60.1, February 2013

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.”


Working alone together: Coworking as emergent collaborative activity

Spinuzzi, C. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 399-441. doi: 10.1177/1050651912444070

“Mobile professionals can choose to work in offices, executive suites, home offices, or other spaces. But some have instead chosen to work at coworking spaces: open-plan office environments in which they work alongside other unaffiliated professionals for a fee of approximately $250 a month. But what service are they actually purchasing with that monthly fee? How do they describe that service? From an activity theory perspective, what are its object, outcome, and actors? This article reports on a 20-month study that answers such questions.”

Phillip George


Fourth-estate finger-pointing: Political localization in bailout rhetoric

Morrison, S. D. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 223-247. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.3.c

“This article examines how two print media outlets, one liberal and one conservative, contextualize the 2008 bank bailout. It argues that political media can be seen as examples of Appadurai’s localities, promoting individual identity through the creation of narratives of the Other, in keeping with Said’s study of Orientalism. By comparing the localizing techniques used in response to the unique political situation of the bailout vote, it is possible to determine the extent to which liberal and conservative localities share identity-producing techniques, and also the extent to which each ideological locality maintains an identity distinct from the partisan localities of the two major U.S. political parties. The results indicate that in this instance both localities share localizing techniques, but differ in their relation to their associated political parties, with the conservative locality subsumed into the Republican Party, but the liberal locality clearly distinct from the Democratic Party.”

Lyn Gattis

Improving employees’ interpersonal communication competencies: A qualitative study

Hynes, G. E. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 466-475. doi: 10.1177/1080569912458965

“Companies that recognize the relationship between employee engagement and business success will seek ways to foster and facilitate workers’ emotional well-being. One way to encourage employee engagement is to provide training in interpersonal communication. This research analyzes what one U.S.-based company is doing to achieve that goal. The company and the evolution of its communication training program are described, with a focus on an interpersonal communication component. Methods used for evaluating learning outcomes are outlined, along with some results. Finally, this study proposes several implications of this case study for business communication professionals.”

Katherine Wertz

Increasing the impact of thought leadership in crisis communication

Ulmer, R. R. (2012). Management Communication Quarterly, 26, 523-542. doi: 10.1177/0893318912461907

This study argues that “the field of crisis communication must move from a positive to a normative science to improve the practice of crisis communication. Through a positive science approach, our field has described and categorized how organizations currently communicate during a crisis. The evidence is clear that the majority of organizations struggle to communicate effectively during these events. As a result, we are reaching our limits for a positive science approach to crisis communication. Future thought leadership should focus on producing and testing normative theories that provide clear guidance to crisis communicators and society about how to communicate effectively. This transition in thought leadership will allow us to make a significant positive impact on society. This article concludes with an interdisciplinary research agenda for moving from a positive to a normative science in our thought leadership.”

Lyn Gattis

Moving from artifact to action: A grounded investigation of visual displays of evidence during medical deliberations

Teston, C. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 187-209. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.650621

“This article builds on scholarship in technical communication, medical rhetoric, and visual communication and represents a portion of a grounded study of one medical workplace setting’s visualization practices. Specifically, the author explores how medical images—as technologically and rhetorically rendered artifacts—make ‘present’ (Perelman & Olbrechts-Tyteca, 1969) the material characteristics of disease and thereby perceptually and argumentatively afford the construction of knowledge about future cancer-care action.”

Amber Fernald Rach

User agency, technical communication, and the 19th-century woman bicyclist

Hallenbeck, S. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 290-306. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.686846

“This article considers how users employ extraorganizational technical communication to reshape technologies, both materially and symbolically, even after these technologies enter into common use. Specifically, [the author] analyze[s] how women bicyclists of the 1890s authored instructional materials to complicate gendered and classed assumptions about users implicit in manufacturer-produced texts. [The author] argue[s] that technical communicators, in their teaching and research, should consider the role that extraorganizational technical communication plays in generating vital and lasting cultural changes.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Crosscultural issues

The anonymity factor in making multicultural teams work: Virtual and real teams

Berg, R.W. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 404-424. doi: 10.1177/1080569912453480

“A major purpose of courses in intercultural communication is often to improve students’ ability to perform well in situations with the potential to be both highly enlightening and highly difficult—in multicultural teams. This article reports the results of exercises in which members of a dysfunctional multicultural class were assigned to teams and given a task to perform in an anonymous, virtual-team setting, as well as in a real-team setting. Team members contributed in a much more balanced manner in the anonymous virtual-team exercise. However, team members nevertheless believed their input had been heard and appreciated in the real-team setting.”

Katherine Wertz

Cultural competence and institutional contradictions: The hydropower referendum

Johansson, C. (2012). Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40, 329-349. doi: 10.1080/00909882.2012.720379

“This study explores a corporate campaign to pass a referendum to enable the development of a hydropower plant in a small Swedish community. In the changing institutional context that grounds this case, the organization needed to develop communicative practices that embodied ‘cultural competence,’ a set of processes identified as critical for the legitimacy and success of business organizations in the emerging global/intersectoral environment. Findings suggest that the MNC’s communication strategy captured important components of cultural competence. However, institutional contradictions impeded enactment of the strategy and resulted in delegitimizing paradoxical communication. The results indicate that organizational awareness of institutional change and culturally competent strategy are insufficient without special attention to contradictions and resultant communicative paradoxes embodied within a particular institutional context. The importance of a reflective communication approach that engages contradictions and tensions in the surrounding micro–macro institutional contexts is underscored.”

