68.3 August 2021

Recent & 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

Medical Communicators, meet your new authors—Patients!

Woolley, K.L. & Gegeny, T. (2020). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 35(4), 168-171.

“What should medical communicators know about patient authorship? In this article, [the authors] provide readers with answers to key questions that [they] have been asked by medical communicators (and their managers!) about patient authorship. This is an introductory article. After reading it, [the authors] hope [the reader] can see why there will be much more to write and read on this topic in the years ahead. Patient authorship has begun and is here to stay. That’s good for patients, publications, and medical communicators. Patient authors can help plan, generate, and share publications. They can enhance the real-world relevance of publications by identifying unmet needs and sharing their unique and valuable insights from their lived experience. Patient authors can also extend the reach of publications by developing and disseminating plain-language summaries of publications. With appropriate training, medical communicators are well-positioned to support and guide patient authors and, as highlighted in this article, they can benefit from the personal and professional rewards that come from doing so.”

Walter Orr


Hybrid model for multidisciplinary collaborations for technical communication education in engineering

Andrews, C. D. M., Mehrubeoglu, M., & Etheridge, C. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(1), 52-65. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2020.3047313

“Engineering programs must take creative approaches to ensure that their students receive needed communication instruction in curricula constantly experiencing pressures of accreditation, state, and industry requirements: expectations for students’ knowledge and skills increase although curricula are compressed . . . [In this study technical and professional writing and engineering faculty collaborated to develop a hybrid [instructional] model, which borrows from multiple existing models for integrating technical writing education throughout the engineering curriculum, both in and outside of courses, including collaborative workshops, specialized writing center support, and other interventions] . . . Survey research was conducted with students on the effectiveness of multiple writing interventions . . . The hybrid model enables students to experience a variety of writing interventions; students perceived them as beneficial. Students found most effective writing interventions occurred in the context of their engineering coursework. Faculty and administrators found the approach beneficial because of its collaborative nature and because it balanced instructional time with external support methods.” The authors conclude that a “hybrid model for integrating technical writing into the engineering curriculum represents a flexible, sustainable approach adaptable to meet specific needs in specific environments at different institutions.”

Lyn Gattis


The opioid epidemic and the pursuit of moral medicine: A computational-rhetorical analysis

Graham, S.S. (January 2021). Written Communication Quarterly, 38(1), 3-30. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088320944918

The author credits the essential communication skills applied by technical writers in relaying “the rhetorical conditions [that led] to the Challenger explosion,” as being the right ones to address the rhetoric of various stakeholders in the “biomedical discourse” over what is currently called the opioid epidemic. While we may think much has changed about how the public—and how doctors—view the opioid epidemic, a study of writing on the topic may not confirm that. Each technical writer must remain vigilant since rhetoric is often a key component to affecting policy changes, either at the corporate, business, or government level. “This article offers a longitudinal computational-rhetorical analysis of biomedical writing on opioids. Using a corpus of 1,467 articles and essays published in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association between 1959 and May 2019, this study evaluates diachronic shifts in (a) the framing of opioid pharmacology, (b) the relative attention paid to pain management versus opioid dependence risks, and (c) the distribution of statements related to physicians’ primary ethical obligations. The results of these analyses largely disconfirm different current accounts of shifting physician rhetoric around opioids and pain management leading up to the recognition opioid epidemic. Most notably, the results also suggest that biomedical debates surrounding opioids are serving as proxy arguments for shifting primary bioethical obligations from individual patients to public health.”

Diana Fox Bentele


Deep mapping for environmental communication design

Butts, S., & Jones, M. (2021). Communication Design Quarterly, 9(1), 4-19. https://doi.org/10.1145/3437000.3437001

“This article shares lessons from designing EcoTour, a multimedia environmental advocacy project in a state park, and it describes theoretical, practical, and pedagogical connections between locative media and community-engaged design. While maps can help share information about places, people, and change, they also limit how we visualize complex stories. Using deep mapping, and blending augmented reality with digital maps, EcoTour helps people understand big problems like climate change within the context of their local community. This article demonstrates the rhetorical potential of community-engaged design strategies to affect users, prompt action, and create more democratic discourse in environmental communication.”

