68.2 May 2021

Recent and Relevant

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

Voluntary exposure to political fact checks

Mattes, K., & Redlawsk, D. P. (2020). Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 97(4), 913–935.

“For political fact-checking enterprises to be effective, two conditions must be met. Voters must be interested in fact-checks, and the fact-checks must encourage voters to reevaluate their beliefs. Here, we study the former: whether voters are interested in reading fact-checks of political candidates’ statements. We use a simulated campaign environment in which participants’ exposure to fact-checks are voluntary. We find that voters are interested in fact-checking, especially for negative campaigns and personal (versus issue) campaigns. We also find that topics salient to voters are most often fact-checked. Finally, we provide evidence for the operation of a motivated reasoning process, as statements made by less preferred candidates were more deeply scrutinized.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


Asynchronous collaboration: Bridging the cognitive distance in global software development projects

Sangwan, R. S., Jablokow, K. W., & DeFranco, J. F. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(4), 361–371.

“The role that physical, temporal, and cultural distances play in global software development projects has been well researched . . .This article examines a fourth dimension—cognitive distance—that relates to the problem-solving style of teams that can also have an impact on their ability to collaborate successfully.”
The study explores whether “cognitive distance
affect[s] communication among global software development teams collaborating with each other” and also “the sentiment/emotion of global software development teams collaborating with each other
. . . [The researchers] examined project artifacts and email communication among geographically dispersed teams within a global software development project. From the project artifacts, [they] examined tasks allocated to different teams. From the emails, [they] established the communication network and volume of communication and performed a sentiment analysis on email content. This analysis allowed [the authors] to observe not only the quality of communication among the teams but also the sentiment/emotion that reflected how well they were working together.” Results indicate “managing teams that vastly differ in problem-solving styles and tasks requires that project managers be aware of these differences and introduce liaisons that reach across the teams to help bridge the cognitive divide.”

Lyn Gattis


Constituting resilience at work: Maintaining dialectics and cultivating dignity throughout a worksite closure

Wieland, S. M. B. (2020). Management Communication Quarterly, 34(4), 463-494. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318920949314

“The authors used an admittedly small sample size to do in-depth interviews to find that treating employees with dignity and that more communication with and among employees improved the employees’ outlook. Job insecurity—seen in practices like temporary work, furloughs, and site closures—is an ongoing reality for increasing numbers of workers. . .This study. . .consider[s] how a group of employees enacted resilience during the 22-month period between the announcement that their worksite would close and the actual closure. Based on in-depth interviews, this study considers how soon-to-be terminated employees created and maintained resilience by (de)centering themselves, framing the future optimistically, affirming their value, keeping work in perspective, and caring for one another. . . Specifically, the analysis suggests that maintaining dialectics and cultivating dignity are important for constituting resilience. This study contributes to our understanding of the communicative constitution of resilience by offering a sixth central process—maintaining dialectics—to the communication theory of resilience and suggesting that workplace interactions that cultivate dignity enable resilience.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Examining the experiences of remaining employees after a coworker dismissal: Initial message characteristics, information seeking, uncertainty, and perceived social costs

Benedict, B. C. (2020). Management Communication Quarterly, 34(4), 496–526. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318920949327

Because “insufficient or ineffective communication about the dismissal of a coworker could negatively affect individuals, work units, and the organization,” managers need to consider the remaining employees and their perception of workplace fairness as well as ethics and legalities around the dismissed employee. “Organizational exit can be turbulent. This study examines the communication surrounding coworker dismissal, including how remaining employees learn about a coworker’s dismissal and what predicts remaining employees’ information seeking, uncertainty, and perceptions of social costs related to information seeking. Statistical and content analyses were conducted on survey data gathered from 220 participants. Remaining employees most often learned about their coworker’s dismissal from another coworker or the remaining employees’ immediate supervisor; via individual, face-to-face meetings; with moderate formality; at some point within a day of the dismissal; with varying content. Age [rather than uncertainty] predicted uncertainty and perceived social costs of information seeking. Message characteristics predicted uncertainty, while interaction frequency predicted the perceived social costs of information seeking. Uncertainty did not predict information-seeking strategy use. Greater perceived social costs predicted less overt questioning and greater observing and testing. This study extends uncertainty reduction and management theories and offers managers advice about communicating coworker terminations.”

