66.2, May 2019

Recent and 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.


Locating and describing the work of technical communication in an online user network

Swarts, J. (2018). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 61(4), 356–371. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2018.2870631

“Online user networks are important points of contact for users who seek help from their peers rather than documentation. . . . This study examines an online user network for an open-source software product and asks how we can study online user networks, with the aim of identifying important people, practices, and relationships associated with the kind of technical communication practiced in those settings. . . . Social network analysis is used to visualize the structural properties of an online user network, in order to identify central figures and their relationships to others. Verbal data-analysis techniques are used to find themes in their contributions.” Results suggest that “[p]eople who are central to the structure of online interaction are important figures in the distribution of the technical communication effort. They engage users in reciprocal exchanges of information and they influence user practices. They are also important as brokers who link users and developers. Broadly, their conversational exchanges are a kind of distributed technical communication.” By observing participants in online user networks, technical communicators “can understand what it means to do technical communication and make user networks a more integral part of a broader documentation strategy” and can understand how “technical experts (e.g., software developers) can engage with users as well.”

Lyn Gattis

Millennials’ views and expectations regarding the communicative and relational behaviors of leaders: Exploring young adults’ talk about work

Omilion-Hodges, L. M., & Sugg, C. E. (2019). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 82(1), 74–100. doi: 10.1177/2329490618808043

According to this study, “by 2025, millennials will comprise 75% of the global workforce” (p. 74). “While research has started to debunk some millennial stereotypes, a gap between this cohort and their predecessors persists. In response, two studies were conducted with matriculating millennials to reveal the expectations they hold regarding typical leader behavior and leader-member relationships. The studies establish millennials’ views and communicative and relational expectations of leaders and also help to answer which leader communication behaviors are likely to be valued and potentially most effective with this cohort. This research puts millennial self-report data in conversation with extant research to offer new insight. Suggestions for instructors and managers are included.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Theorizing lip reading as interface design: The gadfly of the gaps

Garrison, K. (2018). Communication Design Quarterly Review, 6(4), 24–34. doi: 10.1145/3309589.3309592

“This article explores what lip reading can teach us about interface design” by first challenging “the idea that people can ‘read’ lips—an idea that is deeply imbedded in the literate tradition described by Walter Ong (1982) in Orality and Literacy.” Instead, the author suggests that lip reading is “a complex rhetorical activity of filling in the ‘gaps’ of communication” and offers “a lip-reading heuristic that can challenge those of us in communication related fields to remember how the invisible ‘gaps’ of communication are sometimes more important than the visible ‘interfaces.’” The article concludes with “reflections about how lip reading might ‘reimagine’ disability studies for technical and professional communicators.”

Lyn Gattis


eInk versus paper: Exploring the effects of medium and typographic quality on recall and reading speed

Moys, J. L., Loveland, P., & Dyson, M. C. (2018). Visible Language, 52(3), 75–95. [doi: none]

This study found that disfluency created by poor typography slowed the reading speed on both mediums, but the effect on recall was vastly different. Disfluency increased the recall on the paper versions but decreased the recall when the electronic version was used. “This study compares the effects of reading from paper and an eInk display on recall and reading speed alongside the effects of changes in typographic quality (fluent and disfluent conditions). Both medium and typographic quality were between-subject variables resulting in four groups of participants. . . . Comparable reading speeds for paper and eInk were recorded and these were slower for disfluent conditions. Improved typographic quality significantly enhanced recall on eInk, whereas . . . paper participants who read the disfluent condition recalled more. These findings suggest that typographic quality has a significant effect on reading, which is also influenced by the medium.” This outcome indicates that instructors may use poorer typography on paper versions to slow readers to help them grasp important materials. “The better recall with more . . . legible [electronic] materials provides strong grounds to extend research into the impact of typographic presentation on reading and learning.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Exploring illustration styles for materials used in visual resources for people with aphasia

Moys, J. L., Martínez-Freile, C., McCrindle, R., Meteyard, L., Robson, H., Kendrick, L., & Wairagkar, M. (2018). Visible Language, 52(3), 97–113. [doi: none]