Lyn Gattis

Storytelling for making cartographic design decisions for climate change communication in the United States

Fish, C. (2020). Cartographica: The International Journal for Geographic Information and Geovisualization, 55(2), 69-84. doi: 10.3138/cart-2019-0019

“Recent research in cartography has described how maps can tell stories; however, little research has empirically evaluated how storytelling can guide how map design decisions are made. I argue that storytelling allows cartographers to decide on basic map design elements by narrowing the focus of a map. First, cartographers decide on the driving story. The story is then used as a guide for every design decision, from what data to search for and use to the design of symbolism within the map. This research focuses on the case of climate change communication in the United States. Empirical evidence based on interviews with map-makers at major media organizations and government agencies creating maps of climate change illustrates how storytelling as a process provided these cartographers with a way to effectively convey the multidimensional and complex impacts of climate change across multiple scales. It is this storytelling process that enables cartographers to better connect with readers to communicate the impacts of complex environmental problems such as climate change. The article concludes with implications for using storytelling as an alternative way to think about cartographic communication and the map design process.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

What’s in a font? Ideological perceptions of typography

Haenschen, K. & Tamul, D. J. (2020). Communication Studies, 71(2), 244-261. https://doi.org/10.1080/10510974.2019.1692884

“Although extensive political communication research considers the content of candidate messages, scholars have largely ignored how those words are rendered—specifically, the typefaces in which they are set. If typefaces are found to have political attributes, that may impact how voters receive campaign messages. Our paper reports the results of two survey experiments demonstrating that individuals perceive typefaces, type families, and type styles to have ideological qualities. Furthermore, partisanship moderates subjects’ perceptions of typefaces: Republicans generally view typefaces as more conservative than Independents and Democrats. We also find evidence of affective polarization, in that individuals rate typefaces more favorably when perceived as sharing their ideological orientation. Results broaden our understanding of how meaning is conveyed in political communication, laying the groundwork for future research into the functions of typography and graphic design in contemporary political campaigns. Implications for political practitioners are also discussed.”

Edward A. Malone

Discourse communities

Trajectories in turmoil: A case study of engineering students’ reactions to disruptions in their community of practice

Barr, N. B., & Johnson, J. E. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(1), 38-51. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3057149

This case study examined the adjustments of students “in a required four-course practice-based mechanical engineering sequence [during the COVID pandemic].” The students “shared their perspectives via reflective portfolio essays on how shifting to online instruction affected their ability to participate in their learning communities and negotiate meaningful learning experiences . . . Through thematic analysis of the reflective essays, [the authors] applied the lens of communities of practice to put the students’ responses into context . . . The students’ concerns varied depending on their position in the course sequence and the course; however, most students felt that the loss of in-person interaction was most detrimental and disruptive in the transition to online instruction and yielded communication and teaming issues.” Implications of the study are relevant to practice-based courses in professional communication as well, including “recognizing the unique challenges of online learning in practice-based courses, instructing students in virtual communication tools, exercising empathy, being mindful of cognitive load, and researching self-directed learners in online environments.” The authors suggest faculty also “consider the importance of students’ communities of practice . . . build opportunities to maintain and strengthen the bonds of those communities . . . [and] add more opportunities for virtual interaction early in the curriculum to build digital communication skills . . . ”

Lyn Gattis


Decolonizing decoloniality: Considering the (mis)use of decolonial frameworks in TPC scholarship

Itchuaqiyaq, C. U., & Matheson, B. (2021). Communication Design Quarterly, 9(1), 20-31. https://doi.org/10.1145/3437000.3437002

“As the field of technical and professional communication (TPC) has moved toward more inclusive perspectives, the use of decolonial frameworks has increased rapidly. However, TPC scholarship designed using decolonial frameworks lacks a clear, centralized definition and may overgeneralize and/or marginalize Indigenous concerns. Using a corpus analysis of TPC texts, [the authors] assess the ways that the field uses ‘decolonial’ and propose a centralized definition of ‘decolonial’ that focuses on rematriation of Indigenous land and knowledges. Further, [the authors] offer a heuristic that aids scholars in communication design appropriate for decolonial research and teaching strategies.”

