59.2, May 2012

Recent & Relevant

Lyn Gattis, Editor

The following abstracts summarize articles on technical communication that have appeared recently in other journals. The abstracts are prepared by volunteer journal monitors. If you would like to contribute, contact Lyn Gattis at LynGattis@MissouriState.edu.

“Recent & 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 Katherine Wertz who helped assemble the manuscript for “Recent & Relevant.”


“Who’s there?” Differences in the features of telephone and face-to-face conferences

Halbe, D. (2012). Journal of Business Communication, 49, 48–73. doi: 10.1177/0021943611425238

“A significant part of the work in business settings, especially in multinational projects, is done through talking over the phone in conference calls. The differences in the setting in comparison with face-to-face meetings create a new dynamic of talk and turn taking because of the lack of body language. This article analyzes a number of the differences between these two types of meetings, using a corpus of (International) Business English, in which the multinational participants discuss an information technology research project. English is used as a lingua franca among participants from different companies and different nationalities (e.g., Dutch, German, Italian, Spanish). Features studied include self-identification, the number of turns, interruptions, overlaps, back-channeling behavior, pauses, side comments, small talk, breaks, distribution of talk, meeting structure, and length of conferences. The findings show that because of the lack of body language signals, there are differences in most of these features, for example, fewer interruptions, overlaps, and pauses in concalls than in face-to-face meetings. Small talk is restricted to the end or beginning of calls if it happens at all, [and] side comments do not happen among the participants but may occur with people outside the conference. Back channels occur more frequently in conference calls, as they constitute the only means of communicating attention. The latter highlights the concerns for politeness to secure good working relationships in business relations.”

Katherine Wertz

Transparency as a catalyst for interaction and participation in open learning environments

Mackey, T. P. (2011). First Monday, 16(10). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3333/3070

“This article argues that transparency promotes interactivity and participation in collaborative Web 2.0 learning environments. Teaching with transparency requires a learner-centered pedagogy for research, writing, and the production of new knowledge in open communities. Transparency is a catalyst for interaction and participation that supports open learning in multiple disciplines and institutional contexts. Transparent design influences the development of wikis, Open Educational Resources (OERs), and mobile applications.”

Anita Ford


Answering five key questions about workplace bullying: How communication scholarship provides thought leadership for transforming abuse at work

Lutgen-Sandvik, P., & Tracy, S. J. (2012). Management Communication Quarterly, 26, 3–47. doi: 10.1177/0893318911414400

“Organizational communication research is vital for understanding and addressing workplace bullying, a problem that affects nearly half of working adults and has devastating results on employee well-being and organizational productivity. A communication approach illustrates the toxic complexity of workplace bullying as it is condoned through societal discourses, sustained by receptive workplace cultures, and perpetuated through local interactions. Examining these (macro, meso, and micro) communicative elements addresses the most pressing questions about workplace bullying, including (a) how abuse manifests, (b) how employees respond, (c) why it is so harmful, (d) why resolution is so difficult, and (e) how it might be resolved. This article provides tips for addressing and transforming workplace bullying, which may be of particular interest to consultants and human resource professionals, while also offering a theoretical synthesis and launching pad for future research.”

Lyn Gattis

Designing and developing questionnaires for translation (tutorial)

Tuleja, E. A., Beamer, L., Shum, C., & Chan, E. K. Y. (2011). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 54, 392–405. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2011.2172834

“Questionnaires are a popular method used by global companies to gain understanding or assess various aspects of their businesses. However, using a questionnaire across cultures requires extra effort in translating it into the target language(s) and culture(s) because a good questionnaire developed in one language/culture may not necessarily ‘travel well’ across cultures due to differences in meaning and interpretation. This tutorial synthesizes the extant research on cross-cultural communication and surveys, and provides guidance in preparing cross-cultural questionnaires.”

Gowri Saraf

The influence of relational maintenance strategies among coworkers

Madlock, P. E., & Booth-Butterfield, M. (2012). Journal of Business Communication, 49, 21–47. doi: 10.1177/0021943611425237

“This study sought to extend prior research by examining the prevalence of relational maintenance behaviors between coworkers and the impact of such behaviors on the work-related attitudes of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, communication satisfaction, and work alienation. The finding indicated that more than 88% of the employees who participated in this study engaged in coworker relational maintenance strategies, with conflict management, shared tasks, and positivity reported most often. Additionally, significant relationships were found between coworker relational maintenance behaviors and the work-related attitudes of job satisfaction, organizational commitment, communication satisfaction, and work alienation. A detailed discussion highlighting the relevance of these findings to communication scholars and business professionals is also provided.”

