58.1, February 2011

Recent & Relevant

Sherry Southard, Editor

The following articles on technical communication have appeared recently in other journals. The abstracts are prepared by volunteer journal monitors. If you would like to contribute, contact Sherry Southard at southards@ecu.edu.

“Recent and Relevant” does not supply copies of cited articles. However, most publishers supply reprints, tear sheets, or copies at nominal cost. Lists of publishers’ addresses, covering nearly all the articles we have cited, appear in Ulrich's International Periodicals Directory.

Thanks to J. A. Dawson, who helped me assemble the manuscript for “Recent & Relevant.”


Blood and expertise: The trials of the female medical expert in the Ancien-Régime courtroom

McClive, C. (2008). Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 82, 86–108.

Female medical experts in early modern France faced challenges to their credibility and authority as they struggled to communicate technical information during trials. “The difficulties of determining the veracity of the corporeal signs of a crime were particularly acute with regard to the reproductive female body, which was perceived to be less reliable than its male counterpart. The ability of the female medical expert to accurately and truthfully interpret such signs was also questionable, and at times she seems to have been as much ‘on trial’ as the bodies of those she examined.”

Edward A. Malone

Early modern “how-to” books: Impractical manuals and the construction of Englishness in the Atlantic world

Mylander, J. (2009). Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies, 9(1), 123–146.

The author argues that a book on husbandry by Gervase Markham (1568?–1637) and two medical books by Nicholas Culpeper (1616–1654) served as markers of English “identity in the unfamiliarity of the ‘New World…. [These how-to manuals did not shape] the predominant economic and agricultural practices of the English Atlantic world”; they remained popular for decades in part because they performed useful ideological work: “they each promoted images of self-sufficient Englishness…. [The author] challenges the assumption that early modern ‘how to’ books are merely transparent records indicating common practice…. [As Roger Chartier writes,] A book changes by the fact that it does not change when the world changes.”

Edward A. Malone

Magic, science and masculinity: Marketing toy chemistry sets

Al-Gailani, S. (2009). Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 40, 372–381.

This article is a case study in the history of technical marketing communication. “At least since the late nineteenth century, toy chemistry sets have featured in standard scripts of the achievement of eminence in science, and they remain important in constructions of scientific identity. Using a selection of these toys manufactured in Britain and the United States, and with particular reference to the two dominant American brands, Gilbert and Chemcraft, this paper suggests that early twentieth-century chemistry sets were rooted in overlapping Victorian traditions of entertainment magic and scientific recreations. As chemistry set marketing copy gradually reoriented towards emphasizing scientific modernity, citizenship, discipline and educational value, pre-twentieth-century traditions were subsumed within domestic—and specifically masculine—tropes. These developments in branding strategies point to transformations in both users’ engagement with their chemistry sets and the role of scientific toys in domestic play.”

Edward A. Malone

“Reconstruction” and interpreting written instructions: What making a seventeenth-century plane table revealed about the independence of readers

Willmoth, F. (2009). Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 40, 352–359.

“This paper reports the experience of reconstructing a surveying instrument—the plane table—using the description found in Arthur Hopton's Speculum topographicum: or The topographicall glasse (1611): ‘Of the Plaine Table, with a description thereof, and the parts thereunto belonging’. One of the most detailed early printed descriptions of the instrument, it is illustrated with woodcut diagrams of components but no image of the complete plane table. The reconstruction process did not prove entirely straightforward. An examination of its various stages reveals how Hopton's text set out to persuade and lead the reader, rather than issuing orders to be followed exactly; the reader, left to make some decisions himself, would thus create a plane table with an element of uniqueness in its character. The role of the maker of such an instrument, even when following written instructions, was a creative and collaborative one, rather than purely passive.”

Edward A. Malone


Caribbean immigrants’ discourses: Cultural, moral, and personal stories about workplace communication in the United States

Bridgewater, M. J., & Buzzanell, P. M. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 235–265.

“The authors determined how Caribbean immigrants position themselves and make sense of their workplace communication through their storytelling. Using the constant comparative technique, they analyzed interviews with 25 Caribbean immigrants and found two discursive positionings: (a) within their cultural-moral narratives of the American Dream and (b) in stories that reproduce and resist specific intercultural workplace communication. Personal sensemaking stories broke down the monolithic cultural and moral narratives of the American Dream to display participants’ perceptions about, communicative strategies for, and discursive self-positioning for handling their unique workplace experiences. They made sense of their experiences through invocation of difference discourses—race, class, gender, and immigrant status—and actively sought ways of asserting their agency materially and discursively.”

J. A. Dawson

Communicating leadership: A discourse analytical perspective on the job advertisement

Askehave, I. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 313–345.

“This article explores the complex relationship between recruitment needs (whom to recruit) and recruitment communications (what message to communicate—and with what effect) in a Danish bank. It reports in part a large research project investigating a gender and career program launched by the human resource department in a Danish, medium-sized bank chain (referred to as ‘the Bank’). Using the Bank's main written recruitment genre (the bank manager job ad) as a case in point, and including the results of two semi-structured focus group interviews, this study reveals interesting insights into organizational recruitment tactics and provides an argument for the need to explore the relationship between recruitment needs, textual choices, gender, and career advancement.”