This article shows an intersection between design of technical graphics and healthcare of those with brain injuries. “Images are often used in cueing therapy and other kinds of rehabilitation activities for people with an acquired brain injury. This paper presents a small-scale pilot study . . . exploring the appropriateness of different styles of illustration applied to visual resources used in combination with assistive technologies for people with aphasia. The study investigated participants’ preferences and impressions of the materials with a view to informing design choices made for resources developed for the larger project. . . . Participants shared their impressions of ease of use and their preferences for different levels of visual complexity in the illustrations, as well as changes in format and layout. Findings show that participants preferred simple, icon-style illustrations rather than those with contextual detail.” The authors advise technical designers to “ensure images are graphically-informative” and to use “informative details that help clarify the meaning of a graphic rather than details that make an image more complex” when providing context.

Diana Fox Bentele

Matters of form: Questions of race, identity and design, and the U.S. Census

Balzhiser, D., Pimentel, C., & Scott, A. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(1), 3–20. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2018.1539192

“This case examines how functionalist approaches manifest culturally based on users’ contexts. The authors conduct a critical visual semiotic analysis of the race and Hispanic origin questions on the 2010 U.S. Census form, demonstrating how incongruities in design potentially harm people. This demonstrates a need for adding critical analyses to design and research and it refocuses the Society for Technical Communication’s value of promoting the public good on to design and documentation in order to fight injustice.”

Rhonda Stanton

Reimagining disability and accessibility in technical and professional communication [special issue]

Zdenek, S. (ed). (2018). Communication Design Quarterly Review, 6(4), 4–11. doi: 10.1145/3309589.3309590

Authors in this special issue ask readers “to reflect on the transformative potential of disability studies to reimagine technical and professional communication (TPC). Informing this special issue is the notion that disability ‘enables insight—critical, experiential, cognitive, sensory, and pedagogical insight’ (Brueggemann, 2002, p. 795). Rather than consider questions of access from the margins—e.g. after we receive a letter of accommodation from a student, when we need to satisfy a legal mandate, or when we turn to our organization’s web accessibility checklist—disability studies places disability and difference at the center of our practices and pedagogies (p. 814).” The special issue includes articles on accessibility viewed through the lens of virtue ethics, the relationship between lip reading and interface design, and multilingual technical content creation.

Lyn Gattis

Scaling the interactive dot map

Walker, K. E. (2018). Cartographica, 53(3), 171–184. doi: muse.jhu.edu/article/705399

“Dot maps are effective for cartographic visualization of categorical data. Recent advances in Web mapping technology have facilitated the development of interactive dot maps, in which users can pan and zoom to view data distributions for different areas. This interactivity, however, introduces multiple cartographic challenges, as design decisions that are appropriate at large scales can lead to clutter and illegibility at small scales. This article considers these challenges in the context of an applied example—an interactive dot map of educational attainment in the United States. It covers the methodology of the map’s creation as well as how it addresses the cartographic challenges of interactive dot mapping.”

Edward A. Malone


Reading aloud: Editorial societies and orality in magazines of the early American republic

Eastman, C. (2019). Early American Literature, 54(1), 163–188. doi: muse.jhu.edu/article/716315

“This essay examines the widespread phenomenon during the early Republic of ‘societies of gentlemen’ who edited magazines and made editorial decisions based at least in part on how a piece sounded when read aloud to one another. This collective form of editing and supporting a magazine reveals the many ways that orality and sociability were crucial to the publication, consumption, and imaginative work of periodicals in the early American Republic. Beyond the selection process at the level of publication, magazines foregrounded material that represented conversation and sociability on the page. The prevalence of representations of orality within magazines reveals the extent to which editors assumed that their readers would also be reading aloud to one another in social gatherings. Taken together, these practices suggest that magazines’ much-discussed nationalistic claims about their public usefulness might invoke community, collaboration, collective literary production, and civic ties as much as they also promoted individual literary talent.”

