Texas Tech University
TTU HomeDepartment of English Technical Communication & Rhetoric PhD, Technical Communication and Rhetoric

Dissertations in Technical Communication and Rhetoric

Almost all our dissertations are now available through Texas Tech's Digital Thesis and Dissertation Service.Those that haven't been converted are probably still available through ProQuest Search.

note: rhetoric and composition dissertations fell under English, rather than TCR, before 2005. Thus, below the year in the left column, you'll see either TCR or E/R (for English degree emphasizing Rhetoric)

2014   2013   2012   2011   2010   2009   2008   2007   2006   2005   2004   2003   2002   2001   2000   1999   1998

2014

TCR

Xiling Wang

The role of attitudes in assessing the feasibility of teaching technical communication: A study of students, faculty, and administrators in a northwest Chinese university

Thomas Barker (Chair), ken baake, sam dragga

ETD link

This dissertation is a quantitative study of the attitudes of Chinese students, faculty, and administrators toward major issues in developing a technical communication course. The purpose of this study is to examine the role of attitudes in assessing the feasibility of teaching technical communication and also in course and program design. Using an onsite attitude survey of three groups of people in a northwest Chinese university, the author intends to answer two research questions: 1. Would an attitude survey be useful to study the feasibility of teaching technical communication? If yes, how would one use an attitude survey to determine course and program design? 2. Is an attitude survey of the type used in the study a valid and generalizable tool for others to use in course and program design?

Five categories of the attitude survey results—globalism, culture, essential skills, context, and level—demonstrate to course designers how the answers to a questionnaire contribute to the setting of five concrete learning outcomes that are crucial to course design in technical communication. Learning about the views of students, faculty, and administrators toward technical communication regarding various issues helps identify a number of important elements that shape the curriculum because attitudes reflect beliefs and predict behavior. Well-constructed outcomes derived from the responses of the three populations are highly likely to lead to an effective course that will meet the demands of the three important academic stakeholders. This inquiry has explored a new, practical, and systematic approach to the use of attitude research as an investigative tool for course and program design in technical communication in higher education.

Current Position: TBA

2013

TCR

Gillian Andersen

Co-responsibility in the Online Technical Communication Service Course: An Ethical Imperative?

Sam Dragga (Chair), Rebecca rickly, kelli cargile-cook

ETD link

This dissertation investigates the possibility that online course delivery (specially knowledge sharing), might be an ethical co-responsibility that exists between instructors and students in undergraduate technical communication service courses.
This work further examines whether or not professors and/or students perceive these responsibilities as an ethical concern unique to web-based courses.

Data collection commenced in the summer of 2011 with a targeted sample of instructors and students in online undergraduate technical communication service courses at colleges and universities in the United States. I applied the multidimensional ethics scale (MES) as published in Ethical Judgments and Behaviors: Applying the MES to Measuring ICT Ethics of College Students (2009), and developed questions framed as scenarios that asked participants to rate various levels of morality using a Likert scale. Additionally, students and instructors rated student and instructor responsibility in a survey (using a Likert scale) to determine their perceptions about the success or failure of online classes (especially as this pertains to both student and instructor participation). Participants also added commentary of their own. Finally, survey participants were invited to provide contact information for follow-up interviews.

I conducted the quantitative portion of the study with a survey that was posted to Survey Monkey. This was augmented by a post-survey interview with 16 teachers and professors (no students participated in this part of the study). To analyze the quantitative data (responses to scenarios and actions on the multidimensional ethics scale), I employed Factor Analysis (FA) as implemented in the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). Qualitative data collection included post survey interviews.

Preliminary results indicate that both instructor and student perceptions align in that they either strongly or somewhat agree that they have ownership in the success or failure of online courses; however, this conclusion is tentative as additional research on the student population with a goal of examining a larger sample could provide more substantial information. Post-survey interviews with instructors did not align with survey results. Post-survey interviews with instructors indicated that while most had expectations for student participation in online courses, most believed that students did not actually contribute significantly. In survey answers, most instructors indicated that their expectation of student participation was important, and this matched their belief that students actually participated.

Further research is needed to survey a significant student population and to determine whether instructor perceptions of student participation would align with student perceptions of their participation. The ethical dimensions of these perceptions also merit additional investigation.

Current position: Instructor of English, Eastern New Mexico State University

 2013

TCR

Christopher Andrews

Composing technology: A critical rhetorical analysis of doxa on the Writing Program Administrators' LISTSERV

Fred kemp (chair), rich rice, rebecca rickly

ETD link

Digital writing technologies are a reality for composition and rhetoric, rather than a theoretical exercise or problem for the future. Despite a social and institutional context that includes rapidly changing tools, texts, and genres, the discipline of composition and rhetoric has continued to treat technology conservatively in its mainstream scholarly discourses. After reviewing literature in composition and rhetoric and computers and composition, in this study I interrogate the ideological status of technology in the discipline of composition and rhetoric at the level of its informal, ephemeral textual material. I rely on doxa, or the commonplace ideological warrant, in order to describe and examine disciplinary assumptions about technology. To explore this, I conducted a critical rhetorical analysis, purposively sampling technology-related messages on the Writing Program Administrators’ LISTSERV (WPA-L).

Finding 26 specific technology-specific doxa distributed among sampled threads, this study focuses on four clusters of ideas: participants’ belief that technology is extraneous to the work and theoretical program  of composition and rhetoric; participants’ understandings of the relative newness or importance of digital writing technologies, participants’ discursive empowerment of technologies , and participants’ reliance on instrumentalist conceptions of digital technologies, describing them primarily in terms of augmentation. Findings from this research illustrate that WPA-L discourse about technology is motivated by an instrumentalist conception of writing, deterministic philosophies of technology, and is often distracted from critical engagement with technology by its emphasis on student and instructor agency.

Current position: Assistant Professor of English, McMurry University

2013

TCR

Kristi Dunks

Reports, recommendations, and retellings: Communicating aircraft accidents and the rhetorics of Safety

sam dragga (chair), miles kimball, Joyce Locke carter

ETD link

Abstract

Current position: Senior Air Safety Investigator, Office of Aviation Safety

2013

TCR

Rhonda Stanton

Multigenerational defined as multicultural: A new framework and the implications for industry and academia

Brian Still (Chair), Rich Rice, Sam Dragga

ETD link

In many workplaces there are members of 4 generational cohorts, the Traditionalists, the Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y. The stereotyping of the generational cohorts in the workplace and classroom have been so overused and assumed that they have reached the level of cliché. While stereotyping, as with any kind of generalizations, might be a good way to begin discussions about many topics, this research provides a new framework that focuses on the need to go a step further and consider the individuals within the cohorts. In many cases the individual does not reflect the characteristics of the stereotypes. A more meaningful way to consider the differences and similarities is to use Appadurai’s –scapes. Individuals will create their own landscapes and belong to their created and chosen neighborhoods.

Current position: Assistant Professor, English Department, Missouri State University

2013

TCR

 

Letisha Harding

The power of images in global climate change discourse: A critical visual rhetorical analysis of Our Changing Planet

Miles Kimball (chair), Ken Baake, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

Global climate change is a highly controversial issue that draws strong emotional and conflicting responses, ranging from total denial to doomsday scenarios.

The aim of this study was to examine the United States Global Change Research Program's annual report series, Our Changing Planet, (an initiative founded by President Reagan in 1989) and to analyze governmental rhetoric on the subject and, more specifically, the way in which each administration used its power: to control the dissemination of global climate change knowledge to the general public; to promote its own environmental ideology; and to corral the power of climate change scientists.

Much of the impact of Our Changing Planet lies within its rhetoric, especially the pathos, exerted through its visual images. This study focused on the types of messages conveyed through the reports' visual images, and the way they changed over time, the altering relationships between images and text, and the correlation between those changes and the always volatile political landscape surrounding the global climate change debate.

Utilizing an application of social semiotic theory, the visual images in the annual reports, ranging from 1990 until 2013, were analyzed not only to ascertain their ability to influence the intended audience, but also to examine the potential relationships between producer and viewer. This, combined with critical discourse analysis, allowed both a study of the visual images and of the ideologies surrounding their use.

The results of the study demonstrated that each of the four presidential administrations used its power to a greater or lesser extent to control the content of Our Changing Planet, and thus to influence the global climate change debate in line with its own ideology and political motives. The study also, however, revealed the power wielded by the upper echelon of climate change scientists (a so-called scientific élite) and the lengths to which they are prepared to go to safeguard research funding and control over scientific knowledge.

Current Position: Assistant Professor, University of the Incarnate Word

2013

TCR

 

Anirban Ray

[need title]

Craig Baehr (chair), Joyce Carter, Miles Kimball

ETD link

abstract

Current Position:  Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina, Wilmington

2013

TCR

 

Alec Hosterman

Living in the age of the unreal: Exploring Baudrillard's theory of hyperreality in the graphic narrative.

Rich Rice (chair), Craig Baehr, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

Renowned French cultural theorist, Jean Baudrillard, became known for his radical ways of seeing the world–not in the real, but rather in the hyperreal. For Baudrillard, hyperreality occurs because society lives in a technologically
rich society where media largely shape and filter what we see and the authentic reality is replaced by the mediated real, the hyperreal. Although not always accepted in academic circles, his work has influenced ways in which scholars look at and understand the reach of the mediated image, both static and dynamic.

One popular form of static imagery is comics art. Comics are a rich and unique form of symbolic expression: mediated discourse with the potential to shape and frame a reader's point of view on subjects that range from the fantastical to the real. As such, this dissertation explores the relationship between comics art (e.g., comic books, strips, graphic novels, etc.), Baudrillard's theory of the hyperreal, rhetoric, and the impact this relationship has on targeted audiences like technical communicators and scholars of visual rhetoric.

Using discourse analysis, I first analyze scholarly and professional writing about the hyperreal. With this data, I then created a conceptualization comprised of nine descriptive statements that further describes complexities of hyperreality. Next, I survey both producers and consumers of comics art to gather their opinions about the role of reality and believability in comics art. With this data, I create a second conceptualization with five descriptive statements that provide insight into more effective production techniques for developing believable texts. Finally, I offer suggestions on the way in which hyperreality can be utilized to improve professional communications, through both theory and practice.

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Longwood University (Forthcoming August, 2014)

2013

TCR

 

Rob Evans

[need title]

Ken Baake (chair), Miles Kimball, Susan Lang

ETD link

abstract

abstract

Current Position: 

2013

TCR

 

Sarah Gunning

Developing an instrument to identify factors in nonprofit proposal development: Knowledge management in learning, relationships, and resources.

Angela Eaton (chair), Craig Baehr, Amanda Booker

ETD link

This study incorporated interview (n = 18) and survey data to conduct a large scale study (n = 580) of professional nonprofit proposal writers across the U.S. The purpose of this study was to identify factors involved in the proposal development process in the context of grant or donation acquisition. Fundraising and knowledge management literature revealed that one's learning processes, professional relationships, and technological and personnel resources are important aspects of proposal development, although the extent is unknown. I identified 8 factors involved in the proposal writing process and found that knowledge management practices are highly individual to fundraisers rather than to the organizations which employ them. Individualized practices may be in part due to the self-training and education that is necessary for "lone writer" positions. Technical communication teachers might consider incorporating research methods (such as interviewing), personnel management, and project management strategies into their pedagogy to improve writers' acclimation processes.

Current Position: ‎Assistant Professor | Towson University

2013

TCR

 

Julie Davis

The impact of distance education: A third shift for working mothers

Brian Still (chair), Amy Koerber, Kelli Cargile Cook

ETD link

This study investigated how participation in a distance education program impacts the lives of coupled working mothers using a qualitative method of data collection and analysis in multiple phases of research. Hochschild and Machung's book, The Second Shift and Kramare's, The Third Shift: Women Learning Online were used as an initial framework for this study. Their contention that women who enter the workforce outside the home or additionally add distance education to their lives are adding an additional shift of labor was applied to this study. The study explores the relationship between the inclusion of an additional shift of labor and gender equality within the participant's home and further examines the advantages and disadvantages participants face, as well as how they cope with them.

In the initial phase of research, an autoethnographic approach was used to collect the researchers personal experiences as a working mother and distance education student through the use of journal logs and time diaries. The remaining phases of the research with additional participants included: a survey, focus group sessions, time diaries and journal entries.

The collection and analysis of this data revealed that women still bear the majority of the household labor within their homes and that when they participate in distance education they often average an additional 18 hours a week equating to a clear third shift of labor. The research concluded that irrelevant of gender equality the participants face several advantages and disadvantages as well as coping mechanisms for dealing with them.

Current Position:  Director of Web Development at Clarkson University

2012

TCR

 

Deb Fontaine

Mitigating the need for college level developmental English: An assessment of two writing programs

Susan Lang (chair), Rich Rice, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

The need for students who graduate high school to take remedial English upon entering college has remained steady over the past decade. To reduce that need and allow students to enter freshman composition with the requisite skills to succeed upon first enrolling in college, Florida engaged in a partnership with the Southern Regional Education Board and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Through this collaboration and the cooperative efforts of secondary and postsecondary faculty, a senior high school English course, English IV: Florida College Prep was created. This dissertation examines the first group of high school students to graduate from English IV and their developmental English counterparts and tracks their comparative success rates in freshman composition. For this dissertation, success is defined by the following three criteria: 1) earning a "C" or better in freshman composition; 2) making fewer errors identified in the writing artifacts; and 3) improving rhetorical elements. A quasi-experimental research design was selected using the college developmental students and the English IV students as the control and experimental groups, respectively, with the English IV course defined as the variable. Academic and demographic data, writing samples, and interview data was collected. From these initial findings, the English IV students succeed in freshman composition at a rate similar to their college developmental counterparts. Based on these findings, the study recommends continued research in collaborative efforts to improve the alignment between secondary and postsecondary composition expectations.

Current Position:  Northwest Florida State College

2012

TCR

 

Laura Brandenburg

A study of the reader’s (re)construction of the writer’s ethos in letters of intent

Rebecca Rickly (chair), Craig Baehr, Joyce Carter

ETD link

The field of technical communication and rhetoric often emphasizes the importance of audience and user-centered practices. Similarly, seeing language as a social construction and licensing the reader to construct meaning for the text are often accepted ideas in academia in the 21st century. However, our concept of ēthos is still limited to the writer's creation of herself and is still typically narrowly focused on teaching or telling writers to avoid errors in their writing or to write in a particular style in order to enhance their ēthos. To address a more rounded view of ēthos that includes both the writer's creation but also the reader's (re)construction, I designed my study to look at letters of intent—an overtly first-person, ethotic document, often intentionally persuasive—to consider the development of ēthos in the text, the demonstration of ēthos from the writer's perspective, and the response to ēthos from the reader's perspective. My definition of ēthos, and the scope of my analysis, includes three parts: the writer's self-promotion (her expertise and credibility demonstrated through professional experience, educational knowledge and background, achievements and awards, and measures of intelligence), the writer's self-characterization (her similitude toward her audience, her character traits, and her self-criticism or humility), and the writer's self-presentation (her representation of herself through her sentence constructions, grammar, correctness, and accuracy in source material).