Katherine Wertz

Knock, knock; who’s there? Making sense of organizational entrance through humor

Heiss, S. N., & Carmack, H. J. (2012). Management Communication Quarterly, 26, 106–132. doi: 10.1177/0893318911414914

“The entry of new members into an organization can be a time of uncertainty and creativity for both newcomers and veterans. This study explored how humor communication was used by members of a human service organization to negotiate the entry of newcomers. Humor was frequently utilized by all members to manage stress and uncertainty while making sense of job expectations, organizational culture, and organizational affiliations. Additionally, many members marked moments of identification with the organization through their ability to use and interpret humor in the organization successfully. Together, newcomers and veterans used humor to co-construct the organizational norms and expectations.”

Lyn Gattis

Personal reputation: Effects of upward communication on impressions about new employees

Foste, E. A., & Botero, I. C. (2012). Management Communication Quarterly, 26, 48–73. doi: 10.1177/0893318911411039

“One of the pitfalls of past research in upward influence communication is that messages are often categorized using more than one characteristic. This categorization has made it difficult to understand how different message characteristics affect supervisors’ perceptions about employees. Given the importance of supervisor perceptions for the future of employees in the organization, this study uses principles of language expectancy theory (LET) to explore how message content (benefit organization vs. no benefit) and delivery style (aggressive vs. nonaggressive) in upward communication situations affect perceptions of personal reputation and work competence. Participants, acting in the role of supervisors, read one of four scenarios and evaluated a new employee. Results suggest that delivery style and message content independently influence the supervisor’s willingness to grant a request as well as influence perceptions of personal reputation, whereas perceptions of work competence are primarily affected by message content. Implications of results for theory and practice are discussed.”

Lyn Gattis

Videoconferencing as a mode of communication: A comparative study of the use of videoconferencing and face-to-face meetings

Denstadli, J. M., Julsrud, T. E., & Hjorthol, R. J. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 65–91. doi: 10.1177/1050651911421125

“Based on a quantitative survey of Norwegian business travelers, this study compares their use of face-to-face (FTF) meetings and videoconferences (VCs). The study finds that access and use of VCs are determined mainly by industry and the geographical structure of the enterprise. It also finds that VCs and FTF meetings differ along several dimensions, suggesting that these two modes of communication fulfill slightly different needs. Based on the survey results, the authors propose a framework to understand the emerging role of VCs. This framework would address both relational and task-based dimensions.”

Lyn Gattis


Assessing scholarly multimedia: A rhetorical genre studies approach

Ball, C. E. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 61–77. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.626390

“This article describes what scholarly multimedia (i.e., web texts) are and how one teacher-editor has students compose these texts as part of an assignment sequence in her writing classes. The article shows how one set of assessment criteria for scholarly multimedia—based on the Institute for Multimedia Literacy’s parameters . . . for assessing honor students’ multimedia projects—are used to give formative feedback to students’ projects.”

Katherine Wertz

AxeCorp’s “Team Challenge”: Teaching teamwork via 3D social networking platforms

Carmichael, K. (2011). Business Communication Quarterly, 74, 479–485. doi: 10.1177/1080569911423962

“To prepare business communication undergraduates for a changing work world and to engage today’s tech-savvy students, many instructors have embraced social media by incorporating its use in the classroom. This article describes AxeCorp, a fictional company headquartered on the immersive social networking platform, Second Life, and one particular exercise developed for the ‘company,’ the AxeCorp Team Challenge. This challenge attempts to integrate students’ skill development with their knowledge of communication concepts through the creation of a virtual team.”

Katherine Wertz

Constructing professional portfolios: Sense-making and professional identity development for engineering undergraduates

Eliot, M., & Turns, J. (2011). Journal of Engineering Education, 100, 630–654.

Findings from this study of engineering student portfolios are also relevant to preprofessional technical communication students. The engineering students reported that portfolio creation helped them develop an external sense of professional identity (relative to potential employers and recruiters) and especially an internal sense (relative to their own emerging sense of professionalism). During a 4-week workshop they wrote professional statements, selected and annotated artifacts from their coursework, and completed a survey about the portfolio creation. “[I]nvestigators noted that student participants described their portfolio activities as positively impacting their growing identities as engineering professionals. These impacts were seen particularly in studies regarding cross-curricular portfolios.” The researchers conclude that, although professional education often exposes students to the external frame of reference, “[w]e need to provide students with opportunities to engage the internal frame of reference with which our participants were particularly concerned.”