Diana Fox Bentele


A content analysis of figure captions in academic journals from four disciplines

Smith, J. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(4), 341–360. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3032049

“Captions do important communicative work, but little research has investigated their content quantitatively. . .” “This study investigated the following four questions: “How do captions found in psychology, linguistics, biology, and technical and professional communication (TPC) journals differ in terms of length? What are the rhetorical structures of figure captions in psychology, linguistics, biology, and TPC journals? How do the rhetorical structures of captions in journals from these four disciplines differ? To what extent does visual type interact with caption length and rhetorical structure? . . . . Using quantitative content analysis, [the author] compared the frequencies of moves in captions across disciplines, determined whether the moves were conventional or optional, and identified patterns in the progression of moves in the captions. . . A supplementary analysis of the types of visuals that accompanied the captions offered insights into the findings of the caption-content analysis. . . Results suggest a high degree of variation in the rhetorical structure of captions in academic journals. Biology captions were, on average, the longest and contained the most moves. TPC captions were the shortest and contained the fewest moves. Psychology and linguistics captions fell between the biology and TPC captions. . . Understanding variation in caption content can encourage a more rhetorical approach to caption writing. Researchers in disciplines where shorter captions are standard might consider writing elaborated captions.”

Lyn Gattis

Eccentric pie charts and an unusual pie cutting

Bozóki, S. (2020). Information Visualization, 19(4), 288–295.

“The eccentric pie chart, a generalization of the traditional pie chart, is introduced. An arbitrary point is fixed within the circle, and rays are drawn from it. A sector is bounded by a pair of neighboring rays and the arc between them. Eccentric pie charts have the potential of visualizing multiple sets of data, especially for small numbers of items/features. The calculations of the area-proportional diagram are based on well-known equations in coordinate geometry. The resulting system of polynomial and trigonometric equations can be approximated by a fully polynomial system, once the non-polynomial functions are approximated by their Taylor series written up to the first few terms. The roots of the polynomial system have been found by the homotopy continuation method, then used as starting points of a Newton iteration for the original (non-polynomial) system. The method is illustrated on a special pie-cutting problem.”

Edward A. Malone

How people are influenced by deceptive tactics in everyday charts and graphs

Lauer, C., & O’Brien, S. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(4), 327–340. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3032053

“Visualizations are used to communicate data about important political, social, environmental, and health topics to a wide range of audiences; however, perceptions of graphs as objective conduits of factual data make them an easy means for spreading misinformation.” This study explores whether people are “deceived by common deceptive tactics or exaggerated titles used in data visualizations about non-controversial topics. . .[whether] a person’s previous data visualization coursework mitigate[s] the extent to which they are deceived by deceptive tactics used in data visualizations . . .[and which] parts of data visualizations (title, shape, data labels). . . people use to answer questions about the information being presented in data visualizations. . . . Participants (n = 329) were randomly assigned to view one of four treatments for four different graph types (bar, line, pie, and bubble) and then asked to answer a question about each graph. Participants were asked to rank the ease with which they read each graph and comment on what they used to respond to the question about each graph. . . Results show that deceptive tactics caused participants to misinterpret information in the deceptive versus control visualizations across all graph types. Neither graph titles nor previous coursework impacted responses for any of the graphs. Qualitative responses illuminate people’s perceptions of graph readability and what information they use to read different types of graphs. . . Recommendations are made to improve data visualization instruction, including critically examining software defaults and the ease with which people give agency over to software when preparing data visualizations. Avenues of future research are discussed.”

Lyn Gattis

Discourse communities

Building credibility and cooperation in low-trust settings: Persuasion and source accountability in Liberia during the 2014–2015 Ebola crisis

Tsai, L. L., Morse, B. S., & Blair, R. A. (2020).

“How can governments in low-trust settings overcome their credibility deficit when promoting public welfare? To answer this question, we evaluate the effectiveness of the Liberian government’s door-to-door canvassing campaign during the 2014–2015 Ebola epidemic, which aimed to persuade residents to voluntarily comply with policies for containing the disease. Combining data from an original representative survey of Monrovia during the crisis with variation in the campaign’s reach and using multiple identification strategies, we find that the informational campaign was remarkably effective at increasing adherence to safety precautions, support for contentious control policies, and general trust in government. To uncover the pathways through which the campaign proved so effective, we conducted over 80 in-depth qualitative interviews in 40 randomly sampled communities. This investigation suggests that local intermediaries were effective because their embeddedness in communities subjected them to monitoring and sanctioning, thereby assuring their fellow residents that they were accountable and thus credible.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

The rhetoric of online exclusive pumping communities: Tactical technical communication as eschewing judgment

McCaughey, J. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 34–47. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1823485

“Exclusive Pumping straddles the most common infant-feeding methods: breastfeeding and bottle feeding. Exclusive pumpers express milk and feed with bottles. Yet experts rarely recommend exclusive pumping, creating a need for information outside of formal communication outlets. This article argues that exclusive pumping forums are sites of tactical technical communication—operating as “anti-institutional— and explores these forums as places of inspiration and support, as well as spaces where mothers seek to solve technical feeding problems while avoiding institutional judgment.”