Edward A. Malone


Advocating for sustainability: A report on and critique of the undergraduate capstone course

Melonçon, L., & Schreiber, J. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(4), 322–335. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2018.1515407

“The authors provide an overview of what capstone courses do by presenting information from across the field based on materials received from and interviews with technical and professional communication program administrators and faculty. The authors then point to opportunities to improve the course. Finally, the authors argue for sustainable program development as the theoretical framework to perform programmatic work.”

Rhonda Stanton

Assessment of memorandum writing in a quantitative business context

Williams, J. A. S., Schutts, J., Gallamore, K., & Amaral, N. (2019). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 82(1), 38–52. doi: 10.1177/2329490618798606

This piece gives specific advice, scenarios, and a rubric for instructors to help students improve their writing while keeping the specific class focus. “This article examines a manageable approach that provides students with significant opportunities to write and improve their writing over time in an introductory quantitative business course. The study examines six elements of written communication skills, as evidenced by assessment data from memorandum assignments administered following pedagogical interventions throughout the semester in an operations management course. Results demonstrate that student performance of audience identification, action-oriented request, and punctuation improved. Interestingly, student performance of grammar slightly decreased. A follow-up analysis indicates that some writing mistakes were related to a lack of proofreading. This article also presents original memorandum assignments and suggestions for improvement.” The authors recommend having students use online grammar/punctuation checkers and university writing centers in addition to instructor coaching to improve all elements.

Diana Fox Bentele

Cultivating a sense of belonging: Using Twitter to establish a community in an introductory technical communication classroom

Friess, E., & Lam, C. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(4), 343–361. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2018.1520435

“The introductory technical communication class serves many purposes, but perhaps an understudied purpose is the class’s role in university retention and persistence. In this study, students used Twitter to complete biweekly assignments as a way to develop a sense of belonging, which is an important component to retention and persistence. Authors explore how this Twitter intervention affected students’ sense of belonging, their creation of an online community, and their continued pursuit of a technical communication education.”

Rhonda Stanton

Rhetorics of proposal writing: Lessons for pedagogy in research and real-world practice

Lawrence, H. Y., Lussos, R. G., & Clark, J. A. (2019). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 49(1), 33–50. doi: 10.1177/0047281617743016

“Proposals are ubiquitous documents with challenges beyond the writing task itself, such as project management, strategic development, and research. Reporting on proposal instruction research in other fields and the results of an interview study with proposal writers, this article argues for a shift in how proposals are taught and conceptualized. By coaching students on the wide range of rhetorical practices that proposals require rather than how to produce proposal documents, technical and professional communication instruction can better prepare future communicators to manage and produce competitive proposals and more actively participate in these important efforts in the community, industry, and academy.”

Anita Ford

Writing and conceptual learning in science: An analysis of assignments

Gere, A. R., Limlamai, N., Wilson, E., Saylor, K. M., & Pugh, R. (2019). Written Communication, 36(1), 99–135. doi: 10.1177/0741088318804820

“This systematic review of 46 published articles investigates the constructs employed and the meanings assigned to writing in writing-to-learn assignments given to students in science courses. Using components of assignments associated with the greatest learning gains—meaning making, clear expectations, interactive writing processes, and metacognition—this review illuminates the constructs of writing that yield conceptual learning in science. In so doing, this article also provides a framework that can be used to evaluate writing-to-learn assignments in science, and it documents a new era in research on writing to learn in science by showing the increased rigor that has characterized studies in this field during the past decade.”

Diana Fox Bentele


Cultivating virtuous course designers: Using technical communication to reimagine accessibility in higher education

Huntsman, S., Colton, J. S., & Phillips, C. (2018). Communication Design Quarterly Review, 6(4), 12–23. doi: 10.1145/3309589.3309591

“Technical communicators are often charged with creating access to meaning through technology. However, these practices can have marginalizing effects. This article argues for reimagining accessibility through virtue ethics. Rather than identifying accessibility as an addition to document design or a set of guidelines, virtue ethics situates accessibility as a habitual practice, part of one’s character. This article describes the application of virtue ethics in a university partnership, which sought to create a culture of accessibility through three goals: to consider accessibility as an on-going process, to consider accessibility as a ‘vital’ part of all document design, and to recognize accessibility as a shared responsibility among stakeholders. Focusing on the virtues of courage and justice, [the authors] interpret data from a survey of instructors and then provide suggestions on how others can join the accessibility conversation.”

