59.4, November 2012

Recent & Relevant

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 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 Katie Bennett who helped assemble the manuscript for “Recent & Relevant.”


How users take advantage of different forms of interactivity on online news sites: Clicking, e-mailing and commenting

Bockowski, P. J., & Mitchelstein, E. (2012). Human Communication Research, 38 , 1-22. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2011.01418.x

“This study examines the uptake of multiple interactive features on news sites. It looks at the thematic composition of the most clicked, most e-mailed, and most commented stories during periods of heightened and routine political activity. Results show that (a) during the former period, the most commented stories were more likely to be focused on political, economic, and international topics (or ‘public affairs’ news) than the most clicked and most e-mailed articles. (b) The 3 types of interactivity exhibited a greater presence of public affairs content during the period of heightened political activity than during its routine counterpart. (c) As the period of heightened political activity unfolded, consumers’ propensity to click on, e-mail, and comment about public affairs stories increased.”

Katie Bennett

Making the complex clear

Eppler, M. J. (2012). Communication World, 29 (1), 33-36.

“The article focuses on the acronym STARTER, which represents [organizational communication] elements including standards, training, accountability, review, tools, examples, and resources on how to simplify complex topics from the study done by the University of Saint Gallen in Switzerland. It mentions that the organization must have a standard, which determines its internal and external quality criteria for clear communication. It also says that employees must be trained through seminars, events, and electronic learning.”

Katie Bennett

Rethinking the role of value communication in business corporations from a sociological perspective—Why organisations need value-based semantics to cope with societal and organisational fuzziness

Groddeck, V. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 100 , 69-84. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0769-1

“Why is it so plausible that business organisations in contemporary society use values in their communication? In order to answer this question, a sociological, system theoretical approach is applied which approaches values not pre-empirically as invisible drivers for action but as observable semantics that form organisational behaviour. In terms of empirical material, it will be shown that business organisations resort to a communication of values whenever uncertainty or complexity is very high. Inevitably, value semantics are applied in organisations first when the speakers are uncertain about which stakeholders to whom they have to address (uncertainty) or when different stakeholder groups have to be addressed simultaneously (complexity); second, when the identity of the organisation has to be described; and third, when future strategic options that cannot be expressed by quantitative terms have to be communicated. Values accordingly play a role in organisational practice when certain aspects are indeterminate. Therefore, they are a means for organisations to communicate under fuzzy circumstances. On the basis of these findings, new approaches to value management can now be formulated.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Crosscultural issues

Beyond compliance: Participatory translation of safety communication for Latino construction workers

Evia, C., & Patriarca, A. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 340-367. doi: 10.1177/1050651912439697

“Developing effective workplace safety and risk communication materials for Latino construction workers poses a challenge for technical communicators. These workers are at a disadvantage because of culture and language differences on many job sites. Furthermore, low levels of literacy in any language and lack of proper training compound their job site communication problems. This article builds on cultural studies-based recommendations to develop discourse in workplace safety and risk that these workers can fully understand. The authors in this study used direct creative input from Latino construction workers in order to create safety and risk communication products that were evaluated as effective and culturally relevant for these workers and their peers.”

Phillip George

The crisis with no name: Defining the interplay of culture, ethnicity, and race on organizational issues and media outcomes

Liu, B. F., & Pompper, D. (2012). Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40 , 127-146. doi: 10.1080/00909882.2012.654499

“This study is the first to provide best practices exclusively for communication about crises that involve issues of culture, ethnicity, and/or race from expert crisis managers’ perspectives. Using complexity theory as a framework, this study provides an in-depth, theoretically grounded understanding of managing issues and crises involving culture, ethnicity and/or race through the experiences of 34 senior crisis communicators. Complex insider perspectives suggest that responsibility for crisis management must move beyond any managerial bias to become more organic, normative, inclusive, and community spirited. First, issues and crises involving culture, ethnicity, and/or race are defined, laying a foundation for future theory development on ways these issues can become or exacerbate crises. Second, research participants’ stories coalesce to produce best practices and a useful decision-making framework for practical application in organizations.”

Katie Bennett

Race, rhetoric, and technology: A case study of decolonial technical communication theory, methodology, and pedagogy

Haas, A. M. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 277-310. doi: 10.1177/1050651912439539

“This article engages disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) conversations at the intersections of race, rhetoric, technology, and technical communication and offers a case study of curriculum development that supports disciplinary inquiry at these complex interstices. Specifically, informed by a decolonial framework, this article discusses the status of cultural and critical race studies in technical communication scholarship; tentative definitions of race, rhetoric, and technology; the cultural usability research conducted and located accountability in the process of designing a graduate course that studies rhetorics of race and technology; and the implications of this inquiry for the discipline, field, and practices of technical communication.”