Lyn Gattis


Dealing with difficult authors

Smart, P. (2020). European Science Editing, 46, 1-3. https://doi.org/10.3897/ese.2020.e52201

“There is considerable literature about the responsibilities of authors and editors in regard to ethics and integrity but there is little information on how to manage editor-author relationships when serious disagreements occur and the one party starts to behave in an unacceptable manner. This article is based on a recent experience and presents some thoughts and suggestions for editors on managing relationships between editors and the authors when authors start to behave badly.”

Edward A. Malone


The evolution of university business incubators: Transnational hubs for entrepreneurship

Pellegrini, M. & Johnson-Sheehan, R. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(2), 185-218. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920979983

“University business incubators (UBIs) are uniquely positioned to foster transnational entrepreneurship and the evolution of business and technical communication practices on a worldwide basis. UBIs facilitate the launch of start-ups by professors, students, researchers, and local entrepreneurs. This study uses assemblage theory to profile four UBIs. Its findings concern their process of exporting incubation models and training transnational entrepreneurs, the roles of alumni and students, and the genres and conventions of entrepreneurship.”

Sean C. Herring

Ethical issues

Text recycling in STEM research: An exploratory investigation of expert and novice beliefs and attitudes

Moskovitz, C. & Hall, S.: (2021). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 51(3), 252-272. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281620915434

“When writing journal articles, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) researchers produce a number of other genres such as grant proposals and conference posters, and their new articles routinely build directly on their own prior work. As a result, STEM authors often reuse material from their completed documents in producing new documents. While this practice, known as text recycling (or self-plagiarism), is a debated issue in publishing and research ethics, little is known about researchers’ beliefs about what constitutes appropriate practice. This article presents results … from an exploratory, survey-based study on beliefs and attitudes toward text recycling among STEM ‘experts’ (faculty researchers) and ‘novices’ (graduate students and post docs). While expert and novice researchers are fairly consistent in distinguishing between text recycling and plagiarism, there is considerable disagreement about appropriate text recycling practice.”

Anita Ford

Health communication

Can a funny story about tooth brushing decrease plaque scores in children? A longitudinal field experiment

Balint, K.E., Das, E., Stel, G., & Hoppener M. (2021). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2020.1871166

“[Tooth decay] is the most common chronic condition among children. It is thus a necessity to develop health communication tools to increase children’s dental hygiene. Prior research among adults indicates that entertaining narrative communication can promote health behaviors, but knowledge on narrative effects on children’s health outcomes is limited. In a repeated measures field experiment (N = 94, 4-10 years) [the authors] examined the long-term effects of repeated exposure to a humorous tooth brushing narrative about an orange monkey, versus an expository text on dental care, on children’s self-reported and biomedical dental hygiene (plaque scores). We also explored narrative, affective, and cognitive processes. Findings showed that the humorous narrative increased character engagement, enjoyment, and moral judgment compared with the expository condition. Enjoyment and moral judgment, in turn, predicted increases and decreases in plaque scores, respectively. We conclude that effectiveness of humorous narrative approach crucially depends on whether the child understands it when a story character is violating the rule.”

Walter Orr

Information management

Crisis management and corporate apology: The effects of causal attribution and apology type on publics’ cognitive and affective responses

Chung, S., & Lee, S. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 125-144. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417735646

“This study examined how corporate apologies influence cognitive and affective public responses (public anger, negative impression, distrust) during an aviation crisis. A total of 192 participants were exposed to one of the two types of causal attribution (internal vs. external) and one of the two types of corporate apology (responsibility-oriented vs. sympathy-oriented). This study found that a responsibility-oriented apology significantly more reduced public anger, negative impression, and distrust of an airline company than a sympathy-oriented apology in an internal/controllable crisis situation. Theoretical and practical implications as well as directions for future research are discussed.”

