61.3, August 2014

Recent & Relevant

Lyn Gattis, Editor

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

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



Communicating corporate brands through social media: An exploratory study

Vernuccio, M. (2014). International Journal of Business Communication, 51, 211–233. doi: 10.1177/2329488414525400

“The aim of this study is to identify and interpret the main emerging strategic approaches in communicating a corporate brand through social media (SM). A quantitative content analysis of the SM platforms of 60 major international corporate brands yielded data that were processed by hierarchical cluster analysis. The study identified four clusters, characterized by distinctive approaches in terms of interactivity and openness toward corporate brand building via SM. The findings highlighted that despite encouraging signs of effective use of SM for this purpose, the online corporate communication initiatives of more than a third of all companies are characterized as cautious. Corporate branding strategists are advised to adopt conversational forms of corporate communication, to expand the range of SM used and to involve a broad range of stakeholders in the dialogue. This study adds to the limited body of academic research into the use of SM as part of corporate communication and corporate brand-building strategy.”

Katherine Wertz


Coordinating constant invention: Social media’s role in distributed work

Pigg, S. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 69–87. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2013.796545

“Cultural shifts in technology and organizational structure are affecting the embodied practice of symbolic-analytic work, creating the need for more fine-grained tracings of everyday activity. Drawing on interviews and observations, this article explores how one freelance professional communicator’s social media use is intertwined with inventive social coordination. Networked writing environments help symbolic analysts gain access to communities of practice, maintain a presence within them, and leverage social norms to circulate texts through them.”

Amber Fernald Rach


Driving employee engagement: The expanded role of internal communications

Mishra, K., Boynton, L., & Mishra, A. (2014). International Journal of Business Communication, 51, 183–202. doi: 10.1177/2329488414525399

“Increasingly, organizations and their public relations professionals are recognizing the importance of strengthening internal communication with employees. Internal communication is important for building a culture of transparency between management and employees, and it can engage employees in the organization’s priorities. This exploratory study uses findings from interviews with public relations executives to explore the growing role that internal communication plays in employee engagement. Executives employ a variety of communication methods, including face-to-face communication, to communicate with employees. The executives’ chosen communication strategies aim to build trust and engagement with employees. In doing so, public relations executives find themselves in an expanded role of fostering employee engagement.”

Katherine Wertz


Technical communication unbound: Knowledge work, social media, and emergent communicative practices

Ferro, T., & Zachry, M. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 6–21. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2014.850843

“This article explores the boundaries of technical communication as knowledge work in the emerging era of social media. Analyzing the results of an annual survey offered each year from 2008 until 2011, the study reports on how knowledge workers use publicly available online services to support their work. The study proposes a distinction between sites and services when studying social media in knowledge work and concludes with an exploration of implications for technical communication pedagogy.”

Amber Fernald Rach


Using social media for collective knowledge-making: Technical communication between the Global North and South

Longo, B. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 22–34. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2014.850846

“This article examines changing social media practices, arguing that technical communicators and teachers understand their roles as mediators of information and communication technologies. Drawing on a case study growing out of a colloquium on technology diffusion and communication between the Global North and South, the author proposes that technical communicators be attentive to the participatory nature of social media while not assuming that social media replace the dynamics of face-to-face human interaction.”

Amber Fernald Rach



A comparative approach to enhance information interaction design of visual analytic systems

Qian, Z. C., Chen, Y. V., & Peng, Y. P. (2014). Communication Design Quarterly, 2, 28–33. [doi: none]

