Recent and Relevant

Sean C. Herring, 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 Sean Herring at SeanHerring@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.

Audience Analysis

Peering into the internet abyss: Using big data audience analysis to understand online comments

Gallagher, J. R., Chen, Y. Wagner, K., Wang, X., Zeng, J., & Kong, A. L. (2020). Technical Communication Quarterly, 29, 155–173. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2019.1634766

“This article offers a methodology for conducting large-scale audience analysis called “big data audience analysis” (BDAA). BDAA uses distant reading and thin description to examine a large corpus of text data from online audiences. In this article, that corpus is approximately 450,000 online reader comments. We analyze this corpus through sentiment analysis, statistical analysis, and geolocation to identify trends and patterns in large datasets. BDAA can better prepare TPC researchers for large-scale audience studies.”

Rhonda Stanton


Game design documentation: Four perspectives from independent game studios

Colby, R., & Colby, R. S. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly, 7(3), 5–15. https://doi.org/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. We 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.”

Edward A. Malone


Employee isolation and telecommuter organizational commitment

Wang, W., Albert, L., & Sun, Q. (2020). Employee Relations: The International Journal, 42(3), 609–625. https://doi.org/10.1108/ER-06-2019-0246

“Purpose: In light of the increasing popularity of telecommuting, this study investigates how telecommuters’ organizational commitment may be linked to psychological and physical isolation. Psychological isolation refers to feelings of emotional unfulfillment when one lacks meaningful connections, support, and interactions with others, while physical isolation refers to physical separation from others. Design/methodology/approach: An online survey was used to collect data from 446 employees who telecommute one or more days per week. Findings: The results of this study indicate that telecommuters’ affective commitment is negatively associated with psychological isolation, whereas their continuance commitment is positively correlated with both psychological and physical isolation. These findings imply that telecommuters may remain with their employers due to perceived benefits, a desire to conserve resources such as time and emotional energy, or weakened marketability, rather than emotional connections to their colleagues or organizations. Practical implications: Organizations wishing to retain and maximize the contributions of telecommuters should pursue measures that address collocated employees’ negative assumptions toward telecommuters, preserve the benefits of remote work, and cultivate telecommuters’ emotional connections (affective commitment) and felt obligation (normative commitment) to their organizations. Originality/value: Through the creative integration of the need-to-belong and relational cohesion theories, this study contributes to the telecommuting and organizational commitment literature by investigating the dynamics between both psychological and physical isolation and telecommuters› organizational commitment.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


Commercializing academic medical research: The role of the translational designer

Page, R., & John, K. (2019). Design Journal, 22(5), 687–705. https://doi.org/10.1080/14606925.2019.1629776

“Increasingly universities are seeking to play a more active role in translating their fundamental scientific discoveries into large-scale, practical impact in the world. In the field of medical research, translating discoveries from the bench to the bedside. These processes of research translation are complex and interdisciplinary, involving a combination of research as well as non-research activities that take place both within and outside the traditional boundaries of the university. This complexity leads to many discoveries being ‘lost in translation’. This paper unpacks some of the challenges faced by designers with research translation through a series of case studies from a health care design research lab – Monash University Health Collab. Through these case studies, we highlight the necessary role of the translational designer, a hybrid design practitioner-researcher who brings the strengths of both industrial design practice and design research as a way to help bridge the chasms between research and commercial development.”

Edward A. Malone

Emotion and the economy of genre in a design presentation

Weedon, J. S. (2020). Technical Communication Quarterly, 29, 188–201. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2019.1689297

“Part of learning a discipline’s genres is learning how one’s work must be presented. Students confronting this economy of genre sometimes chafe at its restrictions, and their apprehension reveals unsuspected stakes for technical communication. In interviews, students discuss how their final presentations fail to capture the sophistication and the nuances of their designs, suggesting that learning genres is not just about participation but also about letting go of competing ways of conceiving practice.”

Rhonda Stanton

Letterform legibility and visual perception: A speculation

Zender, M. (2019). Visible Language, 53(3), 70–91. [doi: none]

“This short paper explores a straightforward insight: that the basic features of visual perception map instructively onto letterform skeletons of the Latin alphabet. Linking findings from visual perception with knowledge about typography and reading might advance our knowledge of how letterforms function visually. This knowledge might be used to develop a formal measure of letterform legibility, to provide a means to distinguish between a text and a display typeface, and to provide guidance for typeface design.”

