69.2 May 2022

Recent & Relevant

Sean C. Herring, Editor

The following articles on technical communication have appeared recently in other journals. The abstracts are prepared by volunteer journal monitors. If you would like to contribute, contact Sean Herring at SeanHerring@MissouriState.edu.

“Recent & Relevant” does not supply copies of cited articles. However, most publishers supply reprints, tear sheets, or copies at nominal cost. Lists of publishers’ addresses, covering nearly all the articles we have cited, appear in Ulrich’s international periodicals directory.


Dynamics of symmetrical communication within organizations: The impacts of channel usage of CEO, managers, and peers

Lee, Y. (2022). International Journal of Business Communication, 59(1), 3–21. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488418803661

“Focusing on channels used by members of the organization in different positions, this study aims to examine the antecedents of two-way symmetrical communication in an organization. Using two-way symmetrical communication model and media richness theory as theoretical frameworks, this study investigates what communication channels (e.g., face-to-face, e-mail, print media, social media, etc.) within an organization are effective at communicating with peers, managers, and CEO of a company, respectively. Results of an online survey conducted with 407 full-time employees in large-sized corporations in the United States showed that communication channels usage by different sources had distinct impacts on employees’ perceived symmetrical communication as well as the organization-employee relationship. Face-to-face meetings and videoconferencing are shown to be significant for symmetrical communication practices with managers and peers, while other communication channels (e.g., print media, e-mail) turned out to be more significantly related to symmetrical communication practiced by CEO. Theoretical and practical implications for corporate communication are discussed.”

Katherine Wertz

Japanese women managers’ employee-oriented communication styles: An analysis using constructivist grounded theory

Sueda, K. (2022). International Journal of Business Communication, 59(1), 22–47. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488418803659

“The number of women managers in Japan remains small, and little empirical research has been conducted on their communication styles. Therefore, this article reports the results of a qualitative study using the constructivist grounded theory to analyze data gathered on the communication styles of Japanese women managers. It enumerates the results of semistructured interviews with 27 participants comprising women managers and their male and female employees in both foreign-affiliated and Japanese companies in various industries. The findings indicate Japanese women managers go beyond the traditional dichotomies drawn between task- and relationship-oriented communication to engage in employee-oriented communication by facilitating an open and friendly work environment while motivating their employees to collaborate as a team to achieve their professional goals. Japanese women managers are often encouraged to communicate in such a style because it reflects the stereotypical female role in Japanese society and, as such, is well received by their colleagues.”

Katherine Wertz

The process of CSR communication—culture-specific or universal? Focusing on mainland China and Hong Kong consumers

Kim, S. (2022). International Journal of Business Communication, 59(1), 56–82. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488418805523

“Through two representative surveys—one in Beijing the other in Hong Kong (HK)—this study empirically validates an existing U.S.-based model of corporate social responsibility (CSR) communication process. The study also extends the model by adding government trust as a second moderator and government involvement as a unique dimension of CSR communication. The perceived presence of CSR communication factors results in increases in consumers’ cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses. In turn, these increases improve favorable corporate reputation perception. Such results demonstrate the significant contributions of CSR communication dimensions to positive consumer outcomes in Chinese contexts. The process of CSR communication has significantly different features in Chinese contexts than in Western ones. Chinese consumers (both Beijing and HK) revealed a very high tolerance and acceptance of CSR communication with a self-promotional tone. The trust levels of HK consumers in the government tended to negatively moderate the effectiveness of CSR communication, while those of Beijing consumers did not.”

Katherine Wertz

When change readiness spirals down: A mixed-method case study of change communication at a European government agency

Van Praet, E., & Van Leuven, S. (2022). International Journal of Business Communication, 59(1), 104–125. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488418808017

“This article presents a single case study investigating the role of change communication in the early stages of change implementation at a European government agency. It adopts a multimethod approach, relying on quantitative methods and adding qualitative components to clarify core assumptions. The quantitative part of the research relies on a survey of 718 staff members, based on existing instruments—the ICA audit, the Organizational Change Recipients’ Belief scale, and the Cynicism about Organizational Change scale. The qualitative part of the research relies on 18 semistructured in-depth interviews. The findings demonstrate how a lack of clear, unambiguous communication proves a major obstacle for succeeding in unfreezing employees; it leads them to mainly think about their own self-interest, maintain the status quo and avoid needless risks.”