Lyn Gattis

Experiencing a social network in an organizational context: The Facebook internship

McEachern, R. W. (2011). Business Communication Quarterly, 74, 486–493. doi: 10.1177/1080569911423963

“As Facebook becomes increasingly more popular as a communication tool for businesses and organizations, it is important that our students learn to transfer personal Facebook skills to professional settings. This article focuses on the lessons learned by two students who used Facebook as part of a social media internship, as well as what the author learned about its use through research and teaching a course on social media and professional writing.”

Katherine Wertz

Extra-role time, burnout, and commitment: The power of promises kept

Brown, L. A., & Roloff, M. E. (2011). Business Communication Quarterly, 74, 450474. doi: 10.1177/1080569911424202

Burnout and occupational motivation can affect many teachers, including those in technical writing, especially in a time when employers expect teachers to do more outside of teaching for decreased compensation and diminished job security. “This study examines the relationships of extra-role time (ERT) behavior with burnout and occupational commitment among teachers through the lens of conservation of resources (COR) theory. Results reveal that teachers who invest in more ERT are also more likely to experience burnout and decreased commitment to teaching than those who invest less. However, results also indicate that the ethical practice of the employer fulfilling the psychological contract (keeping promises) entered into with the teacher offsets this negative spiral with implications for both teacher well-being and workplace outcomes.”

Katherine Wertz

Integrating social and traditional media in the client project

Melton, J., & Hicks, N. (2011). Business Communication Quarterly, 74, 494504. doi: 10.1177/1080569911423959

“Based on a client project assigned to students in two undergraduate business classes, this article argues that social media learning is best done in a context that mixes social media with more traditional kinds of media. Ideally, this approach will involve teams of students who are working on different aspects of a larger client project. This integrated setup has several benefits: It enhances the students’ understanding of social media within a real context, it complements more traditional communication methods, and it reveals the communicative aspects of key business functions.”

Katherine Wertz

Intercultural competence in technical communication: A working definition and review of assessment methods

Yu, H. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 168–186. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.643443

“The field of technical communication has made notable progress in researching and teaching intercultural issues. Not enough discussion, however, is available on assessing students’ intercultural competence. This article attempts to start this discussion and invite further research. It suggests a working definition to conceptualize intercultural competence and draws upon diverse disciplines to review different assessment methods, including their strengths, drawbacks, and potential applications in technical communication classes.”

Katherine Wertz

Making the implicit explicit in assessing multimodal composition: Continuing the conversation [special issue]

Katz, S. M., & Odell, L. (Eds.). (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 1–5. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.626700

“This special issue features articles that can help composition instructors think about ways to assess student products that are delivered in a variety of media. Although the topic of assessment is a common one, challenges arise as we apply—and adapt—our traditional assessment strategies to the features and components of compositions produced using new media.” M. Morain and J. Swarts focus “on a familiar kind of text in a new medium—instructions presented in video rather than in print.” In each of two articles on assessing wikis, C. Manion & R. Selfe and M. Barton & J. Heiman discuss “the ‘habits of mind’ that characterize successful collaboration in creating a wiki.” C. Ball’s article ‘‘presents a modified version of Virginia Kuhn’s analytic framework and shows how it helps assess students’ efforts to create their own scholarly arguments.” The editors’ goal in this special issue is to lead readers “to articulate, reflect upon, and continually refine the criteria that are essential to both formative and summative assessment” of student multimodal texts.

Lyn Gattis

Process, product, and potential: The archaeological assessment of collaborative, wiki-based student projects in the technical communication classroom

Barton, M. D., & Heiman, J. R. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 46–60. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.626391

“Wikis enable large, diverse groups of writers to effectively collaborate online. Although Wikipedia is the best-known wiki, businesses are increasingly using wikis to build documents and resources for internal use. Although many teachers of technical communication are interested in integrating wikis into their syllabi, assessment is difficult. Assessments based on traditional assignments fail because they do not focus on the social nature of wikis. This article introduces an ‘archaeological’ assessment framework focused on this discourse.”

Katherine Wertz

Sharing an assessment ecology: Digital media, wikis, and the social work of knowledge

Manion, C. E., & Selfe, R. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 25–45. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.626756

“Through a retrospective examination of three case studies, this article argues for an open, contextualized approach to evaluating student learning using wikis. First, the project should be grounded in habits of thought appropriate for the field. Next, the class activity should give students the responsibility for putting these habits into practice. Finally, assessment should be distributed among a range of stakeholders and should be contextualized to give value to students’ work beyond the classroom.”

Katherine Wertz

Social media: It’s what students do

Kelm, O. R. (2011). Business Communication Quarterly, 74, 505520. doi: 10.1177/1080569911423960

“In assessing the application of social media on the teaching of business communication, this article looks at MBA student use of blogs, online photo database contributions, and video contributions to YouTube channels. These assignments were part of their course activities, which included a 2-week study tour in China. The article looks at these activities within the context of the social constructivist view on learning in general. The student work provides evidence of the positive results that come from the use of social media, when viewed from the perspective of social constructivist theories for learning.”