Katherine Wertz

Impression management and retrospective sense-making in corporate annual reports: Banks’ graphical reporting during the global financial crisis

Jones, M., Melis, A., Gaia, S., & Aresu, S. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 474-496. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417712010

“This study investigates two potentially complementary reporting scenarios in annual reports: reactive impression management and retrospective sense-making. It examines stock market performance graphs in European listed banks’ annual reports before and during the global financial crisis. [The authors’] results indicate that banks reacted to the global financial crisis by omitting stock market performance graphs from the annual report and from its most prominent sections. On the other hand, banks reduced favorable distortions and favorable performance comparisons. No significant evidence of retrospective sense-making is found. Overall, the findings are consistent with impression management incorporating human cognitive biases, with companies preferring misrepresentation by omission over misrepresentation by commission. Under high public scrutiny, banks appear to seek to provide a more favorable view by concealing negative information rather than by favorable distortions or comparisons. The study contributes to the development of impression management theories. It uses a psychological interpretation that incorporates human cognitive biases, rather than adopting a purely economically based perspective.”

Katherine Wertz

Ultrasound, gender, and consent: An apparent feminist analysis of medical imaging rhetorics

Frost, E. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 48–62, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1774658

“This article uses an apparent feminist approach to engage a two-part research question: First, does gender affect the frequency with which people become subjects of medical digital imaging? Second, how do the subjects of medical digital imaging become persuaded to accept this role? Engaging with medical imaging and the technical communication surrounding it as an assemblage of technical rhetorics (Frost & Eble) and thus a technology, this project shows that women are more commonly scanned as a result of social biases. Further, this article argues that the ubiquity of scanning of women’s bodies has implications for political agency and privacy and for technical communicators’ understandings of efficiency. This study is preliminary but presents compelling evidence that further research on the technical communication surrounding gender and medical imaging is necessary.”

Rhonda Stanton


Thinking with diagrams: The chaîne opératoire and the transmission of technical knowledge in Chinese agricultural texts

Bray, F. (2020). East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal, 14(2), 199-223. https://www.muse.jhu.edu/article/759980

“Diagrams make wonderful templates for technical action. It follows that for scholars of science and technology they are both an object and a tool of study. The author explores this relationship in the first part of the article, focusing on one particularly effective format for communicating or retrieving complicated technological sequences: the chaîne opératoire, or procedural sequence. Today we usually think of a diagram as a graphic, but diagrammatic thinking is also frequently expressed in other forms, including text or hybrids of graphics and text. To illustrate this, the author compares the formulation and use of chaînes opératoires in two canonical Chinese agricultural treatises. The Qimin yaoshu (Essential Techniques for the Common People) by Jia Sixie, completed ca. 540 CE, was composed before printing was available and makes no use of graphics. The Nongshu (Agricultural Treatise) of 1313, authored by Wang Zhen, was published using woodblock print, a medium that facilitated Wang’s copious use of graphics. The comparison between these classic treatises invites reflection on how the material techniques of inscription available to an author might influence their diagrammatic thinking. But the chaîne opératoire is good to think with at a more general level too. For historians, the matches or discrepancies between the chaîne opératoire they might draw up to map a technical operation, and the versions that they find in historical sources, suggest ways to think both about technology as a total social fact, and about differences between cultures of communication.”

Edward A. Malone

Intercultural communication

Engineers taking a stance on technical communication: Peer review of oral presentations via the Trans-Atlantic and Pacific Project

Verzella, M., Macià, E. A., & Maylath, B. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(1), 66-83. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3057246

This paper describes “an international telecollaborative project between cross-cultural virtual teams in which [engineering] students in Spain developed oral presentations that were then peer-reviewed by counterparts in the U.S. . . . Data were analyzed from feedback forms used by U.S. students to evaluate oral presentations, and on prelearning and postlearning reports completed by students in Spain, as well as from class discussions accompanying the project . . . Through reflections on pragmatic strategies that facilitate exchange and collaboration in English as a lingua franca, the engineering students became more fully aware of the importance of rhetorical and linguistic factors that affect meaning-making for engineers internationally . . . Results suggest that students who participate in transnational virtual exchange projects integrate their desire to acquire knowledge with an awareness of the importance of sharing knowledge through mindful and inclusive communication practices. Technical and engineering communication instructors from different countries can heighten their students’ audience awareness, and cultural and language sensitivities through such projects.”