Rhonda Stanton


The relationship between future career self-images and English achievement test scores of Japanese STEM students

Apple, M. T., Falout, J., & Hill, G. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(4), 372–385. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3029662

“College and university science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students in Japan . . . lack the motivation to learn English as a second language (L2), impairing their current capacities to learn the L2 and their future abilities to communicate globally once employed. . . Three types of future career-related self images—an Ideal L2 Self, a Probable L2 Self, and an Ought-to L2 Self—are hypothesized to promote L2 achievement. . . Data from questionnaires examining psycholinguistic variables for 1013 Japanese STEM students of English were subjected to ANOVA and multiple regression analysis with three L2 Self variables as predictor variables and scores from the TOEIC standardized English exam as the outcome variable. . . ANOVA results showed that students had a strong image of themselves as needing English for future career goals, as measured by the Ought-to L2 Self, but had lower levels of Ideal L2 Self, the variable measuring a future image as a fluent user of English. In the regression analysis, the Ought-to L2 Self predicted lower TOEIC exam scores; conversely, the Ideal L2 Self predicted greater TOEIC scores. These paradoxical results indicate that Japanese STEM students struggle motivationally to improve English skills needed for future STEM job-related communication, despite feeling pressured to do so. . .To encourage the formation of students’ images of Ideal L2 selves or stronger Probable L2 selves . . .teachers of Japanese STEM students could introduce motivational interventions” such as inviting “positive role models of English language learners” to visit classes and demonstrate how learning English has been relevant to their careers.

Lyn Gattis


Editing the pitch: Patterns of editing strategies of written pitches in a Chilean accelerator program

Cabezas, P., Spinuzzi, C., Sabaj, O., & Varas, G. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(4), 296–310. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3029673

“After a six-month training program in the Chilean public accelerator Start-Up Chile, entrepreneurs are asked to update a short pitch they wrote in the submission stage to appear in the program’s online portfolio. . .” The researchers asked which editing strategies the entrepreneurs used “to change their pitch,” and whether “these strategies conform to specific discursive patterns. . . To answer the research questions, [the researchers] designed an exploratory qualitative study to describe in depth the editing strategies used by two generations of startups, corresponding to 148 pairs of written pitches. In order to contextualize the results, [they] conducted two interviews with the program managers and analyzed the accelerator’s official Playbook and Technical and Administrative Requirements. . .” The researchers “identified 10 editing strategies. Of those editing strategies, ‘Deleting technical descriptions’ is by far the most common procedure. The identified patterns can be classified into two groups, those simplifying, hedging, and focusing on certain elements of the first pitch, and those adding and specifying information of the first version. . . [The researchers] conclude the study by discussing the strengths of this methodological approach for understanding such edits and for supporting successful edits in accelerator programs, as well as the potential for better understanding entrepreneur coachability.”

Lyn Gattis


Fostering communities of inquiry and connectivism in online technical communication programs and courses

Cleary, Y.: (2002). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 51(1), 11-30. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281620977138

“In increasingly online higher education environments, instructors must develop positive and community-oriented learning environments, equivalent to, if different from, face-to-face learning experiences. Connectivism and communities of inquiry are complementary theories that facilitate the design and development of online learning and enable online learners to connect with peers. This article discusses two pedagogical interventions that encourage connectivism and foster communities of inquiry in online technical communication programs: (a) a face-to-face orientation workshop at the beginning of an online program and (b) a peer-review activity in a research methods graduate course. The article explains the development, deployment, and evaluation of the activities.”

Anita Ford

Programmatic outcomes in undergraduate technical and professional communication programs

Clegg, G., Lauer, J., Phelps, J., & Melonçon, L. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 19–33. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1774662

“This article discusses the process of coding and analyzing data from 376 Programmatic Student Learning Outcomes (PSLOs) from 47 technical and professional communication (TPC) undergraduate degree programs. The resultant findings suggest that TPC program administrators adopt common PSLOs, eliminate embedded PSLOs, and consider the assets of PSLOs beyond assessment. Such practices will ensure that PSLOs support students as a primary audience and cohere with broader disciplinary understandings of education at the undergraduate level in TPC.”

Rhonda Stanton

Ethical issues

Misinformation harms: A tale of two humanitarian crises

Tran, T., Valecha, R., Rad, P., & Rao, H. R. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(4), 386–399. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3029685

“During humanitarian crises, communities of people face various types of dangers. To counter the dangers, they need information in a short period. Such need creates the opportunity for misinformation. Such misinformation can result in information harms that can generate short- or long-term consequences. . . [The authors] propose a taxonomy of 15 information harms grouped in 8 categories and assess the perception of risk regarding the harms through a survey of respondents who have experienced crisis response situations. . . This paper examines two scenarios, the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the 2017 Oroville Dam evacuation order crises, through two dimensions: Likelihood of occurrence and Level of impacts of the harms. . . Similar groups of harms are identified with different severity levels based on post hoc analyses: those with 1. high likelihood and low impact (psychological and confusion harms), 2. low likelihood and low impact (reputation and privacy harms), and 3. low likelihood and high impact (physical, financial, safety, and social harms). In addition to establishing the taxonomy of misinformation harms, findings will have practical value in emergency response and recovery activities to effectively prioritize resources to minimize specific harms from misinformation in crises. Further research directions are also discussed.”