Katie Bennett

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.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Place existing online business communication classes into the international context: Social presence from potential learners’ perspectives

Wang, J., & Wang, H. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 431-451. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.4.f

“Recent scholarship on global online courses points to the need to examine the issue of social context in an online global learning environment. To explore global learners’ cultural perspectives on the social climate of an online class, we first review the social presence theory—which can be used to examine the social climate in an online classroom, and explain factors that contribute to learners’ social presence. Then we report findings of a survey conducted among a group of Chinese business students and discuss specific aspects of an online business communication class which might contribute to enhancing global learners’ sense of social presence in an online environment. We conclude the study by explaining the present study’s implications for delivering effective online business and technical communication courses with global learners and recommending strategies for increasing global audiences’ social presence in an online class created by the instructor and the online community.”

Lyn Gattis

Reconsidering consultants’ strategic use of the business case for diversity

Mease, J.J. (2012). Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40, 384-402. doi: 10.1080/00909882.2012.720380

“The business case for diversity—the practice of connecting human differences to an organization’s bottom line—has been critiqued for its compromised treatment of human difference. Through a grounded in action discursive analysis of 19 interviews with diversity consultants, this research identifies three occupational demands that prompted consultants to use the business case: organizational access, motivation, and emotion work. The analysis also identifies strategies consultants used that met these demands without relying on the business case: connecting to mission statements, connecting to individual tasks, appealing to personal experience, sequencing, combining, balancing discourses of emotion and business, drawing on spiritual grounding, and using humor. By identifying these alternatives, this analysis seeks to decrease consultants’ dependence on the business case when meeting occupational demands and consequently mitigate the negative effects that scholars have attributed to its common use and consequent discursive dominance in diversity work. Additionally, the conclusions suggest that diversity professionals and scholars might more explicitly use the notion of ‘discursive merger’ to advocate for social change in organizations.”

Katie Bennett


Immutable mobiles revisited: A framework for evaluating the function of ephemeral texts in design arguments

Whittemore, S. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 413-430. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.4.e

“This article makes the argument that material evidence for many of the most valuable contributions that contemporary technical communicators make to their organizations is often found not in the traditional documentation that they produce but, rather, in the more fragmentary and provisional documents they create as daily participants in their work teams. To make this argument, the article presents data from a case study of a technical communicator at a software firm, showing how a reminder note he carried to a meeting helped him achieve an important design change. The article unpacks the concept of immutable mobiles from actor network theory to derive a framework that helps us interpret the multiple functions of this note in helping the technical communicator warrant and win a design argument with software developers.”

Lyn Gattis

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.”

Amber Fernald Rach


Types of errors used in medical editing tests

Boettger, R. K. (2012). AMWA Journal , 27, 99-104.

“For medical communication to mature, more research that investigates the core knowledge and skills required to enter and succeed in the profession is needed. In this article, [the author] report[s] the types of errors found in 13 editing tests administered to prospective medical editors. These data will help prospective medical communicators prepare to take an editing test and help hiring managers evaluate how well their own test assesses their applicants. A contingency table analysis identified how evenly the errors were distributed across six broad categories, and a weighted index identified the errors that were most frequent and most dispersed within the sample. The weighted index includes 21 errors that were dispersed in at least 50% of the sample. The results indicate that grammatical/mechanical and style errors had a higher than expected frequency, suggesting that the sample’s hiring managers were more concerned with candidates’ understanding of these error types than errors classified in other categories. The most predominant error was ‘Unnecessary or missing capitalization,’ and its occurrence was primarily related to the capitalization conventions outlined in the AMA Manual of Style. Finally, six style errors ranked in this study’s list of predominant errors. This result suggests that style-intensive editing tests may be a convention that differentiates medical editing from other technical editing.”

Magdalena Berry


Back to our roots: An invitation to strengthen disciplinary arguments via the scholarship of teaching and learning

Pope-Ruark, R. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 357-376. doi: 10.1177/1080569912461051

“This article argues for a scholarly research agenda in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) for the broad discipline of professional communication by distinguishing SoTL from other types of teacher-scholar practice, including anecdotal publications, action research, traditional educational research, and scholarly teaching. Doing so carefully positions SoTL as an extension of the pedagogical roots of business and technical communication and as a way to reinforce our teaching fortes, unite the fields within the discipline via research, and strengthen arguments for disciplinarity and academic respect.”

Katherine Wertz

Preparing technical communication students to function as user advocates in a self-service society

Cleary, Y., & Flammia, M. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 305-322. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.3.g

“The self-service nature of today’s society means that technical communicators are needed more than ever before since users may find themselves struggling to make sense of online documentation with minimal support from the institutions that provide it. Certain demographics within the user population (older adults, disabled persons, non-native speakers) may face serious challenges when trying to use self-service documentation. Technical communication educators should prepare students to function as user advocates for members of these groups. Technical communication students need a thorough understanding of the challenges that may interfere with an audience’s ability to use websites and other online documentation. This article suggests ways to help students gain this understanding through course content and by structuring service-learning and virtual team projects in which students can put their newly-developed understanding into practice.”