Lyn Gattis

Falling victims to online disinformation among young Filipino people: Is human mind to blame?

Collado, Z. C., Basco, A. J. M., & Sison, A. A. (2020). Cognition, Brain, Behavior24(2), 75-91.

“Proceeding from the insights of truth-default theory, the article examines the extent by which the human psyche’s default assumption of truth contributes to our susceptibility to believe in false online content. This study attempts to trace the cognitive roots of people’s online susceptibility to disinformation. The article also investigates the role of fact-checking behavior and belief perseverance to being vulnerable to online disinformation. Data gathered were from 234 survey respondents and 16 participants from two sets of focus group discussion (FGD). All subjects were college students from Manila, Philippines. Regression analysis shows that our assumption of truthfulness and fact-checking behavior are statistically significant predictors of (susceptibility) Facebook disinformation experiences. Among others, the study interestingly found out too that susceptibility to online disinformation is strong among Facebook users when these false online contents are favorable to them. The article wishes to contribute to the understanding of the susceptibility of the human mind to different forms of falsehood proliferating online.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Unsettling start-up ecosystems: Geographies, mobilities, and transnational literacies in the Palestinian start-up ecosystem

Fraiberg, S. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(2), 219-253. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920979997

“Scholars within the field of technical and professional communication (TPC) have called for situating the field in wider social, cultural, political, and global contexts. Despite a growing body of scholarship in this area, less attention has been focused on ways these issues are bound up in 21st-century global innovation and start-up ecosystems. This article addresses these issues by examining case studies of three high-tech initiatives in an emerging start-up ecosystem within the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In making this move, the research offers a theoretical and methodological framework for examining global innovation systems as they are constructed, enacted, maintained, extended, and transformed. Arguing for attention to the links between space and the politics of mobility, the author specifically examines the interplay of literacies, identities, technologies, mobilities, geographies, and practices.”

Sean C. Herring


Speaking to the self: How motivating language links with self-leadership

Mayfield, J., Mayfield, M., & Neck, C. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 31-54. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417731861

“This study investigates the relationships between the external influence of leader motivating language (ML), each of the major dimensions of self-leadership (SL)—behavioral strategies, constructive thoughts strategies, and natural rewards strategies—and their respective links with the outcomes of employee job satisfaction, performance, and intent-to-stay, using a partial least squares structural equation model. In addition, [the authors] look at the direct relationships between ML and SL with the same outcomes in separate analyses. Based on a large, diverse sample, results suggest that ML in conjunction with SL has strong, positive relationships with employee job satisfaction, performance, and intent-to-stay. Furthermore, a partially mediated model of ML affecting SL shows positive links with all three aspects of SL and the outcome variables of performance, job satisfaction, and intent-to-stay. For the SL dimensions, behavioral strategies were positively and significantly linked with job satisfaction; natural rewards strategies were positively and significantly related to job satisfaction, intent-to-stay, and job performance; and constructive thoughts strategies were significantly and positively associated with job satisfaction and intent-to-stay. These findings validate previous research and uncover new knowledge about ML and SL in organizational context.”

Katherine Wertz


The risky path to a followership identity: From abstract concept to situated reality

Larsson, M., & Nielsen, M. (2021). International Journal of Business Communication, 58, 3-30. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417735648

“Followership research has increased recently, but little attention has been paid to the complexities and challenges of creating a followership identity. Researchers typically portray followership as a safe alternative to leadership identity, but [the authors] challenge this assumption by using naturally occurring workplace interactions to identify active contributions as well as risks associated with a follower identity. In this study, [the authors] use conversation analysis to examine how people collaboratively construct identities, and how identity development shapes and organizes interactions between people. The findings reveal the risks of misidentifying the task at hand, of being too authoritative, and of claiming too much knowledge. Also, [the authors’] analyses highlight that leader and follower roles remain abstract in workplace interactions and, instead, people focus more on negotiated, task-oriented, practical identities.”