Katherine Wertz


Above all made by themselves: The visual rhetoric of W. E. B. Du Bois’s data visualizations

Van Winkle, K. (2022). Technical Communication Quarterly, 31(1), 17–32. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2021.1906450

“In this article, [the author] examine[s] and contextualize[s] a selection of award-winning data visualizations created by W. E. B. Du Bois and his team for the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris, France. [The author] show[s] that Du Bois’s success with these data visualizations is partially attributable to the ways in which he merged artistic creativity with statistical empiricism to overcome the practical and ideological constraints of his rhetorical situation, namely a need to be seen amongst the fair’s larger spectacle and a refutation of the ‘scientific’ racism that pervaded academia at the time. The research presented confirms Du Bois as an important but previously unrecognized progenitor of data visualization and therefore deserving of much more recognition in the fields of technical and professional communication (TPC) and data visualization than he currently receives. Ultimately, [the author] argue[s] that his achievement recommends useful lessons for contemporary scholars, practitioners, and pedagogues of TPC and data design.”

Rhonda Stanton

Best practices in table design

Burke, D. (2021). Science Editor, 44(4), 122–125. https://doi.org/10.36591/SE-D-4404-123

“Even though best practices in table design have been well established for decades,” the author writes, “I have found during my career as a technical editor that authors, editors, and graphic designers are often unfamiliar with them and sometimes have strong preferences for design elements that make tables harder to read. The fact that the built-in table styles in Microsoft Word are inconsistent with best practices does not help.”

Edward A. Malone

Legibility research of highway signage typefaces: A critical review and a potential design-centered approach

Elbardawil, S. (2022). The Design Journal, 25(1), 86–103. http://doi.org/10.1080/14606925.2021.2004716

“With the increasing prevalence of the automobile, the transmission of information through the visual means of signage became critical owing to the safety problems that followed the growth of the highway system and the continuous increase in traffic. This paper presents a review of research on the legibility of highway signs and discusses the key studies of the legibility of typefaces used on them. It examines in particular the legibility of the Latin typefaces in English language used on US highway signs, focussing on the most significant findings on the characteristics of typefaces and the features that most affect legibility. The paper also discusses the methodological approaches used to examine legibility in conditions of driving and suggests that future research should pursue the application of findings in the field of reading research and be informed by design knowledge.”

Edward A. Malone

Not just a pretty picture: Scientific fact visualisation styles, preferences, confidence and recall

Walsh, E. I., Sargent, G. M., & Grant, W. J. (2021). Information Visualization, 20(2–3), 138–150. https://doi.org/10.1177/14738716211027587

“Visuals are often used to enhance learning of scientific information. The recent emergence and popularity of comic-style instruction books for adults, such as the ‘manga guide to …’, shows the possibility of comic style visualisations for the communication of science with adults. This study investigates whether the addition and style of visual accompaniment of scientific information, as used in comic books, influences immediate and short-term fact recall in an adult audience. Participants (n = 310 aged 18–79, 52% identified as female) were presented 20 general science facts in one of five styles: (1) text alone, (2) photo with text caption, (3) cartoon with text caption, (4) photo with explanatory agent and a speech bubble, (5) cartoon with explanatory agent and a speech bubble. Immediate recall, and confidence in that recall, was tested following a brief distractor. Participants indicated their preferred presentation style, and short-term recall was tested by a final quiz of all 20 facts. Overall, the most preferred presentation style was cartoon with explanatory agent and text in a speech bubble (26% preferred). There was no single most effective presentation style; there was no significant difference in immediate recall, short term recall or confidence in answers depending on whether the fact was presented as text, photo or cartoon, or the presence or absence of an explanatory agent. However, immediate recall was significantly better when preference was met (p < 0.02). [The authors] found that the style of visual accompaniment of scientific information in accordance with the ‘manga guide to…’ format influenced immediate, but not short-term, fact recall in an adult audience when written English literacy, scientific literacy and non-verbal intelligence were taken into account. Short term recall of scientific facts may best be served by presenting facts in multiple styles or enquiring about and then meeting participant preference for visual accompaniment.”

