71.2 May 2024

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.

Audience analysis

Expression of customer (dis)satisfaction in online restaurant reviews: The relationship between adversative connective constructions and star ratings

Baker, M. J., & Hashimoto, B. (2024). International Journal of Business Communication, 61, 148-180. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294884231200245

“Online restaurant reviews contain expressions of customer expectations in prose as well as in star ratings that indicate overall customer satisfaction. In prose, one way customers communicate that expectations are or are not met is through a grammatical construction called adversative connectives (ACs) (i.e., constituents such as but, although, however, and even though). In the present study, [the authors] examine the relationship between star ratings and customers’ use of ACs by employing a combination of content analysis, mixed-effects models, and thematic analysis in a corpus of nearly 35,000 online reviews for restaurants located in the United States. The results reveal an important way customers communicate their (dis)satisfaction online. Specifically, the statistical modeling indicates that the ACs used and the content they emphasize have a significant relationship with star ratings. Restaurant owners can use these findings to focus on the most important information in customer reviews, especially when they are sifting through many reviews or through reviews for which no summative rating is provided.”

Katherine Wertz


A metainvestigation of speaking skills: Practice, feedback, and self-directed efforts

Nandagopal, S. K., & Philip, R. S. (2023). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 66(2), 170–185. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2023.3251140

. . . . This article documents a speaking assessment carried out among 120 engineering students who have undergone two semesters of Technical English courses in the final year of their study. The students from diverse departments opted for the English for Competitive Exams elective course to improve their English language proficiency. The objective of the elective is to train the learners in essential language components for facing high-stakes competitive exams with an integrated language skills approach. . . . Students were trained on speaking skills as part of a semester-long online course, and an assessment for speaking skills was designed in which students answered 10 self-reflective questions about their perception and usefulness of practice, feedback from the instructor and peers, and self-directed efforts. Each student’s recorded audio file of an average of 11 minutes 24 seconds was uploaded to the learning management system (LMS) as part of the assessment. A qualitative and interpretative investigation of their answers reflecting their learning experiences during the semester, based on the activities and self-regulation, and their self-rating were analyzed thematically.” The authors conclude that a teaching strategy combining “practice, feedback, and self-directed efforts with a culminating phase of oral self-reflection is highly beneficial in developing speaking skills in engineering courses focusing on technical communication.”

Lyn Gattis


Designing user interface toggles for usability

Al-Jasim, A., & Murano, P. (2023). Journal of User Experience, 18(4), 175–199. [doi: none]

“Toggles are used extensively by all major software vendors and often in the form of sliders. Although they mostly all share an on or off functionality, there are differences in how designers and developers represent these actions in the user interface. There can also be differences in the kind of state changes these toggles operate. [The authors] present in this paper a new contribution concerning the design of usable UI toggles. [They] designed and developed a series of prototypes that were evaluated experimentally and subjectively by real participants. The results clearly show that certain designs currently in use create confusion and negative user perceptions and therefore should be avoided. [The authors] present a series of toggle design guidelines based on the results that, if followed by designers and developers, will help to produce more usable UIs for better user experiences.”

Lyn Gattis


The ethics of inclusion, exclusion, and protection in The Green Book

Walwema, J., Colton, J., & Holmes, S. (2024). Technical Communication Quarterly, 33,19–37, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2023.2184498

“This article explores the ethical complexity of inclusion, exclusion, and protection in TPC, drawing upon a historical technical document, The Green Book, which helped Black American travelers in the 1930-60s locate safe leisure spaces in a segregated society. We examine The Green Book through the antiracist thinker Kendi to understand some of the ethical limits of the binary of inclusion/exclusion and identify necessary forms of protection for historically- and multiply-marginalized groups.”

Rhonda Stanton


A field wide snapshot of student learning outcomes in the technical and professional communication service course

Griffith, J., Zarlengo, T., & Melonçon, L. (2024). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 54(1), 46-68. https://doi.org/10.1177/00472816221134535

“Using the technical and professional communication service course as the site for research, and student learning outcomes (SLOs) as the specific focus, [the authors] gathered, coded, and analyzed 503 SLOs from 93 institutions. [Their] results show the top outcomes are rhetoric, genre, writing, design, and collaboration. [The authors] discuss these outcomes and then…offer programmatic implications drawn from the data that encourage technical and professional communication program administrators and faculty to use common SLOs, to improve outcome development, and to reconsider the purpose of the service course for students.”