Katherine Wertz

XChanges Journal—Web journal as the writing classroom: On building an academic Web journal in a collaborative classroom

Boles, J., & Newmark, J. (2011). Kairos, 16(1). Retrieved from http://www.technorhetoric.net/16.1/praxis/boles

This article explores the challenges and viewpoints of students in a publications management class at New Mexico Tech that was “explicitly designed to engage students with a unique ‘client project,’ the production of an issue of the online technical communication journal Xchanges.” The class professor shares her perspective as does a student who is now an editorial assistant for the journal. Students were interviewed at several points about the project, and their comments and prior knowledge of journals and comments are included with explanations of how the project unfolded. The authors discuss the use of content management and project management tools and practices employed in producing the issue. Students gained knowledge of digital publication and applying concepts of technical communication to a client setting.

Phillip George

Ethical Issues

Fostering argumentation while solving engineering ethics problems

Jonassen, D. H., & Cho, Y. H. (2011). Journal of Engineering Education, 100, 680–702.

“Ethical issues pervade engineering practice. Ethical problems are ill-structured with alternative solutions, perspectives, and rationales for justifying solutions to ethical problems . . . . Previous studies by the authors showed that arguing for solutions to ethical problems is an effective strategy for helping students to learn how to address multiple perspectives in support of ethical problems. However, from an argumentative perspective, a significant weakness in student solutions to ethical problems is conceiving and rebutting counterarguments.” The two experiments described in this article showed that students more effectively “identify and rebut alternative solutions” when they generate their own counterarguments rather than follow examples of counterarguments. “Engineering students can learn to meaningfully address ethical issues; however, more sustained treatments are necessary to help students to transfer those skills more broadly.”

Lyn Gattis

Retrofitting accessibility: The legal inequality of after-the-fact online access for persons with disabilities in the United States

Wentz, B., Jaeger, P. T., & Lazar, J. (2011). First Monday, 16(11). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3666

“Despite the significant advantages that access to information and communication technology has made to many of our lives, the related benefits, opportunities and even equalizing effect of this technology are often not accessible or only partially accessible to a growing portion of the global population. Current disability rights laws which are supposed to exist for the protection and well-being of individuals with disabilities are often too close to the heart of the problem, as they can actually promote a separate but unequal online environment . . . . This article examines the aspects of the current laws that perpetuate . . . [this] environment, discussing past and current examples of such inequity. It also contrasts the structure of current U.S. disability rights laws with other civil rights legislation and offers a set of policy recommendations that could have a positive impact on accessibility.”

Anita Ford

Information Management

Content curation: Building bridges between Web writing and DITA authoring

Kerzreho, N. (2011). Best Practices, 13, 141, 145–146. [Center for Information-Development Management] Retrieved from www.infomanagementcenter.com/members/pdfs/Dec11.pdf

Although technical writing, Web writing, and DITA authoring may seem to be full of buzzwords, this article explains that “minimalism, structured writing, modular writing, and adaptation to your audience can apply in different frameworks.” New terminology such as “information strategy, content curation, agile methodology, web writing, pattern design, usability, [and] information structure . . . should not alarm technical communicators. We are well prepared to track down appropriate contexts, variants, and definitions (a basic terminology practice). Simple, structured content and targeted and relevant information is a sign of high quality information. Core skills and techniques are appropriate for many, if not all, areas of expertise. Recognizing and then applying these techniques is essential in our ever-changing field.”

Lyn Gattis

The death of technical publications as we know it or 9 strategic reasons to move to live product content

Schwarz, H. (2011). Best Practices, 13, 150–154. Retrieved from www.infomanagementcenter.com/members/pdfs/Dec11.pdf

This article defines the classic technical publication as “a static one-way deliverable that is completed and shipped as part of a new product introduction (NPI).” However, the article suggests that traditional documentation is irrelevant for a “new generation of customer experience that is increasingly shaped by the internet, mobile channel, and social media. Customers, and even prospects, expect to rapidly find just the right information at their fingertips via the internet or mobile device. They expect that information to be tailored to their questions, [and] visually presented, and they expect their interaction with that information to be two-way. Organizations that are mindful of these changes in customer expectations are responding strategically, by moving to a notion of product content that is dynamic, interactive and personalized.” The article contrasts “this new notion of ‘live product content’ with the more traditional one of ‘technical documentation’” in nine areas: access; targeted information; currency; visual engagement; two-way interaction; shared knowledge; consistency; collaboration; and revenue opportunities.