The study includes a triangulation of three qualitative methods: content analysis of a sample of letters of intent for the PhD program in Technical Communication and Rhetoric (TCR) at Texas Tech University from applicants between the years 2009-2011; interviews with eight writers of the letters of intent who were accepted into the TCR program during those two years; and a think-aloud protocol with seven faculty who served as readers of the letters of intent. Because the study is localized to the TCR PhD program at Texas Tech, I recognize the limitations of the study; the results may not be generalizeable of the writer's or reader's perspective for all technical communication PhD programs, for all persuasive writing situations besides the letter of intent, or for all persuasive writing situations in other fields.

In the content analysis of the text, two main elements of the writer's ēthos stood out: the writer's similitude and the writer's expertise. In talking with writers about the strategies they used for their letters of intent, I found that writers, too, tried to demonstrate similitude and expertise more than any other aspect of ēthos. Further, I also found that writers took great care in their style and presentation, often weighing their words and carefully choosing their sentence constructions. When I met with the readers—faculty who read letters of intent—I found that readers, too, are looking carefully at style and presentation. However, the readers' criticisms of style are often criticisms of a more important element—audience awareness. Readers want to see writers who are rhetorically savvy, who tailor the right kind of information for the reader, and who can articulate how they "fit" with the program's values and attitudes as well as the faculty's research interests.

In comparing one writer's intention and six readers' responses, we find that writers intentionally construct an ēthos for themselves (not surprisingly), but readers reinterpret and re-construct the writer's ēthos. I emphasize, however, that the readers don't entirely re-do, re-make, or re-define the writer's ēthos. Rather, what we find is that the concept of ēthos becomes a shared construction, developed by both writer and reader. While the study has its limitations from the localized context of Texas Tech writers and readers, mentioned in detail in the last chapter, the results prove to be important for us as technical communicators. Our ēthos is the demonstration of ourselves, our identity, our credibility. And oftentimes that ēthos can only be demonstrated in the text—in the words we choose as much as the way we choose to word and construct our sentences. As a result, I can see why ēthos has often been limited to the text itself—or to telling or teaching writers to write with a particular style or correctness. If anything, I certainly reinforce the notion of carefully presenting ourselves in the text, but I also emphasize the significance of demonstrating similitude, rhetorical savvy, and credibility if one wants to persuade her audience through the construction of the text.

Current Position: Assistant Professor | English Department | Wayland Baptist University

2012

TCR

 

Carie Lambert

Patient-to-patient communication via emerging media: A virtual ethnography of discourse between women in the cybercommunity on the discussion board of breastcancer.org

Amy Koerber (chair), Kelli Cargile Cook, Brian Still

ETD link

Breast cancer is a disease that affects 1 in 8 women in the U.S., and the diagnosis of cancer is frightening and life altering. Many women seek support from other women battling breast cancer, and as the Internet becomes more accessible, they seek support via online spaces through emerging media that focus on breast cancer. One such cybercommunity is that which exists on the discussion board of Breastcancer.org—the largest cybercommunity focused on breast cancer. Breastcancer.org provides women with free information, instant messaging, contact with health care providers, and chat rooms as well as a public discussion board where members can interact with others who are experiencing this disease.

This study involved a virtual ethnography with qualitative analysis of posts in three threads on Breastcancer.org. By analyzing textual artifacts—these three threads—I observed the interactions between members of this cybercommunity and analyzed their discourse, considering that they were seeking to express their agency—the members' power to act or make decisions in their circumstances, regardless of social norms or expectations (Schryer, Lingard, Spafford, & Garwood, 2003, p. 64)—while battling a disease. The analysis is then divided into three sections that address elements of

♣    a cybercommunity,
♣    a medical community, and
♣    a public community.

After first illustrating that Breastcancer.org is a cybercommunity—a group of individuals who virtually gather because of a shared purpose or interest in an established and structured cyberspace to interact and communicate in that space—I analyze the interaction related to Breastcancer.org as a cybercommunity focused on breast cancer, as an extension of the medical community, and as a public community. I address the members' concerns as humans, as women, as patients, and as citizens of cyberspace, addressing (among other things) the ethics of researching their texts, the topics that they discuss, the relationships they create, the information they share, and the risks that they take in self-disclosing identifiers.

Through this ethnographic study of this cybercommunity, I was able to learn more about these audiences and to better understand how they interact through emerging media in cyberspace. I was also able to propose a definitive and global definition for "cybercommunity" and to present new theories that other researchers can use to apply to and to compare with their findings of similar medically focused cyberspaces.

Current Position: Clinical Assistant Professor of Communication | Arts & Humanities | The University of Texas at Dallas

2012

TCR

 

Debra Burleson

Hospitalists' perceptions of communication and how they navigate communication challenges within the hospital setting

Amy Koerber (chair), Ken Baake, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

Medical rhetoricians within the field of Technical Communication understand the important interdisciplinary role of rhetoric and medical discourse, and they have applied this knowledge to patient narratives, disease treatment and management, end of life treatment, as well as health education.

This dissertation adds to the body of literature that has reported about medical communication challenges. Researchers have deliberated the hospitalist model and extended the debate about the need for the profession. What is unique about this study is that there is very little, if any, research about hospitalists' perceptions of communication and the impact that the hospitalist profession has made on communication within the medical setting.

My study examines hospitalists' perceptions of communication regarding patients and patient families, other medical personnel, and written communication such as the H&Ps, progress notes, and discharge summaries. Through interviews with hospitalists, nurse practitioner hospitalists, and medical personnel who work with hospitalists as well as observations of hospitalists' group sessions, this case study reports on hospitalists perceptions of effective and ineffective communication as well as trust and relationship challenges that they face since the profession was implemented in 1996.
The results of this study show that continuity of care, especially regarding handoffs of information, is insufficient. These results point to a concern that patients and physicians may assume that critical patient information is documented in the electronic medical reports (EMRs) when this may not be the case. It is also interesting that many hospitalists elect to exchange information face to face instead of reading the patients' electronic medical records. This preference for face-to-face communication could potentially impede continuity of care when important information is not documented. This study also found that communication is greatly impacted by trust. Trust influences communication with patients and patient families, medical decisions and collaborations with other medical personnel, and how medical information is documented.

Current Position: Senior Lecturer & Assistant Director of the PhD Program in Information Systems | Hankamer School of Business | Baylor University

2012

TCR

 

Emily Loader

Situating the construction of psychological assessments within technical communication research

Ken Baake (chair), Amanda Booher, Angela Eaton

ETD Link

Mental health therapy has taken a sharp turn away from inward-oriented individualistic models. One new model, radical relationality, has not had adequate measurement tools to gauge complex communicative interactions and evaluate patient outcomes. The researcher spent a year on-site at the research location, Greenbrier Academy for Girls, conducting a qualitative and quantitative study to develop a relationality evaluation measure and procedure. Here, the researcher uses the contextual design methodology to trace this relationship-based therapeutic model to uncover assumptions and values necessary for designing appropriate benchmarks. The seven steps of contextual design used here are contextual inquiring, modeling, consolidating, designing, prototyping, testing, and implementing. Inquiry methods included artifact walkthroughs, simulated work-based interviews, and post-observation inquiry. Models are designed to visually display localized work flow, sequence, artifacts, culture, and space. Such ethnographic observation, rhetoric-based research, and qualitative interviews lead to analyzing communication, understanding models, and collaboratively designing the new tool called the Relationality Values Assessment. After prototyping the measurement tool, the researcher conducted a study to test the Relationality Values Assessment in conjunction with a well-established psychological measure called the Youth Outcome Questionnaire. In doing so, the researcher applied statistical analyses to 505 participant responses to assess the Relationality Values Assessment's reliability and validity. For reliability, the researcher applied an internal consistency estimate, a coefficient alpha called Cronbach's Alpha, which yielded a 0.973. Furthermore, in looking at both reliability and validity, the researcher applied a Pearson Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient to compare the developed Relationality Values Assessment tool against the applicable subscale from the established Youth Outcome Questionnaire psychological measure. The Pearson's result showed an overall inverse relationship correlation with a coefficient of -0.674. The qualitative and quantitative information gathered and processed helped (1) develop a solution for one location striving to practice and measure the relationality mental health model and (2) provide a base for future research within the broader context of this area of psychology. Within this process, the researcher shows the value of having a historical and rhetorical understanding of the psychological field's mental health models as well as the location for implementation. The collaborative efforts across fields highlight the contribution that rhetoricians and technical communicators can offer within the psychology field.

Current Position:

2012

TCR

 

Time Barrow

Social presence in the asynchronous online classroom: The asynchronous online video conversation

Rich Rice (chair), Craig Baehr, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Advances in digital communication technologies greatly affect online education at the college level. One such example is the use of asynchronous video in the online classroom, which when used to create threaded, ongoing conversations between students and instructors, presents a unique communication method and educational tool. Unfortunately, most research on the use of asynchronous video as an educational tool has been on using it to refer students to consume and analyze recorded videos or to create project videos. Little research has been done on the use of asynchronous video as a communication tool, thus creating a lack of research on the use and impact of this communication method.
 
In this dissertation, I address this research gap by exploring the application of the asynchronous online video conversation (AOVC) in the asynchronous online classroom (AOC) to determine its effect on the participant-perceived social presence level in this setting, since social presence can be seen to provide certain benefits in communication. Specifically, I examine the use of the AOVC over two semesters (Fall 2009 and Spring 2010) of General Principles of Multimedia Writing, a junior-level online writing course offered through Arizona State University’s Multimedia Writing and Technical Communication program.
 
The result is an analysis of participant perspectives and a video content analysis to determine how participants feel about their use of this method and what sort of communication actually occurs. In the end, I argue that something significant is altered in the transfer from the F2F classroom to the AOC and that the AOVC can simulate some of the communication exchanges that occur in the F2F classroom, while not providing realtime feedback. Additionally, I contend that the AOVC provides benefits over F2F communication in its ability to be recorded, archived, and retrieved, which could be valuable in educational contexts.

Current Position: Senior UX Content Designer/Writer for GoDaddy

2012

TCR

 

Nathan Jahnke

Autoethnography of invention

Brian Still (chair), Kelli Cargile Cook, Sam Dragga

ETD Link

Autoethnography of Invention is my firsthand account of the period from December of 2009 through March of 2011, during which I helped invent a new, low- cost eye tracking technology. Eye tracking allows researchers to record where people are looking; it also allows people to move a computer's mouse cursor with their eyes.
Unable to afford commercial eye tracking products on the market in early 2010, my partners and I in the Usability Research Laboratory in the Department of English at Texas Tech University set out to create our own eye tracking hardware and software. The technology we developed later went to market as the EyeGuide® series of eye tracking products.

As a technical communicator, it was my job to translate the already existing work on low-cost eye tracking into a more usable form. As a rhetorician, it was my job to analyze audiences in different contexts and to adjust my arguments accordingly; in particular, I worked with stakeholders inside and outside of my university, department, and usability lab in order to ensure that my work would reach the widest possible audience.

Current Position: Chief Scientist, Grinbath LLC

2012

TCR

 

Keisha McKenzie

Structure, values, roles, and discourse in an executive government system: A political discourse analysis

Sam Dragga (chair), Joyce Carter, Miles Kimball

ETD Link

abstract

abstract

Current Position:

2011

TCR

 

Brett Oppegaard

The Fort Vancouver mobile project: Action research in net locality

Fred Kemp (chair), Joyce Carter, Brian Still

ETD link

Mobile media pervades society today. Delivery devices, such as iPhones and iPads, can be spotted in all sorts of places and contexts, including at grocery stores and in restaurants, at public parks and in board meetings, at college campuses and in cars. More than 90 percent of American adults now own such a device, and a rapidly growing number of those machines are classified as "smartphones," such as the iPhone or 'Droid, which collectively are bringing more and more location-based services to the masses.

As personal and ubiquitous computing options increase dramatically through such services, and the abilities of our devices to know where we are -- and what we want to know -- grows, so does the imperative for reimagining the potential of cultural and heritage media. Most of the place-based information shared with visitors to National Park Service sites, for example, is delivered through print media, such as brochures and wayside signs. Many visitors, though, especially tech-savvy visitors, yearn for other options, and this action-research project, based at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, explores the potential for mobile devices to improve historical interpretation by testing ways to evolve with mobile technologies and integrate into the heritage industry the dynamic interfaces and information designs relevant to rapidly changing audiences.

This focus on mobile place-based media, also known as net locality, in turn, potentially could be a grounding and generative force for an industry in transition. It is grounding in the sense that while digital worlds are unlimited and pragmatically unmanageable, the lone physical world we share is not only finite and fixed in space; it is a community's primary connective tissue. Such a focus is generative in the sense that when people physically are in a place, or within close proximity to a place, they naturally are more curious about it, per Tobler's First Law of Geography, and they want to know more. Such interest inherently generates questions. Those questions open paths for the delivery of contextual media, and they also create a demand for situated media and inspire communal discourse. A mobile device provides affordances for those forms and uses, leading to new opportunities for media gratifications.

Current Position: Assistant Professor | Washington State University

2011

TCR

 

Christopher Ryan

Comparative framing analysis: A rhetorical study of the writings of Republic of Texas presidents Mirabeau Lamar and Sam Houston

Miles Kimball (chair), Ken Baake, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

This rhetorical study, a comparative framing analysis, is a study of the writings of Republic of Texas residents Sam Houston and Mirabeau Lamar that referenced Native Americans, far more commonly termed Indians as the time of their writings. The study analyzes the frames applied in the writings of the two leaders that defined Indians.

The analysis reveals three major points. The first of these is the point that many frames applied by Houston and Lamar overlapped. Yet there are significant differences in how the two applied the frames. Whereas Houston's writings generally depicted Indians as a race of people who were good with some tribes or individuals who were not so good, Lamar's writings usually portrayed Indians as a homogonous race of inferior beings who possessed undesirable qualities and who lacked favorable attributes. Secondly, the analysis of the two men's frames also reveals that the rhetoric of the two resembles a dialogue. Although Lamar's audiences consisted of individuals and groups other than Houston, and Houston's audiences consisted of individuals and groups other than Lamar, the writings of the two when placed one after another on any of several topics involving Indians appear to be an argument against the other leader. Thirdly, although the framing in Houston's writings reveals greater sympathy and support for Indians, his many unfavorable frames could have had adverse effects on Indians, similar to those of Lamar that consistently depicted Indians in an unfavorable way.

The study is undergirded by theories of race, diaspora, and colonialism/postcolonialism. Each theoretical realm gives understanding to the motivations behind the frames. The study also demonstrates that framing analysis when applied to historical documents that involve the defining of people by those from a dominant race can reflect back to the theories of race, diaspora, and colonialism/post-colonialism.

