60.4, November 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 and Relevant” does not supply copies of cited articles.  However, most publishers supply reprints, tear sheets, or copies at nominal cost.  Lists of publishers’ addresses, covering nearly all the articles we have cited, appear in Ulrich’s international periodicals directory.

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


Networking and notworking in social intranets: User archetypes and participatory divides

Lüders, M. (2013). First Monday, 18(8). doi: dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i8.4693

“Expectations to how social intranets will improve knowledge sharing and collaboration in enterprises are high. Yet research into user patterns of traditional SNSs [social network sites] demonstrates participatory divides, and differences in use can be expected also with social intranets. [This paper reports] on the findings from a study of the adoption-process of a social intranet into an international ICT [Information and Communications Technology] company. Two archetypical users are described: the contributor and the reluctant user. This study suggests that different user-patterns will remain significant over time.”Anita Ford


Graphic presentation: An empirical examination of the graphic novel approach to communicate business concepts

Short, J., Randolph-Seng, B., & McKenny, A. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 273–303. doi: 10.1177/1080569913482574

“Graphic novels have been increasingly incorporated into business communication forums. Despite potential benefits, little research has examined the merits of the graphic novel approach. In response, [the authors] engage in a two-study approach. Study 1 explores the potential of graphic novels to affect learning outcomes and finds that the graphic novel was related to high levels of learning experiences. Study 2 compares the impact of graphic novels with that of traditional textbooks and finds that verbatim recognition was superior with graphic novel texts. Overall, [the authors] provide the first comprehensive examination of the graphic novel as a tool for effective business communication.”

Katherine Wertz

Person-centered emotional support and gender attributions in computer-mediated communication

Spottswood, E. L., Walther, J. B., Holmstrom, A. J., & Ellison, N. B. (2013). Human Communication Research, 39, 295–316. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1111/hcre.12006

“Without physical appearance, identification in computer-mediated communication is relatively ambiguous and may depend on verbal cues such as usernames, content, and/or style. This is important when gender-linked differences exist in the effects of messages, as in emotional support. This study examined gender attribution for online support providers with male, female, or ambiguous usernames, who provided highly person-centered ( HPC) or low person-centered (LPC) messages. Participants attributed gender to helpers with gender-ambiguous names based on HPC versus LPC messages. Female participants preferred HPC helpers over LPC helpers. Unexpectedly, men preferred HPC messages from male and gender-ambiguous helpers more than they did when HPC messages came from females. Implications follow about computer-mediated emotional support and theories of computer-mediated communication and social influence.”

Katie Bennett

Using discourse to restore organisational legitimacy: “CEO-speak” after an incident in a German nuclear power plant

Beelitz, A., & Merkl-Davies, D. (2012). Journal of Business Ethics, 108, 101–120. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-1065-9

“[The authors] analyse managerial discourse in corporate communication (‘CEO-speak’) during a 6-month period following a legitimacy-threatening event in the form of an incident in a German nuclear power plant. As discourses express specific stances expressed by a group of people who share particular beliefs and values, they constitute an important means of restoring organisational legitimacy when social rules and norms have been violated. Using an analytical framework based on legitimacy as a process of reciprocal sense-making and consisting of three levels of analysis which capture the relationship between text and context, [the authors] investigate the discourse used by CEOs in their initial and subsequent accounts of the incident. [The authors] find that CEOs aim to negotiate a resolution between their initial account and organisational audiences’ incongruent interpretations of the event by adopting an ad hoc normative attitude to stakeholders. This manifests itself in the strategic use of the discourse of stakeholder engagement as a means of signalling change, yet maintaining the status quo. It suggests that CEOs strategically use discourse to manufacture organisational audiences’ consent regarding the continued operation of the nuclear power plant affected by the incident. [The authors’] findings contribute to the critical corporate communication literature which regards corporate narrative reporting as a means of consolidating the private interests of corporations, rather than increasing transparency and accountability.”

Carolyn Dunn


Documents as “critical incidents” in organization to consumer communication

Black, A., & Stanbridge, K. L. (2012). Visible Language, 46, 246–281.

“A diary study tracked the paper documents received by nine UK informants over one month. Informants gave simple ratings of individual documents’ attractiveness and the ease of understanding them; more detailed reactions to the documents were gathered through informant diaries and follow-up interviews. The detailed reactions extended beyond the feedback gathered through the rating task. Informants showed sensitivity to the content, language, design and circumstances of receipt of documents, with indications that they developed opinions of originating organizations based on their experience of using their documents. Documents that failed to provide all the information needed, that failed to make their intentions clear (or obscured their intentions) or that were perceived as miss-targeted received negative comment. Repeat experiences of receiving either well- or poorly-conceived documents strengthened informant reactions to individual originating organizations. The paper concludes with recommendations for steps document originators, writers and designers need to take to prepare documents that enhance organization to consumer communication. [The authors] recommend that organizations evaluate and act on consumers’ reactions to their documents, beyond user testing in document development or scorecard ratings in use.”