Lyn Gattis

Freescale’s big IDEA

Beims, B., & Campos, M. (2011). Best Practices, 13, 155–163. [Center for Information-Development Management] Retrieved from www.infomanagementcenter.com/members/pdfs/Dec11.pdf

This article describes Freescale’s move “toward XML-based information development, management, and delivery” following the realization that the company’s writers “were spending nearly 70 percent of their time doing things other than technical writing!” To address the two root causes—scattered repositories of content and multiple file formats—Freescale “created a single, unified repository for all content that would be stored in a presentation-neutral, non-proprietary format. The result is an XML-native repository that ‘speaks’ DITA, SVG, and MathML as its native language and is accessible by any Freescale employee across the globe.” Eventually, the company developed a more comprehensive “information management solution that touches processes integral to product development,” referred to as “Information/Development/Ecosystem/Advantage.” A key part of the IDEA approach involves the “5 Where test.” Content developers ask “Where do we find that information?” repeatedly “when they need to display an information object in a document . . . . Eventually [they] arrive at root information. [They] then work to build a content flow that streams root information directly to consumers, rather than stopping several times along the way. Wherever possible, [they] also attempt to automate those flows to allow information developers more time to create content rather than moving it around.”

Lyn Gattis

Medical device industry: Total cost of content

Miller, M. (2011). Best Practices, 13, 147–149. Retrieved from www.infomanagementcenter.com/members/pdfs/Dec11.pdf

“Aging populations are important for the medical device industry for one simple reason: Older populations spend more on healthcare of all types—including medical devices.” Accompanying the growth in this market is “an explosion in the volume of written content and information necessary to develop, test, register, train, and sell medical devices worldwide . . . . The increase in content complexity due to a 300-400 percent increase in contributors, document types, and markets served has significantly elevated the Total Cost of Content for the medical device industry. New research estimates the Total Cost of Content for US manufacturers at 1 percent of revenue ($1 billion).” According to the article, if manufacturers converted from traditional documentation processes to a Global Management System/Component Content Management System, estimated potential savings would be $400 million. “Given the current economic environment, this significant bottom-line benefit is driving manufacturers to reexamine their traditional labeling and documentation processes. Risk management benefits provide further impetus to content management reconsideration.”

Lyn Gattis

Professional Issues

Achieving rigor and relevance in online multimedia scholarly publishing

Anderson-Wilk, M., & Hino, J. (2011). First Monday, 16(12). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3762/3119

The authors discuss “the importance of relevance and rigor in scholarly publishing in a new media-rich world. [They] defend that scholarship should be useful and engaging to audiences through the use of new media, and at the same time scholarly publishers must develop and maintain methods of ensuring content accuracy and providing quality controls in the production of scholarly multimedia products. [The authors] review examples and a case study of existing scholarly publishing venues that attempt to maintain quality control standards while embracing innovative multimedia formats. [They] also present lessons learned from the case experience and challenges that face us in the scholarly publication of multimedia.”

Anita Ford

A comparison of the top six journals selected as top journals for publication by business communication educators

St. Clair Martin, J., Davis, B. D., & Krapels, R. H. (2012). Journal of Business Communication, 49, 3–20. doi: 10.1177/0021943611425239

“This study compares the top six journals selected in an earlier survey of Association for Business Communication members as the top journals in which to publish for professional advancement. Those journals include Academy of Management Journal, Academy of Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Journal of Business Communication, and Management Communication Quarterly. Using variables found in other disciplines’ journal assessment articles, comparisons were made with the following: length of articles published, disciplines of authors, statistical methodology included, major discipline of article focus, number of references included, and research methods used with sample size where appropriate. The analysis indicated significant differences among many of these journals. In selecting where to publish BMOC (business, management, organizational communication) articles, prospective authors in the area will find the information on these six journals informative and beneficial.”

Katherine Wertz

Understanding personal learning networks: Their structure, content and the networking skills needed to optimally use them

Rajagopal, K., Joosten-ten Brinke, D., Van Bruggen, J., & Sloep, P. B. (2011). First Monday, 17(1). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3559/3131

“Networking is a key skill in professional careers, supporting the individual’s growth and learning. However, little is known about how professionals intentionally manage the connections in their personal networks and which factors influence their decisions in connecting with others for the purpose of learning. In this article, [the authors] present a model of personal professional networking for creating a personal learning network, based on an investigation through a literature study, semi-structured interviews and a survey.”