“This paper introduces a novel comparative strategy to access, synthesize, and redesign a mobile visual analytics (VA) system. Designing, evaluating, and improving VA tools are challenging because of the exploratory and unpredicted nature of their users’ analysis activities in a real context. Often the system development approach is running rounds of iteration based on one or a few design ideas and related references. Inspired by ideation and design selection from design-thinking literature, [the authors] start to redesign systems from comparison and filtering based on a broad range of design ideas. This approach focuses on the information interaction design of systems; integrates design principles from information design, sensorial design, and interaction design as guidelines; compares VA systems at the component level; and seeks unique and adaptive design solutions. The Visual Analytics Benchmark Repository provides a rich collection of the Visual Analytics Science and Technology (VAST) challenges submission reports and videos. For each challenge design problem, there are multiple creative and mature design solutions. Based on this resource, [the authors] conducted a series of empirical user studies to understand the user experience by comparing different design solutions, enhanced one visual analytics system design, [the] MobileAnalymator, by synthesizing new features and removing redundant functions, and accessed the redesign outcomes with the same comparative approach.”

Lyn Gattis


Improving icon design: Through focus on the role of individual symbols in the construction of meaning

Zender, M., & Mejía, G. M. (2013). Visible Language, 47(1), 66–89. [doi: none] “Despite the fact that icons are widely relied upon for communication, designers have few principles to guide icon design. This paper reports a study of the role individual symbols play on the construction of meaning from icons. An experiment compared two sets of four icons, each made of a different set of discrete symbols. It finds that the interaction of the right number of symbols for the referent, and a more apt combination of individual symbols for the referent, can significantly improve the construction of an icon that communicates what was intended. The rules of thumb proposed here are applicable to construction of any visual communication that uses symbols.”

Lyn Gattis


The influence of serifs on ‘h’ and ‘i’: Useful knowledge from design-led scientific research

Beier, S., & Dyson, M. C. (2014). Visible Language, 47(3), 74–95. [doi: none]

“The typographical naivety of much scientific legibility research has caused designers to question the value of the research and the results. Examining the reasons underlying this questioning, the paper discusses the importance of designers being more accepting of scientific findings, and why legibility investigations have value. To demonstrate how typographic knowledge can be incorporated into the design of studies to increase their validity, the paper reports on a new investigation into the role of serifs when viewed at a distance. The experiment looks into the identification of the lowercase letters ‘j’, ‘i’, ‘l’, ‘b’, ‘h’, ‘n’, ‘u’, and ‘a’ in isolation. All of the letters originate in the same typeface and are presented in one version with serifs and one version without serifs. Although the experiment found no overall legibility difference between the sans serif and the serif versions, the study showed that letters with serifs placed on the vertical extremes were more legible at a distance than the same letters in a sans serif. These findings can therefore provide specific guidance on the design of individual letters and demonstrate the product of collaboration between designer and scientist on the planning, implementation, and analysis of the study.”

Lyn Gattis


Investigating readers’ impressions of typographic differentiation using repertory grids

Moys, J.-L. (2014). Visible Language, 47(3), 96–123. [doi: none]

“Document designers combine a range of stylistic and structural typographic attributes to articulate and differentiate information for readers. This paper explores how the kind of typographic differentiation used in a document influences readers’ impressions of documents. A preliminary study indicated that three patterns of typographic differentiation (high, moderate and low) might underlie participants’ impressions of magazine design. Subsequently, a set of nine magazine layouts with controlled content was purposefully developed to systematically examine the impact of high, moderate and low patterns of typographic differentiation on participants’ impressions of documents. These documents were used in a repertory grid procedure to investigate the kinds of impressions readers articulate in relation to typographic presentation and whether readers are likely to formulate similar or differing impressions from high, moderate, and low patterns of typographic differentiation. The results suggest that typographic differentiation influences a range of rhetorical and experiential judgments. For example, participants described high differentiation documents as the most attention-grabbing and easy to skim-read, while they considered moderate and low differentiation documents to require deeper reading strategies. In addition, participants assumed high differentiation documents to be much more sensationalist than moderate or low differentiation documents, which they generally perceived as authoritative and credible.”

