A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.

Written Communication

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Advance Organizers in Advisory Reports: Selective Reading, Recall, and Perception   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

According to research in educational psychology, advance organizers lead to better learning and recall of information. In this research, the authors explored advance organizers from a business perspective, where larger documents are read under time pressure. Graphic and verbal advance organizers were manipulated into six versions of an advisory report, read by 159 experienced professional readers in a between-subjects design. Their reading time was limited to encourage selective reading. The results show that graphic advance organizers facilitate selective reading, but they do not enhance recall. Verbal advance organizers introducing a problem enhance recall, and graphic advance organizers moderate the effects on both selective reading and recall.

Lagerwerf, Luuk, Louise Cornelis, Johannes de Geus and Phidias Jansen. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Business Communication>Collaboration


Challenges of Multimedia Self-Presentation: Taking, and Mistaking, the Show on the Road   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

One privilege enjoyed by new-media authors is the opportunity to realize representations of Self that are rich textual worlds in themselves and also to engage the wider world, with a voice, a smile, imagery, and sound. Still, closer investigation of multimedia composition practices reveals levels of complexity with which the verbal virtuoso is unconcerned. This article argues that while technology-afforded multimedia tools make it comparatively easy to author a vivid text, it is a multiplicatively more complicated matter to vividly realize and publicize an authorial intention. Based on analysis of the digital story creation process of a youth named 'Steven,' the authors attempt to demonstrate the operation of two forces upon which the successful multimodal realization of the author's intention may hinge: 'fixity' and 'fluidity.' The authors show how, within the process of digital self-representation, these forces can intersect to influence multimodal meaning making, and an author's life, in consequential ways.

Nelson, Mark Evan, Glynda A. Hull and Jeeva Roche-Smith. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Presentations>Education>Multimedia


Commenting on Writing: Typology and Perceived Helpfulness of Comments from Novice Peer Reviewers and Subject Matter Experts   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

How do comments on student writing from peers compare to those from subject-matter experts? This study examined the types of comments that reviewers produce as well as their perceived helpfulness. Comments on classmates’ papers were collected from two undergraduate and one graduate-level psychology course. The undergraduate papers in one of the courses were also commented on by an independent psychology instructor experienced in providing feedback to students on similar writing tasks. The comments produced by students at both levels were shorter than the instructor’s. The instructor’s comments were predominantly directive and rarely summative. The undergraduate peers’ comments were more mixed in type; directive and praise comments were the most frequent. Consistently, undergraduate peers found directive and praise comments helpful. The helpfulness of the directive comments was also endorsed by a writing expert.

Cho, Kwangsu, Chris Schunn and Davida Charney. Written Communication (2006). Articles>Editing>Assessment>SMEs


The Common Topoi of STEM Discourse: An Apologia and Methodological Proposal, With Pilot Survey   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In this article, the author proposes a methodology for the rhetorical analysis of scientific, technical, mathematical, and engineering (STEM) discourse based on the common topics (topoi) of this discourse. Beginning with work by Miller, Prelli, and other rhetoricians of STEM discourse—but factoring in related studies in cognitive linguistics—she argues for a reimagining of topoi as basic schema that interrelate texts, objects, and writers in STEM communities. Then, she proposes a topical method as a stable, broadly applicable heuristic that may help fit the rhetorical dynamics of the much-studied research article (RA) into the wider context of written technical discourse—exactly the type of improvement that Gross, Fahnestock, and others have proposed. Finally, as an illustration of this argument, the author performs a pilot topical survey of 18 RAs representing six STEM disciplines. This survey yields a set of 30 topoi used samplewide that can form a starting point for future surveys. She answers challenges to the significance and relevance of a topical method and finishes by sketching some future applications of the method that can move rhetoric of science beyond the RA.

Walsh, Lynda. Written Communication (2010). Articles>Scientific Communication>Rhetoric>Assessment


Community and Individuality: Performing Identity in Applied Linguistics   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Recent research has emphasized the close connections between writing and the construction of an author's identity. While academic contexts privilege certain ways of making meanings and so restrict what resources participants can bring from their past experiences, we can also see these writing conventions as a repertoire of options that allow writers to actively and publicly accomplish an identity through discourse choices. This article takes a somewhat novel approach to the issue of authorial identity by using the tools of corpus analysis to examine the published works of two leading figures in applied linguistics: John Swales and Debbie Cameron. By comparing high frequency keywords and clusters in their writing with a larger applied linguistics reference corpus, I attempt to show how corpus techniques might inform our study of identity construction and something of the ways identity can be seen as independent creativity shaped by an accountability to shared practices.