Anita Ford

Public relations

Balancing the rhetorical tension between right to know and security in risk communication: Ambiguity and avoidance

Youngblood, S. A. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 35–64. doi: 10.1177/1050651911421123

“This study examines tensions between participants’ roles as emergency planners and as points of contact for public access to chemical reports. The two organizations in this study, both Texas Local Emergency Planning Committees, maintained web sites and were concerned about the misuse of chemical reports. Each organization used ambiguity to give members a sense of control over right-to-know access to reports. One largely avoided online mention of such access. The other used strategic ambiguity to encourage the public to access reports locally rather than through a state office and to discourage unwelcome viewers. The study found that the former organization’s use of ambiguity impeded action, but the latter organization’s use of strategic ambiguity was productive.”

Lyn Gattis

Communicating CSR and business identity in the chemical industry through mission slogans

Verboven, H. (2011). Business Communication Quarterly, 74, 415–431. doi: 10.1177/1080569911424485

“This article analyzes the communication of corporate social responsibility (CSR) and corporate image in the chemical industry through mission slogans. Morsing’s (2006) CSR communication framework is adapted for a comparative analysis of the strategies behind mission slogans. By grouping rhetorical strategies in a mission slogan into a mission slogan functionality grid, it was found that most chemical companies use the mission slogan to share their value proposition (CSR promise) and to present their often-stigmatized activities in a euphemistic way. This article offers the tools to use mission slogans as lenses through which to analyze corporate image strategies.”

Katherine Wertz

Corporate responsibility in communication: Empirical analysis of press releases in a conflict

Lehtimäki, H., Kujala, J., & Heikkinen, A. (2011). Business Communication Quarterly, 74, 432–449. doi: 10.1177/1080569911424203

“The paper examines how the tensions of corporate responsibility are articulated and reconciled in a controversial situation of a foreign investment. We conducted a conventionalist analysis on the company press releases in a case where a Finnish forest industry company invested in a pulp mill in South America. The findings show that the use of language in press releases mobilizes certain stakeholders while reassuring others, and that the argumentation used creates value-neutral communication, making it possible to pursue strategic goals despite competing values. For teaching, we provide insights on how to communicate in a conflict situation.”

Katherine Wertz

The language of competence in corporate histories for company Websites

Gatti, M. C. (2011). Journal of Business Communication, 48, 482–502. doi: 10.1177/0021943611414543

“This article analyses the discursive and rhetorical strategies that help promote an image of competence in the corporate histories provided by the webpages of the top 25 companies ranked in the 2008 Fortune Most Admired 500. The analysis sheds light on the lexicogrammatical features deployed within a temporally structured framework. Furthermore, the linguistic approach is integrated with the modalities of visual semiotics. Specifically, referring to Lemke’s ‘trifunctional’ theoretical framework, this article discusses the mapping of organizational meanings as competence-oriented thematic pathways developed cross-modally. Against this background, it is argued that the identification of the construals of time can be particularly useful for the retrieval of meanings underlying the representation of competence as a process.”

Katherine Wertz

Management earnings forecasts: Could an investor reliably detect an unduly positive bias on the basis of the strength of the argumentation?

Hursti, K. (2011). Journal of Business Communication, 48, 393–408. doi: 10.1177/0021943611414538

“In recent years, researchers have become increasingly interested in the credibility of public companies’ earnings forecasts. However, so far most of the research has been done in the fields of finance and accounting, with little heed to the communicative aspects affecting the credibility of these messages. With the help of Toulmin’s (1958/2003) claim-data-warrant model, this article aims to tackle the question of how important the warrant, that is, the logical link between forecast claims and the data offered to support them, is as a measure in the credibility assessment. The article takes a case study approach, focusing on two earnings forecasts released under similar economic conditions by two companies operating in the same field. The forecast with strong warrants was successful, whereas the other with weak warrants led to a profit warning. Based on the findings, the strength of the warrant might be seen as a reliable indicator of forecast credibility.”

Katherine Wertz

Telling tales of professional competence: Narrative in 60-second business networking speeches

Blazkova, H. (2011). Journal of Business Communication, 48, 446–463. doi: 10.1177/0021943611414541

“This article examines the previously untapped site of business development networks (BDNs), a fast-evolving promotional environment where small business owners try to gain new business through an organized word-of-mouth campaign. Drawing on a data set of 60-second business networking speeches, this study centers on the display of professional competence through promotional mini-presentations. More specifically, this study explores the use of small narrative as a means of communicating the speaker’s professional competence. Thirty stories embedded in BDN 60-second slots were transcribed so that the generic patterns navigating these narratives could be analyzed. The findings indicate that to communicate professional competence, the speakers rely on the success story as the chief master narrative and use predominantly the problem-solution generic pattern. The problem and solution phases tend to involve increased deployment of high-involvement lexis such as hyperbole and extreme case formulations and they are often framed as constructed dialogue.”