Lyn Gattis


Letting context speak: The use of co-creative, design-led, and user-centered design methods in the design of complex public communications

Carlson, C., Peake, W., & Joiner, J. (2014). Communication Design Quarterly, 2, 34–39. [doi: none]

“This paper discusses how co-creative, design-led, and user-centered design methods are being utilized to gain insight into the factors that influence the communication of food recalls. It looks at the role of designer and public in these methods and considers the value of these methods for other settings.”

Lyn Gattis



The rhetoric of reach: Preparing students for technical communication in the age of social media

Verzosa Hurley, E., & Kimme Hea, A. C. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 55–68. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2014.850854

“The authors argue that technical communication instructors are in a particularly apt position to teach social media as key to students’ lives as technical communicators and future professionals. Drawing on the concepts of reach and crowd sourcing as heuristics to rearticulate dominant cultural narratives of social media as deleterious to students’ careers, the authors offer a case study of an introductory professional and technical communication pedagogy that helped to disrupt uncritical deployments of social media.”

Amber Fernald Rach


Seeking an effective program to improve communication skills of non-English-speaking graduate engineering students: The case of a Korean engineering school

Kim, E. G., & Shin, A. (2014). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 57, 41–55. doi: IEEE 10.1109/TPC.2014.2310784

“Many Asian universities have begun reforms to enhance educational competitiveness in our globalizing economy. This study aims to ascertain the status of English communication education and English-medium instruction at a Korean engineering school and to offer workable suggestions for English communication training for Korean graduate engineering students. . . . [The authors] collected data from documents as well as through surveys of faculty and students in graduate engineering programs . . . at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. The results showed that students’ English fluency is critical for the success of using English as a medium of instruction. To facilitate this fluency, universities need to establish an English communication center that provides a comprehensive, systematic approach to English language training. Faculty also need the services of such centers. It is also advised that a thesis writing course be customized according to students’ actual writing and communication abilities and enhanced with collaboration between engineering faculty and English education faculty.”

Lyn Gattis


A study on the revelations of design students’ thinking styles in reflective journals

Venkatesh, A. (2013). Visible Language, 47(2), 1–36. [doi: none]

“Thinking, considered as part of the core skill set of a designer, is equally significant in learning and design processes. An awareness and understanding of a personal thinking style is therefore important for both teaching and learning. Using well-established theories of thinking and using an in depth multiple case method, the author explores the possibilities of exposing students’ thinking styles through the medium of reflective journals. Eight journals are carefully examined in terms of where student attention is located, how they communicate and how they are thinking. A further aim is to provide a guideline that can aid teachers to analyze the journals as feedback for the ease or difficulty associated with their teaching strategy. While the study is framed within a university design program, its findings may be of more general application.”

Lyn Gattis


“That usability course”: What technical communication programs get wrong about usability and how to fix it

Zhou, Q. (2014). Communication Design Quarterly, 2, 25–27. [doi: none]

“The approach to usability adopted by many technical communication programs often conceptually separates usability from other subject matter areas and places it at the tail-end of a project. Such an approach creates conceptual barriers with regard to how usability fits in a design project. As a result, students do not engage in the critical work of designing and testing iteratively in the formative phase of a product. We should broaden usability into user experience, enable students to see user experience as an iterative and agile process, and provide in-depth knowledge of user research methods.”

Lyn Gattis


Tweeting an ethos: Emergencymessaging, social media, and teaching technical communication

Bowdon, M. A. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 35–54. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2014.850853

“The expanding use of social media such as Twitter has raised the stakes for teaching our students about individual and organizational ethoi. This article considers the role of organizations’ Twitter feeds during emergency situations, particularly Hurricane Irene in 2011, to argue for a pedagogical model for helping students collaboratively code tweets to assess their rhetorical effects and to improve their own awareness and use of microblogging as a communication tool.”