Current Position: Senior Lecturer, UT-Dallas

2011

TCR

 

Deanna Mascle

Fostering agency and writing self-efficacy: The making of a writer

Brian Still (chair), Fred Kemp, Rebecca Rickly

ETD Link

Writing is an essential professional skill as well as important life skill. The goal of writing instruction is to develop the skills and knowledge necessary to successfully meet future writing challenges. However, despite years of writing instruction, many writers struggle to transfer skills and knowledge from one context to another. One reason for this struggle is that even after years of instruction most people are highly apprehensive about writing and do not consider themselves writers. In order to overcome the problem of transfer, we must improve our understanding about writing apprehension and the role it plays in the transformation to writer. Writing research and theory has brought us to the current understanding that writing is a set of complex skills that is contextually situated and socially influenced, and yet most writing instruction focuses on general, basic skills. As a result, instruction does little to lessen writing apprehension and foster the transformation to writer. This mixed methods study focused on the transformation into writers of 17 teachers attending a National Writing Project (NWP) Summer Institute and addressed the impact of immersion in this learning community on writing apprehension. This research spanned a year and studied the writing apprehension of the participants before, during, and after their transformation by focusing on the role that agency and self-efficacy played in the transformation to writer. NWP's mission is to improve the teaching of writing, and central to that goal is the belief that teachers who write are better writing teachers. This makes the transformation of teacher into writer the primary purpose of the NWP Summer Institute. The Summer Institute is organized as a learning community focused on professional development, research, and leadership as well as writing. Most of the 17 women involved in this learning community experienced a decrease in writing apprehension while undergoing the transformation to writer and maintained that confidence level during the following year. The writers' reflection journals reveal that as apprehension decreases evidence of self-regulating activity, such as goal setting and metawriting, increases as does agency and self-efficacy. These findings contribute to our understanding of the transformation to writer and how this transformation connects with writing apprehension as well as how this transformation can be fostered in a learning community which attends to agency and writing self-efficacy.

Current Position:

2011

TCR

 

Lora Arduser

Rhetorical agency and expertise in diabetes collaborative education

Amy Koerber (chair), Ken Baake, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

The research presented in this dissertation examines the question of what qualifies as expertise, knowledge, and agency in diabetes management. I approach the question through an analysis of patient and provider interviews and focus groups I conducted as well as documents used by the patients and providers I interviewed. I position my question within a shift in care practices toward the use of group educational spaces, both face to face and online. Through the concepts of multiplicity and ambiguity, I discuss expertise and agency as the act of negotiating relationships within this network in these collaborative spaces. Throughout the discussion of these negotiations, a tension between the patient and provider worldviews surfaces with the providers consistently characterizing patients as needing directives to follow rather than as being decision makers and agents. Patients sometimes position themselves in a similar way, but at other times they enact identities as experts in charge of directing their own care. Based on this research in these collaborative spaces I redefine patient agency through the lens of rhetorical agency. Furthermore, complicating the concept of patient agency in this way has the potential to be empowering.

Current Position: Assistant Professor | Professional Writing | University of Cincinnati

2011

TCR

 

Darla Jean Weatherford

Titles, abstracts, and conclusions: Engineers' preferences for improving technical reports

Craig Baehr (chair), Ken Baake, Angela Eaton

ETD link

abstract

abstract

Current Position:

2011

TCR

 

Craig McKenney

Reality-based training as technical document: A case study of cultural construction in the Seattle police department

Brian Still (chair), Amy Koerber, Rich Rice

ETD Link

Reality-based training (RBT) is a relatively new and understudied training mechanism used by law enforcement agencies. RBT uses scenario-based learning to invoke stress in the trainee, prepare the trainee for responding under stress, and ensure cultural cohesion. RBT has been in use at the Advanced Training Unit of the Seattle Police Department (SPD) since 2004. Despite such training, the SPD is under internal and Federal investigation for numerous violent incidents with citizens; where anything from racial slurs to excessive force were used in the SPD response to the individuals in question. Given the SPD's history of clashes with the public and the recognition that such incidents are "a problem of culture," a study of RBT offers insight into the constructions of such a training document as RBT and informs the circuit of culture in effect in the SPD. In this dissertation, I address the gaps between the RBT document and the SPD culture via a case study of RBT in the SPD. This study includes open interviews, ethnographic observation of training, survey of participants (both trainers and trainees), and contextual inquiry via police ridealong. Collected data inform the circuit of culture within the SPD. The circuit of culture suggests that understanding an artifact's representation, identity, production, consumption and regulation is essential in studying and understanding a cultural text or artifact. The circuit of culture aids me in answering the following research questions: how are officers trained in RBT? How is RBT evaluated? How do SPD leaders create that training? How does RBT affect officer culture? How does RBT utilize rhizomic learning within the context of the scenarios? The result of my study reveals communication gaps between leadership and trainers, trainers and trainees, and the SPD and the public. Ultimately, the training model is understood differently within the SPD culture. Better use of the RBT document would include a less prescriptive learning model that incorporates rhizomic learning scenarios, user feedback, and regular changes to the content of the RBT scenarios.

Current Position:

2011

TCR

 

Jen Osborne

Ubuzima bugiraicyanga aruko bufite icyizere, or Life Has Taste When There Is Hope: Transcendent Trauma Narratives of Post-Genocide Rwanda

Ken Baake (chair), Amy Koerber, Sean Zdenek

ETD Link

This dissertation proposes a structured model for a trauma writing workshop that provides opportunities for individuals to grieve and write about their traumatic experiences. The Kibuye Model offers comprehensive support for writers during this difficult but beneficial work. The model was found to be promising through narrative analysis of ten trauma narratives written by survivors of Rwanda�s 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Using a software textual analysis program called Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC), the narratives were found to be typical in style and form compared to other samples of emotional writing. The content of the trauma narratives focuses more on topics related to mass trauma and genocide, and several texts were found to transcend narrative structure through writers� use of rhetorical figures. Findings and implications of this analysis can be used for further trauma writing workshop development and implementation, for writing groups who focus on painful experiences, and by mental health experts who employ the expressive writing paradigm. Please note that this study includes graphic descriptions of genocidal violence and psychological trauma.

Current Position:

2011

TCR

 

Rebecca Johnston

Technological Tensions and Alignments in the E-Village: Ethnography of the Human + Machine Relationship

Miles Kimball (chair), Brian Still, Joyce Carter

ETD Link

The purpose of this research was to begin to understand and describe the complex relationship between a cultural group and an established technology. The research began with the guiding questions how does this technology support the cultural group, how does this use differ from historically documented uses of the technology, and how does that use support or refute theories regarding online technologies?

The study employed ethnographic methods to collect and analyze surveys, observations, interviews, and artifacts.

These findings indicate that members of the Samoan’s diaspora are attempting to connect with their cultural roots online, using a palagi system of communication to achieve this connection. However, within this technological communication system, users are selective in what technologies and faucets of the technology they choose to use, and they choose to use it in ways that both reinforce and create their own cultural experiences. This technology appears to be particularly beneficial to users who are geographically displaced from their cultural heritage but who are seeking to establish and reinforce their cultural identity.

Current Position: Information Technology Program Manager, Western Governors University

2011

TCR

 

Konstanze Alex-Brown

Blogging and Micro-Blogging Inside a Large, High-Tech Corporation: Impacts on the Formation of Organizational Social Capital

Craig Baehr (chair), Amy Koerber, Brian Still

ETD link

The use of social communication technologies for employee communication has changed the ways in which online organizational social structures and social capital form. The literature on organizational social capital links organizational efficiency and the ability to innovate directly to organizational social capital.

This case study research builds on these findings and examines how two digital communication technologies, the blog and the micro-blog, used for employee communication change the formation of online social structures and organizational social capital at a large, global IT organization, Dell Inc. Results indicate that both technologies under examination have the ability to facilitate the formation of all three dimensions of organizational social capital; however, they do so in different ways and to different degrees of magnitude depending on the tool and on the specific communicative usage model. The blog, with its content consumption-friendly concept and interface, facilitates the formation of cognitive social capital by way of creating a common paradigm among employees better than the other two dimensions of social capital. The micro-blog can effect change in the formation of ties more than the blog can. Results show that the micro-blog facilitates active engagement and content creation by users more than the blog does.

A content analysis of the information product of both technologies shows that different usage models reflect a varied relative distribution of the three dimensions of organizational social capital. For the organization, this knowledge might lead to better insights into how to foster collaboration and knowledge exchange with the ultimate goal to increase the ability to innovate. Communication strategies can be fine-tuned to build and sustain beneficial social structures among employees for specific purposes, for example, more efficient employee integration after an acquisition or a merger.

One of the major outcomes of this study is the identification of gaps in the research regarding the effects of social communication technologies used for employee communication.

Current Position: Global Communications Social Media Strategist, Dell Inc.

2011

TCR

 

Glenn Dayley

American Dreams: Ideograph and Metaphor on the Campaign Trail

Sean Zdenek (chair), Joyce Carter, Rich Rice

ETD link

This dissertation analyzes the nature of the relationship between the metaphor "American Dream" and eleven American ideographs as found in thirty-eight speeches made by Barak Obama during his campaign to become President of the United States. Metaphors play a persuasive role in political rhetoric, and the effectiveness of metaphors depends upon their close association with ideographs, individually and in clusters. Ideographs are terms or concepts that serve as the basic "building blocks" of ideology within a given culture (McGee, 1979, p. 72). Metaphors that are closely associated with specific ideographs influence the public's synchronic understanding of the given ideographs. In practical terms, the results of this study may help theorists, researchers, and anyone engaged professionally with rhetoric understand the vital role ideographs play in support of metaphor, thus allowing a more conscious recognition and use of ideographs in metaphor-driven persuasive artifacts.

Current Position: First Year Composition Director at Brigham Young University-Idaho

2011

TCR

 

Diane Allen

Now I Can Hear the Fish Swim: The Rhetorical Construction of Cochlear Implant Technology

Sean Zdenek (chair), Ken Baake, Rich Rice

ETD link

A phenomenon that has generated widespread public notice is the technology that has produced a putative "cure" for deafness – cochlear implants. A cochlear implant is an electronic assistive device that is surgically implanted into a deaf person's inner ear; a sound processor is worn externally. First approved by the FDA in 1984, cochlear implants have been at the heart of a sometimes acrimonious debate between the hearing world and the Deaf community, based on different ideological assumptions about the nature of disability. The medical establishment, hearing professionals, and many hearing persons espouse the medical model of disability which claims that deafness is a deviation from normalcy that needs to be ameliorated. The Deaf community characterizes deafness, not as a disability, but as a cultural marker of an oppressed linguistic minority. While the former may celebrate cochlear implants as a technological wonder, many in the latter claim instead that cochlear implant technology poses a lethal threat to Deaf culture and sign language. Deaf culture advocates also claim that implanting young children (without their informed consent) is unethical.

Using an emic approach, this study analyzes the discourse relative to cochlear implant technology found in marketing materials produced by the manufacturers, newspaper articles, and blogs written by cochlear implant recipients, proxy recipients, and potential recipients. It illuminates the kinds of rhetorical strategies employed by stakeholders in the debate used to construct a representation of the device. It also interrogates the integrity of the debate that the controversy evokes.

Current Position: Chair | English Department | Midland College

2011

TCR

 

Joel Kline

A Model for Academic/Practitioner Knowledge Exchange Characterization Using Communities of Practice Theory

Thomas Barker (chair), Joyce Carter, Rich Rice

ETD link

This study examines collaboration between technical communicators with an academic orientation and technical communicators with an industry orientation. The research uses a project sponsored by the Society for Technical Communication called the Technical Communication Body of Knowledge as a case study. The study employs
elements from Communities of Practice (CoP) theory to explain collaborative activities and characterize mechanisms of knowledge exchange during the project. The research forwards a theoretical descriptive model as well as an applied prescriptive model for the transfer of knowledge between academics and practitioners. The study identifies the factors of collaboration, application, negotiation, facilitation, and activity (CANFA) as important elements for the establishment of an engaged community. Strategies to foster these elements are explained as a prescriptive model for engaged communities of practice.

Current Position: Professor | Department of Digital Communications | Lebanon Valley College

2011

TCR

 

Kendall Kelly

Miscommunications, Genre, and Active Communication Strategies in the Indian Call Center

Sam Dragga (chair), Ken Baake, Amy Koerber

ETD link

abstract

Current Position: St. Edward's University

2011

TCR

 

Lennie Irvin

A Grounded Theory of Rhetorical Reflection in Freshman Composition

Rich Rice (chair), Fred Kemp, Rebecca Rickly

ETD Link

The following dissertation presents a grounded theory of rhetorical reflection within the activity of writing performed by freshman writers at Texas Tech University. Influenced by the portfolio letter as a paradigm, composition as a field has predominantly framed reflection as a post-task activity; however, rhetorical reflection asks writers to problem-solve and generate new understandings between drafts. The following research sought to generate a new theory for two reasons: our field's lack of understanding about reflection's mechanisms and our field's attachment to theories of reflection built from other speculative theories. The new theory satisfies each of these gaps by providing a detailed description and explanation of rhetorical reflection created from data following a grounded theory methodology. The grounded theory of rhetorical reflection discovered through this research states that reflection involves comparison, assessment, and judgment in terms of essay success. As the mental conception of what writers believe they should do, essay success is the key determining factor for the rhetorical reflection of freshman writers and undergoes a process of construction as writers engage in a writing task. The theory generated from this research offers an expanded view of reflection for the field of composition compared to the current portfolio-centric perspective. As a teaching activity, rhetorical reflection helps freshmen writers learn rhetorical practice and the flexible application of general concepts, theories, and rules in particular contexts. This research has also recognized and reaffirmed how important writers' mental models are for the act of writing.

Current Position:  Associate Professor of English, San Antonio College; Writing Center Director

2011

TCR

 

Peter England

Group Revision in Technical Communication Service Courses and Civil Engineering Workplaces: A Mixed Methods Study

Fred Kemp (chair), Sam Dragga, Rich Rice, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

The problem addressed by this dissertation is how to continually mine workplaces for usable information on workplace writing practices so that students can learn them in the classroom. Technical Communication (TC) service courses are an attempt to meet the needs of future graduates for communicating discipline-specific information in multiple genres to multiple audiences. TC service courses have been seen as a necessary complement to increasingly technological work spaces and are currently offered to students at many U.S. colleges and universities. Group revision, defined as any change in an existing text performed by more than one person, is the activity targeted by this study because of the differences between individual and group work in the classroom and the workplace.

The data for this dissertation was collected using a mixed-methods approach. Surveys were distributed to target populations of TC service course instructors and practicing civil engineers, utilizing a "best case," "snow ball" scenario for collecting data. Survey data was combined with content analysis of relevant textbooks, syllabi, and course descriptions.
Results include significant differences in how group revision takes place in the classroom as compared to the workplace, including differences in how group revision is perceived by engineers and TC service course instructors; educational background and experience of TC service course instructors; and an analysis of group revision as presented by common TC textbooks. Recommendations include suggestions for instructor training, further study, and programmatic considerations.

Current Position: Senior Lecturer, Zachry Department of Civil Engineering, Texas A&M University

2011

TCR

 

Gregory Zobel

Improving Humboldt County Mobile Visitors' Experiences Through an Assemblage Approach to Usability Testing

Brian Still (chair), Amanda Booher, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

  This dissertation answers Redish's call for new methods to address complex problems in usability testing and builds on the works of Albers, Howard, Redish, and Still in addressing complexity and usability. This dissertation applies Deleuze's assemblage concept to address a complex usability problem: How can mobile visitors' experiences in Humboldt County be improved? Addressing this specific problem of visitor experience enables this dissertation to answer a second question: How does an assemblaged information model address complexity and complex systems and thereby contribute to usability as a field?