Lyn Gattis

Olfactory sense as an object of design practice: Designing for an emotional experience in the smart technology sector

Lee, C. (2020). Design Journal, 23(3), 463–473. https://doi.org/10.1080/14606925.2020.1745568

“Despite the mainstreaming of smart devices, user abandonment of these devices remains an unresolved challenge. It is easy to come across users who have stopped using their smart devices, whether it be a smart watch or a voice assistant. This study explores the olfactory sense as an object of design practice, examining how designers can use the olfactory sense to design for an emotional experience between a user and a smart device. It takes a research through design approach and uses a design experiment as a research method. It aims to investigate how olfactory stimulus and its interaction effect with visual stimulus influence the user’s emotional response during the interaction with an AI chatbot and the user’s willingness to continue to use an AI chatbot in the future.”

Edward A. Malone

Queering consent: Design and sexual content messaging

Edenfield, A. C. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly, 7(2), 50–63. https://doi.org/10.1145/3358931.3358938

“For decades, sexual violence prevention and sexual consent have been a recurrent topic on college campuses and in popular media, most recently because of the success of the #MeToo movement. As a result, institutions are deeply invested in communicating consent information. This article problematizes those institutional attempts to teach consent by comparing them to an alternative grounded in queer politics. This alternative information may provide a useful path to redesigning consent information by destabilizing categories of gender, sexuality, and even consent itself.”

Edward A. Malone

Testing the difference between appearance and ability customization

Rogers, R., & Dunlow, L. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly, 7(2), 7–16. https://doi.org/10.1145/3358931.3358934

“Gaming literature largely treats customization as a monolithic concept. This article provides three experiments that test the differences between appearance customization and ability customization. While these three studies provided a degree of replication, they examined between 105 and 147 college students in three different video game scenarios (no game play, non-human avatar, and difficult game). While the results varied slightly based on the scenario, evidence emerged that appearance customization was more likely than ability customization to enhance participant attitude toward the game and likelihood to spend money on the game. The findings of these studies should inform the types of customization used in a variety of domains and should provide guidance on the design process to offer simple and cost-effective methods to improve sales and attitudes toward content. Specifically, appearance customization is a more effective way for organizations to influence users.”

Edward A. Malone


DJs, playlists, and community: Imagining communication design through hip hop

Del Hierro, V. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly, 7(2), 28–39. https://doi.org/10.1145/3358931.3358936

“This article argues for the inclusion of Hip Hop communities in technical communication research. Through Hip Hop, technical communicators can address the recent call for TPC work to expand the field through culturally sensitive and diverse studies that honor communities and their practices. Using a Hip Hop community in Houston as a case study, this article discusses the way DJs operate as technical communicators within their communities. Furthermore, Hip Hop DJs build complex relationships with communities to create localized and accessible content. As technical communicators, Hip Hop practitioners can teach us to create community-based communication design for more diverse contexts.”

Edward A. Malone


Search engines and software for manuscript editing

Kim, Y. (2020). Science Editing, 7(1), 88–93. https://doi.org/10.6087/kcse.199

“In recent years, manuscript editing has become extremely important for academic journals. Using appropriate software for manuscript editing results in improved work efficiency and increased accuracy; therefore, this article aimed to introduce search engines and software that can be used for manuscript editing. First, a variety of search engines and academic databases can be used to reduce errors and to create accurate references. Google, the world’s leading search engine, provides users with information with the highest probability of accuracy, regardless of the reference language or the search term. If it is not possible to find certain information on Google, one can consult WorldCat, PubMed, Naver Academic, KoreaScience, Research Information Sharing Service, DBpia, Crossref, and Edifix. In particular, Naver Academic provides search results for some materials that cannot be found on Google. Second, PerfectIt facilitates the correction of errors that occur frequently in English-language documents. Finally, Grammarly is a helpful tool for checking and correcting grammar and spelling errors. As the academic publishing environment changes, the role and demands of manuscript editors are also changing. In a fast-paced environment, the software and search engines discussed herein are highly useful tools for manuscript editing.”

Edward A. Malone

Ethical issues

Open-access policy and data-sharing practice in UK academia

Zhu, Y. (2020). Journal of Information Science, 46(1), 41–52. https://doi.org/10.1177/0165551518823174

“Data sharing can be defined as the release of research data that can be used by others. With the recent open-science movement, there has been a call for free access to data, tools and methods in academia. In recent years, subject-based and institutional repositories and data centres have emerged along with online publishing. Many scientific records, including published articles and data, have been made available via new platforms. In the United Kingdom, most major research funders had a data policy and require researchers to include a ‘data-sharing plan’ when applying for funding. However, there are a number of barriers to the full-scale adoption of data sharing. Those barriers are not only technical, but also psychological and social. A survey was conducted with over 1800 UK-based academics to explore the extent of support of data sharing and the characteristics and factors associated with data-sharing practice. It found that while most academics recognised the importance of sharing research data, most of them had never shared or reused research data. There were differences in the extent of data sharing between different gender, academic disciplines, age and seniority. It also found that the awareness of Research Council UK’s (RCUK) Open-Access (OA) policy, experience of Gold and Green OA publishing, attitudes towards the importance of data sharing and experience of using secondary data were associated with the practice of data sharing. A small group of researchers used social media such as Twitter, blogs and Facebook to promote the research data they had shared online. Our findings contribute to the knowledge and understanding of open science and offer recommendations to academic institutions, journals and funding agencies.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Health Communication