Edward A. Malone

Optimal layout of stacked graph for visualizing multidimensional financial time series data

He, Y., & Li, H. (2022). Information Visualization, 21(1), 63–73. https://doi.org/10.1177/14738716211045005

“In the era of big data, the analysis of multi-dimensional time series data is one of the important topics in many fields such as finance, science, logistics, and engineering. Using stacked graphs for visual analysis helps to visually reveal the changing characteristics of each dimension over time. In order to present visually appealing and easy-to-read stacked graphs, this paper constructs the minimum cumulative variance rule to determine the stacking order of each dimension, as well as adopts the width priority principle and the color complementary principle to determine the label placement positioning and text coloring. In addition, a color matching method is recommended by user study. The proposed optimal visual layout algorithm is applied to the visual analysis of actual multidimensional financial time series data, and as a result, vividly reveals the characteristics of the flow of securities trading funds between sectors.”

Edward A. Malone

Railway rules: Image content origins of wayfinding pictograms from the 1960s and 1970s

Bakker, W. (2021). Visible Language, 55(2), 5–26. https://doi.org/10.34314/vl.v55i2.4606

The history of wayfinding pictograms can provide useful context as we seek to use images to make content accessible. This study investigates 52 common referents and the context in which related pictograms evolved. “Wayfinding pictograms are sometimes seen as ‘words’ of a ‘visual language’. . . . This research is on the pioneer period of wayfinding pictogram development, 1963–1974, using a set of 24 pictogram systems. The results show that the image contents of most common pictograms that we use today were introduced in only three years’ time by transport organizations. Olympic events and world exhibitions played a minor role in this process. Known designers probably focused more on improving the visual perception and consistency of a pictogram set. A comparison of image contents of pictogram systems from 1963–1974 with two more recent systems suggests there has hardly been any evolution in contents since.”

Diana Fox Bentele

Seeing history in 2-D: A tool kit for interpreting images

Ott, C. (2021). Technology and Culture, 62(4), 1199–1216. https://doi.org/10.1353/tech.2021.0158

“While many historians, and their students, possess great enthusiasm for the world of images, many fail to use images to their fullest potential as historic sources. The goal of this guide is to provide historians with theoretical and practical tools to help them analyze visual sources and to pass on that knowledge. With this guide in hand, they will be able to interpret visual sources that are vital to, yet under-utilized in, their work. They will also become savvier about using visual sources to communicate their own research and ideas. [The article] includes a step-by-step guide for analyzing visual elements within the picture frame and it offers tips to situate images in a broader context, that is, outside the picture frame. With this article in hand, historians and their students will have an accessible and easy-to-read guide to help them cross disciplines and interpret images, which have always been core to how people have made sense of each other and the world around them.”

Edward A. Malone

Which emphasis technique to use? Perception of emphasis techniques with varying distractors, backgrounds, and visualization types

Mairena, A., Gutwin, C., & Cockburn, A. (2022). Information Visualization, 21(2), 95–129. https://doi.org/10.1177/14738716211045354

“Emphasis effects are visual changes that make data elements distinct from their surroundings. Designers may use computational saliency models to predict how a viewer’s attention will be guided by a specific effect; however, although saliency models provide a foundational understanding of emphasis perception, they only cover specific visual effects in abstract conditions. To address these limitations, [the authors] carried out crowdsourced studies that evaluate emphasis perception in a wider range of conditions than previously studied. [They] varied effect magnitude, distractor number and type, background, and visualization type, and measured the perceived emphasis of 12 visual effects. [The] results show that there are perceptual commonalities of emphasis across a wide range of environments, but also that there are limitations on perceptibility for some effects, dependent on a visualization’s background or type. [The researchers] developed a model of emphasis predictability based on simple scatterplots that can be extended to other viewing conditions. [These] studies provide designers with new understanding of how viewers experience emphasis in realistic visualization settings.”

