60.3, August 2013

Recent and Relevant


Electronic media variety and virtual team performance: The mediating role of task complexity coping mechanisms

Kock, N., & Lynn, G. S. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 325–344. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2208393

“Much of the research on electronic communication media so far has been characterized by a focus on the impact that specific media may have on individuals and teams, as opposed to the impact that multiple media, when used in combination, may have on individuals and teams.” This study asks two research questions:  “(1) Does a high degree of media variety facilitate the implementation of team mechanisms for coping with task complexity? (2) Does the degree of implementation of team mechanisms for coping with task complexity positively influence team performance?” The researchers tested “propositions relating media variety and team performance” on “290 new product development teams in 66 organizations. . . .” Findings suggest that media variety “facilitates the implementation of task complexity coping mechanisms, such as coordination activities, in new product development teams. This, in turn, seems to lead to significant gains in team efficiency and effectiveness in those teams.” However, while the variety of communication media plays an important role in facilitating coordination activities, “it has a much less pronounced direct effect on team efficiency and effectiveness. In other words, in the absence of task complexity coping mechanisms, such as coordination activities, a high degree of media variety may not be very useful for teams carrying out complex tasks such as new product development.”

Lyn Gattis


Communication for the long term: Information allocation and collective reflexivity as dynamic capabilities

Gómez, L., & Ballard, D. (2013). Journal of Business Communication, 50, 208–220. doi: 10.1177/0021943612474992

The authors of this article “propose that two communication practices, information allocation and collective reflexivity, are dynamic capabilities that help develop a firm’s long-term viability. The concept that an organization’s actions or inaction constrain or enhance its future options and outcomes and—ultimately—its long-term survival, is the organization’s viability.” The authors examine “two facilitating conditions—presence awareness and organizational identification—and three organizational issues influencing the two communication practices that affect organizational viability—organizational members’ perceived environmental uncertainty, organizational members’ perceived scarcity of time, and feedback cycles between actions and outcomes that shape and are shaped by their temporal focus.”

Katherine Wertz


Differential effects of the volume and diversity of communication network ties on knowledge workers’ performance

Burton, P., Wu, Y., Prybutok, V. R., & Harden, G. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 239–253. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2190345

“For knowledge workers, such as IT professionals, the ties within their social network are a major channel for communicating the requisite knowledge and information. While prior studies tended to favor higher network centrality (i.e., larger volume of network ties), in this study, the researchers argue that centrality can reduce communication efficiency if the diversity of the ties is low.” The researchers asked “[w]hich characteristic of communication ties, volume or diversity, has more influence on knowledge workers’ performance?” They used “the standard SNA [social network analysis] method of a ‘name generator’ questionnaire to collect network data” from “98 people in the IT department at a large defense company” and analyzed for social network, performance, and human capital variables. “Results showed a significant relationship between constraint, a measure of tie diversity, and performance. Centrality, the measure of tie volume, however, was not significantly related to performance.”

Lyn Gattis


Investigating verbal workplace communication behaviors

Keyton, J., Caputo, J., Ford, E., Fu, R., Leibowitz, S., Liu, T., Polasik, S., Ghosh, P., & Wu, C. (2013). Journal of Business Communication, 50, 152–169. doi: 10.1177/0021943612474990

“This two-part study with working adults examines which communication behaviors occur at work and how these communication behaviors are evaluated. Through an analysis of organizational communication publications (articles, organizational case studies, textbooks), the authors identified 343 communication behaviors; sorting analysis reduced this list to 163 verbal communication behaviors used in the workplace. In Study 1, using an online survey, 126 working adults identified which of these communication behaviors had been heard or observed the previous day in the workplace. Forty-four communication behaviors were identified by 50% or more of the participants, indicating their frequent use in the workplace. In Study 2, 331 working adults evaluated their effectiveness on the 44 verbal communication behaviors. Factor analysis reduced that list to 36 verbal workplace communication behaviors composed of four factors: information sharing, relational maintenance, expressing negative emotion, and organizing communication behaviors. The Workplace Communication Behavior Inventory is presented.”

Katherine Wertz


Computer issues 

Dynamic system models and the construction of complexity

Blythe, S. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 23–27.

“Humans routinely fail to comprehend complexity and anticipate long-term consequences. Systems dynamicists try to overcome these weaknesses by developing computer-supported models that can account for multiple variables in non-linear relationships. Using programs such as STELLA and Vensim, systems dynamicists create stock-and-flow diagrams, equations, and, ultimately, interfaces that enable others to interact with the model. This paper describes how one such model was developed [relating to ‘the effects of prolonged heat exposure on humans’] and speculates on roles that technical communicators might play in future projects.”

Lyn Gattis



Cargo cults in information design

Albers, M. J. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 57–61.

“There are a multitude of rules of writing and design. Cargo cult design occurs when designers rigidly apply a design rule without a clear understanding of why the rule exists or whether it applies to the situation. The rules moved into the status of being a rule for a reason. It is important for designers to understand those reasons so they can critically analyze the situation and make decisions about the applicability of the rule. Successful design requires deeply understanding and working within the situational context and not blindly applying generic rules.”