Lyn Gattis

“Subjects” in and of research: Decolonizing oppressive rhetorical practices in technical communication research

Agboka, G.Y.: (2021). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 51(2), 159–174. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281620901484

“Despite the recent surge in social justice and decolonial scholarship, technical and professional communication (TPC) research remains a potential site of oppression. This article is meant to be a call to action; it attempts to (re)ignite discussions about what we value and how we express what we value. It encourages the field of TPC to be more responsive to the experiences and struggles of research participants—those we engage during our knowledge production process. [The author] explore[s] what [the author] call[s] oppressive rhetoric in TPC research with a specific focus on the term subjects in institutional review board forms and in the reporting of some TPC research about research participants. [The author] assert[s] that in spite of our best efforts in advancing the goals of marginalized groups and despite the forward-looking trajectory of progressive research, more work needs to be done to address oppressive rhetoric in TPC scholarship.”

Anita Ford

Health communication

Advancing visual health communication research to improve infodemic response

King, A.J. & Lazard, A.J. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2020.1838094

“During public health crises like the ongoing novel coronavirus pandemic, there is a need to amplify and improve critical health communication messages. This need is due to pandemics producing infodemic conditions, meaning the public information environment is oversaturated with information of questionable accuracy and utility. The strategic use of visuals can be leveraged to improve the quality of health communication during public health crises and lessen the unintended effects of infodemic conditions. In this essay, we review previous visual communication theorizing and research that provide insights for effective and efficient use of graphical (e.g., data visualizations) and illustrative (e.g., photos, illustrations, and content features) visuals. We also discuss and advocate for more systematic research on visual misinformation and visual narratives, as there are significant gaps in the literature about how people interpret, act on, and engage with these visual content types. More systematic research about these areas of visual health communication research will improve public communication during future public health crises.”

Water Orr

A prescription for health: (Pseudo) scientific advertising of fruits and vegetables in the early 20th century

Nelson, M. R., Das, S., & Ahn, R. J. (2020). Advertising & Society Quarterly, 21(1). https://doi.org/10.1353/asr.2020.0007

“This paper charts the history of advertising techniques in communicating health information via fruit and vegetable advertising and anticipates the implications of national advertising on nutrition education in society today. Our analysis of print advertising in the early twentieth century reveals that in an era of scientific discovery and therapeutic ethos, fruits and vegetables were advertised as medical tonics, with ‘prescriptions’ that included recommended daily doses, to ward off or cure real or imagined medical ailments (flu, listlessness, acidosis). During this time of post-patent advertising fallout and the Truth in Advertising movement, we show how advertisers used scientific (and pseudoscientific) tactics to gain credibility while convincing women that careful attention to nutrition as a science was the way to achieve a happy and healthy family. We argue the national brands’ and growers’ associations within the advertising institution contributed to public knowledge and confusion about nutrition and foods in early medicalization of fruits and vegetables.”

Edward A. Malone

Two easy, essential proscriptions in the COVID-19 era: Locking down clarity and respect

Knatterud, M.E. (2020). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 35(3), 129-130.

“To help further the use of precise and empathetic language, the author urges medical writers to scrap the term ’elderly’ and to never slap ’manage’ onto patients themselves. The author argues that the term ’elderly’ can lead to confusion as individuals often have varying definitions of who is considered elderly; thus, specifying an age range is more precise. Additionally, the author argues that communicators should not refer to ’managing’ patients. While healthcare providers manage symptoms or a treatment plan, they do not manage patients themselves but care for them.”

Walter Orr

Information management

Communicating scientific uncertainty in an age of COVID-19: An investigation into the use of preprints by digital media outlets

Fleerackers, A., Riedlinger, M., Moorhead, L., Ahmed, R., & Alperin, J.P. (2021). Health Communication. Advanced online publication.

“In this article, we investigate the surge in use of COVID-19-related preprints by media outlets. Journalists are a main source of reliable public health information during crises and, until recently, journalists have been reluctant to cover preprints because of the associated scientific uncertainty. Yet, uploads of COVID-19 preprints and their uptake by online media have outstripped that of preprints about any other topic. Using an innovative approach combining altmetrics methods with content analysis, [the authors] identified a diversity of outlets covering COVID-19-related preprints during the early months of the pandemic, including specialist medical news outlets, traditional news media outlets, and aggregators. [Authors] found a ubiquity of hyperlinks as citations and a multiplicity of framing devices for highlighting the scientific uncertainty associated with COVID-19 preprints. These devices were rarely used consistently (e.g., mentioning that the study was a preprint, unreviewed, preliminary, and/or in need of verification). About half of the stories [the authors] analyzed contained framing devices emphasizing uncertainty. Outlets in [the] sample were much less likely to identify the research they mentioned as preprint research, compared to identifying it as simply ’research’. This work has significant implications for public health communication within the changing media landscape. While current best practices in public health risk communication promote identifying and promoting trustworthy sources of information, the uptake of preprint research by online media presents new challenges. At the same time, it provides new opportunities for fostering greater awareness of the scientific uncertainty associated with health research findings.”

