62.2, May 2015

Changing of the Guards – Looking Back on Two Terms of Editorship

Menno D.T. de Jong, Editor


Time flies when you are having fun. I can vividly remember the excitement I felt when I took over the editor-in-chief position from George Hayhoe in 2008. Now, at the end of my two terms as editor of Technical Communication, I feel a strange combination of melancholy and relief, and several other emotions that I cannot even find the words for, neither in English nor in Dutch. This is the last journal issue published under my responsibility and my last editorial. It has been a great honor to serve the academic and professional discipline in this position, and to have been at the helm of STC’s flagship journal, even though my period was just a flash, compared to the long terms of several of my predecessors, most notably George Hayhoe, Frank R. Smith, and A. Stanley Higgins.

Looking Back

Having reached the end of my time as editor of Technical Communication, I would like to look back on the past six and a half years. During this period, 94 articles were published, about topics as diverse as our discipline can be. In addition, the journal underwent considerable changes. The most drastic change involved the development from a dominantly paper journal (with online presence) into a dominantly online journal (with an optional paper version). Other changes involved its new visual design, and the introduction of structured abstracts and practitioner’s takeaways.

As editor, I have tried to further strengthen the contribution of empirical research in the journal and to connect academic rigor with practical relevance. I cannot say that both aims were always easy to realize, but they have been my main mission during all those years. Of course, there are limitations to the influence of an editor: much depends on the actual studies and projects academics and practitioners are working on in their daily work.

The content of the seven journal volumes varied enormously. Prominent themes were computer-mediated communication, technical communication education, the discipline’s body of knowledge (TCBOK), usability, intercultural communication, professional practice, legal issues, and user instructions. Some specific themes were strongly represented in the beginning years—most notably PowerPoint and other presentation slides—whereas some new themes emerged more recently—in particular, user-generated content, user forums, and video instructions.

To my pleasure, the journal’s ranking in the Web of Science has consolidated throughout the years. Inclusion in the Web of Science can be seen as an external indication of quality and influence. The ranking gives more detailed information about influence. An impact factor is calculated by dividing the number of references to journal articles by the number of articles published per year. Between 2009 and 2015, Technical Communication had an impact factor varying between 0.740 and 1.064, and a rank between 20 and 36 among all communication journals. Of the three journals devoted to technical communication in the database, Technical Communication has been consistently the highest ranked journal (the other two journals being IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication and the Journal of Business and Technical Communication).

More than anything, however, I am proud of the role Technical Communication has played and will continue to play within the professional and academic discipline, connecting practitioners and academics, and keeping the discipline with two feet on the ground.


To conclude, there are many people I want to thank for their contributions to the journal, and for making my work easier and sometimes harder. Listing them clearly shows how many people are involved in keeping a peer-reviewed journal going.

Let me begin with my predecessor, George Hayhoe, for the perfect state the journal was in when I took over and for the clear and consistent vision, which I only needed to adopt. And my successor, Sam Dragga, for taking over and further developing the journal in the coming years.

The section editors of the journal have made an invaluable contribution to the journal. Both the Book Reviews section and the Recent & Relevant section have always been greatly appreciated by the readers. I want to thank Avon Murphy, Sherry Southard, Jackie Damrau, and Lyn Gattis for their high-quality contributions over the years.

The Editorial Advisory Board has been of great help as a sounding board for the more strategic aspects of keeping the journal going, especially (but not only) in the time of the changes to the journal. Thanks so much to all the present and past Advisory Board members.

Truly indispensable were the authors, guest editors, Recent & Relevant contributors, and book reviewers who have contributed to the journal. Thanks for sharing your work with us, and choosing Technical Communication as the outlet for your work.

Frank R. Smith Outstanding Article Award 2014

Each year, an independent jury of three researchers and practitioners selects one outstanding article and up to three distinguished articles that appeared in Technical Communication during the previous calendar year. This year’s jury members were Editorial Advisory Board members Kirk St.Amant (chair) and Jackie Damrau, and winner of last year’s Outstanding Article Award, Lisa Meloncon. The award honors the memory of Frank R. Smith, during whose 18 years as editor this journal became established as the flagship publication of STC and of the profession. This year, the jury selected one outstanding article and two distinguished articles.

2014 Outstanding article in Technical Communication

Leo R. Lentz, Henk L.W. Pander Maat, and Ted J.M. Sanders. Towards Evidence-Based Writing Decisions: The Knowledge Base Comprehensible Text (February 2014)

“For research that contributes to academic and industry practices in ways that can foster meaningful discussions across the field.”

2014 Distinguished articles in Technical Communication

Saul Carliner, Adnan Qayyum, and Juan Carlos Sanchez-Lozano. What Measures of Productivity and Effectiveness Do Technical Communication Managers Track and Report? (May 2014)

“For research that advances our understanding of how technical communicators contribute value to organizations.”

Hans van der Meij. Developing and Testing a Video Tutorial for Software Training (May 2014)

“For innovative research in technical training and in technical communication education.”

The same applies to the reviewers. Their work is unseen but essential for the quality of the journal. Technical Communication is traditionally blessed with reviewers who not only can be critical when necessary but also try to be constructive in helping authors to optimize their work. Thanks for your great contribution.

Other major contributions that may be invisible to the readers were made by the STC office and the STC board, who trusted me with this important task, supported me, and showed interest in the journal. Specifically, let me mention Liz Pohland, STC Director of Communications, who acted as the liaison between the STC and journal. And let me also thank Alex Tzoumas and Nancy Shoemaker of Content Worx, responsible for the production of the journal, and Shonell Bacon, who was in charge of the copy-editing.

A special word of thanks for the various Frank R. Smith judging teams, who selected the outstanding and distinguished articles published in the journal every year. Being a judging team member takes a lot of time, but I have greatly appreciated the efforts spent and the always well-considered and sometimes illuminating selections of award winners. And let me not forget to mention the award winners, who obviously have made major contributions to our field.

The last acknowledgment is for the readers. I am happy you were there, and I hope the journal brought, and will continue to bring, the inspiring food for thought that we all need in our professional and academic development.

In This Issue

This is a special issue, initiated and guest edited by Miles Kimball, in close collaboration with Craig Baehr and James Dubinsky. They conducted a unique and comprehensive study among communication managers of companies represented in the STC Advisory Council, investigating views on the discipline and practices. More about that can be read in Miles Kimball’s guest editorial, which introduces the special issue and describes the general methodology used. I would like to thank Miles Kimball, Craig Baehr, and James Dubinsky for their hard work compiling this special issue and for the thought-provoking articles that resulted from their hard work.