Lyn Gattis

Ethical issues

An academic publisher’s response to plagiarism

Lewis, B., Duchac, J., & Beets, D. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 489-506. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0827-8

“Plagiarism strikes at the heart of academe, eroding the fundamental value of academic research. Recent evidence suggests that acts of plagiarism and awareness of these acts are on the rise in academia. To address this issue, a vein of research has emerged in recent years exploring plagiarism as an area of academic inquiry. In this new academic subject, case studies and analysis have been one of the most influential methodologies employed. Case studies provide a venue where acts of plagiarism can be discussed and analyzed in a constructive manner, and that is the primary purpose of this article. Unlike previous studies, however, we focus on the role of the publisher, a key player in dealing with acts of plagiarism, but one who has received little attention in the academic literature. Specifically, we examine how an academic publisher addressed allegations of plagiarism and how the publisher’s decision-making affected the outcome. We analyze the case by applying the guidelines from different frameworks and ethical theory and develop recommendations from the lessons evidenced, the second main objective of our article. This analysis advances the dialog on academic plagiarism by exploring the role of the publisher from a deontological perspective of ethical absolutism.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Blurred promises: Ethical consequences of fine print policies in insurance

Kvalnes, Ø. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 103, 77-86. doi: 10.1007/s10551-012-1224-7

“The insurance industry’s practice of producing comprehensive insurance policies can have unforeseen and negative ethical consequences. Insurance policies express promises from the insurer to the insured, to the effect that the insurer should be trusted to appropriately assist the insured in case of accident. The relation is seriously undermined when the content of the promise is blurred, containing clauses and condition which are ambiguous or hidden in fine print. This paper contains an investigation of (1) the sources of the fine print policy practice, (2) its immediate effects on the degree to which the policies are understandable to the insured, (3) the ethical consequences that can follow from blurring the true content of the insurer’s promise to the insured and (4) the measures insurers can take in order to develop a more constructive ethical relationship with its customers.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Deonance and distrust: Motivated third party information seeking following disclosure of an agent’s unethical behavior

Bell, C., & Main, K. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 77-96. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0801-5

“This article explores the hypothesis that third parties are motivated to seek information about agents who have behaved unethically in the past, even if the agent and available information are irrelevant to the third parties’ goals and interests. We explored two possible motives for this information seeking behavior: deonance, or the motive to care about ethics and justice simply for the sake of ethics and justice, and distrust-based threat monitoring. Participants in a consumer decision task were found to seek out information about an agent who had behaved unethically even when the agent was explicitly excluded from the task; there were no intentions to purchase from the agent; performance expectations for the agent’s product were low; the information that could be sought was non-diagnostic, redundant or irrelevant to an ethical judgment; and alternatives in the market offered as good or better value as the unethical agent. Critically, this information seeking took place even when the observer could disengage from and was not vulnerable to the agent. The findings are discussed in terms of third party information seeking and its effects on ethical behavior in the marketplace.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Dissenting discourse: Exploring alternatives to the whistleblowing/silence dichotomy

Teo, H., & Caspersz, D. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 104, 237-249. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0906-x

“In recent times, whistleblowing has become one of the most popularly debated issues of business ethics. Popular discussion has coincided with the institutionalisation of whistleblowing via legal and administrative practices, supported by the emergence of academic research in the field. However, the public practice and knowledge that has subsequently developed appears to construct a dichotomy of whistleblowing/silence; that is, an employee elects either to ‘blow the whistle’ on organisational wrongdoing, or remain silent. We argue that this public transcript of whistleblowing/silence overshadows the importance of continuing research into alternative (individual or collective) employee behaviour. Drawing on original research with a financial services organisation, our research uncovers a dissenting discourse that operates through implicit communication, such as codes, sarcasm and jokes. We suggest that this hidden transcript offers significant opportunities for employees to act ethically, and offers the potential to sustain an ethical organisational culture.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

A framework for assessing immorally manipulative marketing tactics

Sher, S. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 97-118. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0802-4

“A longstanding debate exists in both academic literature and popular culture about whether non-informative marketing tactics are manipulative. However, given that we tend to believe that some marketing tactics are manipulative and some are not, the question that marketers, their critics, and consumers need to ask themselves is that of how to actually determine whether any particular marketing tactic is manipulative and whether a given manipulative tactic is, in fact, immoral. This article proposes to operationalize criteria that can be used by marketers for making such determinations and attempts to provide some clarification toward our understanding of the concept of manipulation and the conditions for the moral acceptability of manipulative marketing practices. It argues that a marketing tactic is manipulative if it is intended to motivate by undermining what the marketer believes is his/her audience’s normal decision-making process either by deception or by playing on a vulnerability that the marketer believes exists in his/her audience’s normal decision-making process. Such a tactic is morally objectionable on several grounds, which make it morally impermissible unless outweighed by sufficient ‘redemptive’ moral considerations.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

How sustainability ratings might deter ‘greenwashing’: A closer look at ethical corporate communication

Parguel, B., Benoît-Moreau, F., & Larceneux, F. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 15-28. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0901-2