Lyn Gattis

Emotion in typographic design: An empirical examination

Koch, B. E. (2012). Visible Language, 46, 206–227.

“There are virtually no rules to empirically interpret the meaning inherent in typeface designs—people intuitively decipher typefaces (Van Leeuwen, 2005). Forty-two participants examined six alphabets and responded using an online questionnaire to discover (1) whether viewing typefaces produces emotional responses, (2) whether people have the same emotion responses to typefaces and (3) whether certain emotions are predominantly associated with the formative design features of typefaces—classification, terminal shape, character width and weight. Psychological research about the role of emotion in visual processing was combined with an interactive animated questionnaire methodology (Desmet, 2002), and the resulting data were analyzed in a matched t-Test design (a =.05, 95%). This human-centered empirical approach proved a promising methodology for design research that successfully eliminated problems evidenced in previous object-centered typography studies. Because people reported similar emotion response to the design features, this study suggests that design’s underlying features represent a common visual language.”

Lyn Gattis


“Bring the newbie into the fold”: Politeness strategies of newcomers and existing group members within workplace meetings

Friess, E. (2013). Technical Communication Quarterly, 22, 304–322. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2013.782261

“This study investigates politeness strategies within meetings of designers who met face-to-face and technical communicators who met via teleconference and, more specifically, politeness strategies of existing members toward group newcomers and vice versa. Based on the results of this study, [the author suggests] that issues of power and social distance affect politeness strategies by both groups during their initial interactions and suggest that technical communication educators should better prepare students by teaching benefits, detriments, and realities of particular linguistic politeness choices.”

Amber Fernald Rach 

A contemporary simulation infused in the business communication curriculum: A case study

Drury-Grogan, M., & Russ, T. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 304–321. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/1080569913493923

“This research examines students’ reactions to a contemporary simulation infused in the business communication curriculum. Results show that students indicated the experience helped them learn how to work better as a team, how to maintain composure, how the business world works, and how to improve their communication. Students also verified the validity of the simulation, stating that it prepared them for the business world by providing them with a challenging yet positive experience to demonstrate learned business communication principles. Details about the pedagogical framework of the business communication simulation and possible explanations and implications behind the findings are discussed.”

Katherine Wertz

Curricular implications of virtual world technology: A review of business applications

Cyphert, D., Wurtz, S., & Duclos, L. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 339–360. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/1080569912475208

“As business organizations grow increasingly virtual, traditional principles of organizational communication require examination and modification. This article considers the curricular implications of the growing business uses of virtual world technology through three different lenses—students as employee-users, students as strategic designers and decision makers, and students as theorists. The instructor’s approach to communication principles relevant to persistent virtual worlds should be grounded in current and anticipated business applications. Emerging business practice provides guidance regarding the communication principles and skills that might be required of students entering careers in a contemporary business world of networked, digitized, and virtually enhanced communication.”

Katherine Wertz

From theory to practice: A crisis simulation exercise

Aertsen, T., Jaspaert, K., & Van Gorp, B. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 322–338. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/1080569913482575

“In this article, an educational project is described that was formulated with the aim to give master’s students in business communication the opportunity to experience how theory could be applied to shape practice. A 4-week project was developed in which students were urged to use communication theory and linguistic theory to manage the communication with respect to a simulated crisis at the university. The students were enrolled in collaborative learning teams. In this article, the architecture of the project is described, and drawing on an analysis of the students’ work and their evaluation of the project, its outcomes are discussed.”

Katherine Wertz

Moving towards ethnorelativism: A framework for measuring and meeting students’ needs in cross-cultural business and technical communication

Wang, J. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 43, 201–218. doi: dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.43.2.f

“Scholars in business and technical communication have continuously made efforts to look for effective teaching approaches for cross-cultural business and technical communication; however, little research has been conducted to study the process by which students develop intercultural competence; fewer studies have been conducted to assess learners’ needs for gaining intercultural competence in the globalization age. To assess students’ level of intercultural competence and understand whether they are likely to change in response to teaching, [the author first introduces] a two-part framework for teaching and learning intercultural business and technical communication: the DMIS model—Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity, and the related instrument to assess intercultural sensitivity—the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI). Then [the author reports] the results of using the framework to assess and develop students’ intercultural competence, and concludes the study by emphasizing the significance of the current empirical research and discuss the framework’s limitations.”