Anita Ford

Ethical issues

Embracing cultural differences to ensure ethical publication practices

Lee, J. & Hesp, B. (2023). American Medical Writers Association Journal, 38(4), 5-6

“Ethical publication practices apply universally, but differing cultural contexts can alter the interpretation and application of guidelines. In particular, collaborating with colleagues and authors in the Asia-Pacific region can sometimes be confusing and frustrating when attempting to align expectations between all parties involved in medical writing projects. Engaging with colleagues in other regions to develop flexible, culturally appropriate processes can help strengthen working relationships, expedite project completion, and adhere to publication best practices.”

Walter Orr

Health communication

ChatGPT for healthcare services: An emerging stage for an innovative perspective

Javaid, M., Haleem, A., & Singh, R. P. (2023). Bench Council Transactions on Benchmarks, Standards and Evaluations, 3(1). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tbench.2023.100105

“Generative Pretrained Transformer, often known as GPT, is an innovative kind of Artificial Intelligence (AI) which can produce writing that seems to have been written by a person. OpenAI created this AI language model called ChatGPT. It is built using the GPT architecture and is trained on a large corpus of text data to respond to natural language inquiries that resemble a person’s requirements. This technology has lots of applications in healthcare. The need for accurate and current data is one of the major obstacles to adopting ChatGPT in healthcare. GPT must have access to precise and up-to-date medical data to provide trustworthy suggestions and treatment options. It might be accomplished by ensuring that the data used by GPT is received from reliable sources and that the data is updated regularly. Since sensitive medical information would be involved, it will also be crucial to consider privacy and security issues while utilising GPT in the healthcare industry. This paper briefs about ChatGPT and its need for healthcare, its significant Work Flow Dimensions and typical features of ChatGPT for the Healthcare domain. Finally, it identified and discussed significant applications of ChatGPT for healthcare. ChatGPT can comprehend the conversational context and provide contextually appropriate replies. Its effectiveness as a conversational AI tool makes it useful for chatbots, virtual assistants, and other applications. However, we see many limitations in medical ethics, data interpretation, accountability and other issues related to the privacy. Regarding specialised tasks like text creation, language translation, text categorisation, text summarisation, and creating conversation systems, ChatGPT has been pre-trained on a large corpus of text data, and somewhat satisfactory results can be expected. Moreover, it can also be utilised for various Natural Language Processing (NLP) activities, including sentiment analysis, part-of-speech tagging, and named entity identification.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

Emotional shifts in health messages as a strategy for generating talk and behavior change

Peinado, S. & Nabi, R.L. (2024). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2024.2305552

“Although talk generated by health messages can spread message content and promote positive behavior change, little is known about what message features may be more likely to prompt conversation. Given theoretical and research support for sequential emotional experiences to increase the intensity of emotion and the extent of engagement with the emotional content – both of which are expected to positively influence talk and persuasion – [authors] examined whether shifts in emotion within a health message influenced these outcomes. In a longitudinal experiment, [authors] compared the effects of two texting while driving prevention messages containing a shift in emotional valence (negative to positive and positive to negative) with two single-valence emotional messages (negative-only and positive-only) on talk and persuasion (N = 333). Results indicated that emotional shift messages generated more talk than single-valence messages because they elicited greater emotional intensity and deeper message processing. These variables also mediated the effect of emotional shift messages on persuasion both immediately following message exposure and one week later, though intentions to avoid texting while driving immediately after message exposure had a greater influence on beliefs and behavior at the one-week follow-up than talk. These findings suggest that talk may play a more important role in spreading message content and reinforcing message-generated change rather than creating change itself.”