“Of the many ethical corporate marketing practices, many firms use corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication to enhance their corporate image. Yet, consumers, overwhelmed by these more or less well-founded CSR claims, often have trouble identifying truly responsible firms. This confusion encourages ‘greenwashing’ and may make CSR initiatives less effective. On the basis of attribution theory, this study investigates the role of independent sustainability ratings on consumers’ responses to companies’ CSR communication. Experimental results indicate the negative effect of a poor sustainability rating for corporate brand evaluations in the case of CSR communication, because consumers infer less intrinsic motives by the brand. Sustainability ratings thus could act to deter ‘greenwashing’ and encourage virtuous firms to persevere in their CSR practices.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn


The development of a project-based collaborative technical writing model founded on learner feedback in a tertiary aeronautical engineering program

Tatzl, D., Hassler, W., Messnarz, B., & Flühr, H. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 279-304. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.3.f

“The present article describes and evaluates collaborative interdisciplinary group projects initiated by content lecturers and an English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) instructor for the purpose of teaching technical writing skills in an aeronautical engineering degree program. The proposed technical writing model is assessed against the results of a learner survey and refined accordingly. The survey showed that learners appreciated the crossdisciplinary collaboration in projects, and it delivered important insights into learning effects and student progress in both language and content matters. The article concludes with a list of recommendations for the implementation of project-based collaborative technical writing instruction, which may support or complement academic writing courses in similar contexts. The proposed model considers the circumstances of students in workload-intensive tertiary settings and synthesizes approaches such as problem-based learning, content-based instruction, task-based language teaching, a guided product approach to collaborative writing, and learner autonomy.”

Lyn Gattis

From the workplace to academia: Nontraditional students and the relevance of workplace experience in technical writing pedagogy

Quick, C. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 230-250. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.666639

“In this study, I compared initial drafts of job application cover letters by nontraditional students in an introductory professional writing course with those by traditional students to determine if prior workplace experience improves rhetorical adaptability in students’ writing. Although one might expect nontraditional students to display more rhetorical adaptability, this study reveals no difference. These results suggest that minor changes in pedagogy may help nontraditional students use their workplace experience to improve workplace-oriented writing in the classroom.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Poetry recitation for business students

Hoger, B. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 291-300. doi: 10.1177/1080569912451116

“Poetry recitation removes the distractions of creating and organizing original material so that business students can focus on presentation skills of delivery, confidence, and memory. Delivery includes articulation, emphasis, nonverbals, and presence. Confidence and memory development are complementary. Confidence comes from trusting the memory and memory adds confidence. Memory is treated as a larger skill for business, not as a crutch for presenting. Rationale, resources, implementation and evaluation for this assignment are all detailed.”

Katherine Wertz

Positioning résumés and cover letters as reflective-reflexive process

Randazzo, C. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 377-391. doi: 10.1177/1080569912459267

“Although the résumé and cover letter genre is widely discussed in both popular and scholarly publications, discussion thus far has failed to acknowledge that the process of creating a résumé and cover letter has the potential for encouraging students’ reflective and reflexive capacities. This article suggests that business communication educators can realize this potential through three pedagogical changes: timing the assignment to coincide with reflective phases in the learning cycle, incorporating rhetorical context, and promoting abstraction and generalization. With these adjustments, the genre becomes a unique opportunity among reflective-reflexive documents because of its pervasiveness, timeliness, and rhetorical significance.”

Katherine Wertz

A process for assessing and improving business writing at the MBA level

May, G. L., Thompson, M. A., & Hebblethwaite, J. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 252-270. doi: 10.1177/1080569912441822

“Assurance of learning continues to be a hot topic in higher education. Both accreditation agencies and employers are asking a key question: Are we graduating students who actually have the knowledge and skills that we promise? This case study focuses on business writing in an MBA program and presents a prescriptive, five-step program to improve MBA students’ writing skills. The study provides example documents used in the assessment process and an example of data analysis used to ‘close the loop’ in the assurance of learning cycle. The study concludes with lessons learned and recommendations for future improvements in the process.”

Katherine Wertz

Strategies for teaching social and emotional intelligence in business communication

Sigmar, L. S., Hynes, G. E., & Hill, K. L. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 301-317. doi: 10.1177/1080569912450312

“Incorporating social and emotional skills (EI) training into the business communication curriculum is important for preparing students to function effectively in a global workplace with its complex informal networks, intercultural issues, team emphasis, and participatory leadership. EI skills enhance communication behavior in work groups and improve the quality of student responses to various business scenarios. Scientific research indicates that modeling social and emotional behavior is key to acquiring competency in these skills. This article describes four classroom strategies for developing EI skills in business communication courses.”

Katherine Wertz

Toward learner-centered teaching: An inductive approach

Smart, K. L., Witt, C., & Scott, J. P. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 392-403. doi: 10.1177/1080569912459752

“Through the past several years, the emphasis in education has shifted from a teacher-centered to a learner-centered approach. Traditional teaching has too often been based on a passive lecture model, dependent on an expert teacher who funnels knowledge into the somewhat retentive minds of students. More current learning theory suggests a different role for teachers—that of facilitators. Based on research about how people learn, this article advocates that teachers use more active, inductive instruction in the classroom and demonstrates a student-centered approach using classroom examples implemented in a required, college-level business communication course.”