Nick Carrington

A “virtual fieldtrip”: Service learning in distance education technical writing courses

Soria, K. M., & Weiner, B. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 43, 181–200. doi: dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.43.2.e

“This mixed-methods experimental study examined the effect of service learning in a distance education technical writing course. Quantitative analysis of data found evidence for a positive relationship between participation in service learning and technical writing learning outcomes. Additionally, qualitative analysis suggests that service learning in online technical writing courses helps students to make connections to the ‘real world,’ encourages students to connect with their audience(s) and develop a sense of purpose for writing tasks, connects students to future employment, and develops deep learning with course materials. It is hypothesized that these factors support the development of learning outcomes in distance education students.”

Nick Carrington

Workplace engagement and generational differences in values

Schullery, N. M. (2013). Business Communication Quarterly, 76, 252–265. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/1080569913476543

“This article summarizes literature on workplace engagement, an issue that affects organizations’ financial results and individuals’ personal lives. The newest of the four generations in the workplace, Millennials, were recently shown to have different values than the other two prevalent generations. Surveys taken by 16,000 high school seniors of three generations on intrinsic, extrinsic, social, leisure, and altruistic values at work show only the altruistic value is not statistically different. When aggregated, these generational differences have noticeable practical impact. In the classroom, engagement is essential to learning. Examples of engaging activities that address the Millennials’ values are provided.”

Lyn Gattis

Ethical issues

The cut and paste society: Isomorphism in codes of ethics

Holder-Webb, L., & Cohen, J. (2012). Journal of Business Ethics, 107, 485–509. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-1060-1

“Regulatory responses to the business failures of 1998-2001 framed them as a general failure of governance and ethics rather than as firm-specific problems. Among the regulatory responses are Section 406 of Sarbanes-Oxley Act, SEC, and exchange requirements to provide a Code of Ethics. However, institutional pressures surrounding this regulation suggest the potential for symbolic responses and decoupling of response from organizational action. In this article, [the authors] examine Codes of Ethics for a stratified sample of 75 U.S. firms across five distinct industries and find that content and language converge across organizations in ways undesired by the regulators, and that language is used to minimize the effects of the Code on constraining organizational behavior. There is, however, a noteworthy exception in the sections of the Codes dedicated to the ethics of financial reporting. Although this material still contains legalistic boilerplate information, it does offer concrete guidance and emphatic language pertaining to the need to maintain the integrity of reporting practices. This suggests that the corporate understanding of the source of the failures is one of fraudulent financial reporting. Aside from the matter of financial reporting, the vague and stylized content of the Codes was a predicted response and constitutes a rational response to the regulation. The regulation, however, clearly states the belief that Codes should vary from firm to firm and that individual firms should determine the specific content of a Code. Aside from financial reporting matters, the observed result suggests that regulatory efforts may have failed to instigate corporate change in attitudes toward and enforcement of higher ethical standards by corporate actors.”

Carolyn Dunn

Documenting genocide: The “Record of Confession, Guilty Plea, Repentance and Apology” in Rwanda’s Gacaca trials

Towner, E. (2013). Technical Communication Quarterly, 22, 285–303. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2013.780963

“In Rwanda, apologies for crimes committed during the 1994 genocide were documented on the ‘Record of Confession, Guilty Plea, Repentance and Apology.’ Unfortunately, a gap exists in our understanding of that document. This paper addresses that gap via a cultural approach to technical communication research that examines what was recorded, why, and how it shaped the public record. The paper concludes with suggested areas in which technical communication scholars can provide additional insight on apologies for wrongdoing.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Enterprise web accessibility levels amongst the Forbes 250: Where art thou O virtuous leader?

Gonçalves, R., Martins, J., Pereira, J., Oliveira, M., & Ferreira, J. (2013). Journal of Business Ethics, 113, 363–375. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1309-3

“The research team measured the enterprise web accessibility levels of the Forbes 250 largest enterprises using the fully automatic accessibility evaluation tool Sortsite, and presented the compliance of the evaluated websites to WCAG 1.0, WCAG 2.0 and Section 508 accessibility levels. Given the recent attention to organizational leaders having ethical duties towards their dedicated employees, [the authors] propose that ‘societal citizenship behaviour’ concerns ethical duties of organizational leaders towards society in general and in particular to those who have less means to assert their needs. In effect, [the authors] found enterprise website accessibility levels to be in need of significant improvement. An interpretation of a positive path forward to better enterprise website accessibility levels is put forth based on a focus-group interaction and using BNML—a novel Business Narrative Modelling Language.”