Walter Orr

Information management

“We’re not proud of the cases we’ve been involved in”: Crisis resolution on Facebook using conversational human voice

Holmgreen, L.-L. (2024). International Journal of Business Communication, 61, 70-91. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294884231200861

“The article discusses the use of conversational human voice (CHV) to address negative eWOM on brand-generated social media platforms. Using the case of a crisis-ridden Danish bank, the article investigates the use of CHV outside service failures and its effects on critical publics in the context of intentional crises. The data consist of posts and comments from the bank’s Facebook page, following allegations of money laundering. The analysis reveals that CHV is used extensively by the bank to counter criticism; however, the degree to which the strategy is standardized or tailored seems to depend on whether users appear once, have a regular presence, engage in dialog, and are known to the bank’s employees. These findings suggest that while CHV is intended for more personalized communication to make users more sympathetic to the organization, its use will have to be contextualized to be effective.”

Katherine Wertz

You are telling the story yourself”: Defining and developing narrative pictorial warning labels

Ma, Z., Hintz, E.A., Cassano, B. (2023). Health Communication. Advanced online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/10410236.2023.2293324

“Pictorial warning labels (PWLs) featuring narrative content are promising strategies for communicating health risks and motivating behavior change. The objectives of this study were to (1) identify what intrinsic features a PWL must have to be constructed as a narrative and (2) uncover in what ways narrative PWLs are perceived as being (in)effective. Seven online focus groups were conducted via Zoom with moderate and heavy drinkers (n = 30). Participants discussed a series of mockup PWLs designed to communicate the cancer risk of alcohol. The discussion revealed that a static image must include character, causality, and setting to help individuals construct the story. Specifically, the character should be discernible and believable so that individuals can infer risk information. Moreover, the connection between the image and text should imply a causal relationship between alcohol drinking and cancer risks. Lastly, there should be sufficient relevant background or context information. When discussing the label effectiveness, most participants thought narrative PWLs were more effective than graphic, non-narrative PWLs at informing consumers about the cancer risk of alcohol. Their reasoning included narrative PWLs (1) being easy to understand, (2) evoking curiosity and imagination, (3) eliciting sympathy for the character, (4) not causing aversion, and (5) increasing risk perceptions. This study contributes to the narrative persuasion research and offers practical implications for designing image-based narratives.”

Walter Orr

Intercultural communication

Unpacking the art of customer complaint handling in Spanish and British telecom emails: A cross-cultural webcare study with a human touch

Elektra Van Herck, R., & Vangehuchten, L. (2024). International Journal of Business Communication, 61, 115-147. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294884231201142

“In spite of the rise of new media in a B2C context, companies still prefer to handle complaints privately. As such, many complaints are handled via email resulting in a professional communication genre of its own. In this study [the authors] performed a cross-cultural genre analysis to understand the specific discourse structure of the moves within response mails to complaints, on the one hand, and the importance of the communicative function of Conversational Human Voice within this genre, on the other. With this aim, [the authors] collected authentic organizational email replies to complaints from telecom companies active in the UK and Spain (36 and 44 emails respectively). The results indicate that the British and Spanish data sets show a similar discourse structure in terms of move frequency. The submoves that are prototypical for all data sets are Greeting, Explanation, Conclusion, and the closing submoves Sign-off and Signature. The data sets differ mainly in their frequency for the interpersonal submoves Empathy, Gratitude, and Apology, which are more prevalent in the English corpus, and the more business-oriented moves, such as Contact reason, Marketing, and Future contact, which are mainly present in the Spanish corpus. This suggests that organizational email replies to complaints are a rather conventionalized genre, with some linguacultures putting more effort in company-customer interactions by using more interpersonal submoves. Regarding the cross-cultural analysis of the expression of Conversational Human Voice [the authors] observed an influence of the respective linguacultures in the sense that the Spanish data are less personal and less invitational than the English mails, although they present more empathetic intensifiers. Furthermore, both data sets show only a limited extent of informal language. [The authors] evaluate these findings in the light of previous work.”