An assemblage is an ever-changing collection of infinitely recombinable parts; when relationships between the elements change, often new actors, elements, or types emerge. While assemblage has been used to a limited extent in organization theory and analysis, philosophy, and literature, assemblage has rarely been used in practitioner-dominated fields like usability and technical communication. Given the many similarities between assemblage theory and complexity theory and systems thinking—non-linear impacts, constant change and evolution, external relations—this dissertation draws upon these fields' findings to develop an approach to complex problems grounded by previous works in multiple fields.

This dissertation found that an assemblage approach can provide usability practitioners a means to better understand and address complex problems while using current task-centered testing methods and adding little to no cost in time, materials, or money. By seeing complex problems as assemblages, using existing methods, and gathering data from multiple stakeholder communities during the research process, practitioners can meet traditional usability client needs while also supplying insight into and understanding of complex problems. As to the problem of improving mobile
visitors' experience in Humboldt County, the most direct and cost-effective solution isto encourage locals and non-locals to provide as much useful commentary and information about local sites, restaurants, and points of interest as possible on applications and web-based resources, like Google Maps and Yelp!, which are used globally.

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Educational Technology, MSEd Program Coordinator |
Division of Teacher Education, College of Education | Western Oregon University

2011

TCR

 

Christiana Christofides

Medieval Merchant Rhetorics of Economics

Fred Kemp (chair), Ken Baake, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

Noted rhetoricians have determined that only three medieval rhetorical "arts" exist: the ars dictaminis, the ars poetria, and the ars praedicandi. Not since Murphy's landmark book Rhetoric in the Middle Ages (1974) has new scholarship emerged focused on this period offering any significant insights on the subject. A possible new art of medieval rhetoric - the ars mercator - may have been discovered in the Geniza documents, c. 900-1300, of Jewish and Arabic merchants trading throughout the Islamic Empire in the Mediterranean. Using the historical method of narrative heavily influenced by rhetorical criticism methodologies, the Geniza documents - approximately 1,200 letters and business documents written by these merchants - are examined under a classical rhetoric lens for Aristotelian topics, invention techniques, arrangement, style and content. A comparison between the ars mercator and the similar medieval art of letter writing, the ars dictaminis, is also offered. A thorough treatise on the history and development of rhetoric from classical to medieval times and a historiography of medieval studies indicating the deep rooted bias against non-Western sources and disdain for the medieval period in general are also included as is a detailed socio-economic introduction of the Geniza documents, their place in history, and their significance to the study of rhetoric to round out this dissertation.

Current Position: Lecturer | Technical Communication & Rhetoric | Texas Tech University

2011

TCR

 

Todd Rasberry

No Magic, Just Rhetoric: An Examination of the Rhetorical Practices of Major Gift Fundraisers with Major Gift Donors to Higher Education

Sean Zdenek (chair), Angela Eaton, Rich Rice

ETD Link

What fundraisers do is not magic. Fundraising is a rhetorical practice. Fundraisers persuade donors to give. How do fundraisers influence donors to make a financial contribution? Existing research examining the rhetoric of fundraising has focused on written artifacts such as solicitation letters, case statements, and proposals. A review of the literature reveals a void in empirical research examining what major gift fundraisers actually say (rhetorical practices) during face-to-face visits with donors. This dissertation explores major gift fundraising as a rhetorical genre; i.e. the fundraiser face-to-face visit with a donor is a recurring situation in which typified rhetorical discourse accomplishes social action. A blended methodology of observations, interviews, and surveys was used. Six major gift fundraisers visiting face-to-face with major gift donors were observed. Twelve interviews were conducted, six with major gift fundraisers and six with major gift donors. Eighty-nine fundraisers and eighty-two donors responded to survey questionnaires. Findings reveal that donors and fundraisers agree that the communicative purpose of the face-to-face visit is to build a relationship of trust between the fundraiser and donor that will eventually lead to a gift. Three significant forms of recurring discourse (promoting the institution, creating expectation, and sharing personal narrative) are examined that fundraisers use to influence donors to support the institution. Finally, the role of lore serves as wisdom or knowledge for professionals and becomes embodied practice which guides rhetorical choices.

Current Position: Director of Development, Perkins School of Theology, SMU

2010

TCR

 

Lonie McMichael

The Dynamics of Fat Acceptance: Rhetoric and Resistance to the Obesity Epidemic

Amy Koerber (chair), Craig Baehr, Rebecca Rickly, Laura Beard

ETD Link

Our current solutions to the obesity epidemic are only making individuals less healthy in their pursuit for thinness while creating an environment of prejudice towards fat individuals. In response, a group of fat individuals are banding together in informal, online communities, which they call 'the Fatosphere,' rejecting the belief that they must lose weight to be healthy, a proposition that fails 95% of the time, and embracing ideas such as Health At Every Size, a non-weight-centric health approach with much better results than dieting. Using bell hooks' ideology of domination as a theoretical basis, I examined these ideas through digital interviews of Fatosphere participants and a rhetorical analysis of Fatosphere blogs. In conclusion, I assert that fat individuals experience domination much as other oppressed groups with a significant exception: the belief that the majority of fat bodies can be permanently made thinner, a belief that has no scientific evidence backing it. This societal belief leads fat individuals to experience a particular bind, a Sisyphean bind, demanding that the individual succeed at a futile task, one that must be performed over and over again, before being considered worthy to receive what others are granted automatically.

Current Position: Lecturer, University of Colorado Colorado Springs

2010

TCR

 

Sally Henschel

Authoring Content for Reuse: A Study of Methods and Strategies, Past and Present, and Current Implementation in the Technical Communication Curriculum

Joyce Locke Carter (chair), Thomas Barker, Fred Kemp

ETD link

The practice of authoring and managing content for reuse or re-assembly pervades industry documentation practices. In an effort to save time, reduce costs, and improve content consistency, especially in regulated industries, practitioners are adopting methods and implementing technologies to author, label, store, and manage content in order to make the content easily extractable for re-assembly and reuse in more than one context, for a variety of audiences. This dissertation examines the societal and technological forces that precipitated the current workplace practice of authoring content for reuse. It then reviews rhetorical theories that have shaped composing practices from classical times to the present, and the methods and modes of structuring and authoring content for reuse adopted in today‘s workplace. The study then addresses the question, if the practices associated with authoring content for reuse are integral to the work of technical communicators in the field, how and in what course context are these practices, methods, rhetorical strategies, and technologies being incorporated into the technical communication curriculum?

Through data collected from a survey of and follow-up communication with academics in the field of technical communication and an analysis of five technical communication text books, the study presents as results a description, snapshots, of the practices and strategies associated with authoring content for reuse as implemented in the technical communication curriculum. The objective of the study is to contribute knowledge and benchmark data to the field on the practices, methods, rhetorical strategies, and technologies being implemented; the course context in which they are taught; and whether or not students‘ knowledge and application of authoring content for reuse are tied to course, program, and/or university goals, objectives, and outcomes.

Current Position: Midwestern State University

2010

TCR

 

Cynthia McPherson

Examining the Gap Between Workplace White Papers and Their Representation in Technical Communication Textbooks

Susan Lang (chair), Craig Baehr, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

In a mixed methods study, I compared 317 white papers with technical communication textbook descriptions. I used discourse and content analysis to identify salient characteristics of the white papers. These characteristics were then compared to 13 textbook descriptions of the white paper as a technical communication genre. Technical communication textbooks tend to describe the white paper as a persuasive document, used most often to promote a technology product or service, although two textbooks describe the white paper as an informative report which may or may not have a persuasive purpose. The textbooks primarily describe the subject matter of white papers as technology solutions to business problems.  Results of the comparison show that there is a gap in coverage between the descriptions and the white papers themselves. This gap manifests itself in three particular areas. In form and format, the white papers differ from the textbook descriptions in that the papers have several formats in addition to the report format described in the textbooks. In subject matter, the papers range widely in many fields of study, including biology, astrophysics, health and medicine, accounting, and forest management. In purpose, white papers function as marketing tools and information sources for decision makers, as described in the technical communication textbooks; however, white papers in the study corpus also function to explain regulations, standards, and policies to readers who must comply with those items and to propose research projects or contract work funded by federal agencies. In addition, white papers function as forecasters for the future of a field, identifying both the state of affairs in a discipline, organization, or field and looking forward to improvements and research agendas within the discipline or field. Results of the analysis show that the gap between technical communication textbook descriptions and the white paper artifacts is larger than expected. The white paper genre is broader, more flexible, and more complex in form, function, and subject matter than the technical communication textbooks indicate. White papers are produced in more disciplines and industries than identified in the textbooks reviewed in this study, cover topics as wide ranging as water composition and governmental structure on a colonized Mars, and function to sell, as the textbooks claim, but also to inform, define, explain, advocate, and guide. Recommendations for future research include surveys of white paper authors and ethnographic studies of organizations which produce white papers to identify contexts which initiate a white paper and to learn how and why, from the authors’ perspective, white papers are written, historical research into government and corporate repositories and archives to develop a better understanding of the complex nature of the white paper and how its variations came into being, and surveys or interviews of technical communication textbook authors to discover their sources of information on white papers and how those sources affect the final content in the textbook. A final recommendation is that some consideration be given to forming a standards board with responsibility for clarifying terms and definitions so that there is better consistency in the use of terms across the technical communication field.

Current Position: University of Alabama, Huntsville

2010

TCR

 

Scott A. Mogull

Online Pharmaceutical Advertising to Health Care Consumers:A Rhetorical Study of Migraine Therapeutics

Amy Koerber (chair), Craig Baehr, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

In this dissertation, direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising, a genre of technical marketing communication in which the pharmaceutical industry advertises therapeutic drugs to the public, is examined. This controversial genre centers on two critical issues: (a) the informative versus persuasive nature of the content and (b) the impact on the traditional patient-physician relationship. As discussed in detail, these issues are not independent, but rather our rhetorical understanding of the content of DTC advertising (whether we understand it as informative or persuasive) influences how we understand the patient-physician relationship. The primary research question explored in this dissertation is: What are the rhetorical objectives and strategies of DTC advertising? This research question is addressed by (a) a Foucauldian-based rhetorical analysis of therapeutic drug Web sites, which are considered to be the most informative genre of DTC advertising, (b) interview of medical writers who create DTC advertising, and (c) ethnographic observation of e-health care consumer dialogue in online discussion forums. In answer to this research question, I presented a model in which the pharmaceutical industry influences both U.S. health care consumers and health care professionals in a rhetorically crafted interaction designed to increase consumption of brand-name therapeutic drugs. Based on this investigation, I conclude that the primary objective of DTC advertising is to create a model health care consumer that: (a) visit physician and initiate discussion about a particular disease or drug therapy and (b) assumes a carefully negotiated power relationship in which health care consumers actively pursue a particular drug therapy, yet remains in a subordinate position that does not overly threaten physician’s power, knowledge, or authority. This research contributes to the medical rhetoric literature by illuminating the pharmaceutical industry’s rhetorical strategies to promote health consumerism and develops from previous scholarly research into the rhetorical study of migraines. Indeed, the conclusion that the pharmaceutical industry functions as a capitalist industry, in the U.S., is precisely the point of concern as capitalist healthcare deviates from mainstream, socialized Western medicine and contradicts industry claims. Despite these findings, I also identify that the health care insurance industry is poised to compensate, at least partially, for health consumerism.

Current Position: Texas State University

2010

TCR

 

Ritu Raju

The Problems of Intercultural Communication in Outsourcing

Sam Dragga (chair), Brian Still, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

abstract

abstract

Current Position: Houston Community College, Northwest

2010

TCR

 

Emil Towner

Placing (and shaping) genocide on the public record: A rhetorical analysis of apologetic exchanges in Rwanda's gacaca trial

Sean Zdenek (chair), Ken Baake, Sam Dragga

ETD link

Apologies have the potential to heal victims and help end cycles of human rights violations. Nowhere are those elements at work more than in Rwanda, where genocide perpetrators are required to repent and apologize as part of the gacaca court system. Unfortunately, scholarly research on apologies relating to Rwanda has been limited to statements of contrition issued by nations and international organizations outside of Rwanda. This results in a lack of research into the rhetoric and impact of apologies issued by actual perpetrators, and it perpetuates a European/American-based understanding of apologetic rhetoric and reconciliation.

Current Position: Lead Developer, The Mortgage Market Guide

2009

TCR

 

Ryan Hoover

Rhetorical Agency, Social Structures, and Power Relations in the National Science Foundation’s Grant Application Process

Amy Koerber (chair), Ken Baake, Sean Zdenek

 

Technical communication scholars have for several decades sought to understand the means by which an individual’s society impacts the ways the individual communicates. One of the bodies of theoretical work that has arisen from this effort looks into the relationship that exists between someone’s rhetorical agency (the ability to express oneself) and the structures of that person’s society (the regulations and traditions the society erects to provide consistency for its members).

This dissertation further develops the understanding of that rhetorical agency-social structure relationship by examining the ways the relationship impacts communication practices of participants in the National Science Foundation’s grant application process. Through a qualitative analysis of the experiences of 19 individuals who participated in the application process in a variety of roles, the dissertation explores both how they communicated and why. Their rhetorical agency is seen to be highly dependent, not just on the nature of the structures surrounding the application process, but on the nature of the individual’s pre-existing “sense of the game” and the kairos of the communication.

Implications stemming from this dual dependency invoke theoretical maxims of rhetoric, sociology, and psychology. Through a framework that combines these maxims, this dissertation presents an interpretation of the agency-structure relationship that sees rhetorical agency as highly contingent on the conditions present at the moment of the communication. Yet, it is an interpretation that also sees the rhetorical agency as intimately tied to the histories of both the individual and of the National Science Foundation. Such an interpretation that combines both an instantaneous perspective and a longitudinal one is argued to advance technical communication’s understanding of the fundamental relationship that exists between the individual’s rhetoric and the individual’s society.

Current Position: St. Edward's University

2009

TCR

 

LeeAnne Schroer-Motz

Cybvivors: CMC and digital rhetoric of domestic violence virtual communities to affect public policy and loosen double binds

Susan Lang (chair), Amy Koerber, Brian Still

ETD link

Today’s technical communicators have the power to amplify the silenced voice, include the powerless, present alternative viewpoints, perspectives, and experiences that can be beneficial to society by simultaneously expanding and clarifying information (Kynell and Moran 228). By thoroughly assessing and understanding their audiences’ needs, abilities, and desires, technical communicators can rearticulate the desired message into a more meaningful communication specifically developed to reach the intended audience. This rearticulation of the message can be viewed as a bridge of communication and understanding between those who hold the power and those who must live within the power.

This study examines computer-mediated communication (CMC) as a medium of empowerment for domestic violence victims to voice their concerns, examine, challenge, and/or attempt to live within some of the polices imposed upon them by members of the judicial system, law enforcement, medical and religious communities.

However, when victims of domestic violence must utilize the help and services offered by those who hold the power, many of these victims encounter policies that also contain society-imposed double binds. Many of these double binds cause more harm than good -- meaning society sends one message, such as leave the abuser, but in reality the woman is in more danger if she follows this policy as statistics reveal that more women are seriously hurt and/or killed while trying to leave their abuser (Gonnerman 2005).