Walter Orr

Do people actually “listen to the experts”? A cautionary note on assuming expert credibility and persuasiveness on public health policy advocacy

Geiger, N. (2020). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2020.1862449

“The present work empirically explores whether experts are trusted more or [are] more persuasive than an ‘average Joe’ when engaging in policy advocacy on public health topics. [The author]. . . finds substantial evidence that at least under the conditions present in the study, experts are perceived to be higher in expertise, but equal in trustworthiness to the ‘average Joe.’ In turn, experts are equally persuasive to nonexperts on both topics. [This] work suggests that when engaging in policy advocacy on public health matters, the fact that an advocate is an expert on a topic can be acknowledged by audiences, but this may not necessarily help (nor necessarily harm) one’s perceived trustworthiness or ability to persuade an audience. More research is needed to understand how experts can bolster their trustworthiness and persuasiveness when advocating for public health policies.”

Walter Orr

Making engineering visible: Photography and the politics of drinking water in modern Paris

Weiss, S. (2020). Technology and Culture, 61(3), 739-771. https://doi.org/10.1353/tech.2020.0072

“This article examines how photographs engineered the public’s understanding of large water projects and landscape transformation. Visual images shape knowledge, as scholars of visual representation have long argued. Historians of technology stand to benefit from understanding how seemingly objective photographs of colossal engineering works are much more than technical illustrations. With their unmatched legibility and reproducibility, photographs can crucially shape the public’s view. Civil engineers were well aware of how photographs could advance their cause. Photographs of infrastructures were part of a political project: the builders of Paris’s modern water system harnessed photographs as political tools in the contentious construction of aqueducts bringing drinking water to Paris in the 1860s and 1870s.”

Edward A. Malone

A mixed methods inquiry into the role of Tom Hanks’ COVID-19 social media disclosure in shaping willingness to engage in prevention behaviors

Myrick, J.G. & Willoughby, J.F. (2021). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2020.1871169

“Given the vast amounts of COVID-19-related messages flooding mediated and interpersonal communication channels during the global pandemic, celebrity COVID-19 disclosures offer rare opportunities to cut through message fatigue and apathy and garner the attention of wide swaths of the public. We conducted a convergent mixed method analysis of audience responses to actor Tom Hanks’ March 11, 2020 disclosure of his COVID-19 diagnosis via social media. We collected our data within 24 hours of his announcement, allowing us to quickly capture emotional and cognitive responses to the announcement and to assess both demographic and psychosocial differences in types of people who heard the news in this time frame and those who had not. In our study, 587 participants had heard the news of Hanks’ disclosure while 95 had not. Participants who had heard responded to an open-ended prompt asking if the disclosure affected them at all. Those who had not heard were funneled into a field intervention to test how random assignment to seeing Hanks’ disclosure post or not would affect audiences’ COVID-19-related emotions, cognitions, and willingness to enact prevention behaviors. The results of this mixed methods study revealed differences in responses to Hanks’ disclosure based on health information source trust and involvement with Hanks as well as effects of the intervention on efficacy for dealing with COVID-19. We discuss implications for health communication theory and crafting messages that can effectively build off the attentional inertia generated by celebrity illness disclosures to encourage prevention efforts.”

Walter Orr


Getting the picture: A cross-cultural comparison of Chinese and Western users’ preference for image types in manuals for household appliances

Li, Q., de Jong, M.D.T., & Karreman, J.: (2021). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 51(2), 137–158. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281619898140

“Research shows that Western and Chinese user instructions use visuals differently. Two basic tendencies may be discerned: Chinese manuals place more emphasis on visuals and their selection of visuals is less strictly confined to usability related functionality. This study investigates whether such cultural differences correspond to user preferences. Three hypotheses were tested: (a) Chinese users value pictures more than Western users; (b) Chinese users appreciate diverting, cartoon-like pictures more than Western users; and (c) Western users appreciate strictly instrumental pictures more than Chinese users. To test these hypotheses, a quasi-experiment (N = 158) was conducted with cultural background as independent variable and appreciation for pictures as dependent variable. All participants rated 15 pictures, which were presented in the context of user instructions. All three hypotheses were confirmed. Cultural differences regarding the use of visuals should therefore be taken into account when localizing Western manuals for the Chinese market, or vice versa.”