Lyn Gattis


Design heuristics in engineering concept generation

Daly, S., Yilmaz, S., Christian, J., Seifert, C., & Gonzalez, R. (2012). Journal of Engineering Education, 101, 601–629. doi: 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2012.tb01121.x

“Innovation in design depends on successful concept generation. The ideation stage of design is intended to produce multiple, varied concepts from which to develop and choose. Often, instruction on idea generation methods is not offered in engineering classes; however, when taught, it is commonly through techniques like brainstorming, which lacks specific ways to generate designs. Further, existing ideation strategies are not based on evidence from designers or rigorous testing through empirical studies.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn


Film school for slideware: Film, comics, and slideshows as sequential art

Johnson, F. (2012). Computers and Composition, 29, 124–136. doi: 10.1016/j.compcom.2012.02.001

“By studying what comics and film theory suggest about selecting and sequencing images, both regular slideware users and students learning about multimodal communication can find ways to use the software more effectively, creating more productive relationships among their audiences, their slides, and their rhetorical goals. Though some, like designer Edward Tufte, have suggested that programs such as Microsoft PowerPoint are too flawed to be used effectively, it is possible to create rhetorically effective slide presentations that make excellent use of visual design and take audience response into account, a fact reflected in the commentary of professional presenters and designers like Seth Godin, Nancy Duarte, and Garr Reynolds. By joining their advice to the observations of visual communication theorists such as Lev Kuleshov, Roland Barthes, and Scott McCloud, it is possible to improve slideware presentations not only on a slide-by-slide basis but also at the level of the sequence, where multiple slides work together to convey meanings and create significant audience-speaker interactions. To take note of the family resemblances among slideware, film, and comics as sequential visual forms is to begin to unlock the greater potential of slideware applications like Microsoft PowerPoint.”

Lyn Gattis


Good design is good social change: Envisioning an age of accountability in communication design education

Bennett, A. (2012). Visible Language, 46, 66–78.

“Using typography as its exemplar with its lack of clear performance criteria, this article questions what is good design and how to measure a designer’s accountability. Evaluation criteria are teased out from various perspectives: credibility, ease of use, stakeholder inclusion in the design process, respect for cultural dimensions and whether it adds to humanity and/or the environment. The article concludes with steps to social change.”

Lyn Gattis


It’s not about usability

Richardson, K. H. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 54–56.

“Traditional usability firms (or usability groups within large companies) tend to focus on evaluation, and their design process typically ends at the Discover phase. For organizations (or individuals) that tout themselves as ‘User Experience,’ the goal is to have the research and data dictate design, going so far as to have the research person creating wireframes—defining screen layout, interaction models and information architecture. After all, isn’t a research-based interface what we’re after?”

Lyn Gattis


Models of design: Envisioning a future design education

Friedman, K. (2012). Visible Language, 46, 132–153.

“This article offers a large-scale view of how design fits in the world economy today, and the role of design education in preparing designers for their economic and professional role. The current context of design involves broad-based historical changes including a major redistribution of geopolitical and industrial power from the West to the East. A model of six global economies delineates the challenge and opportunity for design practice and education. While the six economies developed over time, all fit together now and design creates value in different ways across them. Understanding the economic context of design education gives clarity to the educational mission, differentiating it from other forms of education. The author argues that design professionals now require a broad range of analytical, conceptual and creative skills related to the social and economic context of design along with advanced skills in a design specialty. A taxonomic chart of design knowledge delineates the range of skills and knowledge domains involved.”

Lyn Gattis


Transforming contracts from legal rules to user-centered communication tools: A human-information interaction challenge

Passera, S., & Haapio, H. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 38–45.

This paper illustrates “how merging contract design with information design, especially visualization, can help to transform contracts (and people’s perceptions about contracts) from legal rules to communication tools.” According to the authors, “improved human-contract interaction can maximize the value of commercial relationships, minimize risk, and prevent workplace frustration. Viewing contracts as boundary objects and changing their design to overcome the current challenges offer unexplored opportunities for both research and practice.”

Lyn Gattis


Visualizing complexity and uncertainty about climate change and sea level rise

Kain, D., & Covi, M. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 46–53.

This paper examines “the use of visual representations to assist people in understanding complex information about sea level rise and climate change.” The authors discuss their 2011 study involving “plus-minus document usability evaluations of documents describing the mechanisms and consequences of sea-level rise in coastal areas. The protocol included 40 participant interviews and post interview quizzes . . . with three documents [tested], one that presented information for the U.S. southeastern coastal region and two that presented information ‘localized’ for the two areas in which [the authors] conducted the research. Findings indicate that participants had difficulty with information presented in graphs and maps and that, while they indicated references for localized information, localized mages did not improve understanding of complex information.”

Lyn Gattis


What’s missing in design education today?

Frascara, J., & Noël, G. (2012). Visible Language, 46, 36–53.