Phillip George

Style congruency and persuasion: A cross-cultural study into the influence of differences in style dimensions on the persuasiveness of business newsletters in Great Britain and the Netherlands

Hendriks, B., Van Meurs, F., Korzilius, H., Le Pair, R., & Le Blanc-Damen, S. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 122-141. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2194602

“The purpose of the present study was to investigate whether style congruency on the dimensions succinct-elaborate and instrumental-affective influenced the persuasiveness of business newsletters in the Netherlands and Great Britain. . . . Theories about cross-cultural differences in value orientations show that value orientations can be linked to cross-cultural differences in persuasion. Theories about cross-cultural differences in communication styles show that preferences for particular communication styles can be linked to cultural value orientations. Two quantitative experimental studies were conducted among 344 business-to-business customers of a company in the Netherlands and Great Britain. Using seven-point scales, participants evaluated different versions of a newsletter on comprehensibility, attractiveness, and intention to order goods. . . . Findings reveal limited differences between the Dutch and British participants in preferences for communication styles. Consequently, it may not be worthwhile for organizations to adjust the style of their documents to preferences in different cultures. A limitation of the current study was that it only investigated style preferences for one particular business genre (i.e., newsletters). Future research should investigate stylistic preferences in other business genres and in other cultures.”

Lyn Gattis


What does it mean to design? A qualitative investigation of design professionals’ experiences

Daly, S., Adams, R., & Bodner, G. (2012). Journal of Engineering Education, 101 , 187-219.

“Design is essential to the engineering profession and plays a crucial role in preparation for future practice. Research investigating variations of how professional designers experience, give meaning to, and approach design can inform the ways we characterize, assess, and facilitate design learning. This may also have significant implications for preparing future engineering professionals to collaborate within and across disciplines.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn


Missed opportunities in the review and revision of clinical study reports

Cuppan, G. P., & Bernhardt, S. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 131-170. doi: 10.1177/1050651911430624

“Circulating written drafts and conducting roundtable reviews are two important document-development activities in many work sites. Previous studies suggest that review processes are frustrating for participants and have substantial inefficiencies caused by conflicting participant purposes. This article presents two case studies of the document-review practices for clinical study reports from a large pharmaceutical company, paying particular attention to whether review efforts contributed to improvements in document quality. Findings suggest that document review did not lead to demonstrable improvement in report quality. The authors offer recommendations for improving document-review practices.”

Phillip George


Exploring business request genres: Students’ rhetorical choices

Nguyen, H., & Miller, J. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly , 75 , 5-28. doi: 10.1177/1080569911430379

“This article presents selective findings from an ongoing study that investigates rhetorical differences in business letter writing between Vietnamese students taking an English for Specific Purposes course in Vietnam and business professionals. Rhetorical analyses are based on two corpora, namely, scenario (N = 20) and authentic business letters of request (N = 25). Two criteria, the notion of move (a meaningful unit in linguistic form contributing to the communicative purposes of a text) and linguistic properties, are used for rhetorical analysis, supplemented by analysis of data from interviews with student participants. Based on the findings and discussions, recommendations are offered for preparing students well for the business workplace through incorporating more authentic models and contexts into pedagogical strategies.”

Katherine Wertz

Practicing what we teach: Credibility and alignment in the business communication classroom

Ruppert, B., & Green, D. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly , 75 , 29-44. doi: 10.1177/1080569911426475

“The authors investigate the importance of instructor communication behaviors in a course on business communication, arguing that alignment between instructor behaviors and the precepts of the discipline has a pronounced effect on perceived instructor credibility in this field. Student evaluations were analyzed qualitatively for their comments on instructor communication behaviors and quantitatively for the ratings students gave their instructors. This suggests a relationship between the two. The authors outline two classroom exercises to help students develop best practice in business communication, while also enhancing instructors’ credibility by showing how they apply best practice in their own documents.”

Katherine Wertz

The social networking arena: Battle of the sexes

Clipson, T. W., Wilson, S. A., & DuFrene, D. D. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly , 75 , 64-67. doi: 10.1177/1080569911423961

“Social networking via texting, Facebook, Twitter, and similar media is enormously popular with students, though it often leads to communication challenges along gender lines. Research supports the fact that men and women have divergent expectations for social networking and use it differently. Students can benefit from classroom experiences that raise their awareness of communication challenges associated with social networking and encourage them to assess their own areas for improvement.”

Katherine Wertz

Social networks and the desire to save face: A case from Singapore

Netzley, M. A., & Rath, A. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly , 75 , 96-107. doi: 10.1177/1080569911433434

“For 5 years, corporate communication undergraduates have maintained a wiki as a final course and community service project. Using Web 2.0 platforms to crowdsource and curate content, they learn to employ online communications for work purposes. When the course was launched in 2007, the dominant social media narrative invited educators to embrace a technological optimism with subthemes of open communication, sharing, and co-creation. By 2011, student feedback had compelled the instructor to consider the limits of technological optimism and revise the course. Specifically, Singaporean students have displayed a need to save face online, which has led to a localized teaching approach.”

Katherine Wertz

Strategic communication and social media: An MBA course from a business communication perspective

Meredith, M. J. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly , 75 , 89-95. doi: 10.1177/1080569911432305

“Social media offers an exciting new area for our discipline to produce research and pedagogy that is in high demand by students, industry constituents, and other disciplines. This article discusses why business communication scholars should focus on social media as an important stream of study and outlines an MBA course in social media strategy currently in development from a business communication perspective. The author challenges the discipline to create social media content from an integrated communication approach.”