Anita Ford

Intercultural communication

Account-giving in the eyes of the manager: Successful management of failing events in multinational organizations (MNOs)

Ishii, K. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 106–124. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417735647

“Employees in multinational organizations (MNOs) face differences in accounts provided by other members, yet an inappropriate account could damage the account-giver’s career. This study examines account-giving in the eyes of the manager in an MNO context. A thematic analysis was conducted on the expected account-giving from 23 Japanese and 20 American managers in the United States. The results show that American managers typically view the out-of-control account as appropriate, whereas Japanese managers expect an apology in an untoward situation. In addition, this study gives insights to the apology account expected by Japanese managers. They expect an explicit apology for the lack of immediate communication rather than for the failing project. More interestingly, many Japanese managers expect an implicit form of apologies through self-reflection. Other findings including cultural amalgamation in MNOs and practical implications for MNO members are discussed along with the implications for the existing account taxonomy.”

Katherine Wertz


Power in international business communication and linguistic competence: Analyzing the experiences of nonnative business people who use English as a business lingua franca (BELF)

Takino, M. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 517–544. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417714222

“This article demonstrates the complex nature of the relationship between linguistic competence and the level of disempowerment that individuals perceive in global business contexts where English is increasingly used as a lingua franca. Most of the existing literature assumes that lower linguistic competence causes disempowerment, and that this relationship is largely static for individuals. This study, in contrast, finds that the sense of disempowerment caused by linguistic competence is negotiable as power dynamics between individuals can also be influenced by other relationships that act as potential sources of power. As a result, even for those with lower linguistic proficiency, perceived disempowerment can be reduced if other power-yielding factors compensate. An analysis of the narratives of 34 Japanese businesses demonstrates that such factors include value-of-information, goal sharing, and economic relationships. This article concludes by presenting a theoretical contribution to the conceptualization of the power of linguistic competence and the implications for educators.”

Katherine Wertz


Following the leader: An analysis of leadership and conformity in business meetings

Kim, H. W., Du-Babcock, B., & Chang, H. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(4), 311–326. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3032052

“Past research has established the importance of discursive leadership in professional communication, but it has not systematically examined how conformity behaviors emerge as a potentially undesirable consequence of discursive leadership.” This study asks: “Are later interlocutors more likely to speak similarly to earlier ones if the earlier interlocutors occupy a more central position in the conversation network? . . . Based on 32,000 words of a transcribed meeting corpus, [the authors] measured conformity behaviors using Term Frequency-Inverse Document Frequency scores, which are widely used in the information retrieval setting. [They] also operationalized the strength of discursive leadership as a positional centrality measure in the conversation network using a matrix algebra approach in social network analysis. . .Findings support the hypothesis that discursive leadership is associated with conformity in language aligned toward discursive leaders’ opinions. . .This study makes theoretical advances in understanding leadership construction and conformity behaviors between leaders and followers using empirical, authentic meeting data. [The authors] also give business people an applied understanding of the process of discursive leadership, which may help them to improve communication efficacy in their organizations by reducing overly conforming behaviors. [They] recommend that future research include more diverse participants and be combined with a survey to supplement the conversation data.”

Lyn Gattis

Political discourse

Real solutions for fake news? Measuring the effectiveness of general warnings and fact-check tags in reducing belief in false stories on social media

Clayton, K., Blair, S., Busam, J. A., Forstner, S., Glance, J., Green, G., & Sandhu, M. (2019). Political Behavior, 1–23.

“Social media has increasingly enabled ’fake news’ to circulate widely, most notably during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. These intentionally false or misleading stories threaten the democratic goal of a well-informed electorate. This study evaluates the effectiveness of strategies that could be used by Facebook and other social media to counter false stories. Results from a pre-registered experiment indicate that false headlines are perceived as less accurate when people receive a general warning about misleading information on social media or when specific headlines are accompanied by a ’Disputed’ or ’Rated false’ tag. Though the magnitudes of these effects are relatively modest, they generally do not vary by whether headlines were congenial to respondents’ political views. In addition, we find that adding a ’Rated false’ tag to an article headline lowers its perceived accuracy more than adding a ’Disputed’ tag (Facebook’s original approach) relative to a control condition. Finally, though exposure to the ’Disputed’ or ’Rated false’ tags did not affect the perceived accuracy of unlabeled false or true headlines, exposure to a general warning decreased belief in the accuracy of true headlines, suggesting the need for further research into how to most effectively counter false news without distorting belief in true information.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Why can’t we agree on ID? Partisanship, perceptions of fraud, and public support for voter identification laws

Kane, J. V. (2017). Public Opinion Quarterly, 81(4), 943–955.