It has been stated that those who do not look at history critically are doomed to repeat it. In their text, Central Works in Technical Communications, Johnson-Eilola and Selber state, critical rhetoric “contextualizes a person, places that person in a social, historical, and rhetorical setting. It confers power to see, power to choose, power to design new solutions” (32). It is with this intent to see old problems through new perspectives, choose new ways of interacting, and perhaps to assist with the designing of new solutions that this critical rhetorical study of domestic violence is introduced into the field of technical communication.

Current Position:  UNLV

2009

TCR

 

Kevin Garrison

Technology Studies and Technical Communication: Substantive Rhetoric Revisited

Rich Rice (chair), Joyce Carter, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Technical communication scholars often study and contribute to studies of technology. By understanding the process of technological progression, a communicator may be placed in a position to actively participate in questions about technology in order to "check its dark side" (Bunge 181). This dissertation argues that the symbiotic relationship between technical communication and technology studies is questionable considering that the current "constructivist" paradigm of technology studies often misinterprets the critiques of important authors of technology, such as Jacques Ellul and Neil Postman. These authors have consistently been placed into a paradigm that a close reading of their ideas doesn't warrant. Because many studies of technology do not have a "meaningful theory of technology" (Winner, "Social" 242) that maximizes human autonomy, this dissertation questions the "rhetorical" theories of communicators who connect their writing pedagogy and theories to the logics of Andrew Feenberg and other technology "constructivists." The end goal of this dissertation is to flesh out this element of technical communication scholarship.

Current Position: Angelo State University

2009

TCR

 

Lori Hughes

Tutoring Technical Documents in the Writing Center: Implications for Tutor Training and Practices

Ken Baake (chair), Fred Kemp, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

This work examines tutor training and practices for working with students who bring technical documents to the writing center. The researcher considers how the process of tutoring technical documents such as resumes, proposals, and reports influences the direction of the tutorial and offer suggestions for how administrators can prepare tutors to work with these types of documents.

The researcher conducted a three-part qualitative study of formative and evaluative methods. After visiting three university writing centers of comparable size and scope and conducting interviews with the centers' administrators and tutors followed by a rhetorical analysis of the top technical communication academic program writing center Websites in the United States was conducted in order to look for trends and practices. In addition, the researcher conducted a series of three online focus groups with members of the writing center community (administrators and tutors) in order to better contextualize the best practices of tutor training methods for working with diverse populations—in particular, students who bring technical documents to the center. Information gathered from the site visits and interviews, website analysis, and online focus group discussions helped to determine the best practices for writing centers to work with students who bring technical documents to the center, and provide future directions for tutor training to better meet the needs of this population.

Current Position: Lone Star College

2008

TCR

 

Derek Ross

Commonplaces of environmental rhetoric: resonation and perception of environmentalism in American tourists

Ken Baake (chair), Amy Koerber, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

This dissertation analyzes 125 interviews from American visitors to the Glen Canyon Dam during the summer of 2007 in order to determine the commonplaces of environmental rhetoric. "Commonplaces," simple and common concepts which carry large amounts of value-added information, are utilized to convey large amounts of information to an audience without extended explanation. These commonplaces, when examined and used in argumentation, can help interested communicators more effectively communicate valuable scientific and environmental information in a way that minimizes misinterpretation of information. The twelve commonplaces categorized in this dissertation are: "Al Gore;" "Balance;" "Common Sense;" "Environment as Setting;" "Experience Confers Values;" "Extremism as Negative;" "Man's Achievements;" "Pragmatism;" "Proof;" "Religion;" "Recycling;" and "Seeing is Believing." In practice, the results of this study may be used to help communicators more effectively convey environment-related concepts to members of the general public.

Current Position: Auburn University

2008

TCR

 

Fawn Musick

Taking the Gross out of Gross Anatomy: An Ethnographic Study Focusing on the Teaching and Learning of Three-Dimensional Concepts Through Two-Dimensional Visuals

Ken Baake (chair), Craig Baehr, Rich Rice

ETD link

This study focuses on the use of two-dimensional print and digital visuals to study complex three-dimensional concepts. The study of human anatomy serves as the perfect example of this teaching / learning situation. Recently, there has been a shortage of gross anatomy instructors in medical schools as more teachers and students turn to the micro-level world. In addition to the instructor shortage, the time requirements for completing the course have been cut to a few weeks. Because of the declining number of instructors and the compressed time to conduct a dissection course, many schools are turning to a predominantly two-dimensional visual instructional mode.

As a scholar in technical communication and rhetoric, I saw an opportunity to explore how technical communication shapes meanings and adds to the knowledge base in both the medical and technical communication fields. To better explore the turn to two-dimensional visual instruction, I attended the first year medical school course of Clinically Oriented Anatomy. Specifically, I wanted to observe how students actually used the two-dimensional visuals to gain meanings about the human body and I wanted to better understand how instructors used visuals to teach the students about the three-dimensional body. My results show that many of the students still rely on traditional means, such as writing in their spirals or creating their own drawings, to learn about complex concepts. Four patterns of visual usage were identified from interviews with instructors.

The rhetorical use of visuals in a learning environment impacts many people from the student and instructor to the person creating the visual. Visuals are ubiquitous in our society and it is imperative that we understand the power of visuals and how they are used to teach concepts that will affect lives.

Current Position: Lubbock Christian University

2008

TCR

 

Jonathan Arnett

Habermas on acid: A rhetorical analysis of a scientific controversy

Amy Koerber (chair), Ken Baake, Fred Kemp, Susan Lang

ETD link

This dissertation contains a analysis of 11 publications that appeared in scientific journals in the year 1967 and dealt with the potential for LSD to cause chromosome damage and/or birth defects. These publications were analyzed using the ideal speech communication situation, a theory developed by the German social philosopher, Jurgen Habermas. Within these texts, the existence and influence of distorted communication, as defined by Habermas, indicates when and where open, free communication broke down and influenced the course of scientific discussion.

This dissertation's analysis of the articles from 1967 shows that the publications contained communicative distortion, and the communicative distortion provides more than enough reason to doubt both the scientific validity of the reported LSD-chromosome damage and LSD-birth defects links and the reasoning behind the scientific consensus emerging at the end of 1967 that LSD did cause chromosome damage and birth defects. In terms of technical communication scholarship, this dissertation's analysis demonstrates that Habermas's theory of the ideal speech communication situation can be used as an analytical tool for rhetoric of science studies and contribute to the further development of the field.

Current Position:  Assistant Professor of English, Kennesaw State University

2008

TCR

 

Susan Youngblood

Mitigation of rhetorical tension in emergency planning communication

Ken Baake (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Amy Koerber

ETD link

Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) are nexuses of community stakeholders and, as such, represent the diverse interests and concerns of their communities regarding preventing and planning for emergencies. These organizations are required to establish procedures for giving the public access to information about hazardous chemicals in their regions, specifically Tier II chemical reports. However, this task is complicated by the rhetorical tension that exists between the two types of risk with which LEPCs contend: the risk of chemical accidents (which seems to call for making information accessible to the public) and the risk of sabotage (which seems to call for limiting public access to information). This applied ethnographic study of two Texas LEPCs addresses the following questions. First, how do LEPCs mitigate this tension to communicate with the public? Second, what roles do structural flexibility and ambiguity in communication play in LEPCs? This study spanned over two years and includes an analysis of the following: the texts that guide LEPCs (the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, or EPCRA; EPA documents; and LEPC bylaws), the texts created by the participating LEPCs (including emails, public education materials, and Web sites), the organizational structures of these LEPCs, interviews of members, and the members' oral discourse.

The EPCRA statute that mandates LEPCs has ambiguity that allows flexibility in LEPC organizational structure. This flexibility lets LEPCs structure themselves according to their communities' exigencies and the specialties of members. The flexibility within the bylaws allows active LEPC subcommittees to assume duties that other subcommittees are dropping. Most significantly, the Web sites and the members' discourse reveals that LEPCs use ambiguity in their writing, often strategically, to mitigate the tension between the two types of risks, communicating the public's right to access Tier II information but dissuading potential saboteurs from requesting this information. Furthermore, one of the participating LEPCs uses ambiguity to promote membership. The use of ambiguity can be ethical, but ambiguity—particularly in the form of uncontextualized terms—can obfuscate the public's understanding of its rights, even when LEPCs have the right-to-know information on their Web sites.

Current Position: Auburn University

2008

TCR

 

Ryan Boettger

Explicity Teaching: An empirical Approach to Evaluating a Genre-Centered Pedagogy in the Technical Communication Classroom"

Angela Eaton (chair), Ken Baake, Susan Lang

ETD link

Carolyn Miller's "Genre as Social Action" challenges the formalist approaches to genre, suggesting an emphasis on form fails to describe how rhetorical texts respond to recurring socio-cultural situations. Miller argues that genres are constantly evolving based on communal needs, making their classification impossible. This study problematizes Miller's claims, suggesting that many rhetorical texts, especially those common to the workplace, have stabilized their forms within the last 30-50 years. This stabilization suggests that forms have become universally accepted across discourse communities, and these familiar patterns are vital in effectively responding to communication situations.

Because most North American theorists in technical communication support Miller's genre reconception, few genre-based pedagogical studies exist. This study draws from the research of genre theories outside North America and explores explicit teaching as an effective approach to teaching the formal features of workplace genres. Explicit teaching is an instructional mode that articulates the formal features that construct a genre and was designed to teach genres outside their authentic context. This study presents a two-phase, explicit pedagogy designed to help 192 students in an introductory technical communication classroom acquire the formal features of five workplace genres. The effects of the pedagogy are tested in a pre-test control-group quasi-experimental design.

Four independent coders assessed 320 student texts using analytic rubrics, which examined each genre through multiple, mutually-exclusive categories. Statistical significance was found in 24 of the 33 rubric categories, suggesting that the treatment students learned the formal features of the genres more successfully than the control students and applied the formal features in ways that targeted their audience and rhetorical purpose. Similarly, the treatment students produced work that demonstrated statistically significant attention to audience, design, style, editing, and structure compared to the control groups. This study concludes that explicit teaching is possible and necessary and calls for future, empirical studies that investigate genre acquisition longitudinally.

Current Position:  University of North Texas

2008

TCR

 

Amber Lancaster

Usability evaluation methods: A comparative study of low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototyping

Joyce Locke Carter (chair), Amy Koerber, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

While both corporate and academic usability researchers have attempted to compare and assess prototyping methods to ascertain the most productive and effective means for acquiring user-oriented data about web-based artifacts, few empirical studies in technical communication exist that comparatively evaluate low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototyping methods in case scenarios to guide decision making. In one case study, Roger Hall compares the results of two prototyping studies and illustrates that low-fidelity prototyping can identify major usability problems within 10% of what high-fidelity prototyping can identify (see Table 3, p. 497 in "Prototyping for Usability of New Technology." International Journal of Human-Computer Studies 55 (2001): 485-501). If Hall's statement is accurate when applied to other prototyping studies, then web designers should opt for lower costing, low-fidelity prototyping over higher costing, high-fidelity to maximize the return on investment.

This dissertation tested Hall's assertion and answered the research following question: if employed under the same scenario, will low-fidelity prototyping identify the total number of major usability problems within 10% of what high-fidelity prototyping will identify? The case study used to answer this research question included expert reviews, focus groups interviews, and affinity diagramming to construct a low-fidelity and high-fidelity prototype of a web-based course syllabus at a large Texas university. Each prototype was tested by representative user groups for usability problems. Usability problems were recorded and coded into usability classifications. Data sets were triangulated and analyzed. The results of this study showed that low-fidelity prototyping identified more major usability problems than high-fidelity prototyping.

Current Position: Texas Tech University

2008

TCR

 

Pam Brewer

Case studies in international virtual workplaces

Kirk St. Amant (chair), Craig Baehr, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

International virtual workplaces support much of the work that is done by organizations globally. Such workplaces are labeled "virtual" because much of the work takes place using computer technologies to communicate rather than using face-to-face communication. We have limited research about how to communicate effectively online with people from other national cultures, and much more is needed to support this new, and growing, organizational model. This study seeks to address this gap by responding to the following questions: What factors seem to cause miscommunication in international and domestic virtual workplaces? What solutions work best to resolve such miscommunication? How do patterns of miscommunication and solutions in international virtual workplaces compare to those in domestic virtual workplaces?

To respond to these questions, I used interviews and textual analysis (of online dialogs). I conducted a series of interviews with each of 22 employees from three different types of international organizations. I also collected and analyzed emails and instant messages from these same international and domestic participants. The findings of this study include the following:

  • Patterns of miscommunication and problem solving varied based on national culture and organization; however, the organization for which participants worked predicted patterns more often than national culture.
  • Participants in this study emphasized the practical, day-to-day challenges of virtual workplaces. Few of them had given thought to more broad theories that might account for challenges. (In other words, participants had rarely thought or talked about the communication itself; they focused on the content of the communication.)
  • A gap exists between data in this study and theories presented in published research on virtual workplaces, intercultural CMC, and face-to-face intercultural communication.
  • The frequency of miscommunication in international virtual workplaces is similar to that in domestic virtual workplaces. However, participants thought that there was a greater difference in frequency than there actually was.
  • Factors which cause miscommunication in international virtual workplaces and in domestic virtual workplaces overlap significantly.

Current Position: Appalachian State University

2008

TCR

 

Barbara D'Angelo

Outcomes and assessment for undergraduate technical communication programs

Rebecca Rickly (chair), Miles Kimball, Susan Lang, Ed White (U of AZ)

ETD link

The 1983 publication A Nation at Risk exemplified ongoing and heightened concern related to achievement in schools and universities in the United States. Increasingly, schools and universities are facing demands to demonstrate what and how well students are learning. Outcomes assessment is one way for academic institutions, departments, and programs to demonstrate learning achieved by their students in response to increasing demands for accountability.

The research for this dissertation aimed to contribute to understanding the constructs incorporated into programmatic learning outcomes for undergraduate technical communication programs. My research sought to answer how the constructs are addressed and demonstrated by students as outcomes for assessment. Further, I identified a framework to begin to contextualize the constructs of information literacy (IL) and technology as technical communication learning outcomes. I conducted a case study of the Multimedia Writing and Technical Communication (MWTC) Program at Arizona State University (ASU) using grounded theory to analyze texts in student capstone electronic portfolios from three semesters. The MWTC Program uses a modified version of the Writing Program Administrators' Outcomes Statement for First-Year Composition (WPA OS) as programmatic learning outcomes. The modified version incorporates IL and technology, constructs that are not well-defined as learning outcomes for rhetoric and composition, in general, and technical communication specifically.

My research aimed to understand how students claimed and supported achievement of outcomes embedded within the WPA OS as modified for a technical communication program. Further, my research contributes to and builds upon studies which have begun to identify information literacy as task- and context-oriented. In addition, this research contributes to the knowledge base related to pedagogy and assessment of electronic portfolios within the field of technical communication.