“This article begins by describing a desirable design approach that is only practiced by a few designers today. This design approach is desirable because it responds to a society that suffers from a number of illnesses due to communications and artifacts that do not satisfy the needs of people. The article then proposes the kind of design education that could lead to forming designers within the outlined approach, and defines necessary terms and conditions. Lastly, it proposes recommendations, and the need for a deep reflection on the nature of design and of design education.”

Lyn Gattis



Reverse outlining: A method for effective revision of document structure

King, C. L. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 254–261. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2207838

“One of the biggest problems with student and novice writing is that it often lacks clear organization and a coherent structure. However, it is difficult for newer writers to conceptualize a clear structure prior to writing a first draft. Thus, there is a need for an effective process to help writers revise early drafts with a particular focus on organizational clarity. . . . A reverse outline—a process that helps improve document structure and organization from an early draft—was developed to help writers make the organizational structure of an existing document to assess and improve the structure in a subsequent revision explicit. Reverse outlining has four steps: (1) identifying and listing discourse topics from a written draft, (2) arranging the discourse topics into an outline, (3) assessing the structure for appropriateness to audience and purpose, and (4) creating the new structure, modifying content where necessary, and adding headings, bullets, overview statements, and other advanced organizers. The reverse outlining process has been used extensively in the classroom and in the workplace.”

Lyn Gattis



360-degree rhetorical analysis of job hunting: A four-part, multimodal project

Ding, H., & Ding, X. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 239–248. doi: 10.1177/1080569912475207

“This article proposes the use of a four-component multimodal employment project that offers students a 360-degree understanding of the rhetorical situations surrounding job searches.” The authors argue specifically for using “the four deliverables of written resumes and cover letters, mock oral onsite interview, video resume analysis, and peer critique of social media profiles in a widely taught employment project to help students better analyze the complicated rhetorical situations surrounding job applications and to facilitate better peer collaboration and serious revision of the two high-stakes documents of cover letters and resumes.”

Katherine Wertz


A heuristic tool for teaching business writing: Self-assessment, knowledge transfer, and writing exercises 

Ortiz, L. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 226–238. doi: 10.1177/1080569912466438

“To teach effective business communication, instructors must target students’ current weaknesses in writing. One method for doing so is by assigning writing exercises. When used heuristically, writing exercises encourage students to practice self-assessment, self-evaluation, active learning, and knowledge transfer, all while reinforcing the basics of good writing. Using writing exercises as a diagnostic or maintenance tool at different stages in the semester, in addition to the core assignments, can drastically improve undergraduate and graduate student writing and increase the probability that these students will transfer that writing knowledge into other courses and into their practices as professional writers in industry.”

Katherine Wertz


A hybrid recursive model for teaching and learning business writing

Schultz, H. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 82–104. doi: 10.1177/1080569912466255

This article describes “a successful business writing course based on a hybrid recursive model that combines prescriptive rhetorical patterns with a perceptive application of those patterns.” The purpose of the course is “to replicate the need for communication speed and effectiveness in the workplace.” The author states that “[t]he model draws inspiration from (a) current-traditional rhetoric, modified for a business context, to address the need to write quickly . . . [labeled] the ‘prescriptive phase,’ and from (b) cognitive rhetoric, again modified for a business context, to address the need to write effectively . . . [labeled] the ‘perceptive phase.’”

Katherine Wertz


Impact of screencast technology: Connecting the perception of usefulness and the reality of performance

Green, K., Pinder-Grover, T., & Millunchick, J. (2012). Journal of Engineering Education, 101, 717–737. doi: 10.1002/j.2168-9830.2012.tb01126.x

“Prior research on the instructional use of screencasts (video of a computer screen output with real-time audio commentary) suggests that this technology is perceived by students as beneficial and results in improved course performance. This study explores how and why students use screencasts, as well as why some students choose not to use them. The study also investigates whether the perception that screencasts are helpful aligns with the reality of students’ course performance.”

Carolyn Kusbit Dunn


Personal, reflective writing: A pedagogical strategy for teaching business students to write 

Lawrence, H. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 192–206. doi: 10.1177/1080569913478155

“The use of personal, reflective writing exercises is well documented in the disciplines of composition and management, and each discipline has been highly influential in establishing pedagogical practices in the business communication classroom. However, we see little evidence of the pedagogical practice, the use of personal reflective writing exercises, in the teaching of business communication. This article looks at pedagogy and theory that informs the use of personal, reflective writing exercises in composition and management and suggests the relevance of these same practices in business communication classrooms today. Building on relevant pedagogical theory and practice, the author also makes the claim that personal reflective writing exercises can make students better writers and more effective managers and leaders. The article concludes with sample exercises that readers might try in their own business communication classrooms.”

Katherine Wertz


Potential for collaborative writing in professional communication and health studies through service-learning

Hill, S., & Griswold, P. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 54–71. doi: 10.1177/1080569912470711

“Two professors teaching in professional writing and health studies have incorporated service-learning projects into their courses and included similar writing goals. Though employing different methodologies, they saw similar outcomes. Through assessment of student reflections and discussions of course outcomes, both professors concluded that there is potential for collaborative service-learning projects between the two disciplines. This article discusses pedagogical approaches in the two courses, the theory and pedagogy on which the approaches are based, and practical ideas on how a collaborative professional writing/health studies service-learning project might be set up. Such ideas may provide a model for collaboration across disciplines.”