Edward A. Malone


Consumer behavior in the online classroom: Using video analytics and machine learning to understand the consumption of video courseware

Zhou, M., Chen, G. H., Ferreira, P., & Smith, M. D. (2021). Journal of Marketing Research, 58(6), 1079–1100. https://doi.org/10.1177/00222437211042013

“Video is one of the fastest growing online services offered to consumers. The rapid growth of online video consumption brings new opportunities for marketing executives and researchers to analyze consumer behavior. However, video also introduces new challenges. Specifically, analyzing unstructured video data presents formidable methodological challenges that limit the use of multimedia data to generate marketing insights. To address this challenge, the authors propose a novel video feature framework based on machine learning and computer vision techniques, which helps marketers predict and understand the consumption of online video from a content-based perspective. The authors apply this framework to two unique data sets: one provided by MasterClass, consisting of 771 online videos and more than 2.6 million viewing records from 225,580 consumers, and another from Crash Course, consisting of 1,127 videos focusing on more traditional education disciplines. The analyses show that the framework proposed in this article can be used to accurately predict both individual-level consumer behavior and aggregate video popularity in these two very different contexts. The authors discuss how their findings and methods can be used to advance management and marketing research with unstructured video data in other contexts such as video marketing and entertainment analytics.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

The ethics of extrapolation: Science fiction in the technical communication classroom

Lee, D. (2022). Technical Communication Quarterly, 31(1), 77–88. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1866678

“This article argues that science fiction is a powerful tool for teaching ethics in the technical communication classroom. As a literary genre, science fiction is uniquely situated to critique the social and political consequences of technological progress and to guide future behaviors. Using a speculative fiction-themed technical communication seminar as a case study, this essay demonstrates how science fiction theory, narratives, and projects can encourage students to think more holistically about their future roles as scientists and communicators. Such an approach can reinvigorate traditional workplace genres, support responsible decision-making, and promote multiculturalism, environmentalism, and social justice.”

Rhonda Stanton

A novel taxonomy of student-generated video styles

Arruabarrena, R., Sánchez, A., Domínguez, C., & Jaime, A. (2021). International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 18(68), 1–20. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41239-021-00295-6

“Video is a medium increasingly used in education. The styles of videos produced for academic purposes have been studied in the literature based mainly on those initially designed by instructors for use in MOOCs. In this work, [the authors] define a novel taxonomy of academic video design styles based on the videos produced by students. [They] have defined 10 different styles after reviewing 105 student-generated videos over 5 years. These types of videos reflect the tastes of students when making a video, which do not necessarily coincide with those of instructors. Based on [the authors’] classification, a comparative analysis was done between the types of videos developed by instructors and by students, and significant differences were found. The style most commonly used by instructors is similar to the presentation slides while students’ videos are based on the integration of videos and images they search for on the Internet.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Health communication

Effective communication between medical writers and creative teams: The secret condiment for a flavorsome sauce

Blotta, A.C. (2021). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 36(4), 159–162. [doi: none].

“An impactful pharmaceutical promotional piece is an amalgam of a relatable narrative and agreeable visuals, a result of a highly synergistic relationship among medical writers, art directors, and designers. When it comes to innovation and creativity, a collaborative relationship will increase the likelihood of producing a piece that will touch the lives of the audience in a memorable way. Although the audience of pharmaceutical promotion can comprise health care providers and patients, this article will focus on the latter. A few aspects of this partnership have been shown to increase the chances of achieving that goal, such as respectful communication, alignment on the brief, mutual encouragement, and use of lay language during discussions and brainstorming sessions. Although nurturing storytelling, a strong skill of creative teams, is critical for the success of promotional medical pieces, ensuring scientific accuracy and avoiding misbranding are also key for complying with the ethical paradigms of medical communication and the US Food and Drug Administration regulations. Therefore, fine-tuning the partnership between medical and creative teams translates into a collaboration that combines freedom of creation with regulatory and scientific guardrails, as well as a strong sense of respect for each other’s views and expertise.”

