century counterpart. These results suggest that the debate-creating vs. accounting opposition could be a rhetorical universal of referential behavior in medical literature.

Salager-Meyer, Francoise. Technical Communication Quarterly (2000). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical


Decorative Color as a Rhetorical Enhancement on the World Wide Web   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Professional communication scholars have defined the decorative narrowly and subordinated it to informational text. Yet, current psychological research indicates that decorative elements elicit emotion-laden reactions that may precede cognitive awareness and influence interpretation of images. We conceive the decorative in design, and specifically color, as a complex rhetorical phenomenon. Applying decorative and color theory and analyzing design examples illustrating aesthetic, ethical, and logical appeals, we present a range of potential uses for color in electronic media.

Richards, Anne R. and Carol David. Technical Communication Quarterly (2005). Design>Web Design>Visual Rhetoric>Color



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