J. A. Dawson

Designing time: The design and use of nineteenth-century transport timetables

Esbester, M. (2009). Journal of Design History, 22, 91–113.

“This article examines how nineteenth-century transport timetables were designed, understood and used. It examines changes in timetable design during the nineteenth century, as railway timetables in particular had to convey more and more complex information ….. timetables reflected societal notions of time and helped to construct new understandings of space; yet, the times and spaces they propagated were only some of those circulating in the nineteenth century …. the timetable is an item through which it is possible to show how design—in this instance, of information—pervaded day-to-day life [and] that the design of timetables was fundamental to passengers’ ability (or inability) to find the information they required. The article therefore analyses a range of passenger responses to timetables, from comments about incomprehensibility to attempts to make timetables more relevant to their individual needs. This focus highlights the significance of design in its social context.”

Edward A. Malone

E-mail privacy in the workplace: A boundary regulation perspective

Snyder, J. L. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 266–294.

“This study applied communication boundary management theory to examine employee responses to workplace e-mail monitoring. Specifically, a measure of perceived workplace e-mail privacy (PEP) was developed and fit to a model of antecedents and consequences. To accomplish this, the study used an online survey methodology to gather employee perceptions related to workplace e-mail monitoring. Results indicated that PEP is a two-dimensional construct capturing one's proficiency at maintaining privacy and concerns about the organization's ability to infringe on e-mail privacy. In support of the boundary management perspective, the data revealed that perceptions of workplace e-mail monitoring and PEP were related to the perceived quality of one's workplace relationships, especially with top management.”

J. A. Dawson

“Give in your account”: Using and abusing Victorian census forms

Dobraszczyk, P. (2009). Journal of Victorian Culture, 14, 1–25.

“This article examines, for the first time, the central importance of forms in an historical context by focusing on the development of the British census in the nineteenth century. … [It] outlines changes in the production of household schedules from 1801 to 1901, their typographic characteristics, and the ways in which they were promoted by the census organizers. It considers responses to these documents through local schedules and nationwide newspaper and journal articles, shedding light on the means by which a vast and multifarious populace dealt with reading and filling out forms. The result will be to gain a picture of just how census schedules were received and negotiated by a public witnessing, and participating in, the establishment of the information state in Britain.”

Edward A. Malone

The rhetorical analysis of business speech: Unresolved questions

Cyphert, D. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 346–368.

“Serious attention to the rhetorical analysis and criticism of the public discourse of business leaders can offer important insights about influential participants in political and social decision-making processes, contributing to the development of a coherent body of scholarship that addresses communication at the intersection of business, rhetoric, and society.”

J. A. Dawson

Strategic application of storytelling in organizations: Toward effective communication in a diverse world

Barker, R. T., & Gower, K. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 295–312.

“Internal and external workplace diversity and the technology-induced time constraints of multinational competition make the challenge of improving organizational communication bigger than ever. Narrative paradigm or the ‘storytelling’ theory has been proffered as an effective cross-cultural communication tool, but this article presents the idea that storytelling goes beyond that and fills the diverse communication needs of today's heterogeneous workforce. It presents a model of storytelling as a complete organizational communication tool, discusses how to effectively apply storytelling in the diverse work environment, and proposes some opportunities for further research.”

J. A. Dawson

Useful reading? Designing information for London's Victorian cab passengers

Dobraszczyk, P. (2008). Journal of Design History, 21, 121–141.

“Considered in an historical context, the design of information for everyday use can tell us much about the experience of reading for action. This article focuses on the extraordinary range of information designed for London's cab passengers in the nineteenth century, focusing on fare books, lists, posters and maps. The article assesses how the largely anonymous designers of these documents—publishers, mapmakers and printers—sought to address the perceived needs and abilities of their intended readers, and explores how actual readers responded, focusing, in turn, on two groups: regular cab users (invariably assumed to be upper- or upper-middle-class men) and strangers to London, whether foreigners or otherwise. The paper demonstrates how accounts of reading experience link design and use and bring into focus the effectiveness, or otherwise, of the former.”

Edward A. Malone


Challenges to informed peer review matching algorithms

Verleger, M., Diefes-Dux, H., Ohland, M. W., Besterfield-Sacre, M., & Brophy, S. (2010). Journal of Engineering Education, 99, 397–408.

While not directly about writing, but rather informed peer review in an engineering course, this article may be of value to faculty using peer review in technical writing courses. “Peer review is a beneficial pedagogical tool. Despite the abundance of data instructors often have about their students, most peer review matching is by simple random assignment …. An expert rater evaluated the solutions of 147 teams’ responses to a particular implementation of MEAs [Model-Eliciting Activities] in a first-year engineering course at a large mid-west research university. The evaluation was then used to analyze the UON [Un-weighted Overall Need] algorithm's assumptions when compared to a randomly assigned control group … Weak correlation was found in the five UON algorithm's assumptions …. Conducting informed peer review matching requires significant alignment between evaluators and experts to minimize deviations from the algorithm's designed purpose.”