Amber Fernald Rach



Identical or just compatible? The utility of corporate identity values in communicating corporate social responsibility

Schmeltz, L. (2014). International Journal of Business Communication, 51, 234–258. doi: 10.1177/2329488414525439

“This study explores whether companies embracing a corporate social responsibility agenda have a strategic focus on adapting and aligning their value systems to reflect such commitment. The analysis is based on empirical data and a conceptual model juxtaposing corporate values, corporate social responsibility values, and implementation to capture how the different configurations of these aspects may impact the communication carried out by corporations. The findings indicate that the companies in the data sample operate with two markedly different value systems. The coexistence of two value systems is discussed in relation to the reported difficulties that companies experience when facing the new and complex challenge of communicating corporate social responsibility.”

Katherine Wertz


Toward an ethical rhetoric of the digital scientific image: Learning from the era when science met Photoshop

Buehl, J. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 184–206. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2014.914783

“Over the past two decades, scientific editors have attempted to correct ‘mistaken’ assumptions about scientific images and to curb unethical image-manipulation practices. Reactions to the advent and abuse of image-adjustment software (such as Adobe Photoshop) reveal the complex relations among visual representations, scientific credibility, and epistemic rhetoric. Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca’s model of argumentation provides a flexible system for understanding these relations and for teaching students to use scientific images ethically and effectively.”

Amber Fernald Rach


Information management

Introduction to the CIDM study of user-generated content

Hackos, J. (2014). Best Practices, 16, 29, 32–38. [Center for Information-Development Management] [doi: none]

“User-generated content (UGC) has become increasingly important to corporations who want to take advantage of the knowledge that customers have about their products, particularly knowledge accumulated from actual field implementations. They believe that UGC will be beneficial to the entire customer base, as well as the internal product and information developers.” Summarizing findings from a survey of 42 organizations, this article discusses how companies are incorporating UGC into information development, addressing obstacles to UGC initiatives, and developing best practices. Recommendations from the study include establishing clear goals for a UCG initiative, creating a business case that quantifies the benefits of UGC, choosing tools that facilitate collaboration and are easy to use, and providing incentives for potential contributors.

Lyn Gattis



Craft and narrative in DIY instructions

Van Ittersum, D. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 227–246. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2013.798466

“This article examines tutorials from the Web site, Instructables.com, to highlight the rhetorical possibilities of including personal narratives in instructions. The narratives in these tutorials offer detailed accounts of their authors’ experiences when constructing their projects, thereby functioning as accounts of the authors’ craft knowledge. Pitched to amateur hobbyists, rather than the professional audiences of many forms of conventional technical communication, these tutorials offer new ways of teaching craft knowledge and techniques.”

Amber Fernald Rach


Intercultural communication Toward an understanding of Arabic persuasion: A Western perspective

Suchan, J. (2014). International Journal of Business Communication, 51, 279–303. doi: 10.1177/2329488414525401

“Despite the political and economic importance of Arabic-speaking countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, limited published research exists about how Arabic culture and language shape regional communication practices, particularly persuasion. This research describes key characteristics of Arabic persuasion by reviewing the extant research and analyzing the persuasion dynamics between a U. S. organization and a Jordanian organization attempting to form a service partnership. Both the literature and results from the case study indicate that Arabic persuasion strategies differ in fundamental ways from U. S. and Western strategies. Various forms of repetition, highly metaphoric language, and strong emotion characterize Arabic persuasion norms when using Arabic and English. These norms are created by the linguistic characteristics of Classical Arabic, the close connection between the Arabic language and Islam, and the social and political hierarchies that shape Arabic interaction.”

Katherine Wertz



The Coffee Planter of Saint Domingo: A technical manual for the Caribbean slave owner

Ramey, J. W. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 141–159. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2013.811164

“In 1798, Laborie published a manual with detailed instructions for building a coffee plantation, for example, how to purchase and care for slaves, design plantation buildings, and maintain authority. Laborie’s language is that behind the institution of slavery: Slaves are property and thus relate to economic success. Through this review, [the author] investigate[s] historical technical documents to see how our past informs our present and how our attention to technical communication today can inform the future.”