Current Position: Arizona State University

2007

TCR

 

Tim Hadley

The Effect of Direct, In-Class Grammar Instruction on the Quality of Student Writing

Rebecca Rickly (chair), Rebecca Rickly, Joyce Locke Carter

ETD link

The study behind this dissertation examines the difference in the quality of writing between two groups of students in freshman English classes at a large public university. The study compares one cohort of students, which met in traditional face-to-face class meetings as well as in an online environment and received direct grammar instruction in every class session, with a comparable group of extended studies students who took the same freshman English course but met only in an online environment, and so did not receive direct classroom instruction in grammar. The comparison between an onsite class and an extended studies class allowed an extensive analysis of the grammar-teaching factor and its effect on the quality of student writing. In addition, the study examines the issue of writing quality editorially, by looking at the number and types of errors, and stylistically, by looking at sentence structure, especially right-branching free modifiers, final free modifiers, and words per clause, criteria suggested by scholars as being essential to the stylistic fluency and maturity of college students' texts. Quantitative methods and results are balanced by qualitative analysis of students' writing reviews and interviews with composition instructors. A summarizing conclusion suggests ways that this study contributes to the knowledge base of the grammar-and-writing environment, and proposes areas that remain under-researched in the grammar-and-writing controversy even after more than 100 years of intense study.

Current Position: Missouri State University

2007

TCR

 

Laura Palmer

Reconsidering Minimalist Documentation: Developing and Testing a Visual For Experiential Learning

Thomas Barker (chair), Miles Kimball, Susan Lang

ETD link

This dissertation uses the work of John Carroll and his model of minimalist documentation to establish if a visual can effectively perform as a minimalist instruction and activate the experiential learning that Carroll identified as critical to the success of his model. In the study, best practices from information design and visual theory were used to revisit and redesign the screen capture. The redesigned screen capture, as a minimalist model of instruction, was tested in a study.

In the study, twenty-five participants were randomly assigned to the visual instruction or verbal instruction and given two psychometric inventories: one for experiential learning style and the other for learning styles. Next, participants were asked to replicate a simple picture using a drawing program available via the internet. Participants were observed and timed as they completed the drawing task. Comments from the talk aloud protocol were noted and the final drawing artifacts were collected for further analysis.

The study revealed that in a college population, 80% of the participants were visual learners and half were not strong experiential learners. The hypothesis a visual instruction would result in the drawing task being completed in less time was refuted; participants in the visual condition took longer to complete the task. Artifact analysis revealed that participants used more tools and completed the sample drawing with more accuracy when assigned to the visual group—they were more engaged in the task. Styles that were less experiential created a better artifact in the visual group and, for the five verbal learners in the study, the visual demonstrated some promise at acting as an instructional device.

In conclusion, this study asserts that a need exists to create materials that address what may be an increasing population of visual learners. For the artifact designed here, there is a link indicating that experiential learning is fostered by a visual. This visual focuses its design on elements key to the task, positions them centrally for the viewer and addresses major areas of functionality. Such a visual serves to engage the user more.

Current Position: Southern Polytechnic State University

2007

TCR

 

Dmitri Stanchevici

Stalinist Genetics: The Constitutional Rhetoric of T.D. Lysenko

Ken Baake (chair), Sam Dragga, Kirk St. Amant

ETD link

This study focuses on the constitutional rhetoric of T. D. Lysenko, the founder of an agrobiological doctrine (Lysenkoism) in the Stalinist Soviet Union. As the result of using not only scientific, but also political and ideological arguments, the Lysenkoists achieved an official ban on Mendelian genetics in the Soviet Union. Though the ban was brief and Lysenkoism as a leading biological doctrine was eventually deposed in favor of Mendelianism, today Lysenkoism remains a paradigmatic example of the pernicious political interference in science.

My critical orientation in reading Lysenko's two major speeches is constitutional rhetoric. It combines Kenneth Burke's dialectic of constitutions, on the one hand, and rhetoric of the subject, on the other. My analysis shows that (1) Lysenko had to constitute his science against an enemy (Mendelism); (2) the Lysenkoist constitution depended on its context, but also on the arbitrary wishes of Lysenko and his followers; and (3) this constitution rhetorically invented its audience and got the people it addressed to identify with this invention. I also show that Lysenko's constitutional rhetoric created a space where scientific terms transformed into political and ideological ones, and vice versa. Contrary to Lysenko's intentions, his language also gave his opponents, Soviet Mendelians, grounds on which to defend their science and criticize Lysenkoism.

This study of Lysenko's constitutional rhetoric contributes to a better understanding of modern science. I argue for a blurriness of the boundaries between what is scientific and political in the discourse of contemporary scientific controversies. I also argue that scientific language reveals more plasticity and capability to adapt to the political situation than has hitherto been assumed.

Current Position: University of Memphis

2007

TCR

 

Roland Jones

ObjectRhetoric: An Object-Oriented Rhetoric of Hypertext for Technical Communication

Fred Kemp (chair), Susan Lang, Rich Rice

ETD link

Technical communication is becoming increasingly focused on the efficient production of documentation, largely commoditizing a profession based, at least in part, on the art of rhetoric. As technical communicators embrace single sourcing, the practice of writing content for one context and reusing it in others, the impetus is on technological solutions that enable more output with less effort. This dissertation will describe a new rhetoric to help technical communicators in dealing with the complexities of composing within a hypertextual and single-source based environment while employing the traditional skills of the profession.

A useful model for technical communicators working with reusable content is that offered by object-orientation, a programming method that likewise focuses on reusable content, specifically program code. Rather than defining a series of algorithms in program code, which results in inefficiencies similar to those of writing and maintaining individual documents, object-orientation segregates code by creating models of interaction among code objects which then govern themselves. Such a process could help create more efficient and sustainable methods of creating documentation if applied to technical communication. Since these objects offer a new approach to authoring, a rhetoric of such objects becomes necessary before they can be implemented for technical communication. Since these objects are connected through complex referential relationships, they are also an advanced form of hypertext.

Object-orientation and the hypertext theory of Ted Nelson provide language suitable for defining such a rhetoric. A theory of invention is equivalent to understanding how knowledge is formed, manipulated, and stored within the mind; cognitive theory and the work of Marvin Minsky and Roger Shank help define a suitable metaphor for this rhetoric. Lastly, elements of the process will be shown through the example of real-world activities such as those involved in complex documentation efforts.

Current Position: Information Architect in Phoenix

2007

TCR

 

Anna Sallee

An Analysis of Risk Communication During a Natural Disaster at a Large Metropolitan Hospital

Thomas Barker (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Sam Dragga

http://etd.lib.ttu.edu/theses/available/etd-11012007-170144/

Since September 11, 2001 national attention has been drawn to the need for clear, concise plans for disaster events with high number of injuries. The potential for manmade disaster is great, but natural disasters remain the most likely threat to the average person. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are among the organizations that are required by their governing and accrediting agencies to have a formal disaster plan. In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, it became apparent that hospital plans may not be sufficient to support successful disaster response.

To facilitate progress in the readiness continuum, the Disaster Readiness Maturity Model (DRMM) was developed. The DRMM supports disaster preparedness as a process rather than simply a written document with yearly or bi-annual drills. The DRMM identifies levels of maturity in the disaster readiness continuum and transitional activities that help healthcare organizations move toward the next level. As a process, disaster readiness is defined as a dynamic, ever-present state of mind, creating an atmosphere of disaster preparedness in the daily activities of the healthcare organization.

Current Position: Prairie View A&M University-Houston, Texas

2007

TCR

 

Nicole Dilts

The Effect of Translation Changes on the Efficacy of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists' Patient Information Pamphlets for a West Texas Tejano Population

Kirk St. Amant (chair), Amy Koerber, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

My primary research question is: "What kind of translation and localization disparities exist between the English versions of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist's patient information pamphlets and the Spanish translations of those pamphlets for a Tejano audience?" It is essential that this question is answered, both for the growing Tejano population, and for the healthcare industry as a whole. With the results of this study, the healthcare industry might be able to reassess their policies toward translation, and make the appropriate adjustments toward including Spanish and Tejano Spanish translations for their users. This study examined 142 examples of patient information brochures handed out by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG)—both the original English version and the translated Spanish version—using comparative analysis backed by contrastive rhetoric, the analysis of two professional medical translators, and interview data with Tejano women. Several problems were found with the Spanish translations including (but not limited to) lack of available translations, poor translation, and changed or incorrect information in the Spanish versions. These problems could lead to poor healthcare for Spanish-speaking Tejanos, as well as lawsuits.

Current Position: Assistant Professor | Angelo State University

2007

TCR

 

Junhua Wang

Linking Contextual Factors with Rhetorical Patterns in Chinese and American Business Letters: Moving toward Convergence?

Kirk St. Amant (chair), Ken Baake, Amy Koerber

ETD link

The purpose for this research is to show whether rhetorical patterns in the collected business letters from two classes in China and the United States are moving toward convergence. By convergence, I mean the tendency for communication participants' rhetorical patterns to move toward one another. The perspective of convergence contrasts with the assertion that communication patterns from different cultures "diverge," which primarily focuses on cultural differences and highlights the communicative diversity across cultures.

In this research, I conducted an experimental study in the classroom settings from two universities in China and the United States. Student participants were required to draft claim letters based on a scenario about a defective laptop. The experimental research was complemented by a historical exploration on the relationship between social context and rhetorical systems, a genre-based textual analysis, surveys, interviews, and textbook analysis. Starting from the perspective of culture as a process, I hypothesized that in the globalization age, there would be a convergent rhetorical pattern in terms of directness (explicit approach to communication) and indirectness (implicit approach to communication) in the business letters written by the two groups of students from China and the United States. Contradictory to what the present scholarship would suggest on the long-held belief about the East-West dichotomy on directness and indirectness in communication, this research shows that similar rhetorical preferences on directness and indirectness were emerging from claim letters writing and teaching practices in the two cultural groups of participants.

By addressing the issue of East-West dichotomy on directness and indirectness in claim letters written by cross-cultural student writers, I have shown the significance of re-examining issues relating to concepts of culture and communication in the globalization age. The research especially sheds light on the research and pedagogy in the field of cross-cultural technical communication. Based on this research, our teaching practices should be adjusted to reflect changes happened to both cultures and communication styles. On the other hand, as an experimental research, this study needs to be complemented and further proved by research in the same nature.

Current Position: University of Minnesota, Duluth

2007

TCR

 

Yingqin Liu

Rhetorical Organization in Contemporary Chinese and English Argumentation: A Contrastive and Comparative Study

Rebecca Rickly (chair), Ken Baake, Kirk St. Amant

ETD link

Contrastive and comparative rhetorical approaches to Chinese rhetoric/argumentation tend to suggest that such writing features an essential indirectness when compared to a more straightforward and direct Western standard. Recent scholarship, however, suggests that studies such as those of Kaplan (1966) and Matalene (1985) may be compromised by various methodological concerns. Additionally, in today's multicultural educational settings, any possible reductive notions about the rhetorics of different languages and cultures need to be reexamined so as to avoid simplistic expectations and interpretations of ESL students and their writing and to avoid an ethnocentric, assimilationist pedagogical stance.

With a combination of research methods of qualitative content analysis, in-person interviews and focus groups, the present study seeks to address the question of indirectness in Chinese rhetoric/argumentation by comparing English language essays composed by samples of Chinese ESL/EFL and U.S. college students. These essays were analyzed for rhetorical organizations. The results indicated that the Chinese and U.S. subjects organized their essays in similar deductive fashion (i.e., a pattern usually considered direct). Further, Chinese language and English language essays composed by samples of Chinese college and high school students are compared in an effort to assess language-specific and cultural characteristics, the effects of bilingualism, and English learning developmental factors on how these essays are organized. The results analyzed for these samples indicated that, while Chinese high school students favored a more inductive organization in both English and Chinese language essays, the Chinese college students composed in a more "Western" or deductive pattern. Next, interview and focus groups results from samples of Chinese and U.S. college students were analyzed to assess the effects of cultural factors such as values and English writing learning backgrounds on the subjects' choice of rhetorical organization in English argumentative writing. Finally the study attempts to address implications of the study for future research on contrastive and comparative rhetoric in an intercultural (technical) communication context and for English composition instructions in a global ESL/EFL teaching and learning environment.

Current Position: Cameron University

2006

E/R

 

William Carney

Tacit knowledge transmission in the training of first-year composition instructors

Susan Lang (chair), Ken Baake, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Writing Program Administrators in large universities face the challenge of providing First-Year Writing instruction to progressively larger and more linguistically diverse undergraduate classes and must do so with a transient cadre of instructors, namely graduate students. In a dynamic environment such as this, fast and effective training is vital for delivery of appropriate instructional services and such training must include the transmission of tacit knowledge. The present study analyzed the interview data from a sample of 20 graduate instructors who work in Texas Tech's First-Year Writing Program.

Subjects were asked about their preferred conduits for the transfer of information concerning grading other instructional matters. The data indicated that there were significant barriers to information transfer due to personal and institutional factors. Ways to encourage such transfer were discussed.

Current Position: Cameron University

2006

TCR

 

Monica Norris

Teaching spaces: an examination of the evaluation of student writing in ICON

Susan Lang (chair), Marjean Purinton, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

The new ICON program used by the first-year composition program at TTU has created changes in the composition classroom. One of the most notable is the way in which it redistributes the duties of classroom instruction and responding to student writing. Traditionally in writing instruction, these duties have been carried out by one instructor. However, under the ICON system, these tasks are divided between classroom instructors and document instructors, so that the two groups share responsibility for different aspects of student instruction. Classroom instructors are primarily responsible for in-class (or face-to-face) instruction, while Document Instructors focus exclusively on responding to student texts. The area of response to student writing is one shared frequently by both categories of instructors.

This dissertation examines the ways in which Document Instructors and Classroom Instructors evaluate student writing. Through the use of a case study, this research identifies the modes and focuses that each group uses in commenting on student writing. This analysis is put in the context of the perceptions and attitudes of the instructors who perform document instruction in ICON.

Current Position: Texas Tech University

2006

TCR

 

Mialisa Hubbard

Knowledge-Building Spaces in Technical Communication: Navigating a Tertiary Orality

Rebecca Rickly (chair), Craig Baehr, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Technical communication graduate programs facilitate the transition of graduate students into the academy and into the world of business and industry by enabling knowledge of tools and theory in their students, more and more frequently through online communication. Graduate programs within the field of technical communication and their students hold a vested interest in reconciling demand for abstract theoretical knowledge with demand for applied skills and abilities in online technological communication tools, while facing unique constructs of power, voice, and culture. This research, an approach using rhetorical analysis of text and case study which reveals snapshots in time, produces an understanding of individual choices, illustrating not only a culture utilizing online communication in the social construction of knowledge, but also an evolving change specific to cultures of orality and literacy within individuals communicating online. As technical communication graduate students move into a culture of tertiary orality, they need to recognize that they are operating in a new culture, one where they can no longer recognize exactly what it means to be simply print literate, but rather cyberliterate, because these are the individuals who will be responsible for instantiating others into that culture in their future roles as technical communicators in the workplace and/or in the academy. The knowledge gained from understanding individual subconscious changes specific to a culture of tertiary orality informs those within that culture about how they arrived and survived in such a culture and how they might assist others wishing to move into that culture. The individual must recognize that he or she is no longer print literate, but may be placed in a position to help the print literate to move into a culture of tertiary orality. The communicators living beyond the cusp of such a transition should recognize the changes they have undergone, articulating not only how one has changed but how others must change in the future to successfully navigate a tertiary orality. This research focuses on graduate student preferences in the knowledge-building process and graduate program expectations and requirements as they successfully operate in online communities. The research findings were designed to reveal how technical communication graduate students and programs work toward developing theoretical and practical knowledge of technical communication in online communities, in cultures of tertiary orality, and how they might assist others in achieving the same.