J. A. Dawson

A cognitive study of problem solving in statics

Litzinger, T. A., Vanmeter, P., Firetto, C. M., Passmore, L. J., Masters, C. B., Turns, S. R., Gray, G. L., Costanzo, F., & Zappe, S. E. (2010). Journal of Engineering Education, 99, 337–353.

About problem solving and not writing per se, this article addresses teaching engineering students analytical problem solving skills, skills useful for writing successfully. Even as expectations for engineers continue to evolve to meet global challenges, analytical problem solving remains a central skill …. This study involves observation of students as they execute the initial steps of an engineering problem solving process in statics … We found that the weak, and most of the strong problem solvers, relied heavily on memory to decide what reactions were present at a given connection, and few of the students could reason physically about what reactions should be present. Furthermore, the cognitive analysis of the students’ problems solving processes revealed substantial differences in the use of self-explanation by weak and strong students.”

J. A. Dawson

Getting an invitation to the English table—and whether or not to accept it

Rentz, K., Debs, M. B., & Meloncon, L. (2010). Technical Communication Quarterly, 19, 281–299.

“In this article, we trace the journey our professional writing program took from marginal area to well-supported specialty in an English department—a journey we made without sacrificing our commitment to prepare students for professional-level employment. In so doing, we explore the grounds of intellectual compatibility between our field and English studies and describe the conditions most conducive to professional writing's finding a respected place in English departments.”

Christine Cranford

Instructional interventions for improving proofreading and editing skills of college students

Enos, M. F. (2010). Business Communication Quarterly, 73, 265–281.

“This article summarizes a dissertation study designed to determine the effectiveness of instructional interventions that focus on proofreading and editing skills of first-year college students enrolled in business communication courses …. To answer the research question, mean scores on the Grammar and Mechanic Diagnostic Assessment resulted in significant improvement for those students enrolled in Business Communication I, a course covering the basics of grammar and mechanics. In comparison, students not enrolled currently in Business Communication I showed no significant improvement between pre-assessment and post-assessment.”

J. A. Dawson

Intellectual fit and programmatic power: Organizational profiles of four professional/technical/scientific communication programs

Maylath, B., Grabill, J., & Gurak, L. J. (2010). Technical Communication Quarterly, 19, 262–280.

“Do programs in technical communication thrive when administered in English departments or in other configurations of administrative units? This article examines the variations in professional, technical, and scientific communication programs at four universities across the north central U. S. The first three programs have histories that led them to be housed at increasing distances from their universities’ English departments. The fourth is a nascent program emerging in its university's English department.”

Christine Cranford

Interpretive discourse and other models from communication studies: Expanding the values of technical communication

Williams, S. (2010). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 40, 429–446.

“This article argues that in spite of some attempts to expand the diversity of approaches in Technical Communication, the field remains rooted in an expedient, managerial, techno-rational discourse, where discourse is understood as the values that guide research, practice, and teaching. The article draws on approaches from Communication Studies, specifically discursive analysis and metaphor analysis, to ground this claim and to demonstrate what alternative discourses might be possible. The article then argues that moving toward an ‘interpretive’ discourse will expand the values of Technical Communication, but in a way that both retains existing assumptions but also includes a new focus on the ‘complete person.’ Interpretive discourse is theorized using Habermas’ communicative rationality and User Experience Design and the article concludes with some implications about moving Technical Communication toward discursive diversity. Ultimately, the goal of the article is to encourage researchers, teachers, and professionals to embrace this discursive diversity that complicates our historical means-ends rationality.”

Daniel Drahnak

Looking across the divide: Analyzing cross-disciplinary approaches for teaching business communication

Laster, N. M., & Russ, T. L. (2010). Business Communication Quarterly, 73, 248–264.

“This study elucidates pedagogical differences and similarities between the ways in which instructors from business and communication disciplines teach the introductory business communication course. During the spring of 2008, the authors surveyed 444 instructors teaching this course at colleges and universities across the United States. Their findings highlight several cross-disciplinary commonalities and disparities. The article discusses potential implications for the complementary and contradictory instructional approaches and call for more cross-disciplinary uniformity in contemporary business communication education.”

J. A. Dawson

Mapping technical and professional communication: A summary and survey of academic locations for programs

Yeats, D., & Thompson, I. (2010). Technical Communication Quarterly, 19, 225–261.

“This article provides an account of the academic location of 142 technical communication programs as reported on program Web sites as well as in an online survey sent to technical communication program coordinators. According to the findings, most technical communication programs are located in departments of English, but programs outside of English are more likely to offer graduate degrees and a more technically oriented program focus.”

Christine Cranford

The province of sophists: An argument for academic homelessness

Harlow, R. M. (2010). Technical Communication Quarterly, 19, 318–333.

“Scholars in our field frequently explore issues of positioning and disciplinary identity, thus revealing insecurity about our institutional value. We must realize that our homelessness within the academic neighborhood is a position of strength, not weakness. As knowledge grows increasingly specialized, our ability to position ourselves in various places within an institution gives us an administrative flexibility, marketability, and proximity to the fields that we study.”