Communicating real-world evidence for regulatory purposes: The RIGOR checklist

Rofael, M., & Csicseri, A. (2019). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 35(1), 42–46. [doi: none]

“Real world evidence (RWE) and data (RWD) are increasingly being used to support regulatory decision making. The authors propose the RIGOR Checklist to clearly and consistently communicate key criteria identified in recent FDA and industry initiatives to describe whether RWD and RWE are fit for purpose.” The RIGOR Checklist is a framework designed to assess the utility of new data and evidence by evaluating its Relevance, Integrity, Generalizability, Organization, and Reliability and validation.”

Walter Orr

Reducing harm by designing discourse and digital tools for opioid users’ contexts: The Chicago Recovery Alliance’s community-based context of use and PwrdBy’s technology-based context of use

Bivens, K. M. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly, 7(2), 17–27. https://doi.org/10.1145/3358931.3358935

“The United States is struggling with an opioid overdose (OD) crisis. The opioid OD epidemic includes legally prescribed and illicitly acquired opioids. Regardless of if an opioid is legal, understanding users’ contexts of use is essential to design effective methods for individuals to reverse opioid OD. In other words, if health information is not designed to be contextually relevant, the opioid OD health information will be unusable. To demonstrate these distinct healthcare design contexts, I extend Patient Experience Design (PXD) to include community-based and technology-based contexts of use by analyzing two case examples of the Chicago Recovery Alliance’s and PwrdBy’s attempts to decrease deaths by opioid OD. Next, I discuss implications of community-based and technology-based PXD within communities of opioid users, critiquing each method and suggesting four contexts of use-heuristic categories to consider when designing health communication information for users in these contexts.”

Edward A. Malone

Testing strategies to increase source credibility through strategic message design in the context of vaccination and vaccine hesitancy

Xu,Y., Margolin, D., & Niederdeppe, J. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication.
https://doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1751400

“Health communicators in the United States face substantial challenges in their efforts to increase parent uptake of the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine for their children. One major set of challenges involves low levels of trust in medical science behind vaccination safety and effectiveness, pharmaceutical companies who produce these vaccines, and government health agencies who promote vaccination. [The authors] conducted a two-wave randomized experiment (N = 1,000 at time 1, t1, N = 803 at time 2, t2) to test whether messages designed to convey the expertise, trustworthiness, or caring/goodwill of a governmental source of information (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) increased perceived source credibility, increased parent intentions to vaccinate their children, and/or reduced vaccine hesitancy. [The authors] found no support for any of the study’s original, pre-registered hypotheses. However, post-hoc analyses reveal a variety of promising directions for future work on strategic messaging to increase source credibility in the context of vaccine hesitancy. A message designed to convey source expertise produced greater perceived caring/goodwill among parents overall. Furthermore, among parents who were vaccine hesitant at baseline, a message originally designed to convey source expertise produced greater perceived trustworthiness and reduced vaccine hesitancy among this group.”

Walter Orr

The impact of retransmission and modality on communicating health research findings via social media

Dockter, C. E., Lee, S., Boman, C. D., Hinnant, A., & Cameron, G. T. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1749354 

“Social media is an increasingly popular tool for disseminating health research findings to members of the general public and may contribute to improving the effectiveness of science communication. This study was designed to investigate how retransmission (i.e., social media content shared by a familiar, credible organization) and modality (i.e., how the message is delivered) influence the effectiveness of communicating health research findings via social media. The findings from a 2 (source) X 3 (modality) X 2 (topic) mixed factorial design experiment (N = 517) indicated that source had a significant effect, such that posts that were retransmitted by a credible organization resulted in greater perceived source credibility, greater perceived message effectiveness, and greater likelihood of an individual to engage with the post on Facebook. Modality significantly increased perceived source credibility and perceived message effectiveness when posts were retransmitted by a credible source, indicating that modality made a difference when messages were elaborated as a function of the retransmission. Also, the topic of the post had a significant impact on the study’s dependent variables of interest. Overall, the findings illustrate the potential of retransmission and modality as message features that can improve communication of health research findings on social media. Theoretical and practical implications are discussed.”