Katherine Wertz


Plain language in environmental policy documents: An assessment of reader comprehension and perceptions

Jones, N., McDavid, J., Derthick, K., Dowell, R., & Spyridakis, J. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 331-371. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.4.b

“Several government agencies are seeking quality improvement in environmental policy documents by asking for the implementation of Plain Language (PL) guidelines. Our mixed-methods research examines whether the application of certain PL guidelines affects the comprehension and perceptions of readers of environmental policy documents. Results show that the presence of pronouns affects inferential comprehension of environmental impact statement summaries (EIS summaries), but that the effect varies with the reader’s education level. Further, headings in question phrasing affect a reader’s perception of familiarity and reliability of EIS summaries. A reader’s perceptions of EIS summaries and attitudes toward the organizations creating the documents are also affected by overall design features. PL guidelines on the use of pronouns and question headings are not fully supported by our research and need further validation with regard to comprehension. This article ends with a call for further research.”

Lyn Gattis


Master engagers

Sparrow, J. (2012). Communication World, 29 (5), 21-25.

“The article offers information on the roles of executives and managers in engaging people within the organizations. It mentions that executives and managers are helped by communication professional in executing their roles. It discusses the five roles of managers, including as coach, storyteller, and strategist, and how communicators and their expertise help them in achieving these roles.”

Katie Bennett

Organizational and supervisory apology effectiveness: Apology giving in work settings

Bisel, R. S., & Messersmith, A. S. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 424-448. doi: 10.1177/1080569912461171

“We synthesize the interdisciplinary literature into a heuristic for crafting effective organizational and supervisory apologies (the OOPS four-component apology). In the first experiment, we demonstrate how an offense committed by an organization is perceived to be more egregious than an offense committed by a friend or supervisor. Furthermore, results did not support that OOPS apologies are unequally effective if issued by a friend, supervisor, or organization. In the second experiment, we test OOPS apology-training effectiveness. Results indicated that trained participants crafted more effective apologies. Our apology heuristic is an innovation for training business communicators how to apologize effectively.”

Katherine Wertz

The relationship between leader motivating language and self-efficacy:
A partial least squares model analysis

Mayfield, J., & Mayfield, M. (2012). Journal of Business Communication, 49, 357-376. doi: 10.1177/0021943612456036

“Leadership language and its effects on employee affect and outcomes have experienced significant advances in research progress and practice in recent years. Communication researchers have explored and developed persuasive/framing models for practice to bridge the gap between leader intent and employee outcomes through verbal communication with the prospect of enhancing employee motivation. This article takes a unique approach to these questions by using a different communication model to clarify the nature and processes of the relationships between motivating language theory and its effects on employee self-efficacy and performance. Consequently, this study examines the role of motivating language theory leader language, with a primarily female group of 151 health care professionals, as an enhancement of employee self-efficacy. The methodology is a partial least squares model that explores the strength and direction of leader motivating language with self-efficacy and performance. All the relationships were supported as positive and significant. The partial least squares coefficients indicate that employee self-efficacy is 34% higher with increased levels of leader motivating language. The same data analysis reveals that employee performance grows by 20% with higher motivating language speech, and that employees with higher levels of self-efficacy will perform 10% better than in those cases when self-efficacy is lessened. Finally, future recommendations are presented to nourish these relationships through research—including greater generalizability, and for practice through training and development design.”

Katherine Wertz

Professional issues

Executive perceptions of the top 10 soft skills needed in today’s workplace

Robles, M. M. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 453-465. doi: 10.1177/1080569912460400

“Hard skills are the technical expertise and knowledge needed for a job. Soft skills are interpersonal qualities, also known as people skills, and personal attributes that one possesses. Business executives consider soft skills a very important attribute in job applicants. Employers want new employees to have strong soft skills, as well as hard skills. This study identified the top 10 soft skills as perceived the most important by business executives: integrity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, social skills, positive attitude, professionalism, flexibility, teamwork, and work ethic.”

Katherine Wertz

Student interns’ socially constructed work realities: Narrowing the work expectation-reality gap

Barnett, K. (2012). Business Communication Quarterly, 75, 271-290. doi: 10.1177/1080569912441360

“New employees, including college students, often experience expectation-reality gaps about work, making the assimilation process more difficult for all. This qualitative study explores the role of the internship in narrowing the work expectation-reality gap. This article addresses two research questions: (a) What do students learn about work through internships that they did not know before? (b) How is this new knowledge reflected in their advice to future interns? Analysis of 59 intern exit interviews or surveys reveals two categories of communication-related discovery that in turn influenced subsequent advice messages. Practical implications for business curriculum and career development programs are discussed.”