Carolyn Dunn

Illegal downloading, ethical concern, and illegal behavior

Robertson, K., McNeill, L., Green, J., & Roberts, C. (2012). Journal of Business Ethics, 108, 215–227. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-1079-3

“Illegally downloading music through peer-to-peer networks has persisted in spite of legal action to deter the behavior. This study examines the individual characteristics of downloaders which could explain why they are not dissuaded by messages that downloading is illegal. [The authors] compared downloaders to non-downloaders and examined whether downloaders were characterized by less ethical concern, engagement in illegal behavior, and a propensity toward stealing a CD from a music store under varying levels of risk. [The authors] also examined whether downloading or individual characteristics of downloaders were similar for men and women. Findings revealed downloading was prevalent (74.5% of the student sample downloaded), men and women were equally likely to download and the factors characterizing downloading were similar for men and women. The comparison between downloaders and non-downloaders revealed downloaders were less concerned with the law, demonstrated by less ethical concern and engagement in other illegal behaviors. Downloaders were also more likely to indicate that they would steal a CD when there was no risk of being caught. Given these results, messages regarding illegality are unlikely to perturb downloaders and alternative recommendations are offered for targeting illegal downloading.”

Carolyn Dunn

To share or not to share: Assessing knowledge sharing, interemployee helping, and their antecedents among online knowledge workers

Lin, C.-P., & Joe, S.-W. (2012). Journal of Business Ethics, 108, 439–449. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-011-1100-x

“Sharing and helping are important issues in ethical research. This study proposes a model based on flow theory by postulating key antecedents as the critical drivers of knowledge sharing and interemployee helping. Flow is the holistic sensation that employees feel when they act with total immersion and engagement, facilitating individuals’ reciprocal activities such as knowledge sharing and interemployee helping. In the proposed model, knowledge sharing is influenced by flow experience directly and also indirectly via the mediation of interemployee helping. Accordingly, the flow experience is influenced simultaneously by four exogenous factors related to individuals’ perception about their work: work skills, self-fulfillment in challenges, perceived control, and vividness. This study contributes to the knowledge management literature by extending flow theory to the area of knowledge sharing and interemployee helping, by validating idiosyncratic antecedent drivers of the flow theory, and by performing a practical operationalization of the flow experience. This research also provides managerial implications for business leaders to boost their employees’ ethical behavior in terms of sharing and helping.”

Carolyn Dunn

Information management

Personal health record interfaces: A hermeneutic analysis

Burnett, G., Whetstone, M., & Jaeger, P. T. (2013). First Monday, 18(8). doi: dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i8.4748

“This study draws upon cultural hermeneutics to provide insight into the ways Personal Health Records (PHRs) project an information world related to health….[It] provides [analysis] of design and communication issues in three PHR websites, offering preliminary conclusions about the potential impact of differences in design and functionality, as well as the inclusiveness of these interfaces for populations traditionally underserved by technology design.”

Anita Ford


Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century falconry manuals: Technical writing with a classical rhetorical influence

Battalio, J. T. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 43, 145–164. doi: dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.43.2.c

“This study traces Renaissance and post-Renaissance technical writers’ use of classical rhetoric in English instruction manuals on the sport of falconry. A study of the period’s five prominent falconry manuals written by four authors—George Turberville, Simon Latham, Edmund Bert, and Richard Blome—reveals these technical writers’ conscious use of classical rhetoric as an important technique to persuade readers to accept these authors’ authority and trust the information they were disseminating. These manuals employed several classical rhetorical techniques: invention by using ethos and several classical topics, classical arrangement, the plain style, and adaptation of the orator’s duties. The explanation for this classical influence rests in the authors’ own knowledge of classical rhetoric derived from sources such as Thomas Wilson, as well as the sources from whom these authors obtained their knowledge of falconry. The article ends by suggesting the origins through which these classical rhetorical techniques influenced the writing of the manuals.”

Nick Carrington

Intercultural communication

Multicultural environments and their challenges to crisis communication

Fatima Oliveira, M. (2013). Journal of Business Communication, 50, 253–277. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021943613487070

“Grounded theory analysis was applied to qualitative interviews with 25 communication professionals concerning cultural influences on crisis. This approach yielded several findings. First, public relations practitioners had difficulties in defining multiculturalism, often equating cultural diversity with communicating with Latinos. Second, interviewees saw cultural differences as just one aspect of diversity, emphasizing that age, religion, and education differences also affect corporate discourse. Third, although professionals considered culture a key element of crisis management, they did not feel prepared to handle the challenges of a multicultural crisis, nor did they report that they used culturally adjusted crisis strategies often. By integrating cultural competence and crisis management frameworks, this study provides the foundation for an in-depth understanding of crises, where scholars and professionals can pair crisis strategies with audiences’ cultural expectations. Training initiatives focused on increasing levels of cultural competence can make organizations and communication professionals ready to the challenges of a global market.”