Walter Orr

What motivates you to share? The effect of interactive tailored information aids on information sharing about clinical trials

Mao, B., Morgan, S. E., Peng, W., McFarlane, S. J., Occa, A., Grinfeder, G., & Byrne, M. M. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi: 10.1080/10410236.2020.1754588

“Cancer patients learn about research studies outside of the clinical environment, including websites, print and online advertisements, and interpersonal interactions. When cancer patients share credible information about clinical trials, they also frequently help clarify misunderstandings that may exist in their social networks. The present study investigated how an interactive tailored information aid on clinical trial participation motivated patients’ information sharing behaviors. In this study of 312 cancer patients and survivors, an interactive tailored information aid improved patients’ likelihood of sharing online and offline information more than a non-interactive tool. Information sharing was directly predicted by cognitive absorption and perceived visual informativeness. In addition, perceived utility and ease of use indirectly impact information sharing positively through the antecedent factors of user engagement and design esthetics. Education level further moderated this effect; information sharing was higher among patients with more education. The implications of these findings are discussed and recommendations for future research are provided.”

Walter Orr

Information Management

Emotions in social media: An analysis of tweet responses to MH370 search suspension announcement

Yeo, S., Pang, A., Cheong, M., & Yeo, J. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 194–211.

“Considered one of the deadliest incidents in the history of aviation crises and labelled a ‘continuing mystery,’ the ongoing search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 offers no closure. With endless media attention, and negative reactions of stakeholders to every decision made by the airline, this study investigates the types of emotions found in social media posted by publics to the MH370 search suspension announcement. It content analyzed 5,062 real-time tweet messages guided by the revised integrated crisis mapping model. [The authors’] findings indicated that, in addition to the four original emotions posited, there was a fifth emotion because of the long-drawn crisis and only two dominant emotions were similar to the model. A redrawn version to better encapsulate all the emotions is offered for one quadrant in the model. Implications for both crisis communication scholarship and the importance of social listening for organizations are discussed.”

Katherine Wertz

Navigating crisis: The role of communication in organizational crisis

Marsen, S. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 163–175. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488419882981

“This article introduces the special issue on crisis communication, whose aim is to bring together diverse approaches and methods of analysis in the field. The article overviews the field by discussing two main frameworks, dealing with postcrisis (reputation management) and precrisis (issue management) communication, respectively. The article then overviews some major theories of crisis communication and their different methodologies: image repair, situational crisis communication theory, rhetorical arena theory, narrative, and integrated crisis mapping. It ends with a description of some lessons learned that apply to all approaches and an overview of the contributions to the issue. By comparing and contrasting different perspectives on crisis communication, the article emphasizes the rich diversity that characterizes this branch of business communication.”

Katherine Wertz

Paradoxical timelines in Wells Fargo’s crisis discourse: Expanding the discourse of renewal theory

Anderson, L., & Guo, J. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 212–226.

“[The authors] detail the ways in which Wells Fargo used the tenets of the discourse of renewal and resilience communication to respond to its financial crises. To do so, [the authors] completed a thematic analysis of Well Fargo’s website and commercials. Specifically, [the authors] found that Wells Fargo relied on its organizational history to communicate renewal. In doing, so Wells Fargo (1) created a paradoxical timeline of events that puts alternative logic to work and (2) drew on established identity anchors. [The authors] therefore conclude that discourse of renewal can integrate past-orientation and address organizational identity work with theoretical basis. By combining these two frameworks and applying them to a real-world crisis context, [the authors] make important contributions to the continued development of both the discourse of renewal and resilience communication.”

Katherine Wertz

Story/Telling with data as distributed activity

Danner, P. (2020). Technical Communication Quarterly, 29, 174–187. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2019.1660807

“Based on a workplace ethnography of an organization referred to as the ‘Metro Data Cooperative,’ this article unpacks the multiple approaches to ‘storytelling with data’ held by research subjects. The research suggests that ‘storytelling’ is more than a discursive form that writers break into. Instead, because there are always multiple statistically supportable stories available, researchers and practitioners should understand storytelling as a malleable activity taking place with regard to multiple organizational and technical influences.”

Rhonda Stanton


Cultural differences between Chinese and Western user instructions: A content analysis of user manuals for household appliances

Li, Q., de Jong, M. D. T., & Karreman, J. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(1), 3–20. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2019.2961010

“This study examines cultural differences between Chinese and Western manuals for household appliances. . . . Earlier studies identified a wide range of possible differences between Chinese and Western documents, but the findings are not consistent and do not provide more generic perspectives on cultural differences. Possible reasons are the diversity of the documents used, the rather informal research designs, and relatively small sample sizes.” After conducting a comparative, quantitative content analysis of 50 Chinese manuals and 50 Western manuals for household appliances, researchers concluded “the content of Chinese manuals is less strictly confined to the function of user support than that of Western manuals” and structurally “appears to be fuzzier and less rigid.” Chinese manuals also “contain more non-instrumental, entertaining illustrations than Western manuals.” The authors suggest “[t]hese differences seem to point to two cultural dimensions: holistic versus analytic thinking and analog versus digital cultures.”