Christine Cranford

Resisting the lure of technology-driven design: Pedagogical approaches to visual communication

Northcut, K., & Brumberger, E. (2010). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 40, 459–471.

“Technical communicators are expected to work extensively with visual texts in workplaces. Fortunately, most academic curricula include courses in which the skills necessary for such tasks are introduced and sometimes developed in depth. We identify a tension between a focus on technological skill vs. a focus on principles and theory, arguing that we subvert the potential benefits of an education if we succumb to the allure of software. We recommend several classroom practices that help educate students toward greater visual literacy, based not only on recommendations from the research but also from our experience as teachers of visual communication.”

Daniel Drahnak

Students’ conceptions of tutor and automated feedback in professional writing

Calvo, R. A., & Ellis, R. A. (2010). Journal of Engineering Education, 99, 427–438.

“Professional writing is an essential outcome for engineering graduates and hence a vital part of engineering education. To provide a successful learning experience for students engaged in writing activities, timely feedback is necessary. Providing this feedback to increasing numbers of students poses a major challenge for instructors. New automated systems work towards providing both timely and appropriate writing feedback, but students’ views on automated feedback, and feedback in general, are not well understood …. Students’ conceptions of feedback vary and can be grouped into cohesive and fragmented, which is consistent with other theoretical models. Close associations were found between more cohesive conceptions of feedback and better academic performance … A student's conception of traditional and automated feedback is similar, being either cohesive or fragmented. Changing one may change the other. Deep learners see feedback as a way of learning about the topic whereas shallow learners see them as a way to improve the communication aspects of writing. Design considerations based on these results are discussed.”

J. A. Dawson

Technical communication instruction in China: Localized programs and alternative models

Ding, H. (2010). Technical Communication Quarterly, 19, 300–317.

In this article, I argue that to understand technical communication instruction in non-Western countries, one has to pay close attention to the impacts of local cultural, educational, political, and economic contexts on technical communication practices. I identify two localized programs that share features of technical communication in China and review their programmatic positioning at national and local levels. I also suggest ways for U. S. technical communicators to start cross-cultural collaboration with local programs.”

Christine Cranford

Information Management

DITA learning and training: A strategic overview

Klukewich, T. (2010). Best Practices, 12, 90–95. [Center for Information Development Management]

“With training deliverables covering processes well outside of technical documentation, DITA Learning and Training has the potential to reach a far wider audience of DITA adopters. In this article, I discuss the need for well-defined best practices in a learning and training implementation, …. entertain a documentation maturity model that includes both product documentation and training content, …. [and] touch on what skill sets to look for in a new world of combined and coordinated documentation and training groups.”

Sherry Southard

Forgetting about documents with structured writing

Berry, M. (2010). Best Practices, 12, 81, 84–86. [Center for Information Development Management]

“If documentation teams convert existing documents into well-structured units of information before converting to XML, the team can save itself a huge amount of pain. This article explains the issues that have confronted some companies and how the book metaphor contributed to problems .… [Some of the resistance to abandoning the book metaphor can be resolved] when the writers acknowledged the difference between a book that presented a story, such as a how-to or white-paper, versus documents that do not rely on the reader to consume the material in a particular order, such as application help, developer's guides, or API reference guides.”

Sherry Southard

IDCMS Blue: IBM component content management system for DITA

Holt, T., Iantosca, M., Patterson, E., & McMonagle, S. (2010). Best Practices, 12, 96–98. [Center for Information Development Management]

“IDCMS Blue is a new Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA)-optimized component content management system. The system described in this article is developed and used internally by IBM Information Development teams worldwide to manage the development of client-facing technical documentation and integrated user assistance. [Project team members] describe the benefits of the new system and the experiences of two teams that are now using it to produce their product documentation.”

Sherry Southard

Seven signs that an organization should use DITA

Yeo, S.-L. (2010). Best Practices, 12, 99–100. [Center for Information Development Management]

Possible signs include “[1] multiple output format …. [2] frequently updated content in multiple languages …. [3] contracts and/or proposals that share common sections …. [4] frequent re-branding or OEM business model …. [5] complex product variations or customized products …. [6] writers spend too much time formatting documents …. [7] need for more powerful search and/or analytics.”

Sherry Southard

The value of conducting client surveys and how to get started

Bozza, C. (2010). Best Practices, 12, 87–89. [Center for Information Development Management]

To prepare to conduct a client survey, Bozza discusses the basic stages: “[1] Ask yourself questions; who is the survey for; why are we doing this; how can we improve their experience; what is the best survey method?, [2] Write and edit participant questions, [3] Use the survey tool, [4] Collect the data and present the results.”

Sherry Southard

Intercultural Communication

Accommodating toward your audience

Sweeney, E., & Hua, Z. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 477–504.

“The study seeks to add to the current debate on English as a lingua franca by analyzing the role of the native speakers of English in intercultural business negotiations and to what extent they effectively accommodate lingua franca speakers …. The results showed that the native speakers in this sample used a wider range of linguistic devices than the nonnative speakers. The majority of the native speakers attempted to accommodate nonnative speakers, but there was significant variation in the way that individual participants chose their strategies and approached accommodation. The most striking finding was the imbalance between the native speakers’ understanding of the issues of intercultural communication and their inability to effectively accommodate nonnative speakers. The implications are discussed.”