Amber Fernald Rach



The dialectical nature of impression management in knowledge work: Unpacking tensions in media use between managers and subordinates

Erhardt, N., & Gibbs, J. L. (2014). Management Communication Quarterly, 28, 155–186. doi: 10.1177/0893318913520508

“The stage on which impressions are managed is no longer purely a physical one but is increasingly mediated by various communication technologies that offer different affordances. This study examines the interplay of media affordances, impression management, and dialectical tensions in relationships between managers and their subordinates. Based on 91 semi-structured interviews and observations from six project teams operating in the consumer health, insurance, and engineering industries located in Sweden and the United States, [the authors] identify and explore three sets of impression management tactics. [The] analysis reveals that the actions of managers and subordinates were often in dialectical tension, playing out through multiple media in a tactic–countertactic dynamic that played an important role in shaping manager–subordinate relationships. [The authors] discuss how these tactics complement and extend theory on impression management, dialectical tensions, and media use in organizations.”

Lyn Gattis


How non-employer firms stage-manage ad hoc collaboration: An activity theory analysis

Spinuzzi, C. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 88–114. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2013.797334

“Nonemployer firms—firms with no employees—present themselves as larger, more stable firms to take on clients’ projects. They then achieve these projects by recruiting subcontractors, guiding subcontractors’ interactions with clients, and coordinating subcontractors to protect their team performance for the client. Using fourth-generation activity theory, [the author] examine[s] how these firms stage-manage their ad hoc collaborations. [The author] conclude[s] by describing the implications for further developing fourth-generation activity theory to study such instances of knowledge work.”

Amber Fernald Rach


Strategic internal communication: Transformational leadership, communication channels, and employee satisfaction

Men, L. R. (2014). Management Communication Quarterly, 28, 264–284. doi: 10.1177/0893318914524536

“The current study investigates how leadership influences internal public relations by building the linkage between transformational leadership, the use of communication channels, symmetrical communication, and employee satisfaction. Furthermore, it examines the effectiveness of various internal communication channels. Through a web survey of 400 employees working in medium-sized and large corporations in the United States, the study showed that transformational leadership positively influences the organization’s symmetrical internal communication and employee relational satisfaction. Transformational leaders most often use information-rich face-to-face channels to communicate with followers. Leaders’ use of face-to-face channels is positively associated with employee satisfaction. Employees mostly prefer emails to receive information from the organization regarding new decisions, policies, events, or changes, followed by general employee meetings and interpersonal communication with managers. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.”

Lyn Gattis


What makes performance feedback seem just? Synchronicity, channel, and valence effects on perceptions of organizational justice in feedback delivery

Westerman, C. Y. K., Heuett, K. B., Reno, K. M., & Curry, R. (2014). Management Communication Quarterly, 28, 244–263. doi: 0.1177/0893318914524060

“Because organizations may increasingly utilize a variety of different methods to communicate with employees both on- and off-site, performance feedback may not continue to be bound to traditional face-to-face interaction. Knowing how channel and synchronicity may affect perceptions of feedback may be very useful to organizations and supervisors as the use of alternative work arrangements increases. This study was conducted to learn more about the delivery of performance feedback to employees and what would cause them to feel justly versus unjustly treated by their supervisors. Synchronicity, channel, and valence effects on perceptions of justice in feedback delivery were examined through a fully crossed 2 × 2 × 2 design of 447 participants. Findings suggest that positive feedback and delivery via phone call rather than text message were associated with higher perceptions of organizational justice. Practical implications for organizations are also addressed.”