Katherine Wertz


Teaching white papers through client projects

Willerton, R. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 105–113. doi: 10.1177/1080569912454713

“White papers are increasingly prevalent in business and professional settings. Although textbook resources for white paper assignments are limited, a white paper assignment completed for a community client can provide a learning experience that students enjoy and that strengthens ties between the university and the community. This article describes a way to approach the white paper assignment in a communications-focused course and identifies resources to support white paper assignments.”

Katherine Wertz


Using a research in technical and scientific communication class to teach essential workplace skills

Bednar, L. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 363–377. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2208322

This article asks, “What approaches to undergraduate research would enable aspiring technical communicators to develop research skills that would better prepare them for success in a professional environment? . . . This paper describes the experiences of using two approaches to teach Research in Technical and Scientific Communication at a mid-sized state university in Virginia. . . . The Real Client approach required students to investigate a small-scale, real-world problem or need, which became the focus of a research report that could be submitted to a specific audience for a specific purpose, both identified by the student early in the research process. The Impact of Technology approach required students to consider the impact of technology on modern life, investigate a narrower topic within this broad topic, and prepare a report that could be published in the university magazine or student newspaper. . . . Overall, students responded well to both approaches, but found the Impact of Technology approach more congenial because it was more familiar to them than the Real Client approach. Nonetheless, with both approaches, but especially with the Real Client approach, students seemed reluctant to make necessary contacts, conduct in-depth interviews, and include well-developed analysis. . . . Both approaches served to move students toward a more realistic understanding of the kind of research needed in professional environments.”

Lyn Gattis


Using problem-based scenarios to teach writing

Smart, K. L., Hicks, N., & Melton, J. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 72–81. doi: 10.1177/1080569912466256

“The ability to communicate effectively remains a critical skill for obtaining a job and achieving success in the workplace; however, many still lack these skills. In particular, graduates lack adequate writing skills. This article advocates the use of problem-based scenarios to teach writing, which focuses on authentic rhetorical framing similar to writing done in the workplace. A sample scenario is provided along with three responses, showing the type of issues involved in helping students develop writing skills appropriate to an organizational context.”

Katherine Wertz


Using the teaching portfolio to anticipate programmatic assessment

Price, K. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 207–215. doi: 10.1177/1080569912470488

“Portfolios have long been a staple in professional writing courses: both in employment materials assignments and in entire classes that ask students to reflect on their experiential learning. Portfolios may also be used effectively in business communication teaching methods courses. This article details the justification and methodology for having a teaching portfolio as the capstone assignment in a business communication pedagogy course. It also explains how this portfolio may be used to anticipate programmatic assessment and verification of entry-level business communication courses during the accreditation process.”

Katherine Wertz


Writing self-efficacy and written communication skills

Mascle, D. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 216–225. doi: 10.1177/1080569913480234

“Writing is an essential professional skill. The goal of writing instruction in business communication classes is to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully meet future writing challenges. However, many writers struggle to transfer skills and knowledge from one context to another. The primary reason for this struggle is that despite years of writing instruction, most people are highly apprehensive about writing and do not consider themselves ‘writers.’ Writing instruction typically does little to lessen writing apprehension, but fostering writing self-efficacy can both diminish writing apprehension and further writing development.”

Katherine Wertz


Ethical issues

The corporate social responsibility report: The hybridization of a “confused” genre (2007-2011)

Bhatia, A. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 221–238. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2205732

“What is the intended purpose and function of the CSR [corporate social responsibility] reports taken from some of the most dominant corporations in the oil, banking, and aviation industries in the US and China, and how and to what extent do these reports meet the expectations of the international discourse community? . . . Are there any differences in the discursive construction of the CSR reports taken from the different industries? If so, what are these differences, and why might they exist? . . . Interdiscursivity, the appropriation of established generic resources across genres and practices to create new forms, provides a framework for exploring differences in reports between the countries. . . . Using discourse analysis, this study analyzed six samples of CSRs, three from Chinese corporations, three from American corporations. . . . The main function of the CSR reports analyzed seems to be the promotion of the company image. Although all analyzed reports drew on the discourse of goodwill and promoted company engagement with society, CSR reports from the oil industry employed discourse of self-justification more, attributing company actions to external constraints. . . . The purity of this genre lies in its hybridization, primarily in the integration of promotional cues in reporting genre, illustrating how interdiscursivity can explore the interrelationship between discursive and professional practices.”

Lyn Gattis


User data on the social web: Authorship, agency, and appropriation

Reyman, J. (2013). College English, 75, 513–533.