Hyland, Ken. Written Communication (2010). Articles>Language>Linguistics>Collaboration


Composing Across Multiple Media   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This is a qualitative case study of two students' composing processes as they developed a documentary video about the Dominican Republic in an urban, public middle school classroom. While using a digital video editing program, the students moved across multiple media (the Web, digital video, books, and writing), drawing semiotic resources from each as they did so. Using sociosemiotic and dialogic-intertextual theoretical frameworks, the author examines how the interface of the video editing program influenced the students' composing by making new types of semiotic resources available and new means of combining these resources. As they moved across these media in a nonlinear fashion, the students created an interactive context for composing that transcended the individual possibilities of each respective medium. This suggests that multimedial composing environments offer a rich intertextual landscape and unique ways of making meanings.

Ranker, Jason. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Education>Writing>Multimedia


Constructing Trust Between Teacher and Students Through Feedback and Revision Cycles in an EFL Writing Classroom   (members only)

The authors' goal was to model the role played by the relationship between a writing teacher and her students in the feedback and revision cycle they experienced in an English-as-a-foreign-language context. Participants included a nonnative teacher of English and 14 students enrolled in her English writing class in a Korean university. Data came from formal, informal, and text-based interviews; semester-long classroom observations; and students' drafts with teacher comments. Findings showed that caring was enacted in complex and reciprocal ways, influenced by interwoven factors from the greater society, the course, the teacher, and the student. Students' level of trust in the teacher's English ability, teaching practices, and written feedback, as much as the teacher's trust in particular students based on how they revised their drafts, played a great role in the development of a caring relationship between them.

Lee, Given and Diane L. Schallert. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Education>Writing>Assessment


The Construction of Author Voice by Editorial Board Members   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Studies of blind manuscript review have illustrated that readers often form impressions of or speculate about unknown authors' identities in the manuscript review task. In this article, the authors extend that work by examining the discursive and nondiscursive features that play a role in readers' active construction of author voice. Through a survey completed by 70 editorial board members of six journals in applied linguistics and rhetoric and composition, the authors identify quantitative and qualitative trends in reviewers' practices regarding voice construction. Findings indicate that many readers do build impressions of an author's identity when reviewing anonymous manuscripts and that the rhetorical nature of the review task may lead readers to attend more to some discursive features than to others.

Tardy, Christine M. and Paul Kei Matsuda. Written Communication (2009). Articles>Writing>Editing>Publishing


Correcting Text Production Errors: Isolating the Effects of Writing Mode From Error Span, Input Mode, and Lexicality   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Error analysis involves detecting, diagnosing, and correcting discrepancies between the text produced so far (TPSF) and the writers mental representation of what the text should be. The use of different writing modes, like keyboard-based word processing and speech recognition, causes different type of errors during text production. While many factors determine the choice of error-correction strategy, cognitive effort is a major contributor to this choice. This research shows how cognitive effort during error analysis affects strategy choice and success as measured by a series of online text production measures. Text production is shown to be influenced most by error span, that is, whether the error spans more or less than two characters. Next, it is influenced by input mode, that is, whether the error has been generated by speech recognition or keyboard, and finally by lexicality, that is, whether the error comprises an existing word. Correction of larger error spans is more successful than that of smaller errors. Writers impose a wise speed accuracy trade-off during large error spans since correction is better, but preparation times (time to first action) and production times take longer, and interference reaction times are slower. During large error spans, there is a tendency to opt for error correction first, especially when errors occurred in the condition in which the TPSF is not preceded by an auditory prompt. In general, the addition of speech frees the cognitive demands of writing. Writers also opt more often to continue text production when the TPSF is presented auditorially first.

Leijten, Mariëlle, Luuk Van Waes and Sarah Ransdell. Written Communication (2010). Articles>Writing>Editing>Grammar


The Effects of Favor and Apology on Compliance   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study was designed to test the effects of favor and apology on compliance and to explain any potential effect via indebtedness, gratitude, and liking. Two experiments were devised to accomplish these ends. In the first experiment favor and apology were varied in the absence of a transgression to see if apologizing for not providing a favor can be used proactively to increase compliance. In the second experiment favor and apology were varied in a more common scenario, following a transgression. Results show that favor has a positive effect on compliance mediated by gratitude when using a general prosocial request and by liking when using a more altruistic request. Results also suggest that apology has a positive effect on liking and that apology has an indirect effect on compliance under certain conditions.