Katherine Wertz

Virtual team leader communication: Employee perception and organizational reality

Newman, S., Ford, R., & Marshall, G. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 452-473. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488419829895

“Based on a study of leader communication effectiveness conducted in a large human resource outsourcing firm, this article reports how virtual team members’ perceptions of their leaders’ effective use of communication tools and techniques affect team performance outcomes. The study also investigates the role that trust plays in moderating the relationship between virtual team members’ perceptions of their leaders’ effective use of communication and team performance. Analysis of 458 responses from 68 teams found a positive relationship between virtual team members’ perceptions of leaders’ effective use of communications and team members’ perception of their team’s performance. The study also found that trust strengthens the relationship between perceived leader communication effectiveness and team performance results. Last, the study also revealed serious organizational alignment issues between what team members perceived to be effective leader communication, their perception of team performance outcomes, and the organizations performance measured by a balanced scorecard.”

Katherine Wertz

Political discourse

Is it fake news or is it open science? Science communication in the COVID-19 pandemic

Koerber, A. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 22-27. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920958506

“This article explores science communication in the context of COVID-19 through a case study of a January 31, 2020, bioRxiv preprint publication that led to conspiracy theories by suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 originated in the laboratory through genetic engineering. Analysis will consider the initial preprint, the scientific critique that led it to be withdrawn, the conspiracy theories that continue to circulate, and the larger debate that this example has sparked among advocates and critics of open science.”

Sean C. Herring

Public relations

Proactive versus reactive CSR in a crisis: An impression management perspective

Rim, H., & Ferguson, M. (2020). International Journal of Business Communication, 57, 545-568. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488417719835

“This study investigates the effects of corporate social responsibility (CSR) practices on protecting and restoring company reputation in crisis situations. The results suggest the ability of proactive CSR to counter potential damage to corporate reputation caused by a crisis but not to serve as a remedy after a crisis. The findings further indicate a significant interaction effect between crisis type and the fit of reactive CSR for a company without proactive CSR. For a preventable crisis, a company is better off choosing low-fit reactive CSR than not engaging in reactive CSR at all. In a victim crisis, low-fit reactive CSR is more effective in improving company reputation than high-fit reactive CSR. When a company has been previously engaged in proactive CSR, the impact of fit across crisis types disappears. The mediating role of perceived altruism suggests the importance of sincerity in CSR.”

Katherine Wertz

Student recruitment in technical and professional communication programs

Chong, F. & Roundtree, A. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 1-18, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1774660

“Recruitment advertisements published in technical and professional communication (TPC) conference programs and proceedings offer a snapshot of the messages that these programs use to market themselves and distinguish their value in the marketplace of graduate programs. Using an exploratory mixed methods approach informed by Bakhtin’s theory of addressivity, we developed a two-phase study to assess recruitment advertisements from three perspectives: from the advertisement content itself, from the students being recruited, and from the TPC program coordinators or directors. Recommendations for improving TPC advertising and promotion are given.”

Rhonda Stanton


Rethinking graduate school research genres: Communicating with industry, writing to learn

Watts, J. (2021). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 51(3), 313-337. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281620981568

“Technical and professional communication master’s students work with a faculty advisor to complete a three-credit independent research (IR) project, featuring original research. Stakeholders recommended the IR thesis be revised to better communicate IR to industry. Using a writing, activity theory, and genre theory lens, [the author] analyzed what contradictions emerged between academic and workplace activity systems as stakeholders recommended genre revisions. [The author] analyzed faculty and professional advisory board meeting transcripts, alumni and student surveys, and a Graduate School director and thesis examiner interview. Results indicated the thesis’ spectrum of functions, from its strengths encouraging students’ research proficiency to the limiting way it showcases IR as a product, not a process. Stakeholders suggested no thesis changes but recommended IR genre system modifications. As agents of change, students are uniquely positioned to use the IR genre system to address workplace communication problems and help mend our discipline’s academia-industry divide.”