J. A. Dawson

Activity theory, speech acts, and the ”Doctrine of Infelicity”: Connecting language and technology in globally networked learning environments

McNair, L. D., & Paretti, M. C. (2010). Journal of Business & Technical Communication, 24, 323-357.

“This article draws on activity theory, politics of the artifact, and speech act theory to analyze how language practices and technology interplay in establishing the social relationships necessary for globally networked teams. Specifically, it uses activity theory to examine how linguistic infelicities and the politics of communication technologies interplay in virtual meetings, thereby demonstrating the importance of grounding professional communication instruction in social as well as technical effectiveness. That is, students must learn not only how to communicate technical concepts clearly and concisely and recognize cultural differences but also how to use language and choose media in ways that produce the social conditions necessary for effective collaboration in globally networked environments. The article analyzes two case studies—a workplace and a classroom—that illustrate how the mediating functions of language and the politics of technology intersect as mediating tools in globally networked activity systems. It then traces the implications of that intersection for professional communication theory and pedagogy.”

Christine Bates

Belf competence as business knowledge of internationally operating business professionals

Kankaanranta, A., & Planken, B. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 380–407.

“Business English as a lingua franca (BELF) has come to dominate as the shared code used to ‘get work done’ in international business …. The findings show that BELF can be characterized as a simplified, hybridized, and highly dynamic communication code. BELF competence calls for clarity and accuracy of content (rather than linguistic correctness) and knowledge of business-specific vocabulary and genre conventions (rather than only ‘general’ English). In addition, because BELF interactions take place with nonnative speakers (NNSs) from a variety of cultural backgrounds, the relational orientation is perceived as integral for BELF competence. In sum, BELF competence can be considered an essential component of business knowledge required in today's global business environment.”

J. A. Dawson

“Can you spell that for us nonnative speakers?”

Rogerson-Revell, P. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 432–454.

“This article investigates the role of speech accommodation by native and nonnative speakers of English in a series of international business meetings. The study first of all reveals an awareness by some participants of the need to adjust language for an international audience and an intuitive understanding of some of the ways this can be achieved. Analysis of the meetings’ discourse further illustrates some of the normalization and convergence strategies used by some participants throughout the meetings to accommodate linguistic differences and difficulties. It is suggested that such authentic examples could be used as the basis for business communication training resources to help both native and nonnative speakers communicate more effectively in international contexts.”

J. A. Dawson

Effects of national culture on types of knowledge sharing in virtual communities

Siau, K., Erickson, J., & Nah, F.-H. (2010). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 53, 278–292.

“Organizations are using virtual communities to facilitate knowledge management and to enhance communication among employees, customers, and other interested individuals. Individual users can use virtual communities to engage in knowledge sharing. Professional communicators need to understand and adapt to a globalized and ‘flat’ world, where people across different cultures interact freely and easily with one another in virtual communities. An intriguing question regarding virtual communities relates to whether national culture affects communication and types of knowledge sharing. This study examines the influence of U.S. and Chinese national cultures on types of knowledge-sharing activities in virtual communities. The findings indicate that national culture differences between China and the U.S. are also evident in virtual community environments.”

Jenny West

English as a business lingua franca in a German multinational corporation

Ehrenreich, S. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 408–431.

“This article explores the role of English and other languages as perceived by members of upper management in a family-owned German multinational corporation in the technology sector. The findings show that, in the 21st century, English has become an indispensable ‘must’ in the company and that there is a general understanding that staff at all levels develop their language skills as they see appropriate for their roles within the company. What needs to be learned, however, is not English as a native language but communicative effectiveness in English as a business lingua franca, which—as an international contact language—brings together nonnative as well as native Englishes from various linguacultural backgrounds spoken with varying degrees of proficiency. Learning to cope with the challenges of such diversity, in the context of business communication, seems to happen most effectively in business ‘communities of practice’ rather than in traditional English training. The study also shows that, despite the dominance of English, other languages are not disappearing from the scene but are, indeed, used as a pragmatic or strategic resource. In particular, German, as the headquarters’ language, maintains an important role among individuals and within the organization.”

J. A. Dawson

Linguistic repertoires and semiotic resources in interaction

Virkkula-Räisänen, T. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 505–531.

“This article examines professional communication in a multilingual meeting in a small company in Finland within ethnographic, sociolinguistic, and discourse analytic frameworks. English is used as a lingua franca by a group of Finnish and Chinese business professionals. The aim is to study how language is used with other semiotic resources to construct meaning in interaction. In particular, with the focus on an individual participant who was the mediator in the meeting, the goal is to analyze participants’ role alignment and interpersonal relationships. The results show that business professionals’ roles are renegotiable in a meeting and by means of language accompanied by embodied actions such as gaze and gestures. The findings also reveal how different languages are used for particular purposes in the meeting.”