Walter Orr

Is my story better than his story? Understanding the effects and mechanisms of narrative point of view in the opioid context

Ma, Z., Ma, R., & Ledford, V. (2022). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2022.2037198

“Sharing the stories of people whose lives are impacted by Opioid Use Disorders (OUDs) can be a promising strategy to reduce stigma and increase support for beneficial public policies. Since a story can be told from a first-person or third-person point of view (POV), this study sought to (1) determine the relative persuasive effects of narrative POV and (2) identify the underlying psychological mechanisms, including character identification and psychological reactance, of such narratives. A one-way between-subjects experiment was conducted among a college student sample (N = 276). Narrative POV was manipulated by describing a college student’s OUD experience from either the first- or third-person POV. Findings demonstrated that POV did not influence identification but had a significant effect on reactance. Specifically, the first-person (vs. third-person) POV narrative led to lower reactance, which was associated with participants’ decreased desire to socially distance themselves from people with OUDs and stronger support for public health-oriented policies regarding OUDs. This study sheds light on the mixed findings revealed in the literature and has practical importance in health message design in the current opioid epidemic.”

Walter Orr

Prevalence and characteristics of pictures in cancer screening information: Content analysis of UK print decision support materials

Gatting, L., Hanna, C., & Robb, K. (2022). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2021.2022869

“This paper answers calls for further theoretical work into types of pictures used in health information. Pictures influence message reception, interpretation, and retention, making this an important area for research in health communication. A content analysis was used to produce a systematic and theory-orientated assessment of the use of pictures in cancer screening information materials (N = 44) produced for invitees to either cervical, breast, or bowel screening in the United Kingdom. The main categories investigated in this study were function, content, and style of the pictures. Pictures used in cancer screening information materials were twice as likely to be used to demonstrate what something looked like or depict a situation (display pictures) than to convey a specific cancer screening message (message pictures). The messages being conveyed were predominantly related to screening procedures (51%) or outcomes (38%) rather than screening experiences (6%) or decisions (9%). Pictures were rarely used to portray a narrative in the materials (n = 12). The paper brings conceptual clarity to the ways pictures can be, and have so far been, used to communicate cancer screening information. This study identifies that pictures conveying a cancer-related message, and pictures in the format of a narrative, should be used more often in print cancer screening communications.”

Walter Orr

Unlocking conspiracy belief systems: How fact-checking label on Twitter counters conspiratorial MMR vaccine misinformation

Lee, J., Kim, J. W., & Lee, H. Y. (2022). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2022.2031452

“This study tested whether a simple fact-checking label on Twitter effectively reduces vaccine conspiracy beliefs, misinformation engagement intentions, and vaccination intentions. A web-based experiment (N = 206) of adults living in the United States through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk) was conducted for the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in March 2020. The results showed that the fact-checking label attached to the conspiratorial misinformation post significantly reduced MMR vaccine conspiracy beliefs compared to the no fact-checking (misinformation-only) condition but did not directly affect MMR misinformation engagement intentions and MMR vaccination intentions. In addition, [the authors] found that the fact-checking label effectively decreased vaccine conspiracy beliefs and misinformation engagement intentions for those whose prior favorable attitudes toward MMR vaccination were relatively low. Based on [these] findings, [the researchers] suggest that public health professionals and health communicators use the fact-checking label as a promising tool for countering conspiracy theories about vaccination. However, they should further seek alternative ways to limit the public’s engagement in misinformation-related activities on social media and promote health protective behavioral intentions, given the limited effects of fact-checking labels.”

