67.1 February 2020

Recent & Relevant

By 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.


Virtual teams: Thematic taxonomy, constructs model, and future research directions

Alaiad, A., Alnsour, Y., & Alsharo, M. (2019). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 62(3), 211–238. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2019.2929370

“Business competition, globalization, increasing opportunities presented by information and communication technology, the increased number of remote workers, and the emergence of computer-mediated groups have propelled the use, deployment, and growth of virtual teams in the past decade. A recent survey of 1,372 business respondents from 80 countries found that 85% of the respondents worked on virtual teams. The increasingly important role of virtual teams in organizations has spurred a parallel growth in research examining various aspects and challenges of these teams…. This paper reports on a systematic examination of the literature on virtual teams through which [the authors] provide a thorough review, analysis, and synthesis of research published in the past 10 years…. [The authors] follow the systematic literature review methodology proposed by Ramey and Rao to examine theories, research problems, research focuses, research methodologies, and major findings of 149 related studies on virtual teams published between 2007 and 2018…. The research offers several theoretical and practical implications for scholars, remote workers, knowledge engineers, technology developers and designers, and professionals working in virtual settings.”

Lyn Gattis


Directives and dialogue: Examining the relationship between participative organizational communication practices and organizational identification among IT workers

Atouba, Y., Carlson, E., & Lammers, J. (2019). International Journal of Business Communication, 56(4), 530–559. doi: 10.1177/2329488416672430

“This study explores how the dialogue—or lack thereof—between employees’ opinions and organization-wide communications relates to employees’ identification with the organization. Using survey data from a sample of 111 IT workers, [the authors] performed cross-level tests to explore how employee voice, the perceived adequacy of organization-wide downward communication, and job satisfaction related to employees’ organizational identification. The results of the hierarchical regression and mediation analyses revealed that higher levels of employee voice were associated with higher levels of organizational identification and fully mediated by job satisfaction. Similarly, higher levels of organization-wide communication adequacy were associated with higher levels of organizational identification and partially mediated by job satisfaction. The findings suggest that inclusive and participative organizational communication practices are most likely to foster organizational identification when they are viewed favorably by employees and positively impact their
job experiences.”

Katherine Wertz

A laughing matter? How humor in alcohol ads influences interpersonal  communication and persuasion

Hendriks, H., & Strick, M. (2019). Health Communication [Epub in advance of print]. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2019.1663587

“Exposure to alcohol ads increases alcohol consumption. A potential partial explanation is that certain (e.g., humorous) alcohol ads trigger conversations which can, in turn, increase drinking behaviors. Therefore, [the authors] investigated the influence of humor in alcohol ads on conversational occurrence, length, and valence about alcohol and alcohol ads. One hundred and fourteen participants were shown one of three beer ads (humor; positive; no ad), after which participants could voluntarily discuss the ad and alcohol. Next, all participants were requested to discuss the topic and answered a questionnaire assessing conversational valence and ad, brand, and alcohol evaluations. Results showed that humor leads to more conversations about the ad and alcohol, longer conversations about alcohol, and more positive conversations about the ad. This interpersonal communication, and especially conversational valence, was subsequently related to ad, brand, and alcohol evaluations. These findings may explain the effect of alcohol ads on alcohol consumption, and provide important starting points for using humor as a potentially effective behavior change tool.”

Walter Orr

Talking about decisions: The facilitating effect of a celebrity health announcement on the communication of online personal experiences around decision-making

Sillence, E., & Martin, R. (2019). Health Communication [Epub in advance of print]. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2019.1652064

“This study examines how posters on an online forum discussed their own current and past decision-making in response to a celebrity health announcement. [The authors] examined messages in response to a celebrity narrative, and extracted those explicitly related to decision-making around genetic testing and preventative surgery. Using deductive coding [the researchers] identified different types of decision-making narratives, and with inductive coding [they] examined how users discussed decision-making activities. Guided by the literature on narrative content types in decision-making, and on celebrity health narratives, [they] found that the celebrity decision announcement facilitated social sharing in relation to two key decision-making activities. First, identifying with the celebrity allowed people to reflect and compare their own personal health circumstances. This empowered readers to appraise and select options about their current decision-making regarding preventative surgery. Second, the announcement allowed an extension of the discussion beyond the celebrity, and acted as a catalyst encouraging other people to share their own previous decision-making experiences. These experiences contained a mix of narratives content types, and provided an opportunity for posters to evaluate their decisions, and to contribute to a repository of decision-making examples for others. Health narratives act as communication devices in decision-making, and [the authors] discuss the findings in relation to the extension of the educational and persuasive function of celebrity health narratives.”