“Much scholarship and media commentary contends that, with few documented instances of in-person voter fraud, voter identification laws (VID) are strategically enacted to advantage the Republican Party in future elections. Research on elected officials finds support for this contention, but as yet, no direct empirical test exists of whether citizens’ attitudes toward VID are guided by such strategic considerations, particularly while accounting for differential perceptions of fraud prevalence. In this article, I first demonstrate the robustness of partisanship as a significant predictor of public support for strict VID with nationally representative survey data. Then, relying upon survey experiments, I uncover two important asymmetries among partisans. First, Republicans tend to increase support for VID upon learning of even a miniscule amount of in-person voter fraud, but appear relatively insensitive to strategic considerations. Second, Democrats’ support for VID depends significantly upon which party stands to benefit from the laws, but Democrats do not appear sensitive to information about fraud. Overall, the evidence suggests that, in the mass public, Democrats’ views toward VID are more rooted in strategic concerns about electoral outcomes than are Republicans’. In fact, Democrats who were told that VID will reduce Republican turnout were statistically indistinguishable from Republicans in terms of support for VID. Importantly, the results also suggest that efforts to correct misperceptions about the actual prevalence of voter fraud may, paradoxically, further stoke Republicans’ (and, to a lesser extent, Independents’) support for stringent voter identification legislation.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Professional issues

Coping with workplace bullying through NAVER: Effects of LMX relational concerns and cultural differences

Lee, J., Lim, J., & Heath, R. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 79–105. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417735649

“Workplace bullying inevitably has grave individual and organizational consequences, including lowered morale and productivity. Given such negative consequences, this study explored five coping strategies: neglect, acquiescence, voice, exit, and retribution (NAVER). This research examined the extent to which relational concerns such as leader-member exchanges (LMXs) and cultural variations (the United States and Singapore) affect use of the five coping strategies after controlling for actual exposure to workplace bullying, gender, and age. Findings indicated that the quality of LMX significantly influence the strategic use of acquiescence, exit, and retribution. No significant cultural variation in coping strategies was detected. LMX quality and actual experience of workplace bullying were the strongest determinants for the use of all coping strategies but exit.”

Katherine Wertz

Positive developments but challenges still ahead: A survey study on UX professionals’ work practices

Inal, Y., Clemmensen, T., Rajanen, D., Iivari, N., Rizvanoglu, K., & Sivaji, A. (2020). Journal of Usability Studies, 15(4), 210–246.

“This paper describes and gives an overview of User Experience (UX) professionals’ work practices—their environment, practices, tools, and challenges. First, [the authors] reviewed 32 empirical studies about usability and UX work to identify key issues in usability and UX work practices. For the identified key issues, [they] collected data from 422 UX professionals surveyed in five different countries using a comprehensive questionnaire with 62 questions. [The] results show that UX professionals individually know about usability and UX concepts, methods, and tools. They typically employ between one and five Human Computer Interaction (HCI) theories on average and use one to three different techniques and tools. On the organizational level, UX is involved from early to late stages and is generally well known within all levels of the organization. On the country and community level, UX professionals generally do not report themselves as belonging to a professional community, despite the fact that the survey was administered via channels of the respective communities in the survey countries. Overall, this survey shows that UX professionals have considerable work experience and strong UX expertise self-confidence. This may be considered as indicating a positive development of the UX profession.”

Lyn Gattis

Public relations

Interpersonal strategies in e-complaint refusals: Textbook advice versus actual situated practice

Decock, S., DeClerck, B., & Van Herck, R. (2020). Business and Professional Communication Quarterly, 83(3), 285–308. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329490620904952

Handling complaints is an important part of business operations. “This article reports on the representation and operationalization of interpersonal attention in complaint management by comparing business textbooks, service recovery research, and situated practice. While textbooks commonly recommend the use of interpersonal strategies when writing complaint refusals, service recovery research points toward contextual differences in this regard. We use an authentic sample of complaint refusals from an intercultural business-to-business setting to show that the decontextualized recommendations in textbooks are not always applied in actual practice and that this lack of interpersonal attention need not be problematic.”

Diana Fox Bentele


Digital humanities in professional and technical communication: Results of a pedagogical pilot study

Litterio, L. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 77–88, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1789744

“This article examines pedagogical results from an IRB-approved study that used the Omeka platform in two sections of technical writing classes. The research question explored how a digital humanities (DH) project can be an opportunity for students to learn concepts and take ownership of publicly facing content. The method used is qualitative, and findings indicated that students embraced an open-source and collaborative project. Results also demonstrated how technical and professional communication (TPC) instructors might find DH tools well suited to TPC competencies.”