Katherine Wertz

The state of technical communication in the former USSR: A review of literature

Zemliansky, P., & St.Amant, K. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 43, 237–260. doi: dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.43.3.b

“Over the last 2 decades, the nations that once comprised the Soviet Union have begun to play an increasingly important role in the global economy. As a result, today’s technical and professional communicators could find themselves interacting with co-workers, colleagues, and clients in these nations. Being successful in such contexts, however, requires an understanding of the cultural, historic, educational, and economic factors that have affected and continue to shape technical and professional communication practices in these countries. This article provides an overview of the literature that has been published on technical and professional communication practices in the former USSR as well as reviews educational factors that have contributed to such practices. Through such an examination, the article provides readers with a foundation they can use to engage in future research relating to technical and professional communication practices in post-Soviet states.”

Nick Carrington

Understanding immigrant women’s information needs: Role of acculturation in breast cancer prevention among immigrant Asian Indian women

Marfani, F., Rimal, R. N., & Juon, H. (2013). Journal of Applied Communication Research, 41, 126–140. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1080/00909882.2012.754485

“Asian immigrants have higher breast cancer rates compared to counterparts in their native countries. Little is known about psychosocial factors pertaining to their breast health. [The authors] sought to understand how acculturation moderates the relationship between anxiety and breast cancer-related outcomes among immigrant Asian Indian women. Surveys and in-person interviews were conducted among a sample of immigrant Indian women. Acculturation was a significant predictor of information seeking, frequency of mammograms, and clinical breast exams. There was also a significant Anxiety×Acculturation interaction effect on information seeking. The relationship between anxiety and information seeking was particularly acute for high, as compared to average, level of acculturation. When designing interventions for immigrants, it is important for health communication campaigns to take into account two critical factors: acculturation and anxiety of the audience. Anxiety among highly acculturated women appears to suppress information seeking, and thus ameliorating their anxiety becomes key.”

Katie Bennett


Metonymy and plain language

Garwood, K. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 43, 165–180. doi: dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.43.2.d

“Metonymy—the process of representing a concept with an associated element or feature—is a useful strategy for encapsulating or alluding to a larger idea without fully stating it. For metonymies to be successful, however, readers must recognize and be able to compensate for the information that has been omitted. Metonymic omissions can pose a barrier to readers, even in texts that are written in plain language, largely because metonymies operate indirectly: first, by prompting readers to infer information that is not provided; second, by constraining meaning rather than specifying it; and third, by requiring readers to possess the insider knowledge and values of a particular discourse community. These barriers are compounded by the fact that frequently used metonymies become so commonplace that their users may not even be able to detect, let alone address, these omissions.”

Nick Carrington

Perspectives on the use of English as a business lingua franca in Hong Kong

Evans, S. (2013). Journal of Business Communication, 50, 227–252. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021943613487073

“This article presents the findings of a large-scale, multifaceted investigation into the use of English as a business lingua franca in Hong Kong’s key service industries. The findings were derived from four sources: semistructured interviews with 28 Chinese professionals; four ‘week-in-the-life’ case studies, which include an all-day office observation; analyses of telephone conference recordings and email chains; and a questionnaire survey involving more than 2,000 respondents. The evidence suggests that English, particularly its written form, plays a crucial role in business communication, although the nature and extent of its use vary according to an array of institutional and individual factors, such as a company’s ownership and a professional’s duties. The qualitative data illustrate the interplay between the two written (English, Chinese) and three spoken codes (English, Cantonese, Putonghua) in workplace communication, and particularly the symbiotic relationship between written English and Cantonese.”

Katherine Wertz


Expressions of dissent in email: Qualitative insights into uses and meanings of organizational dissent

Hastings, S., & Payne, H. (2013). Journal of Business Communication, 50, 309–331. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021943613487071

“This study explores the role of email in organizational dissent expression and employees’ perceptions of the rules for using this medium. Twenty-one interviews were conducted with employees who commonly used email in their job to learn about some of the ways email was seen as playing a role in organizational dissent by those who commonly use the technology. Thematic analysis of data produced two rules employees cited for email usage: be careful what is committed to writing (because of loss of message control and fear of being monitored) and maintain an appropriate, professional communication style (free of emotion, sent only to the appropriate people, and used for topics not needing face-to-face interaction). Three additional strategic roles of email in organizational dissent include emails as a means of promoting strategic self-presentation; email as a means of inviting dissent; and email as a means of documenting/archiving potentially problematic interactions. The implications of this study for existing and future studies of dissent are explored.”