Lyn Gattis

Intercultural Communication

Building intercultural competence through virtual team collaboration across global classrooms

Swartz, S., Barbosa, B., & Crawford, I. (March 2020). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 83(1), 57–79. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329490619878834

Intercultural communication is demanding but essential. Learning it in theory is not enough. “Faced with the realities of intercultural interaction … [people] have to admit that … accepting the theories of intercultural competence is one thing, putting them into practice is another.” This may account for the mixed results of this study, particularly shown in Table 2. “By means of a cross-cultural virtual teams project involving classrooms in Scotland, Germany, and Portugal, students were exposed to the challenges of collaborating internationally with the intention of increasing their intercultural competency. Intercultural sensitivity and intercultural communication competency were measured using responses to surveys before and after the 6-week project. Students reported, among other aspects, a heightened awareness of the difficulties of intercultural communication. Despite a general appreciation of the project and its outcomes, negative results, such as an increased dislike of intercultural interaction, emerged.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Intercultural Issues

The impact of CEO ethnicity and language choice on crisis communication in Japan

Barkley, K. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 244–259. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488419882984

“Spokesperson ethnicity research has shown that organizations can benefit from matching spokespersons to their target audiences. However, one facet of Japanese crisis communication can make this approach difficult for foreign organizations facing crises in Japan. The Japanese tendency to focus on collective-level causality and place blame with leaders through proxy logic, frequently forces CEOs into the role of crisis spokesperson. The current study utilized an experimental design to examine the effect of CEO ethnicity and language choice on how culturally matched and unmatched crisis responses were evaluated by a Japanese audience. Specifically, participants’ perceptions of ideological similarity, spokesperson credibility, and organizational reputation were compared between the Japanese CEO baseline and a Caucasian CEO speaking either in English or Japanese. The study found that the foreign CEO condition was evaluated more favorably across all measures independent of response match but found variations in the impact of choosing to forgo a translator in favor of delivering the response in Japanese.”

Katherine Wertz


Managing the global virtual workforce: Reducing the liability of foreignness

Sánchez, C., & Arndt, R. (2020). Journal of Applied Business and Economics, 22(1), 130–137. https://doi.org/10.33423/jabe.v22i1.2720

“Effective management of global virtual workforces may reduce the liability of foreignness. As more organizations do business across borders, global workforce effectiveness is critical given logistic, language and cultural distances. Based on theories of global workforces, virtual technology use, cultural differences, and common language policy, we posit that global virtual workforces will better succeed if organizations (1) select appropriate communication technology, (2) train members to navigate cultural differences, and (2) adopt a language policy. We highlight strategies with examples from conversations with managers of several organizations, and we emphasize unexpected benefits to organizations that successfully manage their global virtual workforce.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


E-leadership or “how to be boss in instant messaging?” The role of nonverbal communication

Darics, E. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57(1), 3–29. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488416685068

“Doing leadership in the virtual realm has now become a routine part of many leaders’ daily work, yet our understanding of how leadership is enacted in mediated contexts—especially in text-only channels—is very limited. By applying micro-level analysis to naturally occurring instant message conversations, this article exposes the strategies leaders employ to achieve a range of complex communication goals: to get the work done while fostering informality and collegiality and creating the sense of a real—and not virtual—collaboration between team members. The findings further our understanding in two domains: They provide empirical grounding for e-leadership theories by exposing practices from real-life interactions, and they contribute to discursive leadership literature by addressing nonverbal communication practices. The findings of the article could form the basis for management and leadership training by drawing attention to the linguistic and semiotic resources digital leaders have at their disposal in virtual work environments.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Professional Issues

Narratives of international women entrepreneurs: An exploratory case study of identity negotiation in technology startups

Williams, S. D., Ammetller, G., Rodriguez-Ardura, I., & Li, X. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(1), 39–51. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2019.2961016

“Female entrepreneurs play a significant role in new business creation, yet women’s entrepreneurship stories remain largely absent in professional communication research. Therefore, a need exists to ‘give voice’ to female entrepreneurship stories, and this exploratory case examines the unique identities that three female entrepreneurs express in their narratives. This case asks how three female entrepreneurs reconciled the discourses of entrepreneurship, gender, and culture to construct a unique entrepreneurial identity in their reflective narratives.” The researchers “recruited three women who self-identified as technology company entrepreneurs, each from a different culture, and recorded their oral narratives about their entrepreneurial journeys. Three raters independently coded data drawing on dimensions extracted from prior literature to build ‘identity curves’ for each narrative.” The results suggest “each participant negotiated discourses of entrepreneurship, gender, and culture differently, with the greatest divergence appearing on cultural codes, and the least divergence appearing on gender codes.” The authors recommend that “future research should begin with the assumption that no single ‘entrepreneurial identity’ exists for female entrepreneurs, and more broadly that professional communication research should foreground differences among individuals rather than attempt to aggregate individual experiences into homogenous characterizations.”