Katherine Wertz


Boundaries of research disciplines are paper constructs: Digital Web-based information as a challenge to disciplinary research

Nolin, J. M. (2011). First Monday, 16(11). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3669/3080

“Modern disciplinary research is partly constructed, and limited, by the medium of paper. It is possible to bypass the restraints imposed by paper in modern Web publication. Still, the research sector keeps publishing as if the qualities of the hard copy should be forced on the Web. This article discusses the role of paper in the construction of the boundaries of disciplines and the challenges from digital Web-based publication.”

Anita Ford

The effects of virtual space on learning: A literature review

Sköld, O. (2011). First Monday, 17(1). Retrieved from http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3496/3133

“This paper examines how the effects of virtual space on learning have been elucidated in recent research with the aim of providing both a comprehensive picture of the current state of research and interesting avenues for future projects. Drawing on a multidisciplinary review, it identifies five key themes that together constitute research in virtual space and learning: analogies between the study of physical space and learning; socio-cultural constructivist perspectives; practical and theoretical pedagogy; architecture; and aesthetics. Current research on how virtual space affects learning is fragmented, albeit rich. The pivotal challenge for the future is to establish a research infrastructure that can harness the richness of already existing studies, while simultaneously serving to drive, focus, and interconnect future research efforts.”

Anita Ford

Redesigning informed consent tools for specific research

Wright, D. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 145–167. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.641432

“Consent tools for health research generally are designed without contextual or linguistic factors in mind. This is especially true of university-based research. This case history details our design team’s efforts to transform one generic consent form into a set of multimodal tools that will increase patients’ understanding of and participation in a medical study.”

Katherine Wertz

Scientific writing

Claim-evidence structures in environmental science writing: Modifying Toulmin’s model to account for multimodal arguments

Whithaus, C. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 105–128. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.641431

“This article develops a multimodal model for how claims and evidence work across linguistic, numeric, and visual modes in the professional writing of environmental scientists. I coded and analyzed two reports (Bacey & Barry, 2008; Levine et al., 2005) written by research scientists working for California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) by applying concepts from studies of argument, genre, and visual representations in science. The claim-evidence patterns show initial and summative claims as well as warrants being presented in linguistic forms; however, supporting evidence (i.e., data and backing) is found in numeric, visual, and linguistic forms. These findings highlight the need to extend Toulmin’s understanding of claim-evidence relationships into a more robust multimodal model.”

Katherine Wertz

‘‘No one yet knows what the ultimate consequences may be’’: How Rachel Carson transformed scientific uncertainty into a site for public participation in Silent Spring

Walker, K., & Walsh, L. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 3–34. doi: 10.1177/1050651911421122

“This article examines Rachel Carson’s assimilation and revision of scientific uncertainty in her sources, annotations, and drafts for Silent Spring. It argues that Carson’s emphasis on the special topos of uncertainty was not an original invention but instead was Carson’s contribution to an ongoing scientific and political conversation about uncertainty in 1962. Carson transformed this topos into a bridge across the is–ought divide in science-related policy making, using the uncertainty topos to invite the public to participate by supplying fears and values that would warrant proposals for limiting pesticide use. Carson’s adaptation of scientific uncertainty to environmental policy making provides a historical precedent for contemporary invocations of scientific uncertainty in debates surrounding global warming, nuclear power, cancer studies, and Gulf oil drilling. The methods that the authors use to trace the development of this special topos can also serve as a pattern for excavating the histories of other pivotal topoi in the rhetoric of American science and environmental policy.”

Lyn Gattis

Science as sound bites: The Lancet Iraq casualty reports and prefigured accommodation

Leake, E. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 129–144. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.646132

“In this article [Leake] examine[s] The Lancet Iraq casualty reports for their demonstration of prefigured accommodation, a rhetorical strategy in which the authors anticipate and attempt to influence their work’s wider popularization. [Leake’s] reading of the reports and accompanying commentaries attends to the introduction of journalistic features and calls to political action . . . . [Leake] interview[s] a lead author of the reports about his rhetorical concerns in composing the work of a politically engaged science.”