Walter Orr

Trawling the wires: Mass surveillance of border-crossing communication in Denmark during World War II

Marklund, A. (2019). Technology and Culture, 60(3), 770–794. doi:10.1353/tech.2019.0072

“The article examines government censorship and surveillance of transnational communication in times of war and crisis. At the center of analysis is the monitoring of border-crossing telephony in Denmark during World War II. The system expanded decidedly during the war, in terms of staff and equipment, bureaucratic record-keeping and the forms communication deemed eligible for monitoring. Communication across borders had been perceived as a potential security problem already before September 1939. Yet the context of war made the problem grow in gravity from potential to very real, and people who communicated across the national borders became suspicious through the very act of communicating. Thus, increasing amounts of information were accumulated in an increasingly complex collaborative project between the Danish P&T, the Foreign Ministry, and the German security service Abwehr—information on citizens, foreigners, firms, and news agencies, but also on capital flows, propaganda schemes, and tendencies in foreign media reporting.”

Edward A. Malone


Design thinking in technical and professional communication: Four perspectives [special issue]

Pope-Ruark, R. (2019). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 33(4), 437–455. doi: 10.1177/1050651919854094

“In this special issue, [the contributors] explore design thinking as a broad conceptual process as well as a tool that might align with the work of technical and professional communication (TPC) programs. But what is design thinking? What are the benefits and drawbacks of the process? Can design thinking be used to help students address rhetorical challenges and complex problems? How is design thinking showing up in the field, and does it belong in TPC programs? Four scholars explore these questions in their niche areas: process, usability and user design, technical communication, and industry and programmatic perspectives.”

Sean C. Herring

Dissensus, resistance, and ideology: Design thinking as a rhetorical methodology

Greenwood, A., Lauren, B., Knott, J., & DeVoss, D. N. (2019). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 33(4), 400–424. doi:10.1177/1050651919854063

“Design thinking—at times described as a mind-set, practice, process, method, methodology, tool, heuristic, and more—is a productive, iterative approach used to engage divergent thinking. Often made up of stages incorporating empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing, design thinking provides a framework for identifying and approaching problems. Design thinking, however, generally lacks a critical–rhetorical–methodological structure that makes room for what Rebecca Burnett called ‘substantive conflict,’ or ‘conflict that deals with critical issues of content and rhetorical elements.’ This article situates design thinking across the professional and academic spaces in which it is heralded and implemented in order to explore how it can be used in collaborative contexts to support substantive, productive dissensus. The authors lean on the ways in which they engage in design thinking in their different roles to situate the good, the bad, and the ugly of design thinking. They conclude by suggesting a rhetorical methodology for cultivating design thinking that facilitates dissensus, addresses resistance, and considers ideological variables.”

Sean C. Herring

A framework for user agency during development of interactive risk visualization tools

Stephens, S. H., & DeLorme, D. E. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(4), 391–406. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2019.1618498

“Participating in user-centered design provides potential users of interactive risk visualization tools agency in influencing tool development. This article identifies and characterizes pathways for agency that users may experience as they participate in design of interactive tools for visualizing environmental risks. [The authors] present an empirically based conceptual framework for better understanding user agency during visualization tool development based on findings from interviews with professional visualization tool developers and discuss practical implications and future research recommendations.”

Rhonda Stanton

Toward a heuristic for teaching the visual rhetoric of pitch decks: A pedagogical approach in entrepreneurship communication

Williams, S., Spinuzzi, C., & Newbold, C. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly [Online First]. doi: 10.1145/3363790.3363791

“This study examined how three successful entrepreneurs/investors assessed the visual rhetoric of actual pitch decks from novice entrepreneurs. [The authors] compare [the investors’] evaluations to the result of a heuristic for assessing visual rhetoric, Color CRAYONTIP. While the pitch deck is recognized as a key artifact in entrepreneurship, no studies have specifically addressed the visual design of the deck nor the key design skills novice entrepreneurs should implement to effectively persuade potential investors of the idea’s promise. This preliminary and exploratory case study begins a dialogue on this topic by performing a visual analysis of seven novice decks which were deemed successful by experienced angel investors. The analysis revealed five key skills that appear to account for the success of these decks with the reviewers: rhetorical awareness, typography, color, photography, and contrast.”

Lyn Gattis


Game design documentation: Four perspectives from independent game studios

Colby, R., & Colby, R. S. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly Review, 7(3), 5–15. doi: 10.1145/3321388.3321389

“Changes in technology, development philosophy, and scale have required game designers to change how they communicate and mediate design decisions. Traditional game design studios used an extensive game design document (GDD), a meta-genre that described most of the game before it was developed. Current studies suggest that this is no longer the case. [The authors] conducted interviews at four independent game studios in order to share their game design documentation processes, revealing that, while an exhaustive GDD is rare, the meta-genre functions are preserved in a variety of mediated ways.”