Lyn Gattis

Public Relations

Blackfish and SeaWorld: A case study in the framing of a crisis

Waller, R., & Iluzada, C. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 227–243.

“This research focuses on the crisis that the documentary Blackfish precipitated at SeaWorld. The study begins with a brief account of the growth and evolution of SeaWorld and the financial and reputational damage that followed Blackfish’s release in 2013. A literature review of framing and frame theory follows. Next, the three issue-related, transformative frames embedded in the text/video of Blackfish are identified and analyzed; then the three main counter frames deployed by SeaWorld are identified and analyzed. The conclusion discusses how and why Blackfish prevailed in this high-profile framing contest. It does so by discussing the resonance, coherence, and credibility of the documentary’s anticaptivity narrative and its superiority over SeaWorld’s counterframing campaign. Perhaps even more important, the conclusion briefly examines how the tectonic shift in late-20th-century public opinion regarding animal rights—the kairotic backdrop of this crisis—forced SeaWorld to fundamentally change its business model in order to meet the dictates of this new ethos and to reestablish its postcrisis legitimacy.”

Katherine Wertz

Stakeholder-focused communication strategy during crisis: A case study based on the Brussels terror attacks

Marynissen, H., & Lauder, M. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 176–193.

“Research in the field of risk and crisis communication indicates that large disasters not only cause distress among those affected by a crisis situation but also among the wider public. It is known that feelings of anxiety and dread are rooted in a heuristic interpretation of the situation, and that this leads to elevated stress levels in both the individual and the collective. From the literature on psychosocial behavior, we know that the lack of information, the shortness of guidance on what to do, and the absence of acknowledgement of any emotional distress, all have an immediate negative impact on the individual’s stress level. To tackle this phenomenon, this research looks to communication practices as a way of dealing with this issue during a crisis. The prevailing crisis communication literature suggests its prime aim is to safeguard the sender’s reputation thereby preventing the loss of trust. In [the authors’] work, [they] inverted that logic by introducing a crisis communication strategy that focuses on restoring trust by diminishing victims’ and other stakeholders’ stress levels. Based on a case, the Brussels terror attacks (March, 2016), [the authors] proved the effectiveness of this approach and the diminishing effect on the population’s stress levels.”

Katherine Wertz


Modernization updates to the common rule: Recommendations for researchers working with human participants

Phelps, J. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(1), 85–95. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2019.2961011

“This tutorial article explicates some of the 2017 updates to the 1991 Common Rule. Implemented in January 2019, these changes impact the evolving landscape of research with human participants in the US. The introduction provides context for the article as well as framing research questions.” The article covers “a brief definition of research for the purposes of the article; a discussion of the foundational ethical principles of autonomy (respect for persons), beneficence, and justice; and a brief overview of the recent policy revision process and its impact on scholarship in the field.” Five key lessons from the policy revisions include “the impact of policy changes in the Common Rule associated with broad consent, single Institutional Review Board (IRB) mandate/cooperative review, updated exemptions, modified definitions of vulnerability, and international research. These are all contextualized within a specific example for professional communication researchers.“

Lyn Gattis

Scientific Writing

The news from Mars

Weber, R. (2002). Technical Communication Quarterly, 29, 136–154. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2019.1689298

“Bruno Latour advocates for portrayals of science in the making but does not explain how the public can access these portrayals. This article addresses that gap by analyzing how 199 press releases from NASA’s Curiosity mission depict science. Results indicate that the releases often cover Curiosity’s tools and activities, occasionally feature scientists at work, and rarely mention controversies. Ultimately, these press releases provide the public an engaging but partial perspective on science in the making.”

Rhonda Stanton

Software Documentation

How developers use API documentation: An observation study

Meng, M., Steinhardt, S., & Schubert, A. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly, 7(2), 40–49.

“Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) play a crucial role in modern software engineering. However, learning to use a new API often is a challenge for developers. In order to support the learning process effectively, we need to understand how developers use documentation when starting to work with a new API. We report an exploratory study that observed developers while they solved programming tasks involving a simple API. The results reveal differences regarding developer activities and documentation usage that a successful design strategy for API documentation needs to accommodate. Several guidelines to optimize API documentation are discussed.”

Edward A. Malone


Shifting teaching and learning in online learning spaces: An investigation of a faculty online teaching and learning initiative

Richardson, J. W., Lingat, J. E. M., Hollis, E., & Pritchard, M. (2020). Online Learning, 24(1).