J. A. Dawson

Organizational communication in France: An overview of current research

Cooren, F., & Grosjean, S. (2010). Management Communication Quarterly, 24, 607–611.

“This introduction to the special forum on organizational communication in France presents the five articles featured by this forum as well as the general context of this subfield of communication studies in France. It is first pointed out that the vast majority of French communication researchers still publish exclusively in French, a situation whose negative and positive consequences are analyzed and commented. We then show that, after twenty years of existence, organizational communication in France is a vibrant and productive academic domain, with many peer-reviewed journals and books published on this topic. The five articles featured in this special forum are then presented, each representing key research agenda that are currently developed in this country: the rationalization of organizing through information and communication technologies (Anne Mayère), the performative dimension of the language of accounting (Bertrand Fauré and Arlette Bouzon), the sociogenetic of organizational texts (Romain Huët), the analysis of written practices in workplace situations (Pierre Delcambre) and the communicational approaches to organizations (Jean-Luc Bouillon). This special forum constitutes a unique occasion to learn about a very significant and interesting body of scientific studies that deserves to be better known by colleagues who do not speak or read French.”

J. A. Dawson

Peer reviewing across the Atlantic: Patterns and trends in L1 and L2 comments made in an asynchronous online collaborative learning exchange between technical communication students in Sweden and in the United States

Anderson, P., Bergman, B., Bradley, L., Gustafsson, M., & Matzke, A. (2010). Journal of Business & Technical Communication, 24, 296–322.

“In a globally networked learning environment (GNLE), 16 students at a university in Sweden and 17 students at a university in the United States exchanged peer-review comments on drafts of assignments they prepared in English for their technical communication classes. The instructors of both sets of students had assigned the same projects and taught their courses in the same way that they had in the previous year, which contrasts with the common practice of having students in partnering courses work on the same assignment or on linked assignments created specifically for the GNLE. The authors coded the students’ 816 comments according to their focus and orientation in order to investigate the possible differences between the comments made by the L2 students in Sweden and those made by the L1 (English as a second language) students in the United States, the possible impact of peer reviewing online, and the influence of the instructors’ directions on the students’ peer-reviewing behavior.”

Christine Bates

Productive tensions and the regulatory work of genres in the development of an engineering communication workshop in a transnational corporation

Gygi, K., & Zachry, M. (2010). Journal of Business & Technical Communication, 24, 358–381.

“Although academy–industry partnerships have been a subject of interest in professional communication for many years, they have barely been considered in terms of globally networked learning environments (GNLEs). This empirical case study of an academy–industry partnership, in which the authors participated, examines the opportunities and challenges in applying GNLE practices to the design of a corporate engineering communication workshop. Using genre-ecology modeling as the analytical framework, the study demonstrates how the pedagogical processes considered for inclusion in such a workshop may be embedded in a network of institutional genres, some of which are associated with strong regulating controls. The findings from this study have implications for those who are interested in applying GNLE practices in workplace contexts and for those interested in using a principled framework for representing the work of such partnership activities.”

Christine Bates

Professional communication education in a global context: A collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, Mexico, and Universidad de Quintana Roo, Mexico

Craig, J., Poe, M., & Rojas, M. F. G. (2010). Journal of Business & Technical Communication, 24, 267–295.

“This article describes a beginning research partnership between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and two Mexican universities, the Universidad de Quintana Roo (UQROO) and Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey, that has developed and implemented an environment merging the pedagogies of English as a foreign language (EFL) and writing across the curriculum (WAC). The article presents a theoretical background for this partnership based on the research on globally networked learning environments (GNLEs) and then focuses on the early stages of the project as the research teams define their objectives, research methods, and teaching approaches.”

Christine Bates

Small talk, rapport, and international communicative competence

Pullin, P. (2010). Journal of Business Communication, 47, 455–476.

“This article explores the notion of small talk within the context of English as a lingua franca business communication in an international setting. Until recently, the concept of small talk has been largely ignored or denigrated. However, recent studies indicate that small talk may play a key role in building relations and trust between staff in companies, which is of key importance in effective and productive business. Based on an empirical study, the article argues that small talk may be of particular value to speakers of business English as a lingua franca (BELF) in allowing them to develop solidarity, despite linguistic and cultural differences, and thus increase the likelihood of avoiding or successfully overcoming communication problems. In addition, insights into the nature of such small talk may be of value in raising awareness of aspects of effective communication in international business and the notion of international communicative competence.”

J. A. Dawson

Upward influence in contemporary Chinese organizations: Explicating the effects of influence goal type and multiple goal importance on message reasoning and politeness

Shi, X., & Wilson, S. R. (2010). Management Communication Quarterly, 24, 579–606.

“This study reports a goal-based analysis of how Chinese employees engage in upward influence with their supervisors. Results indicate that the types of influence goals (personal vs. organizational) must be studied in conjunction with the importance attributed to multiple goals (e.g., clarity, relationship maintenance) to explain message features. Chinese employees who recalled pursuing a personal upward influence goal placed greater importance on relationship goals, expressed more approval for their supervisor, and mixed personal- and work-focused reasons to a greater extent than did those who recalled pursuing an organizational goal. For both types of influence goals, relationship goal importance significantly predicted message politeness while clarity goal importance predicted number of reasons given. Future research exploring general and cultural-specific aspects of upward influence is proposed.”