Lyn Gattis


Public Relations

Genres and processes in the PR industry: Behind the scenes with an intern writer

Bremner, S. (2014). International Journal of Business Communication, 51, 259–278. doi: 10.1177/2329488414525398

“This article examines the processes involved in the production and pitching of press releases and considers the demands that these make on PR practitioners, particularly newcomers to the industry. The study tracks the course of events as a PR company undertook a promotional brief, using as its central source of data a daily journal written by an intern who was closely involved in the process. Three pivotal cycles of activity, each constructed by means of a cluster of satellite genres and activities, contributed to the overall process: brainstorming, writing the press release itself, and media-pitching. The findings show the ways in which the goals of the PR organization under study were achieved by means of a complex, dynamic, collaboratively constructed, and intertextually linked genre system. It is suggested that becoming a successful PR practitioner involves learning how to manage an interconnected process that is constantly evolving, and how to rework and repackage information for different audiences.”

Katherine Wertz



Designing a questionnaire to gather carer input to pain assessment for hospitalized people with dementia

Black, A., Gibb, A., Carey, C., Barker, S., Leake, C., & Solomons, L. (2013). Visible Language, 47(2), 37–60. [doi: none]

“[The authors] describe development of a questionnaire to elicit pain symptoms and experience, for use by people with dementia or their carers, at hospital admission. The questionnaire provided contextual information to support professionals’ use of the Abbey Pain Scale, a validated tool used by nursing staff internationally. Appropriate information and physical design were required in order, not only to create an approachable questionnaire for patients and carers, but also to ensure fit with hospital processes. Fit with hospital process had significant influence on the final form of the questionnaire, compromising some aspects of design for patients and carers, but this compromise was considered essential to ensure pain management procedures were supplemented by wider, contextual information.”

Lyn Gattis


Impact of journals and academic reputations of authors: A structured bibliometric survey of the IEEE publication galaxy

Canavero, F., Franceschini, F., Maisano, D., & Mastrogiacomo, L. (2014). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 57, 17–40. doi: IEEE 10.1109/TPC.2013.2255935

“This study explores the use of bibliometric indicators to objectively evaluate IEEE scientific journals from two different perspectives: (1) journal impact and diffusion and (2) the academic reputation of journal authors. . . . This quantitative study performed citation analysis on 250,000 authors in 110 IEEE journals using citation statistics from the Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Scopus databases to construct the spectrum indicator. The authors used automated filtering techniques to exclude questionable author data. . . . Maps were constructed to locate journals graphically based on the complementary indicators of impact and reputation, and to show changes in impact and reputation over time. The maps indicated that journals with high impact tend to have authors with high reputations but the opposite is not necessarily true. Suggestions were made to explain different combinations of high and low impact and reputation for journals. . . . Future research could examine non-IEEE journals and normalize subfields within IEEE journals to avoid favoring fields that use more citations.”

Lyn Gattis


Interactivity of corporate websites: An integrative review of the literature

Zollet, R. (2014). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 57, 2–16. doi: IEEE 10.1109/TPC.2014.2305795

This study explores the evolution of research on interactivity in corporate Web sites and categorizes existing research. The author qualitatively analyzed 166 articles on corporate Web site interactivity, classifying “relevant contributions by research issue and category. . . . Among the identified research issues concerning interactivity that facilitates communication of the organization, only relationship management emerged as a dominant issue. Research issues concerning interactivity that facilitates e-commerce could be found most and they tend to focus on two main areas: decision support systems and recommendation agents on sales-oriented e-commerce websites and loyalty, satisfaction, and trust as key variables. Research issues concerning interactivity for interpersonal communication mainly focus on the user’s individual motivation and successive behavior, and contain many different references to computer-mediated interaction and online communities. Research issues in the field of designing for interactivity discuss interface design questions and focus on numerous website characteristics and their impact.” The author recommends that future research “explore the organizational behavior related to innovation diffusion on corporate websites.”