Walter Orr

Information management

A survey of tag clouds as tools for information retrieval and content representation

Parejo, U. T., Campaña, J. R., Vila, M. A., & Delgado, M. (2021). Information Visualization, 20(1), 83–97. https://doi.org/10.1177/1473871620966638

“Tag clouds are tools that have been widely used on the Internet since their conception. The main applications of these textual visualizations are information retrieval, content representation and browsing of the original text from which the tags are generated. Despite the extensive use of tag clouds, their enormous popularity and the amount of research related to different aspects of them, few studies have summarized their most important features when they work as tools for information retrieval and content representation. In this paper [the authors] present a summary of the main characteristics of tag clouds found in the literature, such as their different functions, designs, and negative aspects. [They] also present a summary of the most popular metrics used to capture the structural properties of a tag cloud generated from the query results, as well as other measures for evaluating the goodness of the tag cloud when it works as a tool for content representation. The different methods for tagging and the semantic association processes in tag clouds are also considered. Finally, [the authors] give a list of alternatives for visual interfaces, which makes this study a useful first help for researchers who want to study the content representation and information retrieval interfaces in greater depth.”

Edward A. Malone


The art of ancient Mesopotamian technical manuals and letters: The origins of instructional writing

Raign, K. (2022). Technical Communication Quarterly, 31(1), 44–61. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2021.1915386

“The people of the Ancient Near East, inventors of writing, fully understood that providing instructions was a highly persuasive and reader-centric act that required the writer to make specific choices—the same choices that we still make today. In fact, when we write instructions and teach others to write instructions, we are practicing principles developed by the Mesopotamians.” The author supports this argument by analyzing “excerpts from a technical manual and two letters.”

Rhonda Stanton

Metadiscourse in English instruction manuals

Herriman, J. (2022). English for Specific Purposes, 65(1), 120–132. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.esp.2021.10.003

“Instruction manuals need to explain specialized technical information to readers of the general public. Using metadiscourse effectively, i.e., engaging with readers and guiding them through the text, is, therefore, crucial for successful communication. An increased awareness of how these features are used in instruction manuals would, therefore, help technical writers write reader-friendly texts. This study investigates metadiscourse in ten instruction manuals in English using Hyland’s (2005) taxonomy. It was found that the interactive metadiscourse is predominated by frame markers and code glosses, which reflects the purpose of instruction manuals to explain clearly and efficiently how a machine works. The interactional metadiscourse reflects the twofold relationship between the writers and their readers: on the one hand, that of instructor and inexperienced users of the product and, on the other, that of manufacturer and customer. The former is reflected by the frequent usage of necessity attitude markers and boosters to reinforce instructions and precautions. The latter is reflected by the usage of politeness markers and the hedging of problems and risks. The visual presentation of the manuals, i.e., its segmentation, typographical variation, punctuation and illustrations, was also shown to express metadiscourse meanings.”

Edward A. Malone


English as a business lingua franca: A discursive analysis of business e-mails

Roshid, M. M., Webb, S., & Chowdhury, R. (2022). International Journal of Business Communication, 59(1), 83–103. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488418808040

“In the current world of business, English as a Business Lingua Franca (BELF) is used in both spoken and written communication and underpinned by the paradigm of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). While a number of research studies have been conducted exploring the spoken discourse facets of BELF users, relatively little attention has been paid hitherto to explore BELF written discourse facets, particularly, in business e-mail communication. This article examines how the BELF community discursively practices written discourse in their business e-mails. Data have been drawn from a pool of 92 e-mail messages collected from the business personnel engaged in international communications from five ready-made garments business organizations located in Bangladesh. These e-mails were exchanged between nonnative English speakers working as business personnel in the ready-made garments sector in Bangladesh and their counterparts—including both native and nonnative English speakers employed in six different countries. Applying both qualitative and quantitative content analyses, findings reveal that stylistically the components of e-mail messages are usually personalized, flexible and informal, and similar to ELF spoken discourse rather than ELF academic discourse and/or standard business letter writing. A wide range of language features have been identified in e-mails that are unique in this specific technology-based genre of communication. The awareness of these different facets of e-mail discourse has multiple implications in education.”