Lyn Gattis

Health communication

Problem in the profession: How and why writing skills in nursing must be improved

Johnson, J. E., & Rulo, K. (2019). Journal of Professional Nursing, 35(1), 57–64. doi: 10.1016/j.profnurs.2018.05.005

“As a profession, nursing is obligated to disseminate knowledge by publishing research in the professional literature. Beyond producing scholarly work for publication, nurses need writing skills to complete doctoral dissertations and scholarly projects, and to succeed in obtaining funds for new nurse-directed business ventures. Ultimately, good writing skills are essential for the future of the nursing profession. In this article, [the authors] describe the critical role of writing in nursing, and offer a practical 10-point strategy for improving the writing ability of individual advanced practice nurses who need to improve their writing skills. This article also offers suggestions for increasing nursing’s surveillance of nurses’ writing skills such as increasing the emphasis on writing instruction as a priority in today’s nursing graduate school curriculum, greater writing support for nurses who are writing dissertations and scholarly projects, evaluating writing programs, and monitoring the completion rate of nursing dissertations.”

Edward A. Malone

When patients question vaccines: Considering vaccine communication through a material rhetorical approach

Lawrence, H. Y. (2018). Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 1(1), 161–178. doi: dx.doi.org/10.5744/rhm.2018.1010

“Vaccinations are a notoriously difficult topic to discuss with patients, and efforts to persuade those who are most hesitant often fail. In this persuasion brief, common vaccination concerns and skepticisms are reexamined through the perspectives offered by rhetorical studies. This analysis demonstrates why current counter-arguments to vaccine skepticisms often fall short. As an alternative, this article encourages practitioners to consider how the material qualities of vaccinations contribute to their instability and make them difficult for patients to accept. This perspective suggests relationship-building and coalition-building as routes for improving doctor-patient communication about vaccines.”

Edward A. Malone

Information management

Towards augmented reality manuals for industry 4.0: A methodology

Gattullo, M., Scurati, G. W., Fiorentino, M., Uva, A. E., Ferrise, F., & Bordegoni, M. (2019). Robotics and Computer-Integrated Manufacturing, 56, 276–286. doi: 10.1016/j.rcim.2018.10.001

“Augmented Reality (AR) is one of the most promising technology for technical manuals in the context of Industry 4.0. However, the implementation of AR documentation in industry is still challenging because specific standards and guidelines are missing. In this work, [the authors] propose a novel methodology for the conversion of existing ‘traditional’ documentation, and for the authoring of new manuals in AR in compliance to Industry 4.0 principles. The methodology is based on the optimization of text usage with the ASD Simplified Technical English, the conversion of text instructions into 2D graphic symbols, and the structuring of the content through the combination of Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) and Information Mapping (IM). [The authors] tested the proposed approach with a case study of a maintenance manual of hydraulic breakers. [They] validated it with a user test collecting subjective feedbacks of 22 users. The results of this experiment confirm that the manual obtained using [this] methodology is clearer than other templates.”

Edward A. Malone


The rhetorical work of YouTube’s beauty community: Relationship- and identity-building in user-created procedural discourse

Ledbetter, L. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(4), 287–299. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2018.1518950

“This study investigates YouTube’s beauty community, an online group of women who make videos about makeup products and techniques. The videos contain makeup application instructions and challenge ideas about what is ‘usable’ procedural discourse. They sometimes defy conventions for high production quality. Moreover, storytelling and instruction are integral to the rhetorical work of these tutorials. For the diverse groups in this community, procedural discourse also serves as a means of establishing credibility not otherwise afforded to them, as well as opportunities for identity- and relationship building.”