Katherine Wertz

Telling ’em how it will be: Previewing pain of risky change in initial announcements

Lewis, L., Laster, N., & Kulkarni, V. (2013). Journal of Business Communication, 50, 278–308. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/0021943613487072

“Implementers need to decide the degree to which to preview the challenges and possible downsides of a change process. Scant research has explored the announcement of planned change—especially regarding the previewing of potential painful or stressful effects of the process. This study uses a pen-and-paper experimental method with a sample of 218 working adults to examine the extent to which acknowledging potentially negative aspects of change in announcements heightens perceptions of honesty and trustworthiness of implementers. Also, [the authors] sought to explore the effects of these negative previews on initial favorability toward changes and on stakeholders’ subsequent communication targets and purposes for communication. [The authors] found that previews of possible negatives did not increase initial favorability or judgments of credibility of implementers. [The authors] found high-risk change creates a challenging context. Future research needs to consider whether refutational messages are necessary for high-risk change announcements.”

Katherine Wertz

Professional issues

Constrained agency in corporate social media policy

Weber, R. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 43, 289–315. doi: dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.43.3.d

“Corporate social media policies construct what Herndl and Licona term ‘constrained agency,’ an ambiguous, contradictory agent function. Drawing on an analysis of 31 corporate social media policies, this article argues that these policies create constrained agency in two ways: they establish contradictory expectations for a writer’s voice by requesting both individual and corporate-friendly voices, and they create a seemingly paradoxical situation where employees both do and do not represent the company. These policies shed light on the complex constructions of agency within corporations and encapsulate the workplace tensions that accompany the affordances of social media tools.”

Nick Carrington

Elsie Ray and the founding of STC

Malone, E. A. (2013). Journal of Technical Writing & Communication, 43, 121–143. doi: dx.doi.org/10.2190/TW.43.2.b

“Elsie Ray, a research librarian at Anaconda Copper Mining Company, was the prime mover in the effort to organize the Association of Technical Writers and Editors (TWE), one of the organizations that eventually became the Society for Technical Communication (STC). This article seeks to recover Ray’s professional contributions and memorialize her as a significant figure in the history of the technical communication profession.”

Nick Carrington

Static to dynamic: Professional identity as inventory, invention, and performance in classrooms and workplaces

Brady, M. A., & Schreiber, J. (2013). Technical Communication Quarterly, 22, 343–362. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2013.794089

“Although self-assessment is an important genre in both the academy and the workplace, it is often static. The resulting fixed identities are problematic in a creative economy that requires fluidity. Drawing on the work of Carruthers and Goffman, among others, [the authors] argue that memory and meditation, encompassing inventory and invention and coupled with rhetorical performance, constitute dynamic self-assessment.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Workplace romance 2.0: Developing a communication ethics model to address potential sexual harassment from inappropriate social media contacts between coworkers

Mainiero, L., & Jones, K. (2013). Journal of Business Ethics, 114, 367–379. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10551-012-1349-8.

“This article examines ethical implications from workplace romances that may subsequently turn into sexual harassment through the use of social media technologies, such as YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, text messaging, IMing, and other forms of digital communication between office colleagues. [The authors] examine common ethical models such as Jones’ . . .  issue-contingent decision-making model, Rest’s . . . Stages of Ethical Decision-Making model, and Pierce and Aguinis’s . . . review of workplace romance versus sexual harassment issues. The article makes a contribution by developing a new communication ethics model that includes response positive and response negative contingencies to guide decision-making about inappropriate social media contacts that spillover into the workplace. In addition, [the authors] recommend that human resource personnel take a more active role in communicating appropriate ethical rules of conduct concerning the use of social media technologies inside and outside the office.”

Carolyn Dunn


Exploring accessibility as a potential area of research for technical communication: A modest proposal

Oswal, S. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 50–60.

“This position paper proposes the undertaking of a systematic research agenda on the tangled questions of accessibility, technology, and disability from the perspective of Technical Communication field. O’Hara (2004), Oswal and Hewett (2013), Palmeri (2006), Porter (1997), Ray and Ray (1999), Salvo (2005), Slatin and Rush (2003), Theofanos and Redish (2003 and 2005), and Walters (2010), have approached accessibility issues in various Technical Communication contexts and have emphasized the need for more attention to accessibility in [technical communication] research, teaching, and practice. Likewise, the major journals in [the] field—Technical Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly and the IEEE Transactions in Professional Communication—have also published at least one special issue each on the topic of accessibility.” The researchers suggest that, because of the great number of people with disabilities, technical communicators need to research accessibility.