Lyn Gattis


Strategies for building a successful medical writing and editing business: Results from a survey of 175 freelances

DeFino, M., & Harper, K. (2019). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 34(3), 120–124. [doi: none]

“To learn more about the strategies that freelance medical writers and editors find most helpful in building their businesses, [the authors] created a 10-item survey and posted it on several popular forums (LinkedIn, Freelance Success, AMWA Engage). A total of 175 respondents took [the authors’] survey. Their responses suggest 1) many freelancers are here to stay (most respondents reported at least 10 years of experience); 2) many freelancers are making a good income (most reported an effective hourly rate between $51 and $150); and 3) the top freelance problems relate to getting enough business (e.g., finding clients, making enough money, marketing, getting steady clients). [Authors] identified several trends that suggest many freelances could secure more work by making simple changes. For example, although referrals are a great source of new business, many freelances do not rely on them: about 40% of respondents reported that less than 25% of their new business comes from referrals. Similarly, networking is a great source for new clients, as well as new colleagues, but most respondents reported attending networking events fewer than 5 times a year. Finally, many freelances reported that by consistently being professional, checking their work, being on time, and integrating with the team, they become invaluable to their clients. [The] survey data are roughly consistent with data from other surveys in the field related to income, types of medical writing, and years in business, suggesting the surveys have drawn from a similar pool of respondents. As a supplement, [the authors] include a list of resources that freelances reported are helpful for running their businesses.”

Walter Orr


The effect of leader rapport-management feedback on leader–member relationship quality and perceived group effectiveness in student teams

Campbell, K. S., & Lam, C. (2019). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 62(3), 253–262. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2019.2913238

“Preparing students to work on teams in the workplace is both important and challenging. The transfer of learning from school to work requires that faculty provide guidance to support teamwork processes, including team communication…. Leader communication, especially when nondirective, has been associated with team success. Nondirective leaders influence others and develop quality relationships through personal rather than position power. Personal power is created partly through interactions in which a leader’s linguistic behavior effectively manages rapport with team members…. [T]o explore the influence of team member feedback on leader rapport management, leader-member relationship quality, and perceived team effectiveness…[the authors] designed a feedback intervention that was delivered to team leaders within multidisciplinary student teams in a technical writing course. The study was a traditional, intervention-based, between-subjects quasi-experiment…. Despite its singular focus on team leader behavior, the intervention resulted in higher perceived group effectiveness. Although leader rapport management and leader-member relationship quality were higher in teams with feedback intervention, the effects were not statistically significant…. Ultimately, because the intervention is simple to create and efficient to share, [the authors] conclude that it can supply instructors with one useful tool for intervening in student teamwork processes to improve team outcomes and for emphasizing the importance of interpersonal communication and leadership in teams.”

Lyn Gattis

How students learn content in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) through drawing activities

Wu, S. P. W., & Rau, M. A. (2019). Educational Psychology Review, 31(1), 87–120. doi: 10.1007/s10648-019-09467-3

“Recent research suggests that drawing activities can help students learn concepts in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. In particular, drawing activities, which mimic the practices of STEM professionals, can help students engage with visual-spatial content…. [The authors] reviewed prior research across cognitive and sociocultural theoretical perspectives. [They] identified six learning processes fostered by drawing activities. Each learning process describes how drawing can change the way students interact with the content. [This] review shows how instructional support for drawing activities that targets each learning process can enhance learning. [The researchers’] findings have theoretical implications regarding how drawing activities have been studied and yield open questions about the mechanisms accounting for the effects of drawing activities on students’ learning in STEM disciplines. Further, [these] findings suggest practical recommendations on how to effectively implement drawing activities that help students learn STEM content.”

Edward A. Malone

iPads or computer labs? A technical communication classroom study

Watkins, R., Smith, D., & McBeth, M. (2019). E-Learning and Digital Media, 16(5), 348–366. doi: 10.1177/2042753019861838

“For some schools, using iPads instead of computer labs can be a cost- and space-saving endeavour. [The authors] decided to test students’ attitudes toward tablet functions and confidence in classroom objectives in three technical communication courses by administering a pre- and post-test. Two classes used iPads and one did not (the control). [The researchers] analysed the data and triangulated it with classroom observations. [They] found that attitudes toward tablets did not change but confidences did, particularly in document design. [They] analyse the reasons for this and look at potential takeaways on a pedagogical level before addressing if these results can guide administrators contemplating purchasing tablets for the classroom. The study looks at current research in tablet pedagogy, discusses [the authors’] classroom and study methodology, analyses the results, triangulates student responses with [the researchers’] observations and implicates conclusions while looking to future research angles.”