Katherine Wertz


Communicating competence through PechaKucha presentations

Lehtonen, M. (2011). Journal of Business Communication, 48, 464–481. doi: 10.1177/0021943611414542

“The aim of this article is to contribute to laying a theoretical foundation for visually communicating competence through PechaKucha presentations. PechaKucha is a PowerPoint presentation format consisting of 20 slides that are shown for 20 seconds each. This article argues that the PechaKucha presentation format can be aligned with Nonaka’s SECI model (socialization, externalization, combination, internalization) to look at competences from a knowledge creation perspective. From a managerial perspective, the theoretical discussion in this article can be used in organizational settings to share knowledge through PechaKucha presentations between people with different backgrounds. On the other hand, from a research perspective, this article has at least two implications. First, by combining semiotics with knowledge management this article attempts to renew the call for a semiotic/linguistic perspective to knowledge management. Second, by combining visual communication with written and oral communication, the author calls for a more holistic approach to knowledge-related research in organizational settings.”

Katherine Wertz

Invasion of the mobile apps

Anthes, G. (2011). Communications of the ACM, 54(9), 16–18. doi: 10.1145/1995376.1995383

“The market model pioneered by Apple and others is transforming the software world—and has profound implications for software companies and their customers . . . . [T]housands of mostly small, entrepreneurial firms . . . have bypassed traditional methods of development, marketing, and distribution in favor of the new online app stores run by Apple, Google, and a few other software and communications giants. Market-research firm Gartner predicts that mobile app stores will serve 17.7 billion downloads [in 2011], up 116% from an estimated 8.2 billion [in 2010], and that application downloads will soar to 185 billion by 2014.” The article profiles three different types of mobile app companies—“. . . a venture capital-backed startup. . . a hobby turned two-person startup . . . [and] an established software company—that claim success at the online app stores.”

Lyn Gattis

Living in a digital world

Greengard, S. (2011). Communications of the ACM, 54(10), 17–19. doi: 10.1145/2001269.2001277

“Technology has created new opportunities to connect and interact. Yet, researchers are increasingly concerned that heavy technology usage is changing people’s behavior in less than desirable ways.” This article includes several perspectives from social scientists, a growing number of whom “believe it is important to take steps to regain control of the technology and our lives. One approach that is gaining popularity is the concept of switching off electronics and taking clearly defined breaks.” Phenomena discussed in the article include breakdowns in social behavior, problems of multitasking, lack of separation between home and work, and isolation from other people because of digital immersion.

Lyn Gattis

A new paradigm: Authorizing a rhetorical ground in technology transfer

Gulbrandsen, K. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 87–104. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.641429

“This work was based on a case study of a university institute designed to bring university and industry leaders together to promote research and economic development. The article examines how key terms in technology transfer not only justified the institute but also constituted a ground for negotiating interests. Framed by Burke’s and Bourdieu’s theories of motive and space, the analysis examines the question of who or what authorizes the grounds for success in technology transfer.”

Katherine Wertz

YouTutorial: A framework for assessing instructional online video

Morain, M., & Swarts, J. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 6–24. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.626690

“User-generated tutorial videos are quickly emerging as a new form of technical communication, one that relies on text, images, video, and sound alike to convey a message. In this article, we present an approach—a rubric—for assessing the instructional content of tutorial videos that considers the specific roles of modal and multimodal content in effective delivery. The rubric is based on descriptive data derived from a constant comparative study of user-rated YouTube videos.”

Katherine Wertz


Anatomy of an article

Janangelo, J., & Zabielski, S. (2011). Kairos, 16(1). Retrieved from http://kairos.technorhetoric.net/16.1/topoi/zabielski-janangelo/Anatomy_of_an_Article/Home.html

This webtext effectively examines the lengthy and involved process of putting together an article and therefore is useful for technical communicators to examine. It “examines the ways that Jonathan Pearson, a recent graduate of The University of Missouri–Kansas City, revised one of his essays to turn it from a seminar paper into a published scholarly article. The project covers a time period from 2004 to 2010 and documents the article’s most important streams of input.” Pearson transformed an article that began as a tribute to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton into a scholarly work examining the rhetoric behind her early writings. The webtext includes Pearson’s article in several drafts, an article by Joseph Janangelo documenting the inputs behind Pearson’s revision process in preparing the document for publication, and a film by Sylwester Zabielski that supplements the article.

Phillip George

Road trip: A writer’s exploration of cyberspace as literary space.

Stephenson, L. R. (2011). Kairos, 15(2).

Writing for the web is a critical skill for technical communicators to learn, but more critical still is developing an understanding of how people learn to use technology. This article is notable for technical communicators both in the subject matter of the piece—cyberwriting and its impact—and in the author’s documentation of her process behind creating the piece. According to Stephenson, “The fact that I’m not a professor of professional writing or computer design allows for ‘Road Trip,’ with its basic code creation, to be of pedagogical use for students and teachers with limited technological resources. Through a scholarly engagement with creative writing, electronic literature, and design, this writing experiment is an example of the fun that a little, simple creative writing/coding can be for the creative writer.”

Phillip George