“Social web services catalog users’ activities across the Internet, aggregating, analyzing, and selling a vast array of user data to be used largely for consumer profiling and target marketing. This article interrogates the tacit agreements and terms-of-use policies that govern who owns user data, how it circulates, and how it can be used. Relying on problematic assumptions about the authorship of social data, data-mining practices and technology policies unquestioningly place ownership in the hands of technology companies and compel users to surrender control over their own contributions on the social web. This article explores the implications of the practices and policies surrounding data management for composition and participation on the social web and argues for a more balanced distribution of rights to user data.”

Lyn Gattis


Which CSR-related headings do Fortune 500 companies use on their websites?

Smith, K., & Alexander, J. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 155–171. doi: 10.1177/1080569912471185

“This article examines website headings used by Fortune 500 companies in their efforts to inform stakeholders about corporate social responsibility (CSR). Instead of using ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ as a heading, companies often use specific terms to identify various CSR initiatives. The purpose of this article is to identify common CSR-related headings that are currently used on Fortune 500 company websites. Data were collected from all Fortune 500 company websites. The websites were further analyzed according to manufacturing, retailing, and service industry. Interesting similarities and differences were found. This study provides guidance on articulating CSR-related activities to consumers, employees, and stakeholders.”

Katherine Wertz


Information management

First steps in implementing a documentation quality program

Silvi, D. (2013). Best Practices, 15, 19–22. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“Implementing a documentation quality program is an important part of demonstrating the value that your IDD [Information Design and Development] group brings to the organization. Implementing a quality program also demonstrates your group’s willingness to be accountable for contributing to the customer experience with your documentation. When you decide to implement a documentation quality program in your group, plan for an initiative that will be an ongoing process that evolves over time. This article proposes initial steps that you can take—steps that are relatively easy to implement and that you can build on and expand. . . . Your quality program should include a process for continual improvement and for demonstrating how you will act on what you learn.”

Lyn Gattis


Using semantic mark-up languages with XML to aid search

Shoebottom, B. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 134–140. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“Using semantic languages [such as RDF or Resource Description Framework, OWL or Web Ontology Language, and microformats] offers you a much better way to manage your metadata to enhance search. Metadata proves useful for both information developers when authoring content as well as end users looking for the final published product. Semantics can also provide much more than just an enhanced search. Semantic knowledge models allow you to increase the value of your information because of the rigor spent to ensure high-quality information. Semantics can also unlock value in the new search paradigms this form of knowledge representation opens up such as faceted search, knowledge discovery (inferred facts), and browsing associated information not expressed as such in the content, but in the knowledge model. The level of semantics you need will depend on the complexity of the product and users and the information management problems you are trying to solve.”

Lyn Gattis


Intercultural communication

Achieving experiential cross-cultural training through a virtual teams project

Zemliansky, P. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 275–286. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2206191

“Graduate students in technical communication from the US and graduate students in marketing from Ukraine . . . worked in virtual teams to create collaborative analyses of localized versions of websites of transnational corporations.” The article asks the following research questions: “How can our current knowledge of experiential learning be applied to cross-cultural web-based training? How do postproject interviews with the participants advance our knowledge about experiential learning? What practical recommendations for teachers and trainers can be offered based on this and similar case studies? . . . The findings of this research are as follows. (1) Virtual teams work more effectively when given time to build trust and connections among participants. (2) Virtual teams work more effectively when time is devoted to the development of leaders and the articulation of leadership responsibilities within teams. (3) Experiential learning team participants use a variety of communication tools depending on the nature of the communicative task at hand. (4) As part of the learning process, virtual team members recognized and attempted to adjust to cultural and professional discourse differences between countries and professional fields.”

Lyn Gattis


Intercultural communication training in IT outsourcing companies in India: A case study

Raju, R. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 262–274. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2207834

This study explores communication problems in an outsourcing arrangement in which a US company transferred such business functions as “payroll, supply chain management, and customer relations” to a supplier in India. “Quantitative data were gathered through surveys that helped develop a picture of patterns in areas such as communication problems, preferred methods of communication, and patterns of escalation while qualitative data from 45 personal interviews and one group interview provided insights into the nature and resolution of communication dissonances. . . . Communication problems that arise in the outsourcing relationship include differences in corporate culture and differences in linguistic and rhetorical choices. Issues causing these problems include differences in education and training. Ongoing training in cross-cultural communication is needed at all stages of the outsourcing cycle, with an emphasis on communication skills in the early stages of the process, especially the hiring stage.”

Lyn Gattis



The role of leadership and contextualization on citizenship behaviors in distributed teams: A relational capital perspective

Sha, X., & Chang, K. T. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 310–324. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2188595

“This study provides insights into the role that a leader plays in improving relational capital, thereby motivating team members’ citizenship behaviors in distributed teams. . . . [The study reviewed] relevant theories on relational capital, leadership, organizational citizenship behavior (OCB) and contextualization . . . and proposed the positive relationship between leadership, relational capital and OCBs, as well as the moderating relationships of technology support for contextualization. . . .This study highlights the importance of inspirational leaders in cultivating two kinds of relational capital, namely commitment and reciprocity. . . . A key result is that the effect of inspirational leadership on reciprocity is strengthened when there is technology support for cognitive contextualization. At the same time, technology support for affective contextualization has a direct impact on commitment. . . . The implication of this study is that when teams are physically dispersed, there should be more emphasis on leadership with inspirational attributes to get their team members to perform beyond standard requirements. In addition, this study provides leaders and organizations with an opportunity to reflect on the appropriate technology that can be adopted to compensate for insufficient communication. . . .”