Edward A. Malone

Playable case studies: A new educational genre for technical writing instruction

Balzotti, J., & Hansen, D. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(4), 407–421. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2019.1613562

“A Playable Case Study (PCS) is a hybrid learning experience where students (1) participate in a fictional narrative that unfolds through an immersive, simulated environment and (2) engage in classroom activities and lessons that provide educational scaffolding and promote metacognition through in-game and out-of-game experiences. [The authors] present the Microcore PCS to illustrate the potential of this new type of experiential simulation that incorporates aspects of Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) to increase immersion and teach workplace literacies in the technical communication classroom. [They] explore results from a pilot test of Microcore with an undergraduate technical communication course, identifying design strategies that worked well and others that led to improvements that are currently being incorporated. [They] also provide questions to prompt future research of playable case studies and discuss [their] findings in a broader context of technical communication pedagogy.”

Rhonda Stanton

Why content and cognition matter: Integrating conceptual knowledge to support simulation-based procedural skills transfer

Cheung, J. J. H., Kulasegaram, K. M., Woods, N. N., & Brydges, R. (2019). Journal of General Internal Medicine, 34(6), 969–977. doi: 10.1007/s11606-019-04959-y

“Curricular constraints require being selective about the type of content trainees practice in their formal training. Teaching trainees procedural knowledge about ‘how’ to perform steps of a skill along with conceptual knowledge about ‘why’ each step is performed can support skill retention and transfer (i.e., the ability to adapt knowledge to novel problems). However, how best to organize how and why content for procedural skills training is unknown. [The authors] examined the impact of different approaches to integrating why and how content on trainees’ skill retention and transfer of simulation-based lumbar puncture (LP). [They] randomized medical students (N = 66) to practice LP for 1 h using one of three videos. One video presented only the how content for LP (Procedural Only). Two other videos presented how and why content (e.g., anatomy) in two ways: Integrated in Sequence, with why content followed by how content, or Integrated for Causation, with how and why content integrated throughout…. Simple mediation regression analyses showed that participants receiving an integrated instructional video performed significantly better on transfer through their intervention’s positive impact on conceptual knowledge (all p < 0.01). Further, the Integrated for Causation group performed significantly better on transfer than the Integrated in Sequence group (p < 0.01), again mediated by improved conceptual knowledge. [The authors] observed no mediation of participants’ skill retention (all p > 0.01).”

Edward A. Malone

Writing in transnational workplaces: Teaching strategies for multilingual engineers

Hodges, A., & Seawright, L. (2019). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 62(3), 298–309. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2019.2930178

“Professional communication instructors in transnational contexts face unique challenges when helping students transition into the workplace. These challenges include preparing students for multilingual workplaces and educational settings, as well as multicultural communication in English at transnational workplaces…. The authors, working at an international branch campus (IBC) in the Middle East, wanted to revise their assignments in a technical writing course for engineers in order to better prepare students for the realities of professional communication in the region…. Engineering students matriculate into an increasingly diverse workplace, but instructors may not adequately understand the needs of employers in transnational corporations…. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with students and alumni of the IBC, and transcripts were coded for common themes…. Students and alumni had different perceptions of workplace communication genres, expectations for detailed writing, and the ability to adapt rhetorical strategies for different contexts. Alumni experienced a gap between their professors’ and their workplaces’ expectations for business genres and level of detail. They also reported that one of their significant challenges was adopting a flexible mindset toward written and spoken communication practices…. Professional communication instructors should emphasize the strengths of multilingual writers, particularly their sense of language difference and rhetorical attunement, to better prepare them for the transnational workplace, in both the US and abroad. The authors describe changes in their pedagogy to help students adopt a more flexible and industry-oriented mindset toward technical communication.”

Lyn Gattis


Conflicts of interest: When things go bad and lessons learned

Ball, T. (2019). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 34(3), 114–119. [doi: none]

“Many medical researchers have ties to the for-profit health care industry. These financial relationships can be productive and advance the development of beneficial drugs, devices, and tests.” Nevertheless, credibility demands transparency: “[D]isclose everything and allow the reader to decide what may/may not be of interest.” Those authoring medical-related content should ensure that all co-authors clearly communicate any financial ties or relationships that may call the integrity of the content into question.

Walter Orr

Legitimating negative aspects in corporate social responsibility reporting: Evidence from China

Lin, Y. (2019). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 62(3), 263–278. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2019.2913917

“This study investigates the way in which large Chinese firms communicated occupational fatalities in corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports. Research questions: 1. Did the sample firms disclose information about workplace fatalities in their CSR reports? 2. What communicative strategies were used in the disclosure for the purpose of self-legitimation? 3. How were these strategies manifested linguistically and rhetorically? …. The study is based on legitimacy theory, which suggests that when reporting bad news, firms may use communicative strategies to maintain or restore organizational legitimacy. Previous studies of negative CSR disclosures focus more on information selection and omission than on information presentation. A lack of consideration of actual organizational performance in some studies also makes it less feasible to account for strategies that firms use to misrepresent reality…. The study compared CSR reports issued by Fortune 500 Chinese firms with the firms’ reports of fatal occupational incidents to see whether the incidents were reported faithfully. An integrated analytical framework of legitimation strategies, developed from previous studies of legitimation in organizational communication, was applied to the analysis…. Most firms disclosed their fatality incidents. Legitimation strategies—in particular, positive performance evaluations and corrective actions—were used by the firms to de-emphasize or minimize the bad news. This study calls for greater attention from CSR monitors and professionals to information presentation as an important indicator of report quality. The findings are limited to one type of CSR disclosure and to the firms that were examined.”