Katherine Wertz

Public relations

Communicating a green corporate perspective: Ideological persuasion in the corporate environmental report

Mason, M., & Mason, R. D. (2012). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26, 479-506. doi: 10.1177/1050651912448872

“This study examines the corporate environmental reports of 100 companies listed in the 2009 Fortune 1000 in order to illustrate how this type of genre communicates a green corporate ethos to audience members who are trying to distinguish between greenwashing tactics and true environmental concerns. The authors analyze how corporate environmental reports are constructed at macro and micro discursive levels to promote a socially responsible image to in-group (e.g., employees and stockholders) and out-group (e.g., consumers) members. The results of the analysis show how these reports use ideological persuasion to influence or change audience members’ opinions about corporate environmental sustainability. ”

Phillip George

Perceived organizational motives and consumer responses to proactive and reactive CSR

Groza, M., Pronschinske, M., & Walker, M. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 639-652. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0834-9

“Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has emerged as an effective way for firms to create favorable attitudes among consumers. Although prior research has addressed the direct influence of proactive and reactive CSR on consumer responses, this research hypothesized that consumers’ perceived organizational motives (i.e., attributions) will mediate this relationship. It was also hypothesized that the source of information and location of CSR initiative will affect the motives consumers assign to a firm’s engagement in the initiative. Two experiments were conducted to test these hypotheses. The results of Study 1 indicate that the nature of a CSR initiative influences consumer attribution effects and that these attributions act as mediators in helping to explain consumers’ responses to CSR. Study 2 suggests that the source of the CSR message moderates the effect of CSR on consumer attributions. The mediating influence of the attributions as well as the importance of information source suggests that proper communication of CSR can be a viable way to inculcate positive corporate associations and purchase intentions.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

The role of infomediaries: CSR in the business press during 2000-2009

Grafström, M., & Windell, K. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 103, 221-237. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0862-5

“Given the important role that business media play in corporate life, scarce attention has been paid to the role of media in the construction and popularization of corporate social responsibility (CSR). In this article, we understand media as a key infomediary and examine how the business press has framed and presented CSR over the last 10 years. Based on a content analysis of how CSR is presented in two English-language business newspapers with an international readership, we develop a framework for understanding the role of business media setting the corporate CSR agenda. The results show that business media contribute to the construction of what CSR means in corporate practice by creating links between CSR and certain corporate activities, between CSR and arguments that strengthen the view of CSR as a business case, and between CSR and certain spokespersons. These links contribute to create a notion of what CSR stands for, what it means in practice, and why it is important that one should pay attention to.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

The value of corporate philanthropy during times of crisis: The sensegiving effect of employee involvement

Muller, A., & Kräussl, R. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 103, 203-220. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0861-6

“Recent research suggests that philanthropy’s value to the firm is largely mediated by contextual factors such as managers’ assumed motives for charity. Our article extends this contingency perspective using a ‘sensegiving’ lens, by which external actors’ interpretations of organizational actions may be influenced by the way in which the organization communicates about those actions. We consider how sensegiving features in philanthropy-related press releases affect whether investors value those donation decisions. For the empirical investigation in this study, we analyze abnormal returns to announcements by U.S. Fortune 500 firms documenting their donations to Hurricane Katrina disaster relief in 2005. We expect that in general, donation decisions would be controversial given the uncertainty surrounding the hurricane’s economic effects at the time. However, we also propose that announcements emphasizing employee involvement in the donation send investors positive signals about the firm’s ability to bounce back from the disaster’s adverse effects. We find empirical support for the proposed hypotheses, and discuss the implications for theory and practice.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn


An epistemic analysis of (un)sustainable business

Birkin, F., & Polesie, T. ( 2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 103, 239-253. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0863-4

“Michel Foucault famously analysed orders of knowledge, ‘epistemes,’ in past European ages. In this study, his analytical method is fruitfully applied to gaining a better understanding of business sustainability within and beyond the Modern episteme. After an introduction to the contextual background for the study, this article provides (i) a justification for the use of a Foucauldian epistemic analytical method, (ii) an outline of the method, (iii) an application of the method to identify four sets of questions (morality, specialisation, anthropologization and mathematicization) that are both direct derivatives of the Modern episteme and problematic for sustainable development, and finally (iv) an application of the method to consider evidence for the emergence of a new episteme. Conclusions are also provided.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Game theory and technical communication: Interpreting the Texas Two-Step through Harsanyi transformation

Williams, M. F. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 373-392. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.4.c

“The author uses game theoretical models to identify technical communication breakdowns encountered during the notoriously confusing Texas Two-Step voting and caucusing process. Specifically, the author uses narrative theory and game theory to highlight areas where caucus participants needed instructions to better understand the rules of the game and user analysis to better anticipate participants’ motives and strategies. As a central tool of analysis, the author uses Nobel Laureate John C. Harsanyi’s work on ‘incomplete game’ or Bayesian games. The article demonstrates opportunities for technical communication scholars and teachers to use interdisciplinary approaches to discover layers of technical communication in small group negotiations and to evaluate the layers of instructions and technologies needed to facilitate effective and ethical decision making in political caucusing.”