“This article presents results from a study of a year-long, teaching and learning center-directed, professional development initiative that focused on both the technology and the pedagogical supports for online and blended course delivery at a research university. The purpose of this mixed methods study was two-fold. The first purpose was to investigate pedagogical changes that occurred as a result of the professional development that included a year-long faculty learning community by exploring influences on pedagogical changes. The second purpose was to understand the perceptions of the diffusion of innovations (DOI) characteristics that influenced the level of adoption of online/blended teaching by faculty participants. A survey was used to measure the perceived characters of innovation as defined in the theoretical framework. Following the survey, one-on-one interviews that were linked to the DOI theoretical framework were conducted to better understand those characteristics. The results presented herein focus on barriers, challenges, and successes of adopting e-learning pedagogy in these online and blended learning environments.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Using adapted studio critique to teach peer review in the document design classroom

Watts, J. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(1), 52–63. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2019.2961012

“Given the importance of visual communication to technical communicators’ work, 40% of undergraduate programs in technical and professional communication require a document design course. However, document design pedagogies such as structuring peer review are still being researched, and popular textbooks do not provide instruction about how to facilitate this important pedagogy.” In this case study, the author used “[s]tudio critique literature and document design peer review scholarship” to develop a form of studio critique for an undergraduate course. Students responded favorably to this methodology in survey and interview results “but recommend extending critique time, better facilitating participation, capturing feedback effectively, focusing the presentation, evaluating feedback, and requesting revision plans. . . .”

Lyn Gattis


A posthuman approach to agency, disability, and technology in social interactions

Clinkenbeard, M. J. (2020). Technical Communication Quarterly, 29, 115–135. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2019.1646319

“This study explores how agency is distributed in an interaction among a child, a speech-language pathologist, and an electronic communication device. Using video-recorded data of the interaction, I consider how micro features of the participants’ communication such as gaze and gesture as well as material objects such as the device collectively shape possibilities for agency. This interdependent, posthuman approach shifts our understanding and practice of agency from gaining independence to improving collect action.”

Rhonda Stanton

Usability Studies

Contextual information in social how-to questions that initiate documentation

Baker, M. J. (2020). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 34(3), 287–326. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920910226

“This study introduces social question-and-answer (SQA) documentation to technical and professional communication scholarship. It conceptualizes SQA as interactive, user-generated documentation and describes contextual information types within social how-to questions that initiate documentation. It also explores whether contextual information associates with answers that complete the interactive documentation. Results reliably describe 15 information types based on content analysis of 3,529 contextual information types from 500 questions. Exploratory statistical analysis suggests that askers may increase answerability by including less speculative thought, more error messages, and less general situation information. To facilitate complete SQA documentation, the study calls for additional research into question content and answerability.”

Sean C. Herring

Understanding social media competence in higher education: Development and validation of an instrument

Zhu, S., Hao Yang, H., Xu, S., & MacLeod, J. (2020). Journal of Educational Computing Research, 57(8), 1935–1955. https://doi.org/10.1177/0735633118820631

“The rapid integration of social media into personal, professional, and educational settings has catalyzed the need to assess social media competence. This study provides the rationale for developing an instrument to conduct such an assessment, and the research illustrates evidence of validity and reliability in assessing social media competence in the field of higher education. The instrument includes 28 items and 4 dimensions: technical usability, content interpretation, content generation, and anticipatory reflection. Data were collected from a sample of 622 college students. Exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses were conducted, and this study finds that the instrument shows no signs of deficiency in its validity or reliability when measuring social media competence. Accordingly, the instrument could be used to evaluate and improve levels of social media competence in higher education.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Usability testing for oppression

Bartolotta, J. (2019). Communication Design Quarterly, 7(3), 16–29. https://doi.org/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.”

Edward A. Malone

User Experience

The effect of age and font on reading ability

Beier, S., & Oderkerk, C. (2019). Visible Language, 53(3), 50–69. [doi: none]

This study investigated “the typographical variables of stroke weight, letter width, and letter spacing, and their effects on different age groups and reading scenarios.” Using the Radner Reading Chart, the authors “measured reading speed at different sizes, to compare the fonts KBH Text, KBH Display, and Gill Sans Light. The experiment showed that for older participants, reading Gill Sans resulted in faster reading speed compared to KBH Text. However, Gill Sans could not be recognized at small sizes by either the younger or older participants. For critical print size (CPS), older participants were better at reading small print sizes at a regular reading speed when the text was set in KBH Text than when it was set in Gill Sans. The findings indicate that older readers are more sensitive to font legibility differences than younger readers. [The authors] discuss the implications of different reading scenarios putting different demands on the fonts as well as the perspective of older readers benefitting from certain visual qualities of fonts.”

Lyn Gattis


Hard or soft sell? Understanding white papers as content marketing

Campbell, K. S., Naidoo, J. S., & Campbell, S. M. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(1), 21–38.