Current Position: University of Wisconsin—River Falls

2006

TCR

 

Natalia Matveeva

Teaching Intercultural Communication in a Service Technical Writing Course: Alternative Ways of Presenting Intercultural Issues in Technical Writing Textbooks and in Real Classrooms

Thomas Barker (chair), Greta Gorsuch, Ken Baake, Kirk St. Amant

ETD link

Presenting intercultural materials in a service technical writing course has been a challenge for instructors as well as textbook writers. The traditional predominant method of teaching is the information acquisition approach, which presupposes collecting information about cultures and labeling or characterizing cultures using various dimensions and typologies. In textbooks, such an approach leads to the prevalence of factual information about other cultures' communication practices and stereotypes. An alternative method is the dialogic/paralogic approach that sees intercultural communication as interpersonal communication, re-emphasizes the dialogic nature of communication, and focuses on developing in students a better understanding of culture through discussions of their own culture.

However, in order to accept any approach, one must explore the current contexts of teaching and reveal any potential constraints with intercultural teaching that instructors may face in real classrooms. This dissertation is the first in-depth study that examines the teaching contexts and textbooks, using survey, discourse analysis, and quasi-experiment as methodologies, and discusses the problems and constraints that teachers face with intercultural teaching. Such examination allows for better understanding of instructors' needs and helps create an alternative intercultural sub-curriculum for a service technical writing course.

Based on the analysis of teaching and textbook discourses and further theoretical inquiry, I articulate and justify the dialogic pedagogical perspective for intercultural teaching in a service technical writing course. Such a perspective is a compilation of theories and methods offered by philosophy (pragmatism), sociology (symbolic interactionism), applied linguistics (communicative teaching), rhetoric (paralogic hermeneutics), technical communication (Weiss's dialogic approach) and intercultural training (experiential learning). The combination of those ideas and techniques allows for more complex, thoughtful, and ethical intercultural teaching that relies on developing in students a better understanding of culture as a concept, experiencing cultures, treating intercultural communication as interpersonal communication, and avoiding stereotyping. Such perspective and the results of my research help me develop an alternative preliminary intercultural sub-curriculum for a service technical writing course that can be adapted by instructors for their classes.

Current Position: University of Houston, Downtown

2006

TCR

 

Dave Yeats

Open-Source Software Development and User-Centered Design: A Study of Open-Source Practices and Participants

Sam Dragga (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Amy Koerber, Sean Zdenek

ETD link

Despite its seemingly attractive adherence to user-centered design principles of participatory design and democratized technology, open-source software fails to effectively address the usability needs of typical software users. Instead, it embodies a system-centered design approach facilitated by the efforts of developer-users. Through a plurality of research methods including discourse analysis, rhetorical analysis, and primary research methods such as interviews and surveys, this study attempts to examine the representations of the "user" in the communication and development practices of open-source software developers.

Current Position:  Lead user experience researcher, PayPal

2006

TCR

 

Tiffany Craft Portewig

The Role of Rhetorical Invention for Visuals: A Study of Technical Communicators in the Workplace

Miles Kimball (chair), Craig Baehr, Sam Dragga

 ETD link

Published Articles:
“Making Sense of the Visual in Technical Communication: A Visual Literacy Approach to Pedagogy.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 34 (2004): 31 – 42.

"The Role of Rhetorical Invention for Visuals: A Qualitative Study of Technical Communicators in the Workplace." Technical Communication (2008). Frank R. Smith Award, Distinguished Article.

 

Current Position:  Consultant, Atlanta, GA

2005

TCR

 

Rachel Harlow

Technical Communication in the Public Sector: Convergence Analysis of Historical Discourse and the Reports of the Immigration Commission, 1911

Amy Koerber (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Miles Kimball, David Williams

ETD link

This dissertation represents the first attempt to examine the specific rhetorical strategies employed in the 1911 Reports of the Immigration Commission, an ad hoc commission created by Congress in 1907 with a mandate of investigating all aspects of American immigration at that time. The study focuses on the 1,800 pages of volumes I and II, which consist of the abstract of each report and seven short reports; the level of detail and type of information in these volumes indicate that they were written for public consumption, as well as for Congress. Specifically, the study examines the Commission report as a rhetorical and technical artifact, analyzing the arguments that focused the Commission's inquiry alongside public discussions of immigration in periodicals to discover how technical documents participated in producing public knowledge in the early twentieth century. In addition, it discusses how the report writers maximized the rhetorical impact of their arguments, and it explains what the form of the reports reveals about their purpose and function.

This study demonstrates the rhetorical significance of the deliberative report genre, and it develops and tests a new method for understanding the epistemic function of public-sector deliberative reports: not only do they supply information, but they produce and communicate scientific knowledge about an exigence for both Congress and the public. The Commission's inquiry sustained a rhetorical vision of immigration (that is, the acceptance of large numbers of foreigners in a relatively short period of time) and immigrants (individuals and groups who immigrated to the United States) as sources of instability and change in America. It did so by developing four fantasy types that shaped audience perceptions about the administration of daily life in America and about a national consciousness. Moreover, by relying on inductive rather than deductive reasoning, and by employing common knowledge without appearing to rely on it, the Commission could recommend that Congress adopt the popular solution of a literacy test as a means of immigration restriction, without appearing predisposed to that solution. In doing so, the Commission provided some of the scientific knowledge that shaped early twentieth-century Americans' understanding of the controversial subject of immigration.

publication number here

Current Position: University of Texas, Permian Basin

2005

TCR

 

Miriam Williams

Culture and Context: Invention and Style in Historical and Contemporary Regulations

Susan Lang (chair), Ken Baake, Thomas Barker

ETD link

In this study, a discourse analysis of post-bellum Texas Black Codes was conducted to determine if the legalese style of writing coupled with the discriminatory motives of the regulatory writers might have contributed to African-American distrust in the government. The results of this portion of the study reveal that there are certain rhetorical and stylistic choices evident in the legalese style that make some of Texas' most deceptive regulations even more deceptive. The historical and discourse analysis portion also revealed that regulations, even in the Plain English style, can be deceptive and evoke distrust if critical data informed by the historical, social, political, or economic contexts in which regulations are invented are intentionally or unintentionally left out of the regulation.

A second research method, contextual inquiry, was employed to unveil cultural factors that contemporary regulatory writers consider when drafting regulations in the Plain English style. This portion of the study reveals that regulatory writers consider more than their "addressed" audience, but also a voiceless "invoked" audience that will likely never read the regulation, but whose voices should certainly be considered (Villanueva 78-83). Contemporary regulatory writers consider and address both those protected by the regulations and those required to read and comply with the regulations. This portion of the study also revealed areas where regulatory writers need guidance and instruction from technical communicators to write effective regulations for their multi-ethnic audiences.

The third research method, the focus group method, was used to record the responses of contemporary African-American business owners to two styles of regulations, Plain English and legalese. This portion of the research revealed that African-American business owners are still distrustful of the government, but the Plain English style of writing is effective in evoking trust in this audience. The findings of these three research methods are compiled in an apparatus that can be used by regulatory writers when addressing audiences who are distrustful. More important, this apparatus may be used to develop a new style of regulatory writing that responds to the needs of the regulatory agency and the audience and forces the regulatory writer to consider culture and contexts when attempting to persuade historically marginalized audiences.

Current Position: Texas State University

2005

TCR

 

Ida Rodgers

Web-based Training Evaluation in the Workplace: Practices, Instructional Architectures, and Skills

Joyce Locke Carter (chair), Craig Baehr, Sam Dragga

ETD link

On August 19, 2005, I successfully defended my doctoral dissertation with my committee, which included Dr. Joyce Locke Carter (Chair), Dr. Sam Dragga (Department Chair), and Dr. Craig Baehr. In addition to my dissertation committee, Dr. David Roach from Communications Studies represented the university. The research for the dissertation, "Web-based training evaluation in the workplace: Practices, instructional architectures, and skills," examined WBT evaluation (WBTE) in workplaces.

The problem, to which this research responds, is the scarcity of information about WBTE in the field of technical communication. Thus, practitioners may lack expertise that would make them valuable to WBT development teams and their companies. In addition, academic program developers may lack courses or course components suiting the needs of students taking jobs with companies that create WBT. The problem stems from three factors: (a) training has mostly shifted from the classroom to the Web, (b) technical communicators work on Web-based training projects, and (c) evaluation is a necessary component of WBT projects. The problem affects both practitioners and academics because the field does not identify itself as WBT developers and evaluation experts.

The study's multiple methods included a workplace site visit, an expert panel for validity review of survey items, a usability test, an online survey, a second expert panel validity review of results, and researcher reflections to identify results that triangulate. Another feature of this study is that it crossed many disciplinary boundaries, which presented challenges to validity. The challenges to validity became a methods thread in the study as I sought to build a case for validity.

Results of the study include information valuable to technical communication practitioners and academics responsible for program development. Some results show that my participants are highly educated, come from widely varied fields, work on teams of three to five people, often perform the team role of project manager, and employ a wide variety of formative, summative, and reflective evaluation measures. Results of the instructional architecture methods used were less clear except to illustrate the technical communication maxim that form and content depend on context, audience, and purpose.

The study results may affect practitioner self-study, program development, and research methods in our field because the results illustrate the desirability of expanding our field's definition of itself to include WBT developers and evaluation experts. The study, in addition to collecting data, represents a model of the three evaluation stages: formative, summative, and reflective (a term I adopted from the field of composition that applies to some evaluation and research methods).

The study concludes with three practical products. One product includes suggestions for both practitioners and academic program developers for crossing disciplinary boundaries to achieve this expansion. Another product is a list of online types of training or education and suggestions for evaluation methods that apply to each type. The third product is a research methods model that includes formative, summative, and reflective practices.

This study revealed many additional areas for research. These include examination of evaluation methods appropriate and useful for various types of online education particularly in the field of technical communication, of WBT evaluation measures of results and how these impact public discourse, and decision-making in the WBT and online educational development processes including rhetorical, ethical, and methodical considerations.

2005

TCR

 

Russell Willerton

Ethos and Exigence: White Papers in High-Tech Industries

Joyce Locke Carter (chair), Thomas Barker, Sam Dragga

ETD link

In recent years, many high-tech firms have used documents called white papers to describe the products and services they offer, and white papers on high-tech subjects have had an increasing presence on the World Wide Web. On TECHWR-L, an e-mail list for practicing technical communicators, discussions have shown that some companies ask technical communicators to help write white papers, but that many technical communicators are unfamiliar with these documents. The extent to which technical communicators produce white papers has not been studied, and white papers have not been examined for their fit within the field of technical communication.

In this study, I examined the history and background of white papers, and I compared them to reports and proposals—better known genres of technical communication—to make applications for pedagogy. I examined the exigencies that lead companies to produce white papers and the forces that shape the white paper genre. I described how white papers are read and used in high-tech industries. I also examined the extent to which practicing technical communicators are involved in writing white papers, and the extent to which white papers have a place in academic technical communication curricula.

I employed methodological triangulation to answer my research questions. I examined reports and proposals in a sample of technical communication textbooks; I interviewed professionals who write white papers in high-tech industries; I observed and interviewed engineering consultants at a particular firm as they read white papers; and I surveyed practicing technical communicators as well as directors of academic technical communication programs.

White papers do not completely resemble reports or proposals. My investigation shows that current white papers generally function as marketing documents that mix objective and promotional material; they help shape a company's ethos or credibility in crowded marketplaces. Readers expect white papers to provide valuable technical information, and yet they realize white papers promote the sponsoring companies' interests. Academics need to acknowledge white papers' hybrid nature as well as the skepticism white paper readers show. Many technical communicators write white papers, and white papers provide them another way to add value to their organizations.

Current Position: Boise State University

2004

TCR

 

Pinfan Zhu

Communicating traditional Chinese medicine across cultures: thetorical and linguistic challenges and possible solutions

Ken Baake (chair), Sam Dragga, Maryjane Hurst

ETD link

This dissertation addresses the problems inherent in cross-cultural technical communication of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It differs from previous similar works in that, for the first time, it approaches the problems of cross-cultural technical communication from a multi-disciplinary perspective. The author holds that complicated challenges in cross-cultural technical communication need to be studied in a multi-dimensional context because cross-cultural technical communication is concerned with different fields. The author uses combined qualitative research methods—interviews, a survey, and text analysis—to critique a web site designed to explain TCM to Western audiences. He uses theories from the fields of rhetoric, linguistics, cross-cultural communication, technical editing, translation, and document design to analyze the shortcomings of the web page. Then he suggests ways in which the page could be modified to better serve its audience. These are some of the problems the author identifies: inappropriate discourse patterns; common language errors in sentence structures and word choice; inappropriate and erroneous translations, such as overtranslation, undertranslation, mistranslation, inconsistency, and awkward language; editing weaknesses in typography, graphics, and text; and document design problems. Together with possible solutions suggested, this analysis is a practical guide to those who are studying or pursuing cross-cultural technical communication. The findings and principles the dissertation discussed are also applicable to other types of cross-cultural communication.

Current Position: Texas State University

2004

TCR

 

Jennifer Bowie

Exploring User / Webtext Interactions: An Examination of Gender and Sex Differences in Web Use

Rebecca Rickly (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Sam Dragga

ETD link

Online texts are an increasingly common part of the classroom and the world at large. As web use increases in education, industry, and home/private use, few people critically examine the impact of such texts, especially with regard to gender equality, design, and use. As a result, there is a lack of research examining sex and/or gender differences in how people use webtexts and a deficit of design and development research methods that consider sex/gender differences. However, technical communicators, in order to create truly user-centered design, must understand and consider sex and/or gender differences in specific web use.

My research provides an in-depth examination of sex (biological) and gender (cultural) differences and similarities in the use of webtexts. The research includes quantitative data, like time to begin and complete tasks, and qualitative data, like open-ended interview responses and observations of users completing tasks. 1 analyzed navigation; orientation; back button use; task completion success rate; time to begin and complete tasks; attitudes towards browsing, searching, and surfing; and the frequency of surfing and site loyalty, along with how differences in these areas compare to previous research on sex/gender differences. 1 found sex differences in navigation; orientation; and the enjoyment and preferences of browsing, searching, and surfing. 1 found gender differences in navigation; orientation; time to begin and complete tasks; and the ease of browsing. 1 also found similarities across the two sexes and four genders in back button use and success rate. Some of my findings closely correlate to previous research, but other findings, like the initial navigation methods used by males and females, provide an interesting contrast to previous research. My analysis of sex and/or gender differences in web use illustrates not only that significant differences do exist, but also provides a foundation for web designers to create webtexts that respond to the actual ways the different sexes and genders use websites.