Lyn Gattis


What’s fair? Public and private delivery of project feedback

Westerman, C., & Westerman, D. (2013). Journal of Business Communication, 50, 190–207. doi: 10.1177/0021943612474991

“Perceptions of justice are an important consideration for organizations as past research has shown that when employees feel they are treated fairly, positive outcomes result and negative outcomes can be avoided. The current study examined the effects of private and public delivery of positive and negative feedback on perceptions of procedural and interactional justice. Although past research found no differences for channel when comparing face-to-face to email, current results indicate that differences existed across channel characteristic such that private delivery was viewed as more procedurally and interactionally just than public delivery. Positive feedback was also viewed as more procedurally and interactionally just than negative feedback. This may indicate to practitioners that a private channel is more appropriate for feedback and that giving positive feedback may help engender perceptions of just treatment in employees.”

Katherine Wertz


Professional issues

Evolving roles of technical writers

Ballard, S. (2012). Best Practices, 14, 121–127. [Center for Information-Development Management]

“For international companies with large and/or complex products, DTP [desktop publishing] is just about out of steam. When working in a corporation that develops and sells products worldwide—and one in which business units must share technology and content in their product lines with high direct reuse—the small ‘mom and pop’ tech writing teams are becoming a thing of the past. An emerging requirement is that you must deliver the ‘release candidate’—the finished document or information set—in more than just print or PDF. Whether for internal reuse or external delivery to customers or agencies for localization or other, the demands for content structure are going up.” Although “new authoring tools and repositories” help to address these demands, writing teams must also plan for “information architecture, people skills, and business processes.” The author identifies five steps to “help ensure a smoother transition and anticipate the emerging roles and job codes associated with next generation enterprise content development. (1) Define a team charter, roles, and tasks. (2) Manage programs and employees based on the roles and tasks to be performed. (3) Ensure the team is involved throughout product development. (4) Evolve from desktop publishing to enterprise database publishing. (5) Consolidate roles and tasks with specialists in the new job codes.”

Lyn Gattis


Public relations

The business of conversations: Market social media surveillance and visibility

Trottier, D. (2013). First Monday, 18(2). doi: dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i2.3930

“Businesses increasingly rely on social media for personal information, which renders their market more visible. This paper draws on a surveillance studies perspective to consider the growth of market surveillance on social media. Drawing on a series of 13 semi–structured interviews with professionals who use Facebook as a business tool, this paper considers three emerging strategies. Radical transparency imports self–presentation tactics in a corporate realm, furthering corporate visibility. Listening refers to the surveillance of personal information. Finally, a conversational approach combines the visibility of both the market and the corporate actor. While popular literature celebrates this as a kind of mutual transparency, corporate actors are strategic in terms of what they present on social media.”

Anita Ford



Estimating online audiences: Understanding the limitations of competitive intelligence services

Kamerer, D. (2013). First Monday, 18(5). doi: dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i5.3986

Kamerer analyzes competitive intelligence services to estimate website traffic to sites the user does not own. The author studies the three free leading services: Alexa, Compete, and Quantcast using mixed methodologies including “panel members using an opt-in mechanism, sometimes mixing in anonymized data bought from Internet service providers.” This study examines the methodology of audience measurement, comparing results from the three services over 18 sites that agreed to share owner data. Results were highly varied, sometimes overestimating traffic by as much as 200 percent. Kamerer asks if the results are worthless and offers recommendations for comprehending limitations of the services.

Anita Ford


The ethics of archival research

McKee, H. A., & Porter, J. E. (2012). College Composition and Communication, 64, 59–81.

“What are the key ethical issues involved in conducting archival research? Based on examination of cases and interviews with leading archival researchers in composition, this article discusses several ethical questions and offers a heuristic to guide ethical decision making. Key to this process is recognizing the person-ness of archival materials.”

Lyn Gattis


(Per)forming archival research methodologies

Gaillet, L. L. (2012). College Composition and Communication, 64, 35–58.

“This article raises multiple issues associated with archival research methodologies and methods. Based on a survey of recent scholarship and interviews with experienced archival researchers, this overview of the current status of archival research both complicates traditional conceptions of archival investigation and encourages scholars to adopt the stance of archivist-researcher.”

Lyn Gattis


Visual communication in environmental health: Methodological questions and compromises

Meloncon, L. (2013).  Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 34–37.

“Disciplinary differences cause multiple problems with trying to create a research study that gauges readers’ comprehension of complex scientific information. This paper provides a case study of the some of the issues associated with research methods and methodologies on an interdisciplinary team.”