Anita Ford

Scientific writing

Correcting misperceptions: The causal role of motivation in corrective science communication about vaccine and food safety

Van Stekelenburg, A., Schaap, G., Veling, H., & Buijzen, M. (2020). Science Communication42(1), 31-60.

“Some people stick to beliefs that do not align with scientific consensus when faced with science communication that contradicts those misperceptions. Two preregistered experiments (total N = 1,256) investigated the causal role of motivated reasoning in the effectiveness of correcting misperceptions. In both experiments, accuracy-driven reasoning led to a larger corrective effect of a science communication message than reasoning driven by directional motivation. Individuals’ default reasoning made them just as receptive to the correction as accuracy-driven reasoning. This finding supports a more optimistic view of human receptivity to science communication than often found in the literature.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


Faculty development training in online instruction at a Norwegian university: An experience report

Zemliansky, P. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(1), 84-95. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3057255

“This case reports on the design and delivery of faculty training on teaching online at a Norwegian university during the COVID-19 pandemic . . . The training focused on building interactive online courses, providing formative feedback for students, and choosing between synchronous and asynchronous teaching . . . Pretraining and post-training reflection were used as informal data sources to develop the training sessions and to holistically discuss the themes that emerged from the training . . . Two online and one face-to-face 2-hour training sessions were delivered to three groups of faculty. Three main themes emerged from the training: active learning, synchronous/asynchronous teaching, and providing formative feedback to students. . . . Challenges included convincing participants to shift from the lecture as the main method of instruction to more interactive and active techniques, as well as reconciling the standardized course study plans with individual teachers’ instructional needs. Larger studies of training programs and more formal methods of data analysis are suggested.”

Lyn Gattis

Getting the story straight: How conflicting narratives about communication impact women in engineering

McCall, M. (2021). Technical Communication Quarterly, 30, 89-103, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1774661

“More research is needed about how women in engineering develop and are recognized for communication skills within classrooms and workplaces. Using semi-structured interviews with female engineering students, this study examines how these women negotiate conflicting narratives about the importance of communication within their coursework and internships. By learning more about undergraduate women’s experiences of (under)valued labor based on narratives about what counts as ‘engineering’ skills, instructors can better create inclusive classrooms that welcome multi-faceted competencies.”

Rhonda Stanton

Teaching and gaining a voice: A rhetorical intersectionality approach to pedagogy of feminist organizational communication

Walker, T.J. & Muńoz Rojas, L.A. (February 2021). Management Communication Quarterly, 35 (1), 17-42. https://doi.org/10.1177/0893318920972692

As part of the special issue on the past, present, and future of feminist organizational communication theory, the authors used an article on the topic in a way that helped students explore it. “We propose a rhetorical intersectionality pedagogy to teach Buzzanell’s (1994) ‘Gaining a Voice.’ Specifically, we advance Buzzanell’s vision by presenting a way to teach this article in an intersectional manner and open the dialogue to a wider range of students. This approach encompasses four needs: (a) unhiding the curriculum and the underlying structure of our academic settings, (b) asking learners and instructors to heed silence and silence breaking, (c) encouraging learners and instructors to embrace rhetorical listening, and (d) setting aside canon and convention to make way for parrhesia within our communication programs. Our contribution foregrounds pedagogy as a vital aspect of higher education’s impact on contemporary and future feminist organizational communication issues.” Of particular use in any teaching, instructors can use the authors’ reminder on “Unhiding the curriculum as a pedagogical approach [which] entails explaining to students why the objectives, goals, competencies, activities, and assessments of their courses have been structure the way they are.” Today’s students are not easily engaged, so revealing to them that the instructor is intentional in connecting with them can help gain their buy-in to learn difficult topics.