Rhonda Stanton

Internet-mediated genre studies: An integrative literature review (2005–2019)

Shi, X., Carliner, S., & Wan, W. (2020). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 63(4), 279–295. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3029696

“As all sorts of communications have substantially moved to the internet, volumes of literature on internet-mediated communication have emerged in professional and technical communication in different research paradigms, including studies on internet-mediated genres, which often have generic features beyond traditional conception and thus require updated understanding. This study. . . identifies the specific genres that researchers have studied, the analytical components and research methods used, and conclusions reached to characterize the current state of the research. . .[The authors] conducted a systematic search resulting in 35 qualified studies published in journals indexed in the Social Sciences Citation Index between 2005 and 2019. Each was systematically analyzed to identify the genre addressed, communicative goal, medium, affordances addressed, and research methods used. . .Three main types of internet-mediated genres—including email, website, and social media, and several subtypes—were identified, each distinguished by their medium and communicative goal. The affordances were either treated monomodally, mentioned as contextual information, or integrated into the analytical framework. Researchers relied on a variety of methods to study internet-mediated genres, with mixed methods most commonly used. . .The data show that both the genres of interest and methods used to study them vary with time, suggesting that this area of research continues to evolve. Future studies could probe into a larger variety of internet-mediated genres with more diverse analytical components and methods.”

Lyn Gattis


The benefits of improvisational games in the TC classroom

Rice-Bailey, T. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 63–76, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1754466

“This Methodologies and Approaches piece examines the question: How do TC students perceive the value of improvisational training? Students from three workshops were surveyed about their reactions to the improv games in which they participated. Major findings are that students at this STEM university overwhelming considered improv training to be valuable. They associate improv training as helpful in quick-thinking, collaboration, creativity, and confidence. They further consider improv skills transferable to effective performance in various settings.”

Rhonda Stanton


The WHO health alert: Communicating a global pandemic with WhatsApp

Walwema, J. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 35-40. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920958507

“Upon declaring COVID-19 a global pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) orchestrated a global risk-communication outreach. The WHO’s objective was to persuade the public to upend and alter their lives so as to contain the disease and minimize its spread and infection. The WHO found a simple and efficient medium to communicate glocally through the social media application WhatsApp, through which individuals could access information without gatekeeping by governments and local agencies.”

Sean C. Herring

Usability studies

How professionals moderate usability tests

Molich, R., Wilson, C., Barnum, C., Cooley, D., Krug, S., LaRoche, C., Martin, B. A., Patrowicz, J., & Traynor, B. (2020). Journal of Usability Studies, 15(4), 184–209.

“This paper reports how 15 experienced usability professionals and one team of two graduate students moderated usability tests. The purpose of the study is to investigate the approaches to moderation used by experienced professionals” and to analyze “some of the characteristics that distinguish good from poor moderation. In this study, each moderator independently moderated three think-aloud usability test sessions of Ryanair.com, the website of a low-fare European airline. All moderators used the same six usability test tasks. The test sessions were video recorded so that both the participant and moderator were visible. Key observations were identified by asking other study participants to review a random video from each moderator. Each video was reviewed by five to seven study participants. With this approach, the data (not a single person, author, organizer, or moderator) determines what the key observations are. This study documents a wide difference in moderation approaches.” The paper discusses “several common issues in usability test moderation, including time management, prompts and interventions, moderator interaction styles, and the provision of positive participant feedback during sessions.”

Lyn Gattis

User experience

TrustDiff: Development and validation of a semantic differential for user trust on the web

Brühlmann, F., Petralito, S., Rieser, D. C., Aeschbach, L. F., & Opwis, K. (2020). Journal of Usability Studies, 16(1), 29–48.

“Trust is an essential factor in many social interactions involving uncertainty. In the context of online services and websites, the problems of anonymity and lack of control make trust a vital element for successful e-commerce. Despite trust having received sustained attention, there is a need for validated questionnaires that can be readily applied in different contexts and for various products. [The authors], therefore, report the development and validation of the TrustDiff scale, a semantic differential that measures user trust on three dimensions. Compared to Likert-type scales, semantic differentials have advantages when it comes to measuring multidimensional constructs in different contexts. Using 10 items, the TrustDiff semantic differential measures user perceptions of the Benevolence, Integrity, and Competence of an online vendor. The scale was investigated in three independent studies with over 1,000 participants and shows good structural validity, high reliability, and correlates expectedly with related scales. As a test of criterion validity, the TrustDiff scale showed significant differences on all subscales in a study involving a manipulated website.”

Lyn Gattis


Drafting pandemic policy: Writing and sudden institutional change

Workman, E., Vandenberg, P., & Crozier, M. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 140-146. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920959194

“This article reports findings from an institutional ethnography of university stakeholders’ writing in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, illustrating the affordances of this methodology for professional and technical communication. Drawing on interview transcripts with faculty and administrators from across the university, the authors contextualize the role of writing in the iterative, collaborative, distributed writing processes by which the university transitioned from a traditional A–F grading scheme to a pass or fail option in just a few business days. They analyze these stakeholders’ experiences, discussing some effects of this accelerated timeline on policy development, writing processes, and uses of writing technologies within this new context of remote teaching and learning.”

Sean C. Herring