Katherine Wertz

(Re)framing multilingual technical communication with Indigenous language interpreters and translators

Gonzales, L. (2022). Technical Communication Quarterly, 31(1), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2021.1906453

“Through an ethnographic study conducted with an Indigenous language rights organization, this article illustrates how translation and interpretation can be further considered in global technical communication research. By providing examples of how Indigenous language translators and interpreters approach their work, this article advocates for a reframing of multilingualism in technical communication through a deliberate attunement to the relationships between language, land, and positionality. The author argues that as technical communicators continue conducting research in multilingual contexts, researchers should acknowledge how translation and interpretation impact the results and methodologies of contemporary global research.”

Rhonda Stanton


AI for social justice: New methodological horizons in technical communication

Graham, S. S., & Hopkins, H. R. (2022). Technical Communication Quarterly, 31(1), 89–102. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2021.1955151

“This Methodologies and Approaches piece argues artificially intelligent machine learning systems can be used to effectively advance justice-oriented research in technical and professional communication (TPC). Using a preexisting dataset investigating patient marginalization in pharmaceuticals policy discourse, [the authors] built and tested 49 machine learning systems designed to identify and track rhetorical features of interest. Three popular and one new approach to feature engineering (text quantification) were evaluated. The results indicate that these systems have great potential for use in TPC research.”

Rhonda Stanton

Comparison of select-all-that-apply items with yes/no forced choice items

Lewis, J. R., & Sauro, J. (2021). Journal of Usability Studies, 17(1), 21–30. [doi: none]

“Prior research has suggested that people tend to select more items when presented with a forced choice (yes/no) format than with a select-all-that-apply (SATA) format, and some have argued against ever using SATA in research.” This study reports findings from two studies that compared a standard SATA grid format (choices arranged in list or tabular form) with two forced choice formats: questions in a yes/no grid and a series of questions with yes/no choices provided separately for each question. The researchers found no statistically significant difference in selection rates between SATA grids and yes/no grids, or between SATA grids and the series of yes/no questions. However, participants significantly preferred SATA to forced choice formats. The researchers relate this work to previous research and offer suggestions (particularly for UX researchers and practitioners) for developing data collection instruments.

Lyn Gattis


Changing climate, changing terrain: The stasis metaphor and the climate crisis

Weech, S. (2022). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 52(1), 94–109. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281620966988

“Rhetorical theory has frequently relied on metaphors of place and positioning as heuristics to build better arguments. This article utilizes one such metaphor, that of stasis theory, as a method by which we might change the terrain of the conversation surrounding the climate crisis. As an example, the author does a rhetorical analysis of a recent agricultural report from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment and finds that, rather than using traditional questions of conjecture and quality, the authors of the report focus on questions of procedure and definition to reframe the discussion surrounding the climate crisis. Drawing from the rhetoric in this report, the author suggests that technical communicators might similarly produce more fruitful conversations around the climate crisis if they focus on what to do (procedure) and redefining the crisis as a local issue (definition).”

Anita Ford


Gun control and gun rights: A conceptual framework for analyzing public policy issues in technical and professional communication

Williams, M. F. (2022). Technical Communication Quarterly, 31(1), 33–43. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2021.1963487

“The author proposes Policy, Roles, Sites (PRS), a conceptual model to help technical communicators analyze high-stakes, long-debated public policy issues and reveal ways that technical and professional communication informs public policy development and implementation. The author demonstrates how the PRS model can be used to examine complex public policy issues from race and policing to gun rights and gun control, as well as policy issues that intersect these seemingly disparate issues.”