Katherine Wertz


(Im)personalization in German and English negative online reviews: Contrasts, comparisons, and cognitive implications

Fastrich, B. (2024). International Journal of Business Communication, 61, 39-69. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294884231200249

“The current study contributes to the demand for more multilingual analyses of online reviews, comparing English and German-language hotel reviews on Booking.com. Specifically, it seeks to shed light on the linguapragmatic contrast of the German speaker showing a preference for more ‘content-orientation’ and the English speaker more ‘person-orientation’ by exploring the use of the first-person perspective (FPP) in online reviews. It further integrates cognitive linguistic theories of construal, considering whether the results implicate not only a difference in the assumedly intentional rhetorical preferences of speakers but also cognitive differences in ways of experiencing a hotel stay, which might also have important implications for how hotels tailor their language-specific responses and maybe even how hotels design their service and intended customer experience. The findings show that FPP did occur in more English reviews, indicating more personalization and thus a more personalized cognitive processing of the hotel stay. However, when FPP was identified in German reviews, it occurred at a similar frequency to English reviews, reflecting a similar degree of subjective involvement. The findings may thus indicate that while this contrast was robust on a whole, linguacultural differences may play an increasingly smaller role as online genres merge into more global styles, a trend that communications practitioners must increasingly consider.”

Katherine Wertz

Public relations

Calming the storm: How non-negative messages from fellow consumers can dispel negativity in a social media firestorm

Widdershoven, S., Pluymaekers, M., Zourrig, H., Sinclair, P., & Bloemer, J. M. M. (2024). International Journal of Business Communication, 61, 18-38. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294884231200244

“This research explores the potential of non-negative consumer messages to counteract negativity in social media firestorms through emotional contagion. 1,186 tweets were examined in response to a McDonald’s Japan service issue, revealing that non-negative messages tend to align emotionally with preceding messages. This suggests a temporary mitigation of negativity. Investigating emotional contagion within social media firestorms challenged the prevailing notion of negativity bias, indicating a focus on maintaining a positive affective state. Practical implications suggest organizations should monitor and acknowledge non-negative messages during crises to identify advocates and gain insights into subnetwork impact. Incorporating elements from contagious non-negative posts in responses can help mitigate reputational damage. This research contributes to a deeper understanding of emotional contagion dynamics in social media firestorms, aiding organizations in managing their online reputation during crises.”

Katherine Wertz

Expressing and responding to customer (dis)satisfaction online: New insights from discourse and linguistic approaches

Ruytenbeek, N., & Decock, S. (2024). International Journal of Business Communication, 61, 3-17. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294884231199740

“In the current era of digitalization, customers are routinely invited to express their (dis)satisfaction with a product or a service and to provide recommendations for other prospective customers by writing reviews on a variety of online social media platforms. Such forms of electronic word-of-mouth have been found to strongly influence other consumers’ purchase decisions. In the case of negative reviews, the negativity expressed in a particular comment can spread to the whole community, which can damage a company’s reputation and profits. In an attempt to take consumer feedback into account, companies engage in ‘webcare.’ This type of online service encounter has been defined by van Noort and Willemsen as ‘the act of engaging in online interactions with (complaining) consumers, by actively searching the web to address consumer feedback (e.g., questions, concerns, and complaints).’ Following-up on these developments, scholars have started to research the communicative strategies used by companies to address consumer feedback and those used by (dis)satisfied customers to voice their (dis)satisfaction from the perspective of discourse analysis and linguistic pragmatics, paying attention to their linguistic realizations and their interactional dynamics. The aim of this Special Issue is to further expand our knowledge on the discourse-pragmatic strategies used in the interaction of (dis)satisfied customers and companies online, and on how these different strategies influence other prospective customers’ perceptions, ultimately impacting their purchase decisions. In doing so, it positions itself at the crossroads of linguistics, communication, and business studies.”

Katherine Wertz


AI-driven disinformation: a framework for organizational preparation and response

Karinshak, E., & Jin, Y. (2023). Journal of Communication Management, 27(4), 539-562. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-09-2022-0113

“Purpose Disinformation, false information designed with the intention to mislead, can significantly damage organizational operation and reputation, interfering with communication and relationship management in a wide breadth of risk and crisis contexts. Modern digital platforms and emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), introduce novel risks in crisis management (Guthrie and Rich, 2022). Disinformation literature in security and computer science has assessed how previously introduced technologies have affected disinformation, demanding a systematic and coordinated approach for sustainable counter-disinformation efforts. However, there is a lack of theory-driven, evidence-based research and practice in public relations that advises how organizations can effectively and proactively manage risks and crises driven by AI (Guthrie and Rich, 2022).