Katherine Wertz

Visual form, ethics, and a typology of purpose: Teaching effective information design

Rosenquist, C. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly , 75 , 45-60. doi: 10.1177/1080569911428670

“Stallworth Williams introduces concepts of visual rhetoric and ethics for a classroom exercise in the analysis and revision of a sales letter. This article revisits Stallworth Williams’s proposed teaching strategies, suggesting that not only do students need to be instructed in elements of visual design, but they must also be taught to link those elements to specific decorative, indicative, or informative purposes. This method teaches students to design documents that meet shared goals (designer and recipient) and to recognize where designs fail in purpose, so revisions can be made using deliberate choice, based on a systematic framework.”

Katherine Wertz

Weaving social media into a business proposal project

Li, X. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly , 75 , 68-75. doi: 10.1177/1080569911432629

“Given that students are enthusiastic about social media or even have expertise in some social media tools, the author decided to design a class project in her Writing for Careers (Business Communication) class that integrates social media in terms of content and project management. This article intends to describe such a class project design as well as the working process; reflect on such a practice by reviewing students’ feedback, examining the final products, and assessing the learning outcomes; and finally provide suggestions on how to improve this project.”

Katherine Wertz

Ethical issues

Corporate codes of conduct: The effects of code content and quality on ethical performance

Erwin, P. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 99 , 535-548. doi: 10.1007/s10551-010-0667-y

“Corporate codes of conduct are a practical corporate social responsibility (CSR) instrument commonly used to govern employee behavior and establish a socially responsible organizational culture. The effectiveness of these codes has been widely discussed on theoretical grounds and empirically tested in numerous previous reports that directly compare companies with and without codes of conduct. Empirical research has yielded inconsistent results that may be explained by multiple ancillary factors, including the quality of code content and implementation, which are excluded from analyses based solely on the presence or absence of codes. This study investigated the importance of code content in determining code effectiveness by examining the relationship between code of conduct quality and ethical performance. Companies maintaining high quality codes of conduct were significantly more represented among top CSR ranking systems for corporate citizenship, sustainability, ethical behavior, and public perception. Further, a significant relationship was observed between code quality and CSR performance, across a full range of ethical rankings. These findings suggest code quality may play a crucial role in the effectiveness of codes of conduct and their ability to transform organizational cultures. Future research efforts should transcend traditional comparisons based on the presence or absence of ethical codes and begin to examine the essential factors leading to the effective establishment of CSR policies and sustainable business practices in corporate culture.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

From inaction to external whistleblowing: The influence of the ethical culture of organizations on employee responses to observed wrongdoing

Kaptein, M. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 98 , 513-530. doi: 10.1007/s10551-010-0591-1

“Putting measures in place to prevent wrongdoing in organizations is important, but detecting and correcting wrongdoing are also vital. Employees who detect wrongdoing should, therefore, be encouraged to respond in a manner that supports corrective action. This article examines the influence of the ethical culture of organizations on employee responses to observed wrongdoing. Different dimensions of ethical culture are related to different types of intended responses. The findings show that several dimensions of ethical culture were negatively related to intended inaction and external whistleblowing and positively related to intended confrontation, reporting to management, and calling an ethics hotline.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

The right way to avoid doing wrong: A multistep model for making ethical decisions

Hamilton, C. (2012). AMWA Journal, 27 , 3-6.

“Medical communicators encounter a wide variety of ethical situations. To facilitate ethical decision-making, AMWA [American Medical Writers Association] workshop leaders developed a five-step process known as the RIGHT model. The first step is to recognize the ethical situation, clearly and succinctly define it, and identify all stakeholders. The second step is to investigate the facts and assumptions, especially relevant statutes, regulations, and guidelines including the AMWA Code of Ethics, and to identify conflicts of interest. The third step is to gauge the situation and decide by making a list of all possible courses of action and then choosing the action(s) that maximizes benefit and minimizes cost and risk for the majority of stake-holders. The fourth step is to handle the situation and implement the decision. The fifth step is to tailor the decision by evaluating it for lessons learned and revising it as needed. This article includes a case report to demonstrate the practical application of each step in the RIGHT model.”

Magdalena Berry

Toward effective codes: Testing the relationship with unethical behavior

Kaptein, M. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 99 , 233-251. doi: 10.1007/s10551-010-0652-5

“A business code of ethics is widely regarded as an important instrument to curb unethical behavior in the workplace. However, little is empirically known about the factors that determine the impact of a code on unethical behavior. Besides the existence of a code, this article studies five determining factors: the content of the code, the frequency of communication activities surrounding the code, the quality of the communication activities, and the embedment of the code in the organization by senior management as well as local management. The full model explains 32% of observed unethical behavior while the explanatory value of a code alone is very modest. The study shows when codes are effective, and even when they become counter effective.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Information management

Facilitating knowledge sharing through a boundary spanner

Peng, Y., & Sutanto, J. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55 , 142-155. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2188590