Goei, Ryan, Anthony Roberto, Gary Meyer and Kellie Carlyle. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Collaboration


Ethical or Unethical Persuasion? The Rhetoric of Offers to Participate in Clinical Trials   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Based on a sample of 22 oncology encounters, this article presents a discourse analysis of positive, neutral, or negative valence in the presentation of three elements of informed consent—purpose, benefits, and risks—in offers to participate in clinical trials. It is found that physicians regularly present these key elements of consent with a positive valence, perhaps blurring the distinction between clinical care and clinical research in trial offers. The authors argue that the rhetoric of trial offers constructs and reflects the complex relationships of two competing ethical frameworks—contemporary bioethics and professional medical ethics—both aimed at governing the discourse of trial offers. The authors consider the status of ethical or unethical persuasion within each framework, proposing what is called the best-option principle as the ethical principle governing trial offers within professional medical ethics.

Barton, Ellen and Susan Eggly. Written Communication (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Ethics


Gestural Enthymemes: Delivering Movement in 18th- and 19th-Century Medical Images   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article contributes to recent efforts to add life and movement to rhetorical studies by focusing on the representation of movement in medical texts. More specifically, this study examines medical texts, illustrations, and photographs involving movement by Johann Casper Lavater, G. B. Duchenne de Bologne, Charles Darwin, and Étienne-Jules Marey. By identifying how figures of speech epitomize arguments, this examination follows a shift in the way arguments about movement are represented, a shift from static, visual arguments to gestural enthymemes, as they are named, arguments that are made in movements; these shifts are linked to developments in medical technologies involving photography. These arguments about and using movement attempt to “capture” or express the moments within which life, through the embodied gesture, resides. This extended understanding of the enthymeme broadens current understanding of argument to include delivery, links medical and rhetorical discursive practices, and informs how we make sense of and study the relationships between technology and rhetoric both in the past and present.

Newman, Sara. Written Communication (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>History


A Grounded Investigation of Genred Guidelines in Cancer Care Deliberations   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Genred documents facilitate collaboration and workplace practices in many ways—particularly in the medical workplace. This article represents a portion of a larger grounded investigation of how medical professionals invoke a wide range of rhetorical strategies when deliberating about complex patient cases during weekly, multidisciplinary deliberations called Tumor Board meetings. Specifically, the author explores the role of one key document in oncological practice, the Standard of Care document. Each Standard of Care document (one for every known cancer) presents a set of national guidelines intended to standardize the treatment of cancer. Tumor Board participants invoke these guidelines as evidence for or against particular future action. In order to better understand how genred, generalizable guidelines like Standard of Care documents afford decision making amid uncertainty, the author conducts a temporal and contextual analysis of the document's use during deliberations as well as a modified Toulminian analysis of a representative sample. Results suggest that, while on its own the document achieves an authoritative, charter-like purpose, it fails to make explicit a link between individual patients' experiences and the profession's expectations for how to act. Implications for how genred, generalizable guidelines—given the way they encourage certain ways of seeing over others—organize and authorize work are discussed, and a modified Toulminian approach to understanding the relationship between claim and evidence in multimodal texts is modeled.

Teston, Christa B. Written Communication (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Genre


The Impact of No Child Left Behind on Teachers’ Writing Instruction   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The study uses Foucault's framework of governmentality to understand the impact of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) on teachers' writing instruction and attitudes toward writing in high- and low-income schools. Using interviews and observations of 18 teachers, the study identified four themes: emphasis on testing, curricular effects, awareness of lower-achieving students, and concerns for English language learners. While teachers shared concerns in those areas, there were differences in how teachers from high- and low-income schools experienced the impact of NCLB on their writing instruction. The study suggests that NCLB has affected teacher morale as well as the nature and amount of writing instruction, but that school contexts figure into teachers' instruction. The example of one teacher from a low-income school demonstrates the potential for teachers to resist the coercive aspects of NCLB through their writing instruction.

McCarthey, Sarah J. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Education>Writing


The Influence of Perceptions of Task Similarity/Difference on Learning Transfer in Second Language Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study investigates the influence of students' perceptions of task similarity/ difference on the transfer of writing skills. A total of 42 students from a freshman ESL writing course completed an out-of-class writing task. For half of the students, the subject matter of the writing task was designed to be similar to the writing course; for the other half, it was designed to be different. All students were also interviewed about the writing task. Reports of learning transfer were identified in the interview transcripts, and students' performances on the task and on a recent assignment from the course were assessed. Results indicate that the intended task similarity/difference (i.e., in subject matter) did not have the expected impact on learning transfer; however, students' perceptions of task similarity/difference did influence learning transfer. Implications of these findings for theory, practice, and future research are discussed.