Rhonda Stanton

Intercultural issues

Linguistic injustice in the writing of research articles in English as a second language: Data from Taiwanese and Mexican researchers

Hanauer, D. I., Sheridan, C. L., & Englander, K. (2019). Written Communication, 3(1), 136–154. doi: 10.1177/0741088318804821

Because so much professional advancement depends upon publication, these findings are important considerations for publishers and multilingual researchers. “This study investigates the added burden Mexican and Taiwanese non-native English speaker (NNES) researchers perceive when writing research articles in English as a second language (L2) compared with their experience of first language (L1) science writing. 148 Mexican and 236 Taiwanese researchers completed an established survey of science writing burden. Results revealed significant differences between L1 and L2 science writing with an increased burden for L2 science writing consisting of an average increase of 24% in difficulty, 10% in dissatisfaction and 22% in anxiety. No significant differences between the Mexican and Taiwanese researchers were found. Regression analyses established that the variables of science writing burden contribute to a sense that English is a barrier to writing science. [The researchers] maintain that the additional burden of L2 science writing constitutes a linguistic injustice and a barrier to science that should be addressed by relevant constituents.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Researching multiple publics through latent profile analysis: Similarities and differences in science and technology attitudes in China, Japan, South Korea and the United States

Pullman, A., Chen, M. Y., Zou, D., Hives, B. A., & Liu, Y. (2019). Public Understanding of Science, 28(2), 130–145. doi: 10.1177/0963662518791902

“How science and technology attitudes vary across the United States, China, South Korea and Japan—all of which top Bloomberg’s list of high-tech centralization—is explored through data from the sixth wave of the World Values Survey (2010–2014). The following study examines the presence of different types of attitudinal groups using latent profile analysis. Not only do unique attitudinal groups exist in each country, but each group is uniquely influenced by select demographic characteristics, including education, age, gender, religiosity, employment status and individual interaction with technology. The findings provide insight into public attitudes towards science and technology across social and cultural contexts and generate nuanced understandings of similar and different attitudinal groups in East Asia and the United States.”

Lyn Gattis


Designing for intersectional, interdependent accessibility: A case study of multilingual technical content creation

Gonzales, L. (2018). Communication Design Quarterly Review, 6(4), 35–45. doi: 10.1145/3309589.3309593

“Drawing on narratives (Jones, 2016; Jones & Walton, 2018) from bilingual technical communication projects, this article makes a case for the importance of considering language access and accessibility in crafting and sharing digital research. Connecting conversations in disability studies and language diversity, the author emphasizes how an interdependent (Price, 2011; Price & Kerchbaum, 2016), intersectional (Crenshaw, 1989; Medina & Haas, 2018) orientation to access through disability studies and translation can help technical communication researchers to design and disseminate digital research that is accessible to audiences from various linguistic backgrounds and who also identify with various dis/abilities.”

Lyn Gattis

Professional issues

Going rogue: How I became a communication specialist in an engineering department

Ford, J. D. (2018). Technical Communication Quarterly, 27(4), 336–342. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2018.1518511

“Program location has been a key conversation piece in discussions concerning the technical communication profession. Less attention has been devoted toward location of individual faculty, particularly those who may be the lone communicator in departments outside of English or humanities. Although these arrangements may not be without challenges, they also may yield unique opportunities for interdisciplinary collaborations and professional identity shaping in ways that more traditional academic technical communication positions do not.”

Rhonda Stanton


Exploring an ethnography-based knowledge network model for professional communication analysis of knowledge integration

Hannah, M. A., & Simeone, M. (2018). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 61(4), 372–388. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2018.2870682

“In contemporary knowledge-intensive spaces, workers often team with experts from different disciplinary backgrounds and different geographic locations and, thus, they face the challenge of integrating knowledge in their work. When modeling how communication can be improved in these circumstances, previous studies have often relied on social network analysis to understand the aggregate exchanges among team members. In this study, rather than analyze social networks (people linked by communication), [the authors] argue that network analysis of knowledge networks (people linked by common knowledge) presents an opportunity to better understand and address the challenge of knowledge integration in organizational contexts. . . . [The authors] conducted an ethnography of a team science collaboration and used observations to create a survey of terms that measured subjects’ self-professed understanding of key concepts. [They] used the survey results to produce a bimodal network model of agents and terms, in which [they] binarized link values after filtering for only the highest-rated terms for each subject. . . . The model demonstrated that the team collaboration broke into two distinct groupings. Ego networks extracted from this parent network showed that concepts commonly well-understood in the team join together multiple subgroups of expert knowledge.” The authors conclude that “[t]he knowledge network is a useful instrument in helping team members understand possibilities for integrating knowledge across disciplines and subspecialties.”