“The purpose of the study was to explore how a boundary spanner can successfully facilitate knowledge sharing across functional and geographical boundaries. The main research questions are: (1) Does matching the complexity of knowledge boundary with the knowledge-sharing process lead to successful knowledge sharing? and (2) What are the key factors that influence a boundary spanner when deciding how to facilitate the knowledge sharing across functional and location boundaries? . . . To understand the potential supporting media for knowledge-sharing interaction across functional and geographical boundaries, the researchers consulted the Media Naturalness Theory. Media naturalness is the ability of the media to support a sense of collocated and synchronous interaction. The researchers conducted a qualitative exploratory case study in the IT department of a Fortune 500 multinational finance company. Researchers selected a boundary spanner and observed her facilitation of knowledge-sharing interactions for four months. A total of 78 knowledge-sharing interaction logs were collected during the period of observation from five data sources: wiki, e-mail, instant messaging, teleconference, and face-to-face interactions. Data analysis was carried out through template coding. The researchers found that matching the knowledge boundary with the knowledge-sharing process is an essential yet insufficient condition for successful knowledge sharing. A boundary spanner should also pay attention to the boundary objects and media used to support the knowledge-sharing interaction. . . . The implication of the study is that there are three important factors that the boundary spanner should consider when deciding how to facilitate knowledge sharing (i.e., knowledge boundary, spatial dispersion, and knowledge commonality). . . .”

Lyn Gattis

How curation could save the internet (and your brand)

Bhargava, R. (2012). Communication World, 29 (1), 20-23.

“Today [the] idea of the inherent value of [online] content curation—a term that describes the act of finding, grouping, organizing or sharing the best and most relevant content on a specific issue—is starting to take off. Media properties are looking at how curation may play a role in the media they publish. Brands are considering it as a way of evolving their communication.” Three possible risk factors in online content-curation strategy are the questions of aggregated content ownership, content control, and loss of credibility. Five possible models of structure content-curation include aggregation, distillation, elevation, mashups, and chronology.

Katie Bennett

How much DITA and/or CMS do you need?

Aldous, T. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 99-101. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“This article covers some recommended practices [for topic-based authoring] as well as common pitfalls to avoid” when choosing a structured authoring system. One of the first steps is to uncover limitations or constraints on the organization’s goals so as to avoid solutions that attempt to “do everything.” The internal task force should define why the information is being created, and how and by whom it will be used. Although a consultant will likely be necessary for a large-scale solution, the task force should carefully estimate the scope of consulting time and services needed during implementation, to avoid “‘open-ended’ consulting or training with no defined end in sight.” A realistic pilot project is an important way to give stakeholders a sense early on of how the authoring system will function. According to the article, a well-chosen DITA or CMS authoring solution should show savings in content localization, single-source publishing, and greater writer productivity. The article includes a link to an online ROI calculator that will compare savings for several authoring solutions.

Lyn Gattis

Measuring the immeasurable—Documentation quality

Oemisch, V. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 25-31. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“Can we indeed measure the quality of documentation like we can measure the temperature with a thermometer? While documentation quality is often thought of as something ‘intangible’ or at least very difficult to measure, we can get pretty meaningful quantitative quality measures if we focus on measuring the right things. . . . [E]ven two straightforward quality metrics (usage and usefulness scores) can provide clear information for effective quality management. Add two easy-to-measure leading metrics that reflect internal and external stakeholder requirements, such as process compliance and degree of test coverage, and you have a powerful set of four quality metrics that cover the main quality dimensions and allow you to effectively predict and manage the quality of documentation.”

Lyn Gattis


After the Great War: Utility, humanities, and tracing from a technical writing class in the 1920s

Sullivan, P. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 202-228. doi: 10.1177/1050651911430626

“Using tracings from a 1924 technical writing class, this article follows some normally unmarked processes of teaching and learning in order to highlight the humanities–utility binary from the perspective of the shadows of instructional practice. First, the article situates the humanities–utility debate as it is being addressed in postwar America, and second, it offers evidence of how far-reaching the resolution might have been, evidence taken from the margins of a copy of Watt’s (1917) The Composition of Technical Papers. Both the professional discussions and this textbook’s philosophy are reflected in jottings made by a technical writing student. This article suggests that tracing these issues through this underside of pedagogical history offers a type of evidence that is difficult to recover but worth seeking.”

Phillip George

Different approaches to similar challenges: An analysis of the occupational cultures of the disciplines of technical communication and training [tutorial]

Carliner, S. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 160-174. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2194601

“Perhaps it is presumptuous of technical communicators to assume that, because some of their skills . . . might be employed in developing and delivering training materials, that those skills alone are qualifications to work in training, much less the source by which the processes of Training might be examined. Using data from one survey and one interview-based study of the work of Technical communication and Training groups, as well as participation on committees responsible for certification examinations for technical communicators and trainers, this tutorial analyzes differences in the occupational cultures of the two fields. The work differs: technical communicators produce content that explains how to perform tasks; trainers produce programs that develop skills that a third party can verify. To do so, technical communicators follow a process that emphasizes writing and production; trainers follow a process that emphasizes the analysis of intended goals and evaluation of whether those goals have been achieved. The guiding philosophy of Technical communication is usability; the guiding philosophy of Training is performance. Although both disciplines are rooted in cognitive psychology, the primary intellectual roots of Technical communication are in rhetoric and composition, while the primary intellectual roots [of Training] are in education. The preferred research methods of Technical communication are critical; the preferred research methods of trainers are empirical qualitative and quantitative methods. As a result, Technical communication professionals and researchers who want to work in training should approach the field in a culturally appropriate way by (1) recognizing distinctions between a communication product and a training program, (2) recognizing distinctions in work processes, (3) recognizing distinctions in language, (4) recognizing differences in values, and (5) acknowledging that an academic discipline of training exists.”