Rhonda Stanton

Rethinking taking the tactical out of technical: A reassessment of tactical technical communication

Randall, T. S. (2022). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 52(1), 3–18. https://doi.org/10.1177/00472816211006341

“This article interrogates the concept of tactical technical communication specifically questioning the established understanding of de Certeau in the field of technical communication. It argues once readers move beyond the concepts of strategies and tactics, they will find a rich and nuanced explanation of how ordinary people ‘make do’ in everyday life.”

Anita Ford

User experience

Baking accessibility into your process

Milani, L. (2022, February 10). Science Editor, early online. https://www.csescienceeditor.org/article/baking-accessibility-into-your-process/

“To properly ‘bake’ accessibility into a process, it must be a collaborative effort. Accessibility needs to be considered and implemented with the right techniques at every stage of the process until it becomes a natural part of the process.” The author draws upon his experience as a User Experience Accessibility Specialist to highlight “approaches used to embed digital accessibility” in Sage Publishing’s workflows.

Edward A. Malone

Development and use of heuristics to evaluate neonatal medical devices for use in low-resource settings

Johnston, J., Asma, E., Acemyan, C. Z., Oden, M., Richards-Kortum, R., & Kortum, P. (2021). Journal of Usability Studies, 17(1), 12–20. [doi: none]

This paper describes “the development and use of domain-specific heuristics to evaluate neonatal medical devices intended for low-resource settings,” where essential resources such as “medical consumables, equipment, and human resources” may be limited. In addition to applying standard heuristics to neonatal medical device options, the researchers developed and applied five new heuristics specifically for these low-resource settings, “including cleanability, maintainability and reparability, low workload, minimize discomfort, and access to baby.” When 23 medical device options were tested, researchers found 36 (9%) additional heuristic violations as a result of applying the new heuristic set. “Results support the ability of domain-specific heuristics to identify potential usability problems that would not be captured using only standard heuristics.”

Lyn Gattis

Dual cognitive UXD and explainable AI

Cham, K., Shakiry, R., & Yates, C. (2021). Journal of Usability Studies, 17(1), 1–11. [doi: none]

This essay addresses “a growing vocal concern with ethics in professional UX circles,” specifically the critical role of human factors—“personal, social, and cultural values; policy; practice; law; and ideology”—in technology development. The essay discusses “seminal research findings in eCommerce and games, UX as a foundation for a dual cognitive or ‘deep user experience design’ (Deep UXD) that integrates biometric insights.” The authors suggest such research can be the foundation for the ethical development “of all human-computer interaction (HCI) applications,” including “UX informed human-centered Al (HCAI) and human-in-the-loop (HITL) service design for Industry 4.0.”

Lyn Gattis


Artificial intelligence in business communication: A snapshot

Naidoo, J., & Dulek, R. (2022). International Journal of Business Communication, 59(1), 126–147. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329488418819139

“Despite artificial intelligence’s far-reaching influence in the financial reporting and other business domains, there is a surprising dearth of accessible descriptions about the assumptions underlying the software’s development along with an absence of empirical evidence assessing the viability and usefulness of this communication tool. With these observations in mind, the purposes of this study are to explain how automated text summarization applications work from an overarching, semitechnical, modestly theoretical perspective and, using ROUGE-1 (Recall-Oriented Understudy for Gisting Evaluation–1) evaluation metrics, assess how effective the summarization software is when summarizing complex business reports. The results of this study show that the extraction-based summarization system produced moderately satisfactory results in terms of extracting relevant instances of the text from the business reports. Much work still needs to be accomplished in the area of precision and recall in extraction-based systems before the software can match a human’s ability to capture the gist of a body of text.”

Katherine Wertz

Representations of creativity by posters in freelance writing internet forums

Sarraf, K. S. (2022). Technical Communication Quarterly, 31(1), 62–76. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2021.1915387

“Technical and professional communication (TPC) scholars have called for increased attention to creative thinking in the field’s writing practices. This article examines posts about creativity on two social networking websites and generates challenges, skills, and practices relevant to posters’ creative work.”

Rhonda Stanton