James, Mark Andrew. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Education>Writing>Language


The Interlanguage Grammar of Information Management in L1 and L2 Developing Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In the tradition of work by Shaughnessy (1977) and Bartholomae (1980) applying concepts from second language acquisition research to developing writing, we explore the commonalities of L1 and L2 writers on the specific level of linguistic choices needed to order information within and across sentence boundaries. We propose that many of the kinds of constructions in L1 and L2 writing most difficult to categorize, labeled as errors, are in structures that are, from the writers’ perspective, principled attempts to meet their obligation of managing information. We examine 90 essays written by college students, 60 by native speakers, and 30 by nonnative speakers, and identify 360 non-target-like structures that are attempts to manage information. There are similarities in number and type of these constructions used by L1 and L2 developing writers.

Kenkel, James and Robert Yates. Written Communication (2009). Articles>Language>Information Design>Writing


Internet Health and the 21st-Century Patient: A Rhetorical View   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Internet health—here, the public use of information Web sites to facilitate decision making on matters of health and illness—is a rhetorical practice, involving text and trajectories of influence. A fulsome account of it requires attention to all parts of the rhetorical triangle—the speaker, the subject matter, and the audience—yet most scholarship on Internet health focuses on the speaker only: it typically raises concerns primarily about the dangers of unreliable sources, suggesting that, where speakers are reliable and information is accurate, Internet health simply empowers patients. This essay turns attention to the other elements of the triangle. It argues that health information is a complex entity—not only transmitted but also transformed by the Web—and, further, that Internet-health users are a complex audience—not only informed but also transformed by the Web. Rhetorically-minded researchers are well positioned to study not simply the informed patient but rather, more comprehensively, the wired one.

Segal, Judy Z. Written Communication (2009). Articles>Scientific Communication>Biomedical>Online


Introducing Chaos (Theory) into Science and Engineering: Effects of Rhetorical Strategies on Scientific Readers   (PDF)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

The opening of a scientific research article bids for readers to invest time and attention in a writer's new ideas. To make such investments more attractive, a conventional introduction portrays new ideas as filling a serious gap in the current literature on an important topic. Do scientists rely on such introductory moves to decide what's worth reading and how to read it? We analyzed introductions of four texts and observed twelve scientists thinking-aloud while reading them. The texts were journal articles on chaos theory, including two recent and two early articles to reveal effects of disciplinary history. The textual analysis revealed that recent articles adhered closely to four conventional introductory moves, but early articles modified the moves, included more equations and fewer citations. Analysis of comments recorded during reading indicated that scientists attend to introductory moves: comments were concentrated within certain moves, rather than distibuted evenly across sentences; reading activity intensified for recent texts that adhered to the conventions.

Paul, Danette and Davida Charney. Written Communication (1995). Articles>Writing>Engineering>Scientific Communication


Linguistic Features of Writing Quality   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

In this study, a corpus of expert-graded essays, based on a standardized scoring rubric, is computationally evaluated so as to distinguish the differences between those essays that were rated as high and those rated as low. The automated tool, Coh-Metrix, is used to examine the degree to which high- and low-proficiency essays can be predicted by linguistic indices of cohesion (i.e., coreference and connectives), syntactic complexity (e.g., number of words before the main verb, sentence structure overlap), the diversity of words used by the writer, and characteristics of words (e.g., frequency, concreteness, imagability). The three most predictive indices of essay quality in this study were syntactic complexity (as measured by number of words before the main verb), lexical diversity (as measured by the Measure of Textual Lexical Diversity), and word frequency (as measured by Celex, logarithm for all words). Using 26 validated indices of cohesion from Coh-Metrix, none showed differences between high- and low-proficiency essays and no indices of cohesion correlated with essay ratings. These results indicate that the textual features that characterize good student writing are not aligned with those features that facilitate reading comprehension. Rather, essays judged to be of higher quality were more likely to contain linguistic features associated with text difficulty and sophisticated language.

McNamara, Danielle S., Scott A. Crossley and Philip M. McCarthy. Written Communication (2010). Articles>Language>Writing>Assessment


Linguistic Politeness in Professional Prose   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Consonant with a trend toward investigating professional writing in naturalistic settings, this discourse-analytical study of a corpus of 'suggestion letters' written in a Big Eight accounting firm demonstrates how auditors use negative politeness strategies to meet the complex demands of potentially threatening interactional situations. The study substantiates Brown and Levinson's claim that politeness is a linguistic universal by showing that the same politeness strategies found in speech also occur in written communication. Analysis of negative message strategies in ten leading textbooks shows that business communication pedagogy needs to modify strictures on the use of passives, nominalizations, expletive constructions, and hedging particles in light of research on the exigencies of real-world linguistic interaction.