Lyn Gattis
Reflections on teaching research: A conversation with Meredith Davis, Mary Dyson, Judith Gregory
Poggenpohl, S. (2013). Visible Language, 47(1), 12–37. [doi: none]

“As research in design is gaining traction in university programs, understanding approaches to teaching research skills, the value of a research approach in design and even fundamentally reflecting on what research is becomes germane. Like varieties of design practice, there are many varieties of research process and methods to address different research questions, and certainly different programs have different goals for their students at various levels of education. Three faculty teaching in university design programs with years of experience guiding research projects, reflect on their experience, offering different perspectives on this emerging topic. “

Lyn Gattis


Scientific communication

Communicating complexity in transdisciplinary science teams for policy: Applied stasis theory for organizing and assembling collaboration

Shea, M., & Mozafari, C. (2014). Communication Design Quarterly, 2, 20–24. [doi: none]

“This paper presents an application of stasis theory for the purpose of consulting with interdisciplinary teams of scientists working in the early stages of composing a science policy advisory document. By showing that stasis theory can be used as an organizing conceptual tool, [the authors] demonstrate how cooperative and organized question-asking practices calm complex interdisciplinary scientific disputations in order to propel productive science policy work. [The authors] believe that the conceptual structure of stasis theory motivates scientists to shift their viewpoints from solitary expert specialists toward that of allied policy guides for their advisory document’s reader. [The authors] further argue that, through the use of stasis theory, technical writers can aid interdisciplinary scientists in policy writing processes, thus fostering transdisciplinary collaboration.”

Lyn Gattis


Harms of hedging in scientific discourse: Andrew Wakefield and the origins of the autism vaccine controversy

Kolodziejski, L. R. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 165–183. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2013.816487

“This study reveals the discursive origins of the Autism MMR vaccine controversy through a rhetorical examination of the 1998 Wakefield et al. article. [The author] argue[s] the very practices of scientific publishing, specifically the tradition of hedging, help to create a scientifically acceptable text but also leave discursive gaps. These gaps allow for alternate interpretations as scientific texts pass from technical to public contexts, enabling insufficiently supported claims the standing of scientific knowledge among citizens.”

Amber Fernald Rach


Mirror neurons in a group analysis “Hall of Mirrors”: Translation as a rhetorical approach to neurodisciplinary writing

Gruber, D. R. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 207–226. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2013.816489

“This article examines how mirror neuron research from the neurosciences is incorporated by the field of group analysis and made to fit within the history and practices of the field. The approach taken is from science and technology studies’ discussion of ‘translation’ across actor-networks. The article ends with the suggestion that a translation analysis indicates good reason for rhetoric and writing scholars to consider ‘multiple ontologies’ and to understand neurodisciplinary work as invention.”

Amber Fernald Rach



Analyzing card-sorting data using graph visualization

Paul, C. L. (2014). Journal of Usability Studies, 9, 87–104. [doi: none]

“This paper describes a method for visualizing and analyzing co-occurrence in card-sorting data. Card sorting is a popular knowledge elicitation method used in information architecture and user experience design. However, analyzing card-sorting data can be a challenge. Detailed qualitative analysis is difficult and time consuming, especially for larger studies. Quantitative analysis can be automated and is scalable, but can be difficult to interpret. A graph visualization offers a novel way to analyze and understand the relationships between cards and the mental models elicited in a card-sorting study. Graph visualizations are graphs that illustrate connections between concepts, such as cards in a card-sorting study. A visualization can quickly show relationships between cards and clusters of cards that represent topics that may not be obvious from traditional card-sort analysis methods. A case study describes how graph visualization can be used to analyze the data. The results of the analysis are compared and contrasted with a popular histogram-matrix analysis method. Strengths and weaknesses of the proposed graph-visualization analysis method are discussed.”