Lyn Gattis

Usability testing for oppression

Bartolotta, J. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly Review, 7(3), 16–29. doi: 10.1145/3321388.3321390

“This study examines a document produced by the United States Department of Homeland Security handed out to immigrant parents during the ‘Family Separation Policy’ crisis of 2018. The article examines whether such a document could be ethically tested for usability. Ultimately, the text argues that by the standards of the Belmont Report and the best practices in usability research, such a document would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to test ethically. It argues that, while usability testing is an excellent tool for exploring how users interact with texts that can have life-changing consequences, it may also be used as a tool to perpetuate injustice and marginalize potential users.”

Lyn Gattis

Health communication

Data our bodies tell: Towards critical feminist action in fertility and period tracking applications

Novotny, M., & Hutchinson, L. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(4), 332–360. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2019.1607907

“This article situates reproductive applications as an emerging ‘do-it-yourself’ health technology in need of feminist technical communication action. The authors focus on Glow, a fertility and period tracking application, and argue that though this application promises users’ self-empowerment over their reproductive health, individual agency is often reduced. The authors consider how technical communication scholars can intervene in fertility and period tracking applications through a redesign of how consent is obtained when collecting users’ personal health information.”

Rhonda Stanton

Rigidity and flexibility: The dual nature of communicating care for Vietnamese Agent Orange victims

Hopton, S. B., & Walton, R. (2019). Present Tense, 7(3), 1–8. Retrieved from presenttensejournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Hopton_Walton.pdf

“Studying what it means to communicate care to Agent Orange victims in Vietnam is a particularly useful case study for [the rhetoric of health and medicine] and intercultural communication scholars to explore, because Agent Orange is one of the most discursively embattled concepts of the post-war era (Walton and Hopton 311). Here, [the authors] share a subset of findings from an IRB-approved, 5-week qualitative field study in Vietnam in partnership with the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA)…. What [the authors’] experience showed …is that communicating care in context requires a relentless engagement with stakeholders in context and a sophisticated understanding of the way ethics, history, sociology, politics and science affect one’s ability to experience feeling cared for. Thus, [the authors] resist prescriptions or generalized applications except to say that where practitioners observe and respond to the communicative requirements of their immediate context and practice a rhetoric animated by the relief of burden, hurt, and human suffering, they are communicating care in context.”

Edward A. Malone

The war on prevention II: Battle metaphors undermine cancer treatment and prevention and do not increase vigilance

Hauser, D. J., & Schwarz, N. (2019). Health Communication [Epub in advance of print]. doi: 10.31234/osf.io/a6bvd

“Bellicose metaphors for cancer are ubiquitous. But are they good metaphors for health communicators to use? Because metaphors can guide reasoning about abstract concepts, framing cancer with metaphors of battle, war, and enemies leads people to apply attributes of these concepts to cancer. The current research investigates how this affects inferences about cancer treatment, prevention, and monitoring. Battles and war are usually seen as being difficult. Indeed, reading about a person’s ‘battle’ or ‘fight’ against cancer makes cancer treatment seem more difficult (studies 1-4). One way to approach a battle is to surrender and give up control. Consistent with this implication, battle metaphors increase fatalistic beliefs about cancer prevention (e.g., believing that there is little one can do to prevent getting cancer; study 3). Finally, even though battles invoke vigilance and action, Study 4 failed to find that such metaphors motivate people to immediately see their doctor when imagining a cancer scare. These findings suggest that bellicose metaphors for cancer can influence the health beliefs of nonpatients in ways that may make them less willing to enact healthy behaviors.”

Walter Orr

We must not allow a contraception gap: Planned Parenthood’s campaign for new birth control and feminist health activism in the 1990s

Prescott, H. M. (2019). Technology and Culture, 60(3), 816–832. doi: 10.1353/tech.2019.0074

“In 1990, Planned Parenthood Federation of America launched a nationwide public relations drive called the Campaign for New Birth Control in reaction to reports that Americans were being deprived of contraceptives available in other parts of the world. This article will use Planned Parenthood’s Campaign for New Birth Control as a case study of how reproductive rights activists organized around emerging contraceptive technologies in the late twentieth century. It will discuss how Planned Parenthood tried to rally a diverse range of constituencies around the notion of a ‘contraception gap.’ This construct was based on the presumption that developing new contraceptive technologies was unmistakably feminist because it gave women more options to control their fertility. However, other actors involved in the New Birth Control campaign believed the ‘contraception gap’ was an inappropriate strategy for mobilizing broad support for birth control innovation.”