Lyn Gattis


Scientific and medical writing

Beyond editing: An experience in mentoring provided by an academic health care center’s Office of Grants and Scientific Publications

Dornhoffer, M. K. (2012). AMWA Journal, 27, 147-151.

“The Office of Grants and Scientific Publications (OGSP) was established at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) nearly 20 years ago. UAMS is a tertiary referral center and Arkansas’ only comprehensive academic health care center. The staff at OGSP have helped hundreds of UAMS faculty, fellows, and residents obtain research funding and publications. Our services encompass one-on-one interactions between editors and investigators over the course of an editing project, in addition to workshops and seminars that extend the mentoring experience, with the goal of increasing the quality of the grants and manuscripts we receive. This article outlines the strategies we have adopted to most efficiently meet the various needs of our investigators while exploring new methods for tracking success rates. We believe the mentoring experience provided by our office results in a more effective editing job and, ultimately, successful outcomes with regard to grant funding and manuscript publication.”

Magdalena Berry


The posthuman grant application

Hoover, R. S. (2012). Computers and Composition, 29, 137–151. doi: 10.1016/j.compcom.2012.04.001

“Online grant applications are commonly seen as a generic form of writing, one that maintains consistency and style from writer to writer.” The author of this article “challenge[s] that perception, instead presenting a view of the online grant application as a posthuman writing tool whose influence can vary immensely according to the characteristics of the writer. This view is based on interviews conducted with applicants to the National Science Foundation, especially their experiences with NSF’s application Website, FastLane. Working on the assumption that FastLane is a tool designed to aid in composition, [the researcher’s] participants’ variety of use connects the posthuman influence of Web sites such as FastLane with current interpretations of rhetorical agency.”

Lyn Gattis


Structure of research article introductions in three engineering subdisciplines

Kanoksilapatham, B. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 294–309. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2223252

This study’s research questions concern “the generic structures of research article introductions in three engineering subdisciplines . . . and . . . variations that distinguish the introductions of one subdiscipline from the others.” The study attempts to determine “whether research articles of different subdisciplines within a single discipline share the same organizational structure.”  On the basis of “journal impact factors, three datasets of English research article introductions representing three subdisciplines of engineering (civil, software, and biomedical) were compiled, consisting of 180 introductions with 60 from each subdiscipline. Then, the three datasets were analyzed using Swales’s genre analysis technique to identify the structural patterns prevalent in the introductions of each subdiscipline. . . . Analysis shows that these introductions generally adhere to a common rhetorical organization across subdisciplines,” although “disciplinary variations are also captured. . . . The findings bear pedagogical implications, allowing English for Specific Purposes practitioners to prepare novice scholars to be able to publish successfully in their fields.”

Lyn Gattis



International corporate blogging practices and effects

König, N. (2013). First Monday, 18(2). doi: dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i2.4106

“This study assesses international corporate blogging practices and their effects on the popularity of corporate blogs in terms of comments received and incoming links. Building on the blogging practices framework by Schmidt (2007b), a theoretical model is developed incorporating cause–and–effects relationships for blog characteristics and their impact, as well as international differences. The five Hypotheses are tested using a sample of 20 German, 10 Russian and 77 U.S. corporate blogs. The results of stepwise regression analyses confirmed most hypotheses regarding effects of blog diversity, blog authenticity, blog usability, blog sophistication and networking efforts. The theoretical and practical implications of this are discussed.”

Anita Ford


Mapping the global Twitter heartbeat: The geography of Twitter

Leetaru, K., Wang, S., Cao, G., Padmanabhan, A., & Shook, E. (2013). First Monday, 18(5). doi: dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i5.4366

“In just under seven years, Twitter has grown to count nearly 3% of the entire global population among its active users who have sent more than 170 billion 140-character messages. Today the service plays such a significant role in American culture that the Library of Congress has assembled a permanent archive of the site back to its first tweet, updated daily. With its open API, Twitter has become one of the most popular data sources for social research, yet the majority of the literature has focused on it as a text or network graph source, with only limited efforts to date focusing exclusively on the geography of Twitter, assessing the various sources of geographic information on the service and their accuracy. More than 3% of all tweets are found to have native location information available….Geographic proximity is found to play a minimal role both in who users communicate with and what they communicate about, providing evidence that social media is shifting the communicative landscape.”

Anita Ford


What’s on your mind? Social media monopolies and noopower

Gehl, R. W. (2013). First Monday, 18(3). doi: dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i3.4618

“This paper explores the age–old tension between the radical possibilities of thought and the institutions seeking to constrain thought as this tension plays out in social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google. [Gehl] argues that these social media sites are becoming key institutions of noopower, or the power to modulate thoughts. [He proposes that] older institutions of power, such as states, militaries, and marketers, have begun to exercise noopower through and at social media in an effort to always be on our minds.”