Lyn Gattis


The pervasiveness of text advertising blindness

Owens, J. W., Palmer, E. M., & Chaparro, B. S. (2014). Journal of Usability Studies, 9, 51–69. [doi: none]

“Users of websites tend to ignore text advertisements, especially when they are on the right side of a web page, even when the advertisements are useful for completing a task. This study explores the impact of web page layout conventions on text advertising blindness and how quickly users adapt to websites that violate layout conventions. Participants performed search tasks on either ‘standard’ or ‘nonstandard’ website layouts. In the nonstandard website, content from the left (i.e., navigation menu) and the right side of the website (i.e., text advertisements) were reversed. Results demonstrated that text advertising blindness was prevalent regardless of the website layout. Users adapted to the reversed layout rapidly, but at a cost of perceived mental effort and task success. Analyses of eye movement data showed that users had a tendency to fixate first in the standard location for the navigation menu when using the nonstandard website, but did not fixate more often in that location after the first few trials. A decrease in text ad blindness over time for the standard, but not the nonstandard, website design also was observed. Practitioners are advised not to violate web layout norms in an attempt to draw more attention to web advertisements. This strategy may be counterproductive where it may actually increase text advertising blindness and decrease the usability of the website.”

Lyn Gattis


Set of guidelines for persuasive interfaces: Organization and validation of the criteria

Némery, A., & Brangier, E. (2014). Journal of Usability Studies, 9, 105–128. [doi: none]

“This study presents an attempt to organize and validate a set of guidelines to assess the persuasive characteristics of interfaces (web, software, etc.). Persuasive aspects of interfaces are a fast growing topic of interest; numerous website and application designers have understood the importance of using interfaces to persuade and even to change users’ attitudes and behaviors. However, research has so far been limited by a lack of available tools to measure interface persuasion. This paper provides a criteria-based approach to identify and assess the persuasive power of interfaces. [The authors] selected 164 publications in the field of persuasive technology, and . . . used those publications to define eight criteria: credibility, privacy, personalization, attractiveness, solicitation, priming, commitment, and ascendency. Thirty experts in human-computer interaction (HCI) were asked to use guidelines to identify and classify persuasive elements of 15 interfaces. The average percentage of correct identification was 78.8%, with Randolph’s kappa coefficient = 0.61. These results confirm that the criteria for interactive persuasion, in their current form, can be considered as valid, reliable, and usable. This paper provides some inherent limitations of this method and identifies potential refinements of some definitions. Finally, this paper demonstrates how a checklist can be used to inspect the persuasiveness of interfaces.”

Lyn Gattis


User experience and accessibility: An analysis of county web portals

Youngblood, N. E., & Youngblood, S. A. (2013). Journal of Usability Studies, 9, 25–41. [doi: none]

“Website usability reinforces trust in e-government, but at the local level, e-government tends to have usability and accessibility problems. Web portals should be usable, accessible, well coded, and mobile-device-ready. This study applies usability heuristics and automated analyses to assess a state-wide population of county web portals and examines whether population, per capita income, or median household income are related to usability, accessibility, and coding practices. To assess usability, [the authors] applied a 14-point usability heuristic to each site’s homepage. To study accessibility and coding, [the authors] examined each homepage with an accessibility checker and with the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) HTML validator. [The authors] also examined the HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) of each site to check for mobile-device readiness and to better understand coding problems the automated tools identified. This study found that portal adoption is associated with each of the demographics above and that accessibility has a weak inverse relationship to per-capita income. Many of the sites [the authors] examined met some basic usability standards, but few met all the standards used, and most sites did not pass a basic accessibility analysis. About 58% of the counties [the authors] examined used a centralized county web portal (not including county commission sites), which is better than a 2006 study that found a 56% portal adoption at the national level. Resulting recommendations include best-practice suggestions for design and for using automated tools to identify problems, as well as a call to usability professionals to aid in county web portal development.”

Lyn Gattis



The naked truth about the naked this: Investigating grammatical prescriptivism in technical communication
Boettger, R. K., & Wulff, S. (2014). Technical Communication Quarterly, 23, 115–140. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2013.803919

“The decision to follow the demonstrative this with a noun phrase is important to students’ writing development. Previous research has emphasized when students should not attend this rather than studying why students make the choice. Using a corpus-linguistic approach, we investigated 1,999 instances of (un)attended this in student technical and academic writing. High shares of unattended this were found in both text types as well as in original and revised drafts.”

Amber Fernald Rach