Diana Fox Bentele


The construction of interpersonal meanings in the iPhone 1 product launch presentation: Integrating verbal and visual semiotics

Zhang, H., Feng, J., Wei, Y., & Xia, J. (2021). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 64(1), 3-22. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2021.3058032

“Discourse bridges between the speakers and the audience in product launches. However, how the verbals and the visuals work together in the construction of interpersonal meanings in such communication remains largely underexplored.” In this study the authors ask, “’How were interpersonal meanings constructed via verbal and visual semiotics in the iPhone 1 product launch presentation?’ . . . Integrating Halliday’s Systemic Functional Grammar and Kress and van Leeuwen’s Systemic Visual Grammar, [the authors] conduct both verbal and visual analyses to explore the construction of interpersonal meanings in Steve Jobs’ iPhone 1 launch presentation.” Their findings suggest “Jobs built different interactive roles as an authority innovation leader and as a close ’friend’ willing to engage with the audience. Moreover, by combining verbal semiotics with the delicate arrangement of image act, size of frame, and angle, the presentation video was carefully planned to create offer contact, produce close social distance, and present equal and objective attitudes to further enhance the construction of interpersonal meanings, thus contributing to the audience’s understanding and recognition of the innovative product.” The authors conclude by offering “insights into innovation discourse and communication by investigating the semiotic features of the iPhone 1 product launch presentation, thus adding to the extant literature on professional communication and innovation management.”

Lyn Gattis

Usability studies

Lean data visualization: Considering actionable metrics for technical communication

Verhulsdonck, G. & Shah, V. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 57-64. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920958500

“Analyzing data gathered around COVID-19 can increase our understanding of its spread and the social and economic impacts. Data visualizations can help various stakeholders understand the outbreak. To this end, this article seeks to understand how COVID-19 data dashboards utilized actionable metrics to inform various stakeholders. Used in lean methodology, actionable metrics specifically tie data visualization to actions to improve a specific situation. The authors discuss how actionable metrics were used in COVID-19 data dashboards to inspire actions of various stakeholders by modeling different outcomes through future projections. In turn, the authors explore how actionable metrics in data dashboards can inform new business and technical communication practices for data visualization.”

Sean C. Herring

User experience

Facts and myths about misperceptions

Nyhan, B. (2020). Journal of Economic Perspectives, 34(3), 220-36. https://doi.org/10.1257/jep.34.3.220

“Misperceptions threaten to warp mass opinion and public policy on controversial issues in politics, science, and health. What explains the prevalence and persistence of these false and unsupported beliefs, which seem to be genuinely held by many people? Though limits on cognitive resources and attention play an important role, many of the most destructive misperceptions arise in domains where individuals have weak incentives to hold accurate beliefs and strong directional motivations to endorse beliefs that are consistent with a group identity such as partisanship. These tendencies are often exploited by elites who frequently create and amplify misperceptions to influence elections and public policy. Though evidence is lacking for claims of a “post-truth” era, changes in the speed with which false information travels and the extent to which it can find receptive audiences require new approaches to counter misinformation. Reducing the propagation and influence of false claims will require further efforts to inoculate people in advance of exposure (for example, media literacy), debunk false claims that are already salient or widespread (for example, fact-checking), reduce the prevalence of low-quality information (for example, changing social media algorithms), and discourage elites from promoting false information (for example, strengthening reputational sanctions).”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


We’re here for you: The unsolicited Covid-19 email

Winet, K. & Winet, R. (2021). Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 35(1), 134-139. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651920959192

For businesses, effective email writing is an important aspect of technical communication. “Although companies have long used email to correspond directly with consumers in times of crisis (George & Pratt, 2012), the Covid-19 pandemic has incited an unprecedented flood of emails to our inboxes from companies reassuring us that “we’re all in this together.” As composition scholars begin to investigate how organizations have responded to this pandemic, this article explores the rise of the “we’re here for you” email, a rapidly developing genre that reveals an unsettling relationship with the voice behind our consumer products and also a paradigm shift in how organizations connect with consumers during times of crisis.”

Sean C. Herring