Edward A. Malone

Intercultural issues

Addressing the “bias gap”: A research-driven argument for critical support of plurilingual scientists’ research writing

Corcoran, J. (2019). Written Communication, 36(4), 538–577. doi: 10.1177/0741088319861648

As “scientific journal gatekeepers,” how should editors integrate professional publication standards with inclusion and respect for other cultures and languages? “This article outlines findings from a case study investigating attitudes toward English as the dominant language of scientific research writing. Survey and interview data were collected from 55 Latin American health and life scientists and 7 North American scientific journal editors connected to an intensive scholarly writing for publication course. Study findings point to competing perceptions (scientists vs. editors) of fairness in the adjudication of Latin American scientists’ research at international scientific journals. Adopting a critical, plurilingual lens, [the author] argue[s] that these findings demand a space for more equity-driven pedagogies, policies, and reflective practices aimed at supporting the robust participation of plurilingual scientists who use English as an additional language (EAL). In particular, if equity is indeed a shared goal, there is a clear need for commitment to ongoing critical self-reflection on the part of scientific journal gatekeepers and research writing support specialists.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Rethinking person-centeredness: Contestations of disability, care, and culture at the social service application interface

Campeau, K. (2019). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 49(4), 383–410. doi: 10.1177/0047281619871212

“This article examines how normative assumptions about disability, family, and care perpetuate barriers to social services in cross-cultural contexts. It reports on an 8-month case study of how a county-sponsored, person-centered disability grant targeted but failed to meet the needs of Somali applicants. [The author] identif[ies] four impasses that alienated applicants and demonstrated [how] the grant’s process relied on culture norms, including medical definitions of disability, institutional expertise, and normalization of self-sufficiency. [The author] develop[s] three recommendations for future technical communication and policy interventions. This study offers insights into how person-centered initiatives can engage the contexts and expertise of diverse users within institutional structures.”

Anita Ford


In the ear of the beholder: Self-other agreement in leadership communication and its relationship with subordinates’ job satisfaction

Erben, J., Schneider, F., & Maier, M. (2019). International Journal of Business Communication, 56(4), 505–529. doi: 10.1177/2329488416672431

“This article deals with the question of how agreement or disagreement in the perception of leadership communication from the perspective of both leader and subordinate is related to subordinates’ job satisfaction. Employees of a department in a large, globally operating insurance company and their managers (N = 110) completed questionnaires including instruments to assess leadership communication from the perspective of the managers and their respective employees as well as employees’ job satisfaction. Results from polynomial regression with response surface modeling suggest that there is a positive linear relationship between self- and other ratings of leadership communication and subordinates’ job satisfaction, in which the highest scores of job satisfaction are related to high in-agreement ratings of leadership communication. In addition, discrepancies in perceptions of leadership communication decrease job satisfaction, particularly when leaders are overestimators.”

Katherine Wertz

Relational communication messages and leadership styles in supervisor/employee relationships

Mikkelson, A., Sloan, D., & Hesse, C. (2019). International Journal of Business Communication, 56(4), 586–604. doi: 10.1177/2329488416687267

“The relational communication messages of intimacy and dominance were used to predict a task and relationship leadership style in supervisors. In the study, 307 participants working in various industries completed measures of relational communication and leadership styles about their direct supervisor. As predicted, intimacy messages were positively related to a relationship-oriented leadership style and dominance messages were positively related to a task-oriented leadership style. Intimacy messages were also linked to a task-oriented style and dominance messages were linked to relationship-oriented style. Regression analysis determined that receptivity/trust was the best predictor of a relationship-oriented style and influence was the best predictor of a task-oriented style. Overall, results demonstrate the need for both intimacy and dominance messages across leadership styles.”

Katherine Wertz


On queering professional writing

Dadas, C., & Cox, M. B. (2019). In W. P. Banks, M. B. Cox, & C. Dadas (Eds.), Re/orienting writing studies: Queer methods, queer projects (86–208). Logan: Utah State University. doi: 10.7330/9781607328186.c011

“While queer methodologies and rhetorics continue to gain a reliable presence in writing studies journals and conferences, the same does not hold true when we look at professional writing scholarship…. This gap leaves [the authors] concerned that queer and queered practices, methods, and methodologies are still perceived as irrelevant to the work of professional writing. And yet, professional writing scholars are studying, theorizing, writing, and working at junctures rife with possibility for interplay between these two areas of inquiry. As two scholars working at this intersection, [the authors] want to make the case that queer methodologies and rhetorics offer needed frameworks for scholarship being done in the professional writing field” (186).