Katherine Wertz

Keystroke logging in writing research: Using Inputlog to analyze and visualize writing processes

Leijten, M., & Van Waes, L. (2013). Written Communication, 30, 358–392. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/0741088313491692

This study may be of interest to technical/professional writers researching writing, writing processes, and writing with technology. “Keystroke logging has become instrumental in identifying writing strategies and understanding cognitive processes. Recent technological advances have refined logging efficiency and analytical outputs. While keystroke logging allows for ecological data collection, it is often difficult to connect the fine grain of logging data to the underlying cognitive processes. Multiple methodologies are useful to offset these difficulties. In this article [the authors] explore the complementarity of the keystroke logging program Inputlog with other observational techniques: thinking aloud protocols and eyetracking data. In addition, [the authors] illustrate new graphic and statistical data analysis techniques, mainly adapted from network analysis and data mining. Data extracts are drawn from a study of writing from multiple sources. In conclusion, [the authors] consider future developments for keystroke logging, in particular letter- to word-level aggregation and logging standardization.”

Hunter Auman

Online survey design and development: A Janus-faced approach

Lauer, C., McLeod, M., & Blythe, S. (2013). Written Communication, 30, 330–357. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/0741088313488075

“In this article [the authors] propose a Janus-faced approach to survey design—an approach that encourages researchers to consider how they can design and implement surveys more effectively using the latest web and database tools. Specifically, this approach encourages researchers to look two ways at once; attending to both the survey interface (client side; what users see) and the database design (server side; what researchers collect) so that researchers can pursue the most dynamic and layered data collection possible while ensuring greater participation and completion rates from respondents. [The authors] illustrate the potentials of a Janus-faced approach using a successfully designed and implemented nationwide survey on the writing lives of professional writing alumni. [The authors] offer up a series of questions that a researcher will want to consider during each stage of survey development.”

Hunter Auman

Open research questions for academics and industry professionals: Results of a survey

Anderson, R., Benavente, S., Clark, D., Hart-Davidson, W., Rude, C., & Hackos, J. (2013). Communication Design Quarterly, 1, 42–49.

“To identify some of the research questions and needs of most importance to industry professionals and academics, [the authors] conducted a Technical Communication Industry Research Survey that posed a common set of questions about research. Here [the authors] report the results, which suggest some differing priorities for academics and industry professionals, but also some shared priorities that might help guide disciplinary research, including content strategy, user behavior, metrics/measurements, and process/practices.”

Katherine Wertz

Research note: Measuring the globalization of knowledge: The case of community informatics

Williams, K., Lenstra, N., Ahmed, S., & Liu, Q. (2013). First Monday, 18(8). doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.5210%2Ffm.v18i8.4347

“Freely accessible online, with a wide set of authors and a wider readership, First Monday can be seen as striving for global knowledge on the social aspects of the Internet. In a meta-analysis now underway, [the authors] found First Monday to be the third most prolific journal on a particular subject: local communities’ uses of information technology. . . .The data suggests that a synthesis of English-language published knowledge is a first step [to global knowledge]. It points to a bigger agenda: reaching into the world’s local settings in a proportionate and representative way. That would mean publishers outside the US and UK; scholars in other countries; and studies in other languages.”

Anita Ford


The rhetoric of free: Open source software and technical communication during economic downturns

Zeotewey, M. W. (2013). Technical Communication Quarterly, 22, 323–342. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2013.794090

“This article explores the ramifications of deploying free and open source software (F/OSS) for technical communication program development. Against the backdrop of the recession, the article draws on empirical research to examine how different stakeholders understand the F in F/OSS, its relationship with proprietary software, and the institutional contexts surrounding these technologies. It contributes four recommendations for working with F/OSS that might help programs shore up in tough times and thrive postdownturn.”

Amber Fernald Rach

Usability Studies

Card sort analysis best practices

Righi, C., James, J., Beasley, M., Day, D. L., Fox, J. E., Gieber, J., Howe, C., & Ruby, L. (2013). Journal of Usability Studies,8, 69–89.

“This article presents a set of best practices for analyzing card sorting data to derive an effective information architecture and navigation structure. It addresses methods of interpreting cluster analysis data matrixes and dendrograms generated by automated card sorting tools. And, it focuses on the details of making a decision about final categories and category labels. In short, it helps the UX professional make informed judgments when multiple interpretations of the data are possible.”

Katie Bennett

Development and evaluation of two prototypes for providing weather map data to blind users through sonification

Lazar, J., Chakraborty, S., Carroll, D., Weir, R., Sizemore, B., & Henderson, H. (2013). Journal of Usability Studies, 8, 93–110.