As a first step in closing this research-practice gap, the authors first synthesize theoretical and technical literature characterizing the effects of AI on disinformation. Upon this review, the authors propose a conceptual framework for disinformation response in the corporate sector that assesses (1) technologies affecting disinformation attacks and counterattacks and (2) how organizations can proactively prepare and equip communication teams to better protect businesses and stakeholders.


This research illustrates that future disinformation response efforts will not be able to rely solely on detection strategies, as AI-created content quality becomes more and more convincing (and ultimately, indistinguishable), and that future disinformation management efforts will need to rely on content influence rather than volume (due to emerging capabilities for automated production of disinformation). Built upon these fundamental, literature-driven characteristics, the framework provides organizations actor-level and content-level perspectives for influence and discusses their implications for disinformation management.


This research provides a theoretical basis and practitioner insights by anticipating how AI technologies will impact corporate disinformation attacks and outlining how companies can respond. The proposed framework provides a theory-driven, practical approach for effective, proactive disinformation management systems with the capacity and agility to detect risks and mitigate crises driven by evolving AI technologies. Together, this framework and the discussed strategies offer great value to forward-looking disinformation management efforts. Subsequent research can build upon this framework as AI technologies are deployed in disinformation campaigns, and practitioners can leverage this framework in the development of counter-disinformation efforts.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez


Genres: Expert genres, non-specialist audiences, and misinformation in the artificial intelligence age

Mehlenbacher, B., Balbon, A. P., & Mehlenbacher, A. R. (2024). Journal of Technical Writing and Communication. https://doi.org/10.1177/00472816231226249

“Drawing on rhetorical genre studies, [the authors] explore research article abstracts created by generative artificial intelligence (AI). These synthetic genres—genre-ing activities shaped by the recursive nature of language learning models in AI-driven text generation—are of interest as they could influence informational quality, leading to various forms of disordered information such as misinformation. [The authors] conduct a two-part study generating abstracts about (a) genre scholarship and (b) polarized topics subject to misinformation. [The authors] conclude with considerations about this speculative domain of AI text generation and dis/misinformation spread and how genre approaches may be instructive in its identification.”

Anita Ford

Scientific writing

Reddit and engaged science communication online: An examination of Reddit’s R/Science Ask-Me-Anythings and Science Discussion Series

Moriarty, D. & Mehlenbacher, A. (2024). Technical Communication Quarterly, 33, 54–70, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2023.2194676

“Studies of emergent online science communication genres continuously seek to understand novel forms of popularizations aimed at facilitating expert-with-public engagement. To understand how scientists can successfully engage with audiences in dynamic online environments, we examine Reddit’s science subreddit, attending to the acclaimed Ask-Me-Anything (AMA) series, and subsequent Science Discussion Series (SDS). A move analysis on a corpus of AMA and SDS original posts reveal moves used when engaging audiences through these installments.”

Rhonda Stanton

Social Justice

Trying creative problem-solving to social justice work in technical and professional communication

Sarraf, K. S. (2024). Technical Communication Quarterly, 33, 90–101, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2023.2194340

“Problem-solving is central to technical and professional communication (TPC), but problem-solving’s economic roots may not align with social justice. This article introduces socially just creativity: the ability to generate new or unique and effective ideas in conjunction with other members of a community to challenge unjust status quos and tackle wicked social justice problems. The article uses a case study to illustrate that conception. It concludes with recommendations for TPC practitioners to enact social justice creativity.”

Rhonda Stanton

Social Media

“Doesn’t really answer my question . . .”: Exploring customer service interactions on Twitter

Lutzky, U. (2024). International Journal of Business Communication, 61, 92-114. https://doi.org/10.1177/23294884231200247

“This article explores customer service interactions between the Irish airline Ryanair and its passengers on the social networking platform Twitter. Using a corpus linguistic methodology, it investigates a 1-million-word corpus of Twitter threads comprising tweets addressed to and posted by Ryanair between August 2018 and July 2019. Studying the communicative strategies used in the corpus reveals customers’ main concerns and causes for complaint, and how the airline addresses these in their response tweets offering assistance to passengers. In addition, the analysis of customer response tweets to these corporate replies allows insights into customers’ reactions to and perception of the (often generic) answers they receive. The aim of this case study is to gain further understanding of the linguistic and communicative features that characterize customer service interactions online, and the attitudes customers voice toward them, with a view to streamlining customer communication and improving levels of customer satisfaction.”