“Although some have noted that combining technical and marketing content is precarious, technical communication professionals are increasingly involved in content marketing, which includes the creation of white papers. . . . The little existing literature on white papers provides conflicting guidance about managing the combination of technical and marketing content. Both soft-sell and hard-sell marketing approaches have been recommended. One source of such inconsistent guidance may be the lack of agreement about definitions. Research on print advertisements has described hard and soft selling as multidimensional rather than binary aspects of persuasive appeals.” In this study, the authors collected a group of documents from TechRepublic that had been categorized as white papers. Three raters then evaluated the papers with respect to “dimensions of persuasive appeals in the corpus.” Results suggested that “hard-sell dimensions were more prevalent than soft-sell dimensions. However, the soft-sell category of ‘implicitness’ was also dominant.” The researchers find value in “treating hard and soft selling as multidimensional, complementary, and combinatory marketing appeals that allow, for example, a single white paper to be both ‘subjective’ (soft sell), and ‘precise’ (hard sell), or both ‘creative’ (soft sell) and ‘informative’ (hard sell).”

Lyn Gattis

Inculcating self-editing skills for enhancing writing skills of the EFL students

Sangeetha, V. (2020). International Journal of Instruction, 13(1), 509–522. https://doi.org/10.29333/iji.2020.13133a

“Producing error-free compositions in academic context is a big challenge for English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students. Since the editing and revision stage plays a significant role in the writing process in enhancing students’ writing skills, there have always been various notions on applying an appropriate type of feedback method by the instructors while marking their students’ compositions. The objective of this research work is to investigate the role of self-editing technique in enhancing the writing skills of English as a Foreign Language students. The data were collected using students’ composition scores, questionnaire surveys and semi-structured interviews. The quantitative findings demonstrated that the students’ writing skills significantly improved after using self-editing and also highlighted the students’ perceptions regarding learning self- editing skill in writing classes. Also, the qualitative data results provided students’ views on the role of self-editing in fostering learner independence. The study concludes with significant implications of how self-editing in revision process can facilitate students’ writing skills.”

Edward A. Malone

Invention questions for intercultural understanding: Situation regulatory medical narratives as narrative forms

DeTora, L., & Klein, M. J. (2020). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 50(2), 167–186.

“Patient safety narratives are a globally mandated format for representing individual patient experiences, and they include peer-reviewed case reports and narrative medicine. The authors show how the humanistic values described by Carolyn Miller in 1979 could enhance or contribute to international health and medical communication in relation to such narratives. They do so by expanding on twenty-first century work by Bowdon and Scott to provide a framework for considering how narrative competence and narrative humility may allow technical communicators to strengthen their practices within technical communication and the rhetorics of health and science by examining an individual problem within its broader, intercultural contexts.”

Anita Ford

Do writing errors bother professionals? An analysis of the most bothersome errors and how the writer’s ethos is affected

Gubala, C., Larson, K., & Meloncon, L. (2020). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 34(3), 250–286.

“This study asks whether grammatical and mechanical errors bother business professionals, which of these types of errors are most bothersome, and whether such errors affect perceptions of the writer and their ethos. We administered a 17-question survey to roughly 100 business professionals whose roles are not primarily writing and communication within organizations. The findings show that business professionals are bothered by these errors and that the level of bothersomeness has increased from previous studies. Additionally, the findings show that participants have clear views of writers who make errors and that the context of the error matters. The authors conclude by offering implications for technical and professional communication.”

Sean C. Herring

Using a transfer-focused writing pedagogy to improve undergraduates’ lab report writing in gateway engineering laboratory courses

Kim, D., & Olson, W. M. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(1), 64–84.

“The lab report is a commonly assigned genre in engineering lab courses; however, students often have difficulties meeting the expectations of writing in engineering labs. At the same time, it is challenging for engineering faculty to instruct lab report writing because they are often under-supported in writing pedagogies and usually unfamiliar with the extent of students’ prior writing knowledge.” This study explores the effectiveness of “a transfer-focused writing pedagogy in supporting students’ understanding of the genre conventions of engineering lab reports.” It also considers how “transfer-focused writing pedagogy impact[s] students’ writing quality in five categories (rhetorical knowledge, organization, evidence, critical thinking, and disciplinary conventions).” Four engineering instructors and two English instructors collaborated to develop and implement a module of “lab report writing instruction and assessment resources [that shared] a rhetorical approach and foundational writing terms with first-year composition courses to emphasize a writing-transfer pedagogy.“ Writing artifacts collected before and after implementation of the module “show that a rhetorical approach to teaching lab reports helped students better understand the expectations of the lab report as a discipline-specific genre, and it developed students’ understanding of the rhetorical features of engineering writing.”

Lyn Gattis