J. A. Dawson

Public Relations

Corporate proactivity as a discursive fiction: Managing environmental health activism and regulation

Zoller, H. M., & Tener, M. (2010). Management Communication Quarterly, 24, 391-418.

“This essay problematizes dominant theorizing about proactive communication in public relations and issue management. Current literature promotes proactive stakeholder engagement to prevent reputational damage rather than harm reduction to prevent crises from occurring. In practice this approach legitimizes a paradoxical corporate strategy framing crisis responses as proactive. Such framing attributes corporate improvements to voluntary corporate social responsibility (CSR) rather than external sources such as activist and regulatory challenges. An ethnographic study of a ‘good neighbor’ environmental health campaign targeting a chemical plant found that the discursive construction of proactivity was significant because it (a) played a central role in public sensemaking about organizational legitimacy and responsibility and (b) influenced perceptions about the sources of corporate innovation and change.”

Sherry Southard

An economic industry and institutional level of analysis of corporate social responsibility communication

O'Connor, A., & Shumate, M. (2010). Management Communication Quarterly, 24, 529–551.

“This study identifies the similarities and differences in corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication at the institutional and economic industry level of analysis. Findings suggest that at the institutional level of analysis, a corporate consensus exists about the scope of CSR and is largely understood as welfare capitalism. However, at the economic level of analysis, differences across economic industries exist based on value chain position. Specifically, industries further up the value-chain focus on the safety of their employees, ethical business practices, and environmental stewardship as essential elements of CSR, whereas economic industries closer to customers in the value chain were more likely to focus on philanthropy and education as CSR.”

J. A. Dawson

Public relations leadership in corporate social responsibility

Benn, S., Todd, L. R., & Pendleton, J. (2010). Journal of Business Ethics, 96, 403–423.

“Many of the negative connotations of corporate social responsibility (CSR) are linked to its perceived role as a public relations exercise. Following on calls for more positive engagement by public relations professionals in organizational strategic planning and given the rapidly increasing interest in CSR [corporate social responsibility] as a business strategy, this article addresses the question of how the theory and practice of public relations can provide direction and support for CSR. To this end, this article explores leadership styles and motivations of a sample of corporate leaders from prominent Australian-based corporations in relation to their chosen CSR activities to examine the current position of, and potential for, professional communicators’ impact in shaping CSR-driven policies at a strategic level. We find that while public relations theory has evolved, many leaders still see public relations professionals only as a source of positive publicity …. We conclude that the public relations profession needs to develop a greater understanding of senior management approaches to the development and dissemination of CSR activities to support organizational leadership as it currently operates with respect to CSR.”

Sherry Southard


Employee reactions to paper and electronic surveys: An experimental comparison

Croteau, A., Dyer, L., & Miguel, M. (2010). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 53, 249–259.

“Using a within-subjects field experiment, we tested the differences between paper-based and electronic employee surveys. Employees of a large organization were invited to respond to a paper survey as well as an identical electronic survey. Results from 134 employees who completed both questionnaires indicated that electronic surveys were seen as marginally easier to use and more enjoyable than paper surveys. However, the paper-based questionnaires produced a higher response rate. The self-reported likelihood that participants would respond to similar questionnaires in the future did not differ between the two formats. After comparing the answers on survey items that measured feelings of well-being and spending patterns, data quality also appeared to be equivalent across the two formats. Conceptual issues, as well as the implications for managers who are administering employee surveys, are discussed.”

Jenny West

Ethos, pathos, logos, kairos: Using a rhetorical heuristic to mediate digital-survey recruitment strategies

Rife, M. C. (2010). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 53, 260–277.

“How might the rhetorical strategies of ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos play a mediational, intervening role in the successful administration of online surveys? What are the general costs and benefits of conducting survey research? Based on the activity of administering an online survey (N = 334) testing knowledge and understanding of US copyright law among digital writers (both students and teachers) in U. S. technical and professional writing (TPW) programs, I blend Rhetorical Theory with Activity Theory by conducting a rhetorical analysis within an Activity Theory paradigm. I posit that a rhetorically informed heuristic mediates between the researcher and potential participants when the researcher attempts to recruit individuals to respond to an online survey.”

Jenny West

Scientific Writing

Arithmetic of the species: Darwin and the role of mathematics in his argumentation

Wynn, J. (2009). Rhetorica, 27, 76–97.

“[T]here has as yet been no substantive discussion about the rhetorical importance of mathematics in making arguments in The Origin of Species. The purpose of this paper is not only to fill this scholarly gap, but also to examine why this aspect of Darwin's argument has gone largely unexplored. To accomplish these goals, [the author] will 1) investigate possible reasons why this rhetorical dimension of Darwin's argument has received so little attention, 2) analyze Darwin's argumentative strategy in The Origin of Species to reveal the presence and importance of mathematical argumentation, and 3) examine the philosophical/methodological context in which Darwin's arguments were made to validate the importance of his mathematical arguments as strategies for persuasion.”