Katherine Wertz


Lessons of experience: Labor habits of a long-tie, contingent online technical communication instructor

Love, P. (2024). Technical Communication Quarterly, 33, 71–89, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2023.2199791

“The COVID-19 pandemic made nearly every teacher and student online teachers and students in some capacity. This article presents a case study of an experienced, contingent technical and professional communication (TPC) instructor showing how she sets up, presents, and, most importantly, labors in her course for the benefit of her students and herself. This article ends with recommendations for other online TPC teachers and program administrators to support online TPC courses.”

Rhonda Stanton


Artificial intelligence prompt engineering as a new digital competence: Analysis of generative AI technologies such as ChatGPT

Korzynski, P., Mazurek, G., Krzypkowska, P., & Kurasinski, A. (2023). Entrepreneurial Business and Economics Review, 11(3), 25-37 https://doi.org/10.15678/EBER.2023.110302

“Objective: The article aims to offer a thorough examination and comprehension of the challenges and prospects connected with artificial intelligence (Al) prompt engineering. Our research aimed to create a theoretical framework that would highlight optimal approaches in the field of Al prompt engineering. Research Design & Methods: This research utilized a narrative and critical literature review and established a conceptual framework derived from existing literature taking into account both academic and practitioner sources. This article should be regarded as a conceptual work that emphasizes the best practices in the domain of Al prompt engineering. Findings: Based on the conducted deep and extensive query of academic and practitioner literature on the subject, as well as professional press and Internet portals, we identified various insights for effective Al prompt engineering. We provide specific prompting strategies. Implications & Recommendations: The study revealed the profound implications of Al prompt engineering across various domains such as entrepreneurship, art, science, and healthcare. We demonstrated how the effective crafting of prompts can significantly enhance the performance of large language models (LLMs), generating more accurate and contextually relevant results. Our findings offer valuable insights for Al practitioners, researchers, educators, and organizations integrating Al into their operations, emphasizing the need to invest time and resources in prompt engineering. Moreover, we contributed the Al PROMPT framework to the field, providing clear and actionable guidelines for text-to-text prompt engineering. Contribution & Value Added: The value of this study lies in its comprehensive exploration of Al prompt engineering as a digital competence. By building upon existing research and prior literature, this study aimed to provide a deeper understanding of the intricacies involved in Al prompt engineering and its role as a digital competence.”

Yvonne Wade Sanchez

The communication coefficient method: A new faculty grading tool designed to help engineering students improve their technical communication

Londner, E., Dabkowski, M., Kloo, I., & Caddell, J. D. (2023). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 66(2), 202–219. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2023.3260479

. . . .This article examines the communication coefficient (CC), a new method for grading student technical communication. . . . The core philosophy of the CC method is that audiences perceive technical work more positively when it is communicated well and more negatively when it is not. The method captures this philosophy mathematically: students’ grades result from multiplying the points earned for technical content by a number—the coefficient—representing how well they communicated that content. . . . The CC method was employed in three undergraduate engineering classes at the United States Military Academy during the spring 2020 semester. Student and instructor feedback were collected to gauge the pros and cons of the method and whether it is worth fielding on a larger scale. . . . The CC method was found to encourage better student communication, although mixed student and instructor opinion suggest that changes to the method and the way that it is messaged are necessary.” The authors conclude this grading method deserves further study, including in additional academic disciplines.

Lyn Gattis

Usability studies

Perspectives on usability testing with IoT devices in technical communication courses

Wright, D. (2024). Technical Communication Quarterly, 33, 38–53, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2023.2194345

“This article offers perspectives on adopting smart home technology into usability testing for technical and professional communication (TPC) courses. Usability is a valued skill for technical communicators. However, usability testing methods have their problems as pedagogical tools. Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices and Smart Home Technology (SHT) may offer instructors tools to overcome some of those problems. This article details advantages and concerns associated with using SHT for curricular usability testing.”

