By Dr. Jackie Damrau, STC Technical Communication Book Review Editor; and Dr. Ryan Weber, Director of Business and Technical Writing at UAH
For the past two Fall semesters (2015–2016), Dr. Ryan Weber (Ryan) and I have been providing his technical communication students with new ways of learning about the technical communication field. Ryan has his class perform title harvesting activities for me to help populate the Available Titles list that book reviewers (STC members, non-members, and other industry professionals) provide in the quarterly issues of our Technical Communication journal. This exercise gives the students an opportunity to learn about the various technical communication areas such as:
- Project Planning
- Project Analysis
- Content Development
- Organizational Design
- Written Communication
- Review and Editing
- Visual Communication
- Content Management
- Production and Delivery
The students use Amazon.com to search for titles in these categories. They then enter titles of interest to them in an online Google spreadsheet (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Online Google Spreadsheet for Title Harvesting
Ryan also gives these students the opportunity to write book reviews for our journal, as well as for other technical communication-related journals. For his direct class assignment, he requires students to work with me to select an appropriate book for review, research the journal’s style guide and audience, and then review their chosen text to match the journal’s conventions. This reviewing process gives students great practice in evaluating a text according to professional standards and identifying the features of a book that audiences care about most. Students often write several drafts of the review to get it publication-ready.
The book reviews, when sent to me (the STC Book Review Editor) for publication, go through the standard editing process to get the content down to the maximum 500 words allowed. The value here is that the students gain experience in writing a professional review, see it actually published in an online journal, and receive the PDF version of the Book Reviews section from Technical Communication to use in their physical or online portfolio. (Note: The Technical Communication journal publishes about 20 reviews in each issue, which is more than any other journal in the technical communication field.)
These two opportunities provide students with a first glimpse into the technical communication field. They see the latest publications from the field and the scope of topics that fall under the technical communication umbrella. They quickly learn the various areas and industries in our field in which to search for a career opportunity.
In 2015, Ryan invited me to talk with his class after they had done their work to give them tips and hints on what they did well and not so well, as well as to answer any of their questions about the process or the technical communication field in general. This session was conducted over a Skype video chat between the class and me. In the video feed, students could even see a shelf full of books behind me that were out for review or unsolicited books from publishers waiting for review.
I value Dr. Weber’s willingness to assign his students to help with collecting book titles, providing book reviews, and simply using this venue to learn more about the technical communication field.
I invite all technical communication instructors to consider reaching out to me (email@example.com) to do a similar type of class project. This is one nice way for students new to the field of technical communication to have an opportunity to learn more about our field and to get published.
Interested in being a Book Reviewer or Title Harvester? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll be glad to introduce you to the process and welcome you on board.
Dr. Jackie Damrau
Dr. Jackie Damrau, STC Fellow and Technical Communication Book Review Editor, has more than 25 years of technical communication experience. She is also a member of the STC North Texas Lone Star chapter and the Instructional Design & Learning SIG. Jackie works as a Senior Business Systems Analyst for one of the leading global commercial real estate companies, using her technical communication background to elicit requirements, facilitate workshop sessions, and write all types of documents.
Dr. Ryan Weber
Dr. Ryan Weber is an Assistant Professor of English and the Director of Business and Technical Writing at UAH. His work has appeared in Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, and Technical Communication Quarterly. He also hosts the podcast 10-Minute Tech Comm, which features interviews with technical communication scholars and practitioners.