Edward A. Malone

Research in cooperatives: Developing a politically conscious research methodology

Edenfield, A. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(4), 376–390. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2019.1621388

“Cooperatives are distinct from conventional businesses and the technical documents they produce challenge assumptions about documentation practices. To better understand these differences, technical communicators may need a set of tools well-suited to mission-driven, for-profit businesses. In this process-focused article, [the author] draw[s] on action research methodology to take first steps toward articulating the similarities and differences in research between a conventional organization and a cooperative. [The author] demonstrate[s] this framework by using two recent case studies.”

Rhonda Stanton


The circulation of climate change denial online: Rhetorical and networking strategies on Facebook

Bloomfield, E. F., & Tillery, D. (2019). Environmental Communication, 13(1), 23–34. doi: 10.1080/17524032.2018.1527378

“This study uses a topical, rhetorical approach to analyze how climate change denial circulates online through the 25 most popular posts on the Watts Up with That and the Global Warming Policy Forum Facebook pages. These groups adopt the appearance of credibility through reposting and hyperlinking, thus establishing a supportive, networked space among other skeptical sites, while distancing readers from original sources of scientific information. Visitors use a variety of rhetorical strategies to echo posts’ main themes and to discredit alternative viewpoints. Differences between the topoi and rhetorical strategies of WUWT and the GWPF show that the climate change denial community is multifaceted and makes use of social media affordances to craft the appearance of legitimacy. This project contributes to our knowledge of how scientific information is co-opted, manipulated, and circulated in online spaces and how online features shape environmental discourse practices.”

Edward A. Malone

Communicating campus sexual assault: A mixed methods rhetorical analysis

Lawrence, H., Fernandez, L., Lussos, R., Stabile, B., & Broeckelman-Post, M. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(4), 299–316. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2019.1621386

“This article reports on a mixed methods rhetorical analysis of a data set of news reports on campus sexual assault. A macro-level qualitative analysis of narratives combined with micro-level quantitative content analysis of verb voice offers insight into how news media shapes perceptions of power, blame, and agency in reporting. These findings offer implications for how public actors discuss campus sexual assault and implications for the teaching and practice of research methods in technical communication.”

Rhonda Stanton

Exploring the framing of diversity rhetoric in “top-rated in diversity” organizations

Pasztor, S. (2019). International Journal of Business Communication, 56(4), 455–475. doi: 10.1177/2329488416664175

“This study provides a summative content analysis and framing analysis of 15 of the top 20 corporate websites identified on the 2010 DiversityInc Survey as ‘top-ranked’ in diversity management, to assess how diversity is framed by organizations ranked highly in diversity criteria and to gain a better understanding of linguistic and semiotic consistency in diversity rhetoric and framing. Findings reveal three primary approaches in how organizations frame diversity: first, as an organizational asset promoted and preserved through its human resources and corporate values; second, as a driver of business excellence and competitive advantage; and finally, as a structural mechanism supported by diversity and inclusion initiatives such as employee mentoring, networking, diversity training, and institutionalized governance. While these mechanisms themselves are questionable in terms of their actual results in increasing levels of diversity and inclusion, corporate websites serve as symbolic and necessary contemporary representations of impression management among stakeholders, stockholders, and employees. Additional findings highlight a high level of consistency in linguistic and semiotic use regardless of organization type, industry, or intended audiences.”

Katherine Wertz

Pivotal persuasion

Chan, J., Gupta, S., Li, F., & Wang, Y. (2019). Journal of Economic Theory, 180, 178–202. doi: 10.1016/j.jet.2018.12.008

“A sender seeks to persuade a group of heterogeneous voters to adopt an action. [The authors] analyze the sender’s information-design problem when the collective decision is made through a majority vote and voting for the action is personally costly. [The authors] show that the sender can exploit the heterogeneity in voting costs by privately communicating with the voters. Under the optimal information structure, voters with lower costs are more likely to vote for the sender’s preferred action when it is the wrong choice than those with higher costs. The sender’s preferred action is therefore adopted with a higher probability when private communication is allowed than when it is not. Nevertheless, the sender’s preferred action cannot be adopted with probability one if no voter, as a dictator, is willing to vote for it without being persuaded.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Under pressure: Exploring agency-structure dynamics with a rhetorical approach to register

McNely, B. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(4), 317–331. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2019.1621387

“This study traced the adoption of a new social language among financial advisors responding to intense regulatory pressures. Register—specialized vocabularies, argumentative moves, and syntactical patterns—was analyzed to explore rhetorical practices embedded in agency-structure dynamics. Through analysis of advisors’ correspondence with clients and semi-structured interviews exploring their communication practices, this study demonstrates how register changes embody everyday rhetorical tactics for managing complicated audiences. This article contributes to studies of agency-structure dynamics in professional communication contexts governed by strong regulatory constraints.”