Edward A. Malone

The conduit between lifeworld and system: Habermas and the rhetoric of public scientific controversies

Crick, N., & Gabriel, J. (2010). Rhetoric Society Quarterly, 40, 201–223.

“The vibrancy and health of political culture in democratic societies increasingly depends on the publicity and resolution of public scientific controversies. However, creating a framework for analysis that avoids reductive categorization remains a difficult task. This essay proposes a Habermasian framework of analysis for public scientific controversies and draws out its rhetorical implications. We argue that the roots of public scientific controversies are found in moments of urgency that call forth contested scientific theories into the public realm. These controversies embed epistemological disputes over knowledge-claims within pragmatic contexts, thus forcing interested parties to achieve some level of intersubjective consensus on the legitimacy of broad-based policies that fuse politics, ethics, and science. These controversies thus provide the situational grounds that make possible, if not always actual, the interaction among citizens, scientists, and legislators through rhetorical forums that feature the discursive interplay among epistemological concerns, aesthetic experience, moral valuation, and practical judgment.”

Brent Henze

The impact of NSF and NIH: Websites on researcher ethics

Hoover, R. (2010). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 40, 403–427.

“The fragmentation of science and medicine research in recent years has led to the creation of sub-disciplines with distinct identities and ethics. Like many social communities, these sub-disciplines have found websites of federal funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) to be an effective and efficient home in which to solidify that identity and communicate those values. Despite the lack of collaborative, Web 2.0 technologies, the sites of NSF and NIH are able to communicate the ethics of the science communities they serve through rhetorical structures as diverse as graphics, page layout, and site structures. This article explores that role of NSF and NIH, including the rhetoric used, the ethics presented, and their broader implications.”

Daniel Drahnak

Marketing longitude: Clocks, kings, courtiers, and Christiaan Huygens

Howard, N. (2008). Book History, 11, 59–88.

Seventeenth-century Dutch mathematician Christiaan Huygens invented a pendulum clock and wrote texts to explain and market this invention. In this case study of technical marketing communication, Howard explores “the way Huygens actively cultivated heterogeneous audiences for his published works by tailoring them to particular readers and distributing them in strategic ways.”

Edward A. Malone

Riding out of bounds: Women bicyclists’ embodied medical authority

Hallenbrook, S. (2010). Rhetoric Review, 29, 327–345.

“With its wide circulation and its resistance to old-fashioned morality, the popular magazine provided late nineteenth-century American women a location within which to counter doctors’ long-held views of their physical frailty. In articles promoting the bicycle as an agent of women's health, nonmedically trained women countered medical commonplaces of women's limited energies and need for constant doctor scrutiny. Instead, they posited a renewable, self-governing female body capable of taking on both the bicycle and the challenges of the new century. In doing so, they influenced doctors’ perspectives on women's bodies from outside professional boundaries.”

Brent Henze

Usability Studies

Assessing concurrent think-aloud protocol as a usability test method: A technical communication approach

Cooke, L. (2010). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 53, 202–215.

“Concurrent think-aloud protocol (CTA) is often used in usability test settings to gain insight into participants’ thoughts during their task performances. This study adds to a growing body of research within technical communication that addresses the use of think-aloud protocols in usability test settings. The eye movements and verbalizations of 10 participants were recorded as they searched for information on a website. The analysis of transcripts and real-time eye movement showed that CTA is an accurate data-collection method. The researcher found that the majority of user verbalizations in the study included words, phrases, and sentences that users read from the screen. Silence and verbal fillers that occurred during CTA enabled users to assess and process information during their searches. This study demonstrates the value technical communicators add to the study of usability test methods, and the paper recommends future avenues of research.”

Jenny West

Synthesizing IT case studies of nonprofits using a multiple-level patterns-based framework

Kase, S. E., Zhang, Y., Carroll, J. M., & Rosson, M. (2010). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 53, 216–232.

“To better understand how individuals, groups, and organizations can use information systems more effectively, a research approach closer to the level of social interchange is required. A multiple-level, sustainable, information-technology (IT) learning framework, rooted in patterns of practice and constructed by participatory action research, offers an alternative methodology for investigating sustainable strategies of IT learning. The framework evolved from concrete instances of IT learning across organizational case studies. A patterns-based analysis of the ethnographic data enabled the examination of informal IT learning in community contexts and the identification of IT interventions more likely to produce successful learning outcomes.”

Jenny West

Technical communication and usability: Intertwined strands and mutual influences commentary

Redish, J. (2010). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 53, 191–201.

“Technical communication and usability (user experience, or UX) have a long, intertwined history, dating back at least to the 1970s. The author, who has been active in both fields for the last three decades, gives many examples of how technical communicators have influenced UX practice and how usability specialists have influenced technical communication. The author also explores how technical communicators can continue to contribute to future UX theory, research, and practice through collaboration, through their communication skills, dealing with the reality of ever-increasing complexity in products and processes and dealing with the need to adapt to more rapid change.”

Jenny West