Lyn Gattis

Incorporating user appropriation, media richness, and collaborative knowledge sharing into blended e-learning training [tutorial]

Baehr, C. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 175-184. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2190346

“E-learning has become a standard in many organizations to train its workforce and build an information network that encourages collaborative knowledge sharing. As a result of technological and global factors, the complexity of delivering successful e-learning courses and products is an increasing challenge for subject matter experts and instructional designers. . . . Research trends suggest learners appropriate technology and media forms, and evaluate usefulness based on a range of factors, including richness, experience, perception, and recommendation. Blended learning environments add complexity by mixing spatial (distributed and collocated) and temporal (asynchronous and synchronous) components with increased levels of collaborative knowledge sharing. From these research trends, the following best practices for developing e-learning are recommended: (1) consider media richness factors and user preferences in media and tool selection; (2) encourage personalization to foster trust; (3) facilitate collaborative knowledge sharing both inside and outside the training setting; (4) balance roles as knowledge facilitator, coach, and information manager; and (5) invest additional time in both course and instructor preparation. . . . Content experts and designers must collaborate on methods of effectively adapting course content to account for perceived richness, user experience, and task complexity. Instructors must also invest additional time in planning and accounting for user preferences and communication practices in online training.”

Lyn Gattis


Corporate ethical values, group creativity, job satisfaction and turnover intention: The impact of work context on work response

Valentine, S., Godkin, L., Fleischman, G. M., & Kidwell, R. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 98 , 353-372. doi: 10.1007/s10551-010-0554-6

“A corporate culture strengthened by ethical values and other positive business practices likely yields more favorable employee work responses. Thus, the purpose of this study was to assess the degree to which perceived corporate ethical values work in concert with group creativity to influence both job satisfaction and turnover intention. Using a self-report questionnaire, information was collected from 781 healthcare and administrative employees working at a multi-campus education-based healthcare organization. Additional survey data was collected from a comparative convenience sample of 127 sales and marketing employees working for a variety of firms operating in the south-central United States. The results indicated that group creativity and corporate ethical values were positively related, and that both variables were associated with increased job satisfaction. Conversely, corporate ethical values and job satisfaction were associated with decreased turnover intention. Sales managers should create work cultures that precipitate increased ethical values and group creativity, and suggestions about how they may institutionalize these factors are provided.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Corporate psychopaths, bullying and unfair supervision in the workplace

Boddy, C. R. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 100 , 367-379. doi: 10.1007/s10551-010-0689-5

“This article reports on empirical research that establishes strong, positive, and significant correlations between the ethical issues of bullying and unfair supervision in the workplace and the presence of Corporate Psychopaths. The main measure for bullying is identified as being the witnessing of the unfavorable treatment of others at work. Unfair supervision was measured by perceptions that an employee’s supervisor was unfair and showed little interest in the feelings of subordinates. This article discusses the theoretical links between psychopathy and bullying and notes that little empirical evidence confirms the connection in management research. The sample of 346 Australian senior white collar workers used in the research is described as is the measure of behavior for identifying psychopaths. The findings are then presented and discussed showing that when Corporate Psychopaths are present in a work environment, the level of bullying is significantly greater than when they are not present. Further, that when Corporate Psychopaths are present, supervisors are strongly perceived as being unfair to employees and disinterested in their feelings. This article concludes that around 26% of bullying is accounted for by 1% of the employee population, those who are Corporate Psychopaths.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Development of a scale measuring discursive responsible leadership

Voegtlin, C. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 98 , 57-73. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-1020-9

“The paper advances the conceptual understanding of responsible leadership and develops an empirical scale of discursive responsible leadership. The concept of responsible leadership presented here draws on deliberative practices and discursive conflict resolution, combining the macro-view of the business firm as a political actor with the micro-view of leadership. Ideal responsible leadership conduct thereby goes beyond the dyadic leader-follower interaction to include all stakeholders. The paper offers a definition and operationalization of responsible leadership. The studies that have been conducted to develop the discursive responsible leadership scale validated the scale, discriminated it from other leadership scales, and demonstrated its utility in affecting unethical behavior and job satisfaction in organizations. Responsible leadership is shown to be first, dependent on the hierarchical level in an organization; second, capable of reducing unethical treatment of employees; and finally, a means of enhancing the job satisfaction of employees. The paper concludes with study limitations, future research directions and practical implications.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Integrative process in manager–employee negotiations: Relational and structural factors

Meiners, E. B., & Boster, F. J. (2012). Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40 , 208-228. doi: 10.1080/00909882.2011.636374

“This study examines the effect of relational and structural factors on integrative process involved in manager–employee negotiations. Eighty government employees recalling specific negotiation episodes with a supervisor completed survey items measuring three integrative dimensions of the discussion. Twenty-five divisional supervisors completed measures of work unit rule observation and participation in decision making. Leader–Member Exchange (LMX) and rule observation were both substantial predictors of elaboration and mutual concessions during negotiation. Implications discussed include the importance of organizational members’ recognizing the integrative potential in workplace negotiations. These findings illustrate that awareness of interpersonal dynamics and formal rule structure in the work unit can help employees better plan to negotiate elements of their work role with a manager.”