Hagge, John and Charles Kostelnick. Written Communication (1989). Articles>Language>Business Communication


Linguistic Representation of Rhetorical Function: A Study of How Economists Present Their Knowledge Claims   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This article deals with how economists present their new knowledge claim in the genre of the research article. In the discipline of economics today, the claim is typically included not only in the obvious results/discussion section(s) but also in three other locations of the article: the abstract, the introduction, and the conclusion. The present study considers whether the rhetorical function of each of these three text parts has an impact on the linguistic realization of the claim. The corpus consists of 25 articles from two international journals, European Economic Review and Journal of International Economics. The investigation shows that economist authors commonly draw their readers’ attention to the claim by means of signaling expressions such as Our main finding is that . . . , not only in the introduction but also in the conclusion. The simple present seems to be the preferred tense in the claim sentence, even in the conclusion (We find . . . /We argue . . .). The discussion of these findings includes the views of discipline insiders, providing clear indications of the strategic nature of the research communication process.

Dahl, Trine. Written Communication (2009). Articles>Writing>Research


More Than Just Error Correction: Students' Perspectives on Their Revision Processes During Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Drawing on the second phase of a 2-year study of students' linguistic and compositional processes, this article describes students' reflections on their online revision processes, those revisions made during the process of translating thoughts into written text. The data collected were from classroom observation and post hoc interviews with 34 students, who were observed during a writing task in the English classrooms and interviewed subsequently to elicit their reflections and understandings of their own revising processes. The analysis indicates that students tend to conceptualize revision as a macro-strategy and as a task that is predominantly undertaken as a posttextual production reviewing activity. It also indicates that students engage in multiple revising activities during writing, including many revisions that are not concerned with simple matters of surface accuracy, and many students are able to talk about these perceptively and with insight.

Myhill, Debra and Susan Jones. Written Communication (2007). Articles>Writing>Editing


Patterns of Revision in Online Writing   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study examines the revision histories of 10 Wikipedia articles nominated for the site's Featured Article Class (FAC), its highest quality rating, 5 of which achieved FAC and 5 of which did not. The revisions to each article were coded, and the coding results were combined with a descriptive analysis of two representative articles in order to determine revision patterns. All articles in both groups showed a higher percentage of additions of new material compared to deletions and revisions that rearranged the text. Although the FAC articles had roughly equal numbers of content and surface revisions, the non-FAC articles had fewer surface revisions and were dominated by content revisions. Although the unique features of the Wikipedia environment inhibit strict comparisons between these results and those of earlier revision studies, these results suggest revision in this environment places unique structural demands on writers, possibly leading to unique revision patterns.

Jones, John. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Editing>Online>Wikis


Procedural Explanations in Mathematics Writing: A Framework for Understanding College Students' Effective Communication Practices   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

This study analyzes the procedural explanations written by remedial college mathematics students. Relevant literatures suggest that six communication activities might be key in effective procedural explanations in mathematics writing: (a) orienting the learner, (b) providing kernels or definitions of concepts and procedures, (c) using exemplars or worked examples, (d) providing descriptions of the process or procedure, (e) solidifying learner understanding, and (f) facilitating linguistic control of mathematical terms. Using this framework, 18 practices or types of difficulties were discovered in students' written explanations. Independent experts consistently evaluated student explanations more highly when the explanations contained arithmetic or algebraic exemplars, described specific actions and their meanings, linked new with prior knowledge, and used descriptive language; experts evaluated student explanations more negatively when students displayed difficulties reasoning with kernels, reasoning with exemplars, or with describing processes.

Kline, Susan L. and Drew K. Ishii. Written Communication (2008). Articles>Writing>Scientific Communication>Mathematics


Professional Editing Strategies Used by Six Editors   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Identifying the approach used by those revision experts par excellence--that is, professional editors--should enable researchers to better grasp the revision process. To further explore this hypothesis, the author conducted research among professional editors, six of whom she filmed as they engaged in their practice. An analysis of their work approach strategies showed their detection strategies to consist in anticipating errors and in comparing the author's text with the editor's knowledge, which appears in a range of states: certitude, uncertainty, and ignorance. Furthermore, the participating editors used problem-solving strategies to automatically solve more than half of the problems encountered in the text. Otherwise, they used immediate or postponed strategies. This description of professional editors in action opens a number of avenues for the further research and development of in-class instruction of self-revision and professional editing.

Bisaillon, Jocelyne. Written Communication (2007). Articles>Editing>Methods>Case Studies



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