Rhonda Stanton

User experience

Efficiently engaging: Toward an expansive view of time on task

Williams, L. H. (2023). Journal of User Experience, 18(4), 200–209. [doi: none]

“When it comes to website engagement, the metric time on task is often perceived as being negatively correlated with success factors like the likelihood of purchase and satisfaction. This is because it is seen as a proxy for the amount of effort a user exerts to complete a given task. However, through the analysis of 128 unmoderated remote usability tests, [the author] found that users often spend longer amounts of time completing a task on a website when they found the content and format of the website to be personally meaningful, engaging, and surprising. In this scenario, rather than representing effort, time on task better captures engagement and discovery. The inverse of this scenario—when users spend a short amount of time on a website—also reveals that short times sometimes occur due to frustration, or a perceived lack of brand mission and purpose, rather than the ease of use of the website.” On the basis of these findings, the author argues for “a more expansive view of time on task that positions it as a catalyst for further analysis based on observed deviations for expected duration. The practical implications of this are that websites should be designed to foster both clarity and engagement, optimizing for time spent on task rather than simply aiming to reduce it, due to the myriad ways in which time spent on a website can be emotionally experienced by users.”

Lyn Gattis

Online user reviews: A treasure trove of UX research?

Hwang, W. (2023). Journal of User Experience, 18(4), 170–174. [doi: none]

“. . . . Online user reviews, which can be relatively easily obtained from real users, offer a wealth of UX data and are undoubtedly appealing. However, as big data containing UX content, caution must be exercised when extracting meaningful insights for scientific research. From a traditional perspective of scientific research methods, online user reviews are qualitative data composed of text, necessitating appropriate analysis methods such as content analysis. However, given that they are big data obtained from thousands or even millions of users, big data analysis methods should also be employed. Additionally, online user reviews are not pre-planned data but rather accumulations of unplanned data, which introduces additional considerations during the analysis and conclusion-drawing process.” This essay examines challenges and factors in utilizing online user reviews in UX research, along with “the characteristics of data collection methods and the pros and cons of online user reviews in UX data.”

Lyn Gattis


Editors’ perceptions of singular they

Mackiewicz, J. & Durazzi, A. (2024). Technical Communication Quarterly, 33, 1–18, https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2023.2184499

“We surveyed 80 editors about their perceptions of singular they in five sentences. We asked editors to choose among three responses: maintain, query, or edit. We also examined whether editors’ responses differed according to age group. Editors most often said they would maintain they not only with an indefinite antecedent but also definite and nonspecific antecedents. Editors would query they when used with proper names to verify that they was the accurate pronoun.”

Rhonda Stanton

Engineering students’ writing perceptions impact their conceptual learning

Wilson-Fetrow, M., Svihla, V., Chi, E., Hubka, C., & Chen, Y. (2023). IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, 66(2), 186–201. https://doi.org/10.1109/TPC.2023.3251159

This study explored the research questions of whether student beliefs [about writing]—expressed in reflections—depict writing as a learning process or as a deterministic artifact” and the extent to which “these expressed beliefs explain variance in their conceptual learning in a chemical engineering laboratory course. . . . A design-based research study was conducted in three semesters of an upper division chemical engineering laboratory course to jointly study the use of feedback, revision, and reflection, and to develop contextualized theory about the relationships between these and students’ conceptual learning. Students’ writing was analyzed qualitatively. Regression modelling explained variance in scores of students’ conceptual understanding.” The researchers “found that students who elaborated on errors and corrections scored significantly lower on conceptual understanding in their final submission, while students who described writing as an ongoing process scored significantly higher on conceptual understanding in their final reports. [The authors] found a similar trend for students who completed a second cycle, and especially that a focus on perfecting a written artifact corresponded to lesser gains.” The authors suggest that instructional support for engineering student writers could involve approaching writing as a developmental and learning process and. . . engaging them in multiple rounds of feedback, revision, and reflection across their programs of study.”

Lyn Gattis