Katie Bennett

Professional issues

Communication and voluntary downward career changes

Tan, C. L., & Kramer, M. W. (2012). Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40 , 87-106. doi: 10.1080/00909882.2011.634429

“Downward career changes are challenging in societies which place a premium on the accumulation of material wealth and discourage risk-taking, such as Singapore. To better understand how individuals manage their identities during such changes, 30 individuals who had completed a voluntary downward career change were interviewed. Results suggest three phases of communication during this process: (1) Decision making, in which individuals communicate to gather information about the change and seek support for it; (2) Announcement, in which they strategically time, frame, and deliver the message to maximize acceptance of the change; and (3) New career, in which they reframe, refocus, and recalibrate to increase their social identity. The findings suggest strategies individuals may use to effectively manage their social identities as they change careers and suggest strategies organizations may use for recruiting individuals into socially less-prestigious occupations.”

Katie Bennett

Workplace friendship in the electronically connected organization

Sias, P. M., Pedersen, H., Gallagher, E. B., & Kopaneva, I. (2012). Human Communication Research, 38 , 253-279. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2012.01428.x

“This study examined information communication technologies and workplace friendship dynamics. Employees reported factors that influenced their initiation of friendship with a coworker and reported patterns and perceptions of communication with their workplace friend via different communication methods. Results indicated that personality, shared tasks, and perceived similarity are the most important factors to coworker friendship initiation, and the importance of physical proximity to workplace friendship is diminishing in the electronically connected workplace. Results confirm the primacy of face-to-face interaction for workplace friendship initiation and maintenance. E-mail, phone, and texting were also central to communication among workplace friends. The amount of time spent telecommuting affected workplace friendship initiation and communication. Finally, generational differences were identified with respect to Internet-based communication methods.”

Katie Bennett

Public relations

Organising corporate responsibility communication through filtration: A study of Web communication patterns in Swedish retail

Frostenson, M., Helin, S., & Sandström, J. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 100 , 31-43. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0771-7

“Corporate responsibility (CR) communication has risen dramatically in recent years, following increased demands for transparency. One tendency noted in the literature is that CR communication is organized and structured. Corporations tend to professionalise CR communication in the sense that they provide information that corresponds to demands for transparency that are voiced by certain stakeholders. This also means that experts within the firm tend to communicate with professional stakeholders outside the firm. In this article, a particular aspect of the organisation of CR communication is examined, a phenomenon that we refer to as the ‘filtration effect’. By comparing CR communication in parent companies and their subsidiaries, we show empirically that there is considerably less CR communication on the subsidiary level compared to the parent level. We see filtration as a sign of conscious organising of CR communication that implies particular attention to certain stakeholder groups with clearly defined demands and expectations on companies. The strong filtration effect noted in the study suggests that CR communication does not seem to be very much adapted to customers, which may be problematic both from a communicative and ethical perspective. The study covers Sweden’s 206 largest retail firms.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Reimagining NASA: A cultural and visual analysis of the U.S. space program

Williams, M. F. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 368-389. doi: 10.1177/1050651912439698

“In 2010, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) commemorated its 50th anniversary by launching an anniversary Web site, which includes links to a photographic timeline, videos, and documents that the agency views as important in telling its history. This article uses concepts from narrative theory and visual rhetoric to analyze the images used in the NASA History Timeline, paying special attention to why certain images were selected as historical markers over other photographs that are more widely published and televised. Specifically, the author uses arguments from Sontag’s On Photography and Barbatsis’s ‘Narrative Theory’ to explain how NASA’s photographic narrative provides a story with a plot that spans from triumphs and tragedies in space exploration to pioneering efforts in racial, ethnic, and gender diversity.”