Lyn Gattis

Setting boundaries for corporate social responsibility: Firm-NGO relationship as discursive legitimation struggle

Joutsenvirta, M. (2011). Journal of Business Ethics, 102, 57-75. doi: 10.1007/s10551-011-0775-3

“This article extends our understanding of the firm-nongovernmental organization (NGO) relationship by emphasizing the role of language in shaping organizational behavior. It focuses on discursive and rhetorical activity through which firms and NGOs jointly—and not always consciously—define boundaries for socially acceptable corporate behavior. It explores the discursive legitimation struggles of a leading Finnish forest industry company StoraEnso and Greenpeace during 1985-2001 and examines how these struggles participated in the (re)definition and institutionalization of corporate social responsibility. I find a mixture of rational and moral struggles as a key feature of this legitimation work and show how different manifestations of these struggles act as a central mechanism that redefines what the boundaries of corporate responsibility are in a specific setting at a given point of time. The study illustrates how the actors’ ability to sense the public’s views contribute to rhetorical difficulties of the industry and unintended societal consequences for the activists, and how the rational and moral struggles build up in time to trigger changes in the actors’ sensemaking and actions.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn

Simultaneity, sequentiality, and speed: Organizational messages about
multiple-task completion

Stephens, K. K., Cho, J. K., & Ballard, D. I. (2012). Human Communication Research, 38, 23-47. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2011.01420.x

“Workplace norms for task completion increasingly value speed and the ability to accomplish multiple tasks at once. This study situates this popularized issue of multitasking within the context of chronemics scholarship by addressing related issues of simultaneity, sequentiality, and speed. Ultimately, we consider 2 multiple-task completion strategies discussed in the literature on polychronic behavior, dovetailing (or sequentially accomplishing tasks) and simultaneously accomplishing tasks. Focus group and experimental findings support the existence of both simultaneous and sequential multitasking styles. Additionally, each is linked to varying perceptions of work pace, workload, and availability outside of work hours. The developed measurement scale offers a communication-focused theoretical contribution to multitasking concepts. Implications for these findings and future directions are also discussed.”

Katie Bennett

Scientific writing

The accreditation of Hildegard von Bingen as medieval female technical writer

Rauch, S. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 393-411. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.4.d

“Although scholars have acknowledged technical texts written during the Middle-Ages, there is no mention of ‘technical writer’ as a profession except for Geoffrey Chaucer, and historically absent is the accreditation of medieval female writers who pioneered the field of medical-technical communication. In an era dominated by identifiable medieval male technical writers, this article analyzes the medical texts of Hildegard von Bingen, which should be recognized as significant scientific and medical contributions to the field of medical-technical writing. Because the term ‘technical writing’ or ‘technical writer’ did not exist during the Middle Ages, accrediting female medieval scientific and medical writers as technical writers requires the application of modern thought and definition. Primarily known as a mystic and writer of poetry and music, Hildegard’s technological and medical texts have slowly gained interest within the medical community. Her texts Physica and Causae Curae, written in the style of modern-day patient history and physicals, outline patient symptoms, causes and effects, preceded by a treatment plan. This article examines Hildegard von Bingen’s medical works, identifying her as a scientific or medical technical writer within the same context from which scholars assign Chaucer the same title, and from which all medical and scientific writers of medical texts can be professionally accredited as technical communicator or writer.”

Lyn Gattis

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.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Demarcating medicine’s boundaries: Constituting and categorizing in the journals of the American Medical Association

Derkatch, C. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 210-229. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.663744

“This article examines professional boundary work in a set of medical journal theme issues about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Whereas these journals claim as their collective goal to bridge and blur boundaries between mainstream and alternative medicine, this article identifies and describes two chief rhetorical strategies through which the journals instead bolster and even expand those boundaries. These two strategies, constituting and categorizing, appear central to the demarcation of biomedical boundaries vis-à-vis CAM.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Incompatible rhetorical expectations: Julia W. Carpenter’s medical society papers, 1895–1899

Skinner, C. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 307-324. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.686847

“This article examines 3 papers presented before the Cincinnati Academy of Medicine by 19th-century physician Julia W. Carpenter. The article identifies 3 strategies Carpenter used to negotiate the incompatible rhetorical expectations for women and for physicians. The published records of academy discussions provide evidence for Carpenter’s colleagues’ reactions to each strategy, revealing the complexity of her rhetorical situation and demonstrating the complex links among rhetorical practice, professional identity, and a communicator’s social position.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Metaphors in the rhetoric of pandemic flu: Electronic media coverage of H1N1 and swine flu

Angeli, E. L. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 203-222. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.3.b

“Drawing on pandemic flu metaphor research and building on previous metaphor theory, this article uses rhetorical analysis to examine and move toward understanding the metaphors surrounding H1N1 and swine flu. To understand these metaphors, [the author] created two Google Alerts for the terms ‘H1N1’ and ‘swine flu’ and collected data using these Google Alerts from November 10, 2009 to December 10, 2009. [The author] then examined the headlines and content found in the news articles, blogs, and websites from the Google Alerts, and grouped the metaphors used in these headlines and content thematically. These themes work toward providing a rhetoric of pandemic flu, a rhetoric that might assist health care recipients in being more aware of how metaphors used in electronic media create meaning for health concerns.”

Lyn Gattis

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

Eric, L. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 129-144. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.646132

“In this article I examine 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. My reading of the reports and accompanying commentaries attends to the introduction of journalistic features and calls to political action. As part of my analysis, I interview a lead author of the reports about his rhetorical concerns in composing the work of a politically engaged science.”