“While most aspects of web accessibility are technically easy to solve, providing accessible equivalents of data visualizations for blind users remains a challenging problem. Previous attempts at accessible equivalents focused on sonification of population data. This paper describes the creation of two prototypes for providing real-time weather information in a sonified format for blind users. . . .[The authors] discuss the development and evaluation process for the sonification prototypes, with a detailed description of the usability evaluations performed in the field. The studies show that when working at the intersection of users with disabilities and new technologies, it’s important to be flexible and adjust quickly to get the most out of field studies.” Technical communicators can use this study as an example of successful integration of usability testing in a multi-modal situation, and also as an example of how one might conduct usability testing for users with disabilities.

Katie Bennett

Inclusive design advisor: Understanding the design practice before developing inclusivity tools

Zitkus, E., Langdon, P., & Clarkson, P. J. (2013). Journal of Usability Studies, 8, 127–143.

“This paper describes an exploratory study investigating ways to accommodate inclusive design techniques and tools within industrial design practices. The approach of [this] research is that by making only small changes in design features, designers end up with more inclusive products.”

Katie Bennett

Special issue of the Journal of Usability Studies: Designing inclusive systems

Lazar, J., Langdon, P., & Heylighen, A. (2013). Journal of Usability Studies, 8, 90–92.

The special-issue introduction defines inclusive design research and explains why communicators need to start incorporating inclusive design research. Recent legislation regarding web content accessibility by the U.S. and mandates by the European Union are evidence of the relevancy of the topic. The papers contained within the special issue will “help user experience professionals understand some of the complex issues involved with inclusive design. . . .There are some common themes among the three papers: Perhaps the most important theme is to conduct evaluations of universal accessibility and assistive technologies with the participation of people with disabilities. . . . In addition, when working at the intersection of users with disabilities and new technologies, it’s important for investigators to be flexible and be able to adjust quickly to get the most out of field studies.”

Katie Bennett

A system in the wild: Deploying a two player arm rehabilitation system for children with cerebral palsy in a school environment

Holt, R., Weightman, A., Gallagher, J., Preston, N., Levesley, M. M., & Bhakta, B. (2013). Journal of Usability Studies, 8, 111–126.

“This paper outlines a system for arm rehabilitation for children with upper-limb hemiplegia resulting from cerebral palsy. [The authors’] research team designed a two-player, interactive (competitive or collaborative) computer play therapy system that provided powered assistance to children while they played specially designed games that promoted arm exercises. [The team] designed the system for a school environment. To assess the feasibility of deploying the system in a school environment, the research team enlisted the help of teachers and staff in nine schools. Once the system was set up, it was used to deliver therapy without supervision from the research team. Ultimately, the system was found to be suitable for use in schools. However, the overriding need for schools to focus on academic activities meant that children could not use the system enough to achieve the amount of use desired for therapeutic benefit. In this paper, [the authors] identify the key challenges encountered during this study. For example, there was a marked reluctance to report system issues (which could have been fixed) that prevented children from using the system. [The authors] also discuss future implications of deploying similar studies with this type of system.” Communicators can learn from the challenges the team encountered when conducting usability testing in a school environment. The study, which presents the idea of rehabilitation as a game, may be of interest to communicators who wish to explore the concept of games as a means of communication.

Katie Bennett


Contrasting systemic functional linguistic and situated literacies approaches to multimodality in literacy and writing studies

Anderson, K. T. (2013). Written Communication, 30, 276–299. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1177/0741088313488073

Although this article explores theoretical approaches, professional/technical writers may consider the implications made by Anderson when working with multimodal texts and conducting research. “Against the backdrop of proliferating research on multimodality in the fields of literacy and writing studies, this article considers the contributions of two prominent theoretical perspectives—Systemic Functional Linguistics (SFL) and Situated Literacies—and the methodological tensions they raise for the study of multimodality. To delineate these two perspectives’ methodological tensions, [the author presents] an analysis of selected recent literature from both approaches and then analyze these tensions further as they emerge in two empirical studies published in this journal illustrating each approach. Despite the fact that SFL and Situated Literacies share some underlying theoretical assumptions and are sometimes drawn upon in concert by scholars, [the author illustrates] how they differ in their treatment of multimodal texts and practices—as well as their methodologies—research design, data collected, analytic methods, and possible implications. This article thus seeks to outline the respective contributions of SFL and Situated Literacies to ongoing research on multimodality in literacy and writing studies and to encourage a conversation across theoretical and methodological borders.”

Hunter Auman