Phillip George

Searching for new forms of legitimacy through corporate responsibility rhetoric

Castelló, I., & Lozano, J. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 100 , 11-29. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0770-8

“This article looks into the process of searching for new forms of legitimacy among firms through corporate discourse. Through the analysis of annual sustainability reports, we have determined the existence of three types of rhetoric: (1) strategic (embedded in the scientific-economic paradigm); (2) institutional (based on the fundamental constructs of Corporate Social Responsibility theories); and (3) dialectic (which aims at improving the discursive quality between the corporations and their stakeholders). Each one of these refers to a different form of legitimacy and is based on distinct theories of the firm analyzed in this article. We claim that dialectic rhetoric seems to signal a new understanding of the firm’s role in society and a search for moral legitimation. However, this new form of rhetoric is still fairly uncommon although its use is growing. Combining theory and business examples, this article may help managers and researchers in the conceptualization of how firms make sense of their role in society and what forms of differentiation they strive for through their rhetoric strategies.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn


Ambivalent attitudes in a communication process: An integrated model

Chang, C. (2012). Human Communication Research, 38 , 332-359. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2012.01429.x

“In a communication process that involves a target subject (what is being communicated about) and a source, existing attitudes (positive or negative) toward the target or the source influence communication effects. People also may hold ambivalent attitudes (positive and negative) toward the target or the source, but the implications of such ambivalent attitudes on communication effects remain unclear in communication research. This study tries to fill that void by exploring ambivalent attitudes toward the target and source on communication effects and proposing an integrated model to demonstrate that ambivalent attitudes encourage systematic processing (Experiments 1 and 2) and that identification with the target or the source further encourages motivated processing among ambivalent people (Experiments 3 and 4).”

Katie Bennett

Erratum to: Beyond acclamations and excuses: Environmental performance, voluntary environmental disclosure and the role of visibility

Dawkins, C. E., & Fraas, J. W. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 99 , 383-397. doi: 10.1007/s10551-010-0659-y

“Some researchers have argued that firms with favorable environmental performance are more likely to provide voluntary environmental disclosure, while others have argued that firms with poor environmental performance are most likely to disclose. The authors propose a curvilinear relation between environmental performance and environmental disclosure that is moderated by visibility. Data were obtained from S&P 500 firms queried by Ceres’ Climate Disclosure Project. Results show a U-shaped environmental performance-environmental disclosure relation and a main effect for visibility but no moderating effect for visibility on the U-shaped environmental performance-environmental disclosure relation. The authors discussed the implications of these results for future research and practice.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Keystroke analysis: Reflections on procedures and measures

Baaijen, V. M., Galbraith, D., & De Glopper, K. (2012). Written Communication, 29, 246-277. doi: 10.1177/0741088312451108

Although keystroke logging promises to provide a valuable tool for writing research, it can often be difficult to relate logs to underlying processes. This article describes the procedures and measures that the authors developed to analyze a sample of 80 keystroke logs, with a view to achieving a better alignment between keystroke-logging measures and underlying cognitive processes. They used these measures to analyze pauses, bursts, and revisions and found that (a) burst lengths vary depending on their initiation type as well as their termination type, suggesting that the classification system used in previous research should be elaborated; (b) mixture models fit pause duration data better than unimodal central tendency statistics; and (c) individuals who pause for longer at sentence boundaries produce shorter but more well-formed bursts. A principal components analysis identified three underlying dimensions in these data: planned text production, within-sentence revision, and revision of global text structure.”

Lyn Gattis

Writing and cognition, in honor of John R. Hayes: Editors’ introduction [special issue]

Alves, R. A., & Haas, C. (2012). Written Communication, 29, 239–243. doi: 10.1177/0741088312453135

“Can a single researcher change the entire landscape of a field? Of course not, as science is a cumulative collective endeavor, one that is not immune to the influence of cultural demands, societal variables, and global political and financial forces. Still, the histories of many cultures, including disciplinary fields, are filled with stories of men and women that, by their remarkable vision and outstanding abilities, can indeed shape a research landscape. . . . To understand how a single researcher might indeed have far-reaching and lasting influence on a field, we here discuss some of the conditions and qualities that account for the huge influence that John R. Hayes has had on the field of writing studies and provide further evidence of his continuing influence.”

Lyn Gattis

Scientific writing

Editing research consent forms for lay readers

Griffith, C., Wright, L. S., Hackworth, J., & Gilhart, S. (2012). AMWA Journal , 27 , 51-54.

“It is essential to use plain language when writing medical content for lay readers. In this article, we describe best practices for improving the readability of informed consent documents for research studies. The scientific editors at MD Anderson Cancer Center have developed several resources to communicate complex medical information effectively to emphasize the most critical information. We use customized databases and glossaries defining hundreds of side effects and procedures in concise terminology that is validated by medical and literacy experts.”

Magdalena Berry

Usability studies

From symptoms to solutions using survey data analysis

Shumate, C. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 42-50. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“Metrics are a powerful source of evaluating the success of projects, particularly if the metrics are derived from user input. Carefully crafted surveys can elicit key data from users that tell us what is important to their way of doing business. . . . We can use surveys to determine root causes of problem symptoms. Using new collaborative tools can leverage the social aspect of technical information, which can be captured and responded to in real time. We can then apply solutions with portals and technical collaboration. . . . Transforming the technical exchange into sustaining documentation can be invaluable to the field corps, while extracting metrics from survey results can let you know if your solutions work. Using surveys to collect the ‘as is’ condition gives data to support the need and the design of collaborative tools [and] provides a baseline from which to measure success. . . . Using metrics on ‘time to find’ hits the source of what you can control and improve.”