Lyn Gattis

Hand collecting and coding versus data-driven methods in technical and professional communication research

Lauer, C., Brumberger, E., & Beveridge, A. (2018). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 61(4), 389–408. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2018.2870632

“Qualitative technical communication research often produces datasets that are too large to manage effectively with hand-coded approaches. Text-mining methods, used carefully, may uncover patterns and provide results for larger datasets that are more easily reproduced and scaled….” The authors of this study analyzed the processes of hand collecting and coding an existing dataset and then showed how those results “might be replicated with web scraping and machine coding.” The researchers found that the speed of Web scraping provided one clear advantage for automated data collection. With respect to coding, “[m]achine coding was able to provide comparable outputs to hand coding for certain types of data; for more nuanced and verbally complex data, machine coding was less useful and less reliable.” The authors conclude that researchers should consider “the context of a particular project when weighing the affordances and limitations of hand collecting and coding over automated approaches. Ultimately, a mixed-methods approach that relies on a combination of hand coding and automated coding should prove to be the most productive for current and future kinds of technical communication work, in which close attention to the nuances of language is critical, but in which processing large amounts of data would yield significant benefits as well.”

Lyn Gattis


Open-source software in the sciences: The challenge of user support

Swarts, J. (2019). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 33(1), 60–90. doi: 10.1177/1050651918780202

“This study examines user support issues concerning open-source software in computational sciences. The literature suggests that there are three main problem areas: transparency, learnability, and usability. Looking at questions asked in user communities for chemistry software projects, the author found that for software supported by feature-based documentation, problems of transparency and learnability are prominent, leading users to have difficulty reconciling disciplinary practices and values with software operations. For software supported by task-based documentation, usability problems were more prominent. The author considers the implications of this study for user support and the role that technical communication could play in developing and supporting open-source projects.”

Sean C. Herring

Perspectives of deaf and hard of hearing viewers of captions

Butler, J. (2019). American Annals of the Deaf, 163(5), 534–553. doi: 10.1353/aad.2019.0002

“Educational rights and other rights enumerated in federal law support deaf and hard of hearing (DHH) viewers’ access to captions in visual electronic media, yet uncaptioned and inadequately captioned media still exist. To determine what is satisfactory in captioned media and what could be improved to ensure access, data were gathered from focus group discussions with 20 DHH students who shared their perspectives on captions. The focus group analysis indicates that major topics of concern for DHH viewers include advocacy for captions and caption formatting preferences; the need for direct access to real-time videos, online videos, and other media; how captions influence and benefit DHH and hearing viewers; and captions’ importance in public, educational, and other social/cultural spaces. The author concludes that DHH viewers’ perspectives can help educators and advocates strengthen access to captions in education and society.”

Edward A. Malone


Teaching research writing in academia

Chiavolini, D., & Feinberg, J. S. (2018). AMWA Journal, 33(4), 180–183. [doi: none]

“The transmission of bad writing habits through generations of scientists may explain the continuous decline in the readability of scientific writing,” according to these authors, who work as scientific editors at an academic research institution. They use three main educational strategies to improve academic writing within their department. In “didactic editing, which uses the editor’s query to educate writers,” the authors “request clarification . . . explain editorial changes . . . and show how these specific interventions enhance overall clarity and cohesion.” Through department-wide workshops and seminars, the authors “provide broader instruction on common document types,” delivered in a combination of lecture and hands-on writing practice. Finally, through individual coaching sessions with faculty, they help with document planning and development or follow up on lecture content. Their ultimate goal is “to instill good writing habits on a continuous basis” and thereby “to gradually change [their] department’s writing culture from within.”

Lyn Gattis