Anita Ford


Usability studies

Combining concurrent think-aloud protocols and eye-tracking observations: An analysis of verbalizations and silences

Elling, S., Lentz, L., & de Jong, M. (2012). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 55, 206–220. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2012.2206190

Eye-tracking technology now “sheds new light” on the validity of concurrent think-aloud (CTA) protocols, because it provides researchers with more detail on “participants’ working processes.” This study examines types of CTA verbalizations, the relationships of those verbalizations to data obtained directly from eye tracking, and the cognitive processes indicated by eye movements when participants are no longer verbalizing. This study replicates an earlier investigation of CTA protocols and eye tracking (Cooke, 2010). In contrast to the earlier work, the current study revealed “far more verbalizations where participants formulated doubts, judgments on the website, or expressions of frustration. . . . [V]erbalizations provided a substantial contribution in addition to the directly observable user problems.” In addition, the data included “a rather high percentage of silences (27%), during which participants most often were scanning pages for information. During these silences, interesting observations could be made about users’ processes and obstacles on the website.” The study implies “a better understanding of the types of verbalizations that a CTA evaluation might generate. . . [and indicates] that relevant usability observations can be made during silences.”

Lyn Gattis


Engaging complexity in usability through assemblage

Zobel, G. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 18–22.

This article describes the research problem of measuring and improving the “mobile device user experience (HCMVX) of visitors to Humboldt County, California,” with mobile visitors defined as “visitors who actively use their smart mobile devices, like smart phones and iPads but not laptops, while on vacation.”  No official records or established policies were in place concerning mobile visitors, which “meant there was no clear way to contact mobile visitors or arrange for mobile usability tests. . . . Traditional usability methods did not initially help because the majority of usability methods rely on clearly identified users, tasks, or goals.” The author used Deleuze’s assemblage concept to identify “potential points of engagement” and in less than six months was able to conduct field research and present results to officials, on the basis of which they “reshaped part of their policies and merchant training.” According to the author, “Deleuze’s assemblage offers usability practitioners a means to approach complex systems and rapidly identify points of engagement.”

Lyn Gattis


Reverse engineering of content to find usability problems: A healthcare case study

Ghajar-Khosravi, S., Wan, F., Gupta, S., & Chignell, M. (2012). Journal of Usability Studies, 8, 16–28.

“For tools that involve the creation of an artifact or document, reverse engineering potentially provides an interesting alternative to task-based usability testing. In this case study, participants were shown an artifact and asked to recreate it using a software tool. . . . Participants used both reverse engineering and task-based approaches to usability testing in counterbalanced order. Using an online tool for developing asthma action plans, the reverse engineering method uncovered more usability problems than the traditional task-based usability testing method. The 12 test participants had a positive attitude towards the reverse engineering method although it took them longer to perform their tasks and they faced a greater number of issues. Both the longer task time and the greater number of problems uncovered were likely caused by the greater attention to detail that reverse engineering requires of participants. This case study demonstrates that reverse engineering may be a useful alternative to pre-defining the tasks for the participant when carrying out a usability test.”

Katie Bennett


Use of card sorting for online course site organization within an integrated science curriculum

Doubleday, A. (2013). Journal of Usability Studies, 8, 41–54.

The authors define card sorting as a technique used to “gain insight and understanding into the mental models of website users by examining how users categorize and organize website material.” Their study “provides an application of card sorting to address challenges resulting from curricular change. Card sorting and scenario-based usability testing were used to determine the organization of online course sites for a systems-based, integrated science curriculum. The newly implemented curriculum eliminates discipline-based boundaries and focuses on simultaneous investigation of the biochemistry, histology, anatomy, and physiology of organ systems. Two cohorts of students were recruited. . . . Scenario-based usability testing demonstrated that all participants were able to successfully navigate the modified course sites. A think-aloud protocol was employed during both card sorts to better understand participant perceptions of content and content organization. Differences in results between the two cohorts, with regard to content organization, suggest that an iterative approach to card sorting is beneficial in site construction and modification. Although the initial card sort allowed the faculty to develop a course site structure that could function well within the new curriculum, the second card sort provided insight into unanticipated navigational issues and allowed for modifications to site organization before the development of significant problems. Results suggest that repeated use of card sorting may be an effective means of creating course sites that are more focused and can more specifically meet user needs.”

Katie Bennett



ReaderCentric writing for the prosumer marketplace: Proposing a new, content-based information architecture model

Hailey, D. E. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 12–17.

“As usability experts describe the appropriate models for writing in digital, they consistently express the need to write in a user-centric format.” While agreeing with “the importance of efficient navigation in Web content,” the author of this paper suggests “user-centric writing only applies to part of the content we find in a website. Other styles of writing are almost always required. Two additional styles are persuasion-centric and quality-centric writing. These two styles are required by almost all marketing writing and especially marketing writing for the prosumer community.” The article builds on “ideas found in user centered design to include user-centric, persuasion-centric, and quality-centric writing,” a combination the author refers to as “ReaderCentric writing.” The discussion also includes “the way the various writing styles impact the mindset of the information architect . . . why these writing models are important . . . what happens when the models are ignored or not understood . . . how they may be successfully applied to marketing documents on the Internet . . . [and] how information architecture may be adjusted to meet the needs of the content, writer, and reader.”

Lyn Gattis