Rhonda Stanton


Risky election, vulnerable technology: Localizing biometric use in elections for the sake of justice

Dorpenyo, I. (2019). Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(4), 361–375. doi: 10.1080/10572252.2019.1610502

“This article examines the fingerprint biometric technology adopted by Ghana to enhance its electoral integrity and argues that although this technology is touted to be value-neutral, objective, and accurate, it is inherently discriminatory. Reports show that the biometric rejected those individuals who are engaged in ‘slash-and-burn agriculture.’ Therefore, the mass subjection of elections to the logic of the biometric technology in resource-mismanaged contexts is welcoming, but its use raises social justice and localization concerns.”

Rhonda Stanton

Using the internet to mobilize marginalized groups: People with disabilities and digital campaign strategies in the 2016 US presidential election

Trevisan, F. (2019). International Journal of Communication, 13, 1592–1611. [doi: none]

“It is important to understand the implications of online election campaigning for groups that have been marginalized in politics. To this end, this article discusses a focus group study on digital campaigning in the 2016 U.S. presidential election with voters with a wide range of physical, mental, and communication disabilities. Digital campaigns can deepen or curtail opportunities for people with disabilities to be active citizens. Participants in this study had high expectations to learn about the candidates through new media platforms, particularly Google and YouTube. However, the 2016 campaigns seemed to struggle to understand Americans with disabilities as an emerging online constituency. This mismatch between demand and supply in online election communication is discussed with a view to illuminating the sociotechnical foundations of digital campaigning and its effect on political participation among citizens with disabilities. There are important opportunities for digital mobilization and inclusion here, but their realization is dependent on a cultural shift that values people with disabilities as full citizens.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


The infrastructural function: A relational theory of infrastructure for writing studies

Read, S. (2019). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 33(3), 233–267. doi: 10.1177/1050651919834980

“This article theorizes the term infrastructure as a framework for articulating how writing products, activities, and processes underwrite organizational life in technical organizations. While this term has appeared broadly in writing studies scholarship, it has not been systematically theorized there as it has been in other fields such as economics, computing, and information science. This article argues for a four-part framework that incorporates and builds on Star and Ruhleder’s relational theory of infrastructure. Fieldwork from a federally funded supercomputing center for scientific research operationalizes the theory for its contributions to writing studies scholarship and its applications for industry and writing pedagogy.”

Sean C. Herring


WCAG 2.1 and the current state of web accessibility in libraries

Spina, C. (2019). Weave, 2(2). doi: 10.3998/weave.12535642.0002.202

Many Web designers are familiar with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, which were updated in 2018 (WCAG 2.1). WCAG 2.1 guidelines are not mandated, even under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This article focuses on how libraries can meet the needs of all users, but it encourages all designers to move toward more complete considerations of users with disabilities. “Ensuring the accessibility of web content is key to ensuring that users with disabilities have equal access to online information and services. However, …accessibility problems persist across the web, including in the online content created and shared by libraries. This article examines the new success criteria in the recently released WCAG 2.1, considers the opportunity they present for libraries to improve the user experience for users with a broad range of disabilities, and proposes steps to improve compliance with WCAG and online accessibility more broadly.” Of particular use for all Web developers is the author’s advice to “involve individuals with disabilities” and persons “who regularly use assistive technologies” in user experience testing.

Diana Fox Bentele


Gender effects in student technical and scientific writing—A corpus-based study

Boettger, R. K., & Wulff, S. (2019). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 62(3), 239–252. doi: 10.1109/TPC.2019.2920029

“This study adopted a corpus-linguistics approach to investigate the gender effects in students’ technical and scientific writing. Specifically, [the authors] analyzed whether gender influenced how males and females used adverbs (e.g., very, really, and definitely) and passive voice (e.g., the article was published in the journal). The overuse of both adverbs and passive voice has been associated with poor writing clarity and concision…. Previous research works on gender effects in language have been mixed. Since these are all the essential elements of effective technical communication, teachers need to know what gender effects might exist. Research questions are as follows: 1. Does gender influence the student writers’ use of adverbs? 2. Does gender influence the student writers’ use of passive voice? …. The sample included 87 writers (46 females and 41 males) who contributed to a 757,533-word corpus. Researchers analyzed 12,111 instances of adverbs and 4,732 instances of passive voice within a variety of technical texts…. Female writers used significantly more adverbs as well as more additive/restrictive, degree, and stance adverbs than expected. Male writers used more linking and manner adverbs than expected. Female writers also used significantly more passives, particularly passive verbs associated with reporting findings and interpretation. In contrast, male writers associated with passive verbs used to describe methods and analyses. Overall, the results suggested that females and males used the same style markers to fulfill different rhetorical functions.”

Lyn Gattis