Amber Fernald Rach


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.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Participatory social media and the evaluation of online behavior

DeAndria, D. C. (2012). Human Communication Research, 38, 510-528. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2012.01435.x

“In many online settings, the content that appears on a webpage is created by both website owners and viewers. This study employed the folk model of intentionality to examine how people evaluate collectively created web content. The results indicate that how website owners respond to content posted by others can (1) affect the extent to which they are held accountable for sharing the content and (2) affect the extent to which the content influences viewers’ impressions of the website owner. Overall, the findings illustrate the explanatory utility of the folk-model of intentionality in a new context, elucidate new ways in which components of the model interrelate, and highlight the role communication plays in the evaluation of collectively created web content.”

Katie Bennett

Sent from my iPhone: The medium and message as cues of sender professionalism in mobile telephony

Carr, C. T. (2012). Journal of Applied Communication Research, 40, 403-424. doi: 10.1080/00909882.2012.712707

“The growing ubiquity of mobile telephony able to send e-mail raises new questions, and renews old issues, about the effect of the medium on a message. This article reports experimental results testing effects of user- and medium-generated cues on perceptions of message senders. Grounded in warranting theory, we assess the interaction of low- and high-warrant cues on perceptions of the sender’s professionalism, hypothesizing senders of grammatically accurate messages are perceived as more credible. However, we also hypothesize an interaction between grammatical accuracy and the system-generated high-warrant cues from the mobile device used to send the message. Responses from 111 students assessing the credibility of an e-mail sender indicate that, although a message’s user-generated content (grammatically accurate vs. erred) influences receiver’s perceptions, negative attributions are attenuated by cues reflecting the transmission medium (i.e., a message’s mobile signature block). Findings offer theoretical implications for warranting theory. Additionally, results suggest practitioners need to craft a message and indicate the transmission medium strategically to mitigate any impacts on attributions of professionalism to message receivers.”

Katie Bennett

Usability studies

Everyday matters: Reception and use as productive design of health-related texts

Bellwoar, H. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 325-345. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.702533

“This article uses research in cultural–historic activity theory, exploring patients’ use of technical health care texts to produce knowledge and design their choices related to their bodies and health. Drawing on a case study of Meagan, who dealt with colitis and complications due to pregnancy, the author argues that we should consider reception and use as multisemiotic acts of repurposing, inscription, and reproduction alongside the research of the production of texts by professionals.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Productive usability: Fostering civic engagement and creating more useful online spaces for public deliberation

Simmons, W. M., & Zoetewey, M. W. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 251-276. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.673953

“This article offers productive usability as a usability approach that focuses on the usefulness of civic Web sites. Although some sites meet traditional usability standards, civic sites might fail to support technical literacy, productive inquiry, collaboration, and a multidimensional perspective—all essential ingredients for citizen-initiated change online. In this article, we map productive usability onto broader philosophies of usability and offer a framework for rethinking usability in civic settings and for teaching productive usability.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Taxonomies, folksonomies, and semantics: Establishing functional meaning in navigational structures

Bacha, J. A. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 249-263. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.3.d

“This article argues for the establishment of a usability process that incorporates the study of ‘words’ and ‘word phrases.’ It demonstrates how semantically mapping a navigational taxonomy can help the developers of digital environments establish a more focused sense of functional meaning for the users of their digital designs. . . .[B]y adding the study of ‘words’ and ‘phrases’ to our pedagogical and production practices, we can keep expanding our concepts of usability and continually push for a more humanistic approach to digital design that continues to push our understandings of users and move them even closer to the center of our design practices.”

Lyn Gattis


The active reader: What is active?

Van Woerkum, C. (2012). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 42, 265-277. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.42.3.e

“How writers can adapt to their readers is an important issue in effective communication strategies, and certainly crucial in the case of functional texts. Therefore, it is necessary to look at how readers are constructed as partners in a communication co-production. This article explores the concept of the ‘active reader,’ which is getting more and more attention nowadays. Its main aim is to present a typology of what this active readership means, in the phases before actual reading, in the reading phase, and in the afterreading phase. The elements of this typology are subsequently explicated. The article concludes with recommendations for writers who wish to use the concept of the active reader as a guideline.”

Lyn Gattis

The promise of ecological inquiry in writing research

MacMillan, S. (2012). Technical Communication Quarterly, 21, 346-361. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2012.674873

“Ecological inquiry (EI) in research of academic and workplace writing explores interactions between individuals and environments as these entities interpenetrate. This article provides a brief history from the past 3 decades of developments in writing theory. It then outlines the key tenets of EI, highlights how EI is compatible with other models, and presents new and interesting possibilities afforded by this type of inquiry.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Theorizing uptake and knowledge mobilization: A case for intermediary genre

Tachino, T. (2012). Written Communication, 29, 455-476. doi: 10.1177/0741088312457908

“Recent scholarship in genre studies has extended its focus from studying single genres to multiple genres, as well as how these genres interact with one another. This essay seeks to contribute to this growing scholarship by adding a new concept, intermediary genre. That is, a genre that facilitates the ‘uptake’ of a genre by another genre. This concept is designed to reveal a particular aspect of multiple genres: that one genre can be used to connect and mobilize two otherwise unconnected genres to make uptake possible. The concept is illustrated in case study of knowledge mobilization, an instance in which scientific research was used in the judicial system to inform public policies on eyewitness handling and police-lineup procedures. The case study shows how intermediary genres emerge, how they connect other genres, and how knowledge circulates as a result of such connections and affects policy decisions.”

Lyn Gattis