Lyn Gattis

TIP-EXE: A software tool for studying the use and understanding of procedural documents

Ganier, F., & Querrec, R. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 106-121. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2194600

“. . . . Researchers studying the use and understanding of procedural documents, as well as technical writers charged with the design of these documents, or usability specialists evaluating their quality, would all benefit from tools allowing them to collect real-time data concerning user behavior in user-centered studies. With this in mind, the generic software Technical Instructions Processing-Evaluations and eXperiments Editor (TIP-EXE) was designed to facilitate the carrying out of such studies. . . . TIP-EXE software was used to set up and run a laboratory experiment designed to collect data concerning the effect of document design on the performance of a task. The experiment was conducted with 36 participants carrying out tasks involving the programming of a digital timer under one of three conditions: ‘matching instructions,’ ‘mismatching instructions,’ ‘mismatching instructions + picture’. Based on a click-and-read method for blurred text, TIP-EXE was used to collect data on the time the users spent reading the instructions, as well as the time spent handling the timer. Results show that ‘matching instructions’ (when the terms employed in the user manual match the terms on the device) enhance user performance. This instructional format results in less time spent consulting the instructions and handling the device, as well as fewer errors. This research shows that TIP-EXE software can be used to study the way in which operating instructions are read, and the time spent consulting specific information contained therein, thereby revealing the effects of document design on user behavior.”

Lyn Gattis

Users’ abilities to review web site pages

Elling, S., Lentz L., & De Jong, M. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 171-201. doi: 10.1177/1050651911429920

“Web sites increasingly encourage users to provide comments on the quality of the content by clicking on a feedback button and filling out a feedback form. Little is known about users’ abilities to provide such feedback. To guide the development of evaluation tools, this study examines to what extent users with various background characteristics are able to provide useful comments on informational Web sites. Results show that it is important to keep the feedback tools both simple and attractive so that users will be able and willing to provide useful feedback on Web site pages.”

Phillip George


Coordinating the cognitive processes of writing: The role of the monitor

Quinlan, T., Loncke, M., Leijten, M., & Van Waes, L. (2012). Written Communication, 29, 345-368. doi: 10.1177/0741088312451112

“Moment to moment, a writer faces a host of potential problems. How does the writer’s mind coordinate this problem solving? In the original Hayes and Flower model, the authors posited a distinct process to manage this coordinating—that is, the ‘monitor.’ The monitor became responsible for executive function in writing. In two experiments, the current authors investigated monitor function by examining the coordination of two common writing tasks—editing (i.e., correcting an error) and sentence composing—in the presence or absence of an error and with a low or high memory load for the writer. In the first experiment, participants could approach the editing and composing task in either order. On most trials (88%), they finished the sentence first, and less frequently (12%), they corrected the error first. The error-first approach occurred significantly more often under the low-load condition than the high-load condition. For the second experiment, participants were asked to adopt the less-used, error-first approach. Success in completing the assigned task order was affected by both memory load and error type. These results suggest that the monitor depends on the relative availability of working memory resources and coordinates subtasks to mitigate direct competition over those resources.”

Lyn Gattis

Modeling and remodeling writing

Hayes, J. R. (2012). Written Communication, 29, 369-388. doi: 10.1177/0741088312451260

“In Section 1 of this article, the author discusses the succession of models of adult writing that he and his colleagues have proposed from 1980 to the present. He notes the most important changes that differentiate earlier and later models and discusses reasons for the changes. In Section 2, he describes his recent efforts to model young children’s expository writing. He proposes three models that constitute an elaboration of Bereiter and Scardamalia’s knowledge-telling model. In Section 3, he describes three running computer programs that simulate the action of the models described in Section 2.”

Lyn Gattis

The visuospatial dimension of writing

Olive, T., & Passerault, J.-M. (2012). Written Communication, 29, 326-344. doi: 10.1177/0741088312451111

“The authors suggest that writing should be conceived of not only as a verbal activity but also as a visuospatial activity, in which writers process and construct visuospatial mental representations. After briefly describing research on visuospatial cognition, they look at how cognitive researchers have investigated the visuospatial dimension of the mental representations and processes engaged in writing. First, they show how Hayes’s research integrated the visuospatial dimension of writing. Second, they describe how the written trace can serve as a visual resource. Third, they focus on the visuospatial processes involved in constructing an overall representation of the text and its physical layout. Finally, they review findings on the visuospatial demands that planning places on working memory. All the data and theories presented in this article support the idea that writing is indeed a visuospatial activity.”

Lyn Gattis

The write stuff

Adler, G. (2012). Communication World, 29 (2), 21-24.

According to this article, “[b]usinesses are filled with smart, well-educated, highly skilled people. Almost all of them recognize unclear, inflated writing when they see it. And yet in their own writing, many of them can’t seem to break away from jargon, wordiness and evasive, inflated language.” The article recommends three actions to improve the writing in business organizations. “First, using examples and research, convince key people . . . that clear writing will improve the bottom line. Second, define what effective writing in your organization should look like, and run writing programs to teach it. . . .[T]he definition of effective writing will vary in relation to company culture, organization, products, vision, mission and strategy. And third, train people to follow a three-step writing process” of preparing, writing, and revising.

Katie Bennett