My research has implications for web design, for user-centered design methods, for technical communication, for feminist research and gender studies, and for education. With this research study, and with future studies on differences and similarities among our users, technical communicators can begin to develop and understand the full universe of users and create website designs that are truly users-centered.

Current Position: Georgia State University

2004

TCR

 

Carlos Evia

Technical communication learning on the United States-Mexico border: Factors affecting cross-cultural competence in globalized settings

Sam Dragga (chair), Ken Baake, Joyce Locke Carter

ETD link

This dissertation studies the way in which instructors and students in border universities deal with multiculturalism in the introductory course to technical communication. It addresses the need for a proper balance between embracing the students' native cultural elements and teaching them formal American writing in order to maintain the cross-cultural competence in the multicultural technical communication classroom. Specifically, it analyzes the way in which technical communication is being learned in the U.S.-Mexico border, trying to determine (a) if nonimmigrant Mexican students are able to perform satisfactorily in American technical communication courses, (b) what are the positive contributions of those nonimmigrant Mexican students to the multicultural environment in the classroom, (c) what factors could make Mexican student perform better in technical communication courses, and (d) how are the instructors addressing the multicultural nature of the student body in border classes. The research took place in the El Paso-Las Cruces/Ciudad Juarez border zone during the summer and fall academic terms of 2003, and was conducted at two American higher education institutions (New Mexico State University and the University of Texas at El Paso) with considerable Mexican enrollment in their sections of the introductory course to technical communication. The study's methodological triangulation included the following data gathering techniques: interviews with instructors, a survey to measure the level of cross-cultural competence among the students (based on the model of cultural differences developed by Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner), assessment of students' writing samples, and focus group sessions with students. The main findings were that Mexican students in the population studied did not have a sense of purpose in their writing. Their documents were mostly about format and presentation, but they did not take under consideration the audience's needs for information. Also, the research reported that experiences with previous English and writing courses create differences between American and international students. This dissertation provides the field of technical communication a new way to look at cultural differences that would normally be considered as subtle, thus creating awareness for cases with more dissimilar cultures. It also emphasizes the differences between teaching about multicultural audiences and teaching to multicultural audiences.

Current Position: Virginia Tech University

2004

TCR

 

Kathryn Northcut

The making of knowledge in science: Case studies of paleontology illustration

Ken Baake (chair), Sam Dragga, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

Current theories for analyzing images in technical communication are inadequate to handle the complex and rhetorically powerful images with which technical communicators work. Illustrations are "diverse and situationally specific" (Brasseur, 2003, p. 49), and the same applies to sites for empirical research into illustrations. Paleontology provides an excellent case for examining the insufficiency of contemporary theories of visual communication to adequately explain technical illustrations. My study, focusing on the production of images in paleontology, unveils the complex rhetorical situations faced by the collaborators (scientists and artists and others) responsible for dinosaur images. While pictures of dinosaurs (along with innumerable other objects of scientific inquiry both observable and invisible) serve multiple purposes and help create knowledge in both technical and public spheres, technical communication scholarship is based on assumptions and paradigms which effectively limit a rich and complete understanding of the rhetorical function of the images. Because current visual theories in technical communication tend to minimize the rhetorical power and complexity of images, I propose an alternative way to theorize about visuals—a critical theory of illustrations—that will enable researchers, teachers, and practitioners to exploit and understand the way illustrations can function in knowledge-making. This alternative critical theory might replace the default assumptions in technical communication that images and words have distinct roles; that technical images have less power than words in both rhetorical efficacy and knowledge-making; and that technical and scientific images merely convey neutral information in a non-ideological manner to an audience. This dissertation foregrounds the problem presented by the lack of an adequate theory of visual communication within technical communication, submits my research study of the production of paleoimagery, and proposes a modified approach to technical illustrations to expand the current state of knowledge in the field.

Current Position: Missouri University of Science and Technology

2004

TCR

 

Charlsye Smith Diaz

Decision-Making as a Rhetorical Act: The Role of Choice in the Design and Delivery of an Online Education Program

Sam Dragga and Carolyn Rude (co-chairs), Ken Baake, Joyce Locke Carter

ETD link

On the job, technical communicators make decisions about technology and communication, including decisions about technologies to be used for rhetorical purposes. This dissertation draws on theories from rhetoric, decision making, communication studies, and technology as well as scholarship from others who address technology and communication together. These theories provide the basis for proposing a rhetorical decision method that includes five phases of analysis: (1) Nature of the Decision Situation: Basic overview of the potential audience's needs and an understanding of the problem. (2) Audience and Influence in the Decision Situation: More complete and complex understanding of audience and contextual factors that influence a decision situation. (3) Agency in Decision Practice: Influences in decision making, including a process, specific kinds of data, an influential person, etc. (4) Decision Articulation and Implementation: Determination of whether the articulation and implementation of the decision reflect each other. (5) Response and Reinvention: The response of the audience based on feedback from users. I apply this method to a case study of the decisions made about the design and delivery of NALA Campus, an online education center, www.nalacampus.com. The purpose of studying NALA's decision-making process is to test and further refine the method. Applying the method raised four issues. First, the place of technology within the decision situation may matter. The first time a group chooses a communication technology, the rhetorical situation drives the decision, but subsequent decisions are made with the technology solution already in place in mind. Second, the success of communication technologies may be driven by two audiences: the participant user audience (the audience that uses the technology) and the recipient user audience (the audience that receives the communication). Third, the participant user audience's ability to interact with the technology affects the composition of a communication. Last, decision practices involving communication technologies include an inherent layering of information and abilities: knowledge, technological skills, change agents (influential people or influential evidence), and rhetorical sensitivities.

Current Position: University of Maine

2003

TCR

 

Brad Butler

Defining technical communication success: Skills, contexts, and values in the workplace and the classroom

Carolyn Rude (chair), Sam Dragga, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Technical communication literature theorizes on the vast potential of technical communication practitioners to make expansive and large-scale contributions to their individual workplaces. Practitioners influence complex and dynamic systems through their roles as boundary spanners, knowledge workers, change agents, and information designers. My research, which uses qualitative interview methods to produce narratives of successful practitioners, illustrates how practitioners are constructing these new and essentially untested visions of the future. My research focuses on fairly recent graduates of technical communication programs and the connections between career success and academic preparation. I am interested especially in information that enables educators to inform students of qualities that will help them to succeed in the workplace long after initial employment. My research focuses on four questions related to this matter: (1) "What do technical communicators do and need to know on the job?"; (2) "What career paths do successful technical communicators take to reach a high level of success?"; (3) "What connections exist between academic preparation and workplace success?" and (4) "Considering recent changes in technical communication (e.g. increasingly strong ties with the computer industry and movements toward expansive and knowledge-based definitions of the field), do past efforts at establishing a curriculum need rethinking?". Determining what a successful technical communicator does and knows is particularly important for technical communicator educators because of the perceived gap in knowledge between the academic world and the world of business. Are educational institutions providing both the knowledge and theories that practitioners will need in the field and that will lead to long-term and meaningful success? Providing a well-informed answer to this inquiry is particularly important considering recent changes in the technology industry and in sites of technical communication practice. As the computer industry has fueled the demand for technical communicators, new programs have emerged but without full knowledge of what prepares students for long-term success in the field. I am not interested in vocational training and careerism. I am looking holistically at the kind of work that technical communicators do, including knowledge work, and I assess the influence of higher education that offers humanities as well as technical education.

Current Position: Sul Ross State University

2003

TCR

 

Kathy Gillis

Understanding Users Undergoing Change: An Examination of an Innovative Hybrid First-Year Writing Program

Susan Lang (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Sam Dragga, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Technical communication, rhetorical theory, user-centered theory, and diffusion theory—four disparate areas brought together in this dissertation to examine the adoption of an allegedly user-centered innovation. This project may be of particular interest to technical communication scholars and practitioners, writing program administrators, software developers, usability engineers, and writing instructors who teach technical communication and/or first-year composition. The project is structured in three steps in order to explore the tension that arises each time technical communicators apply the term user-centered to the development of an artifact. Step one is a critical analysis of the term user-centered. The premise of the review is that the term user-centered has become a slogan in the literature and has little consistency in its meaning and purpose. The discussion examines how the term fluctuates by looking at the various ways scholars define users, explain their needs, and prescribe roles for technical communicators to create more user-centered artifacts. Step two explains the rationale behind the methods used in this project. Through an introduction to diffusion theory, alternative ways to examine the theory and practice of user-centered design are presented. Step three provides the context for bringing together the term user-centered and diffusion theory. The context is the First-Year Composition Program at Texas Tech University, which is undertaking a massive restructuring of the way writing instruction is delivered. Specifically, the new Interactive Composition Online (ICON) project separates the process of delivering classroom instruction from the process of delivering instructional feedback and assessment to student writing. The success of ICON relies on the simultaneous adoption by all participants in the composition program's system. For a program that handles close to six thousand students per academic year, this wholesale adoption represents a dramatic shift in the use of computer technology in higher education. Thus, the purpose of this project is to gain a better understanding of some of the ways in which writing instructors respond to the simultaneous adoption of both a pedagogical and technological innovation. Its goal is to develop more effective means for accommodating the needs of writing program administrators, software developers, writing instructors, and their students.

Current Position: Texas Tech University Writing Center

2002

TCR

 

John Gooch

Interdisciplinary Group Process as an Indeterminate Zone for Collaboration and Technical Communication: A Case Study of Proposal Writing for an Immune Building and Test Bed

Carolyn Rude (chair), Ken Baake, Sam Dragga

ETD link

This research on interdisciplinary collaboration and technical communication explores how communication in a non-corporate setting influences collaboration and the preparation of written discourse. The case study example represents an indeterminate zone or unfamiliar situation for collaboration due to both the participants' different backgrounds and the reasons for which they collaborate. Problems as complex as biological and chemical terrorism require collaborative solutions and interdisciplinary communication, and these experts bring different disciplinary perspectives and literacies to the collaborative writing situation. Bakhtin's centripetal forces, which create cohesion within a group, and centrifugal forces, which disrupt group process, are present in this collaborative writing situation. Geoffrey Cross has used these Bakhtinian concepts in his research of writers within an insurance corporation; however, these findings and subsequent conclusions expand the scope of Cross's study by examining how the group leader's role, the mediating artifact, and consensus building operate to create centripetal forces for collaboration.

Effective interdisciplinary collaboration can share three basic characteristics. First, the different disciplinary professionals use mediating artifacts to focus the task and define goals. These artifacts can include diagrams, graphics, and pictures as well as previous documents that help create a new document. Furthermore, the artifacts constitute and reconstitute social and institutional structures; the artifacts also represent tools that participants have used before thereby reinforcing the culture from which the tool originated. Second, experts must work to overcome sometimes competing disciplinary perspectives. At times, the architect and the engineer do not see things the same way because they both use a different approach to problem solving. Third, a strong leader should emerge to unify the group and manage the various disciplinary points of view. For this case study, the leader of the group created stability so that they could effectively complete the proposal writing task. Such centripetal forces brought this group together so that they could write the proposal.

Current Position: University of Texas at Dallas

2002

TCR

 

Bih-shia Huang

A Comparison of Greek and Chinese Rhetoric and Their Influence on Later Rhetoric

Fred Kemp (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, James Whitlark

ETD link

At the turn of the twenty-first century, some western scholars still hold that no classical rhetoric exists except classical Greek rhetoric. This paper presents the evidence to show that classical Chinese rhetoric is not only a natural practice but also a study of effective discourse like classical Greek rhetoric. In addition, the factors that contribute to the differences between two rhetorics are explored. Moreover, subsequent rhetorics that were influenced by classical rhetorics are discussed and compared. Chapter I explains the reason why this study must be done and introduces what are going to be addressed in the following chapters. Chapter II describes the Greek geographical features that led to the liberal types of politics, economy, and rhetoric. The emergence of the Greek Sophists followed the practice of the democratic system. Aristotle's Rhetoric is used as a model for Chinese rhetoric that is discussed in the second chapter. Rhetoric after the classical period is summarized so that the influence of classical Greek rhetoric on later western rhetoric can be understood. Chapter III explicates the Chinese geographical features that gave rise to the conservative type of politics, economy, and rhetoric. This chapter emphasizes classical Chinese rhetoric that occurred in the period of Spring-Autumn and Warring States (from the eighth to the third centuries B.C.). The classical Chinese thinkers whose speeches and theories influenced the later generations are introduced one by one. Rhetoric after the unification of the Chin (Qin) dynasty (221 B.C.) is also summarized in order to show the influence of classical Chinese rhetoric on later Chinese rhetoric. Chapter IV deals with the contrastive study between two ancient countries from the geographical, political, economical, social, and rhetorical perspectives. The reasons why Western rhetoric and Chinese rhetoric after the classical periods had their own emphases is explained. Chapter V concludes the causes, the development, and the suppression of both rhetorics and makes some suggestions.

2002

TCR

 

Bill Karr

Technical Communication in the Self-Structuring Organization

Sam Dragga (chair), Thomas Barker, Fred Kemp, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

Technical communicators have historically been viewed as designers and producers of paper documents in the traditional business setting. With the growing use of computers by individuals and businesses, technical communicators continue their paper document work but have migrated into the design and production of Web sites and information documents for use on the Internet. Even with this expansion of expertise and the growing demand for communication skills in corporations, technical communicators are not represented at the top levels of business management.

This dissertation explores the potential for technical communicators to move to the corporate executive suite by serving as the central hub of communication in small self-forming Internet based organizations with the potential to become independent economic entities. By examining the contributions of one technical communicator to a seed stage start up project, it is hoped that continued research into activities and opportunities that will elevate the role of the technical communicator in corporate structures will be realized.

The organization used as the basis for the study was developed through the interaction of several independent groups with differing organizational missions. The Texas Tech/K-12 Instructional Partnership for Schools (TIPS) was formed when the University Writing Center at Texas Tech University joined forces with Texas Region XV Education Service Center and public schools selected for the project. The project was developed to deliver Internet based, just-in-time writing instruction assistance from university trained writing tutors to 4th and 8th grade students in predominantly rural Region XV public schools. The goal of the project was to assist the public school teachers in preparing their students for the state mandated Texas Assessment of academic Skills.

Autopoietic theory and its association with knowledge management, information management, and self-forming organizations informs the dissertation as it assesses the management contribution of the technical communicator who served as the central information hub of the project. The contribution of technical communication skills and rhetorical training led to the technical communicator being vital to the evolution of the university based organization to a start up company with the technical communicator slated to be the chief operations officer.

Current Position: University of Houston, Victoria

2002

TCR

 

Michael Knievel

Rethinking the "Humanistic": Technical Communication and Computers and Writing as Sites of Change in English Studies

Fred Kemp (chair), Rebecca Rickly, Carolyn Rude

ETD link

The conflict between what C.P. Snow names the "two cultures" of literature and the humanities, and science and technology, respectively, is a well-documented source of tension in the modern academy. In Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education, Martha Nussbaum, for instance, describes a vision of the academic humanities that seeks to produce students who are "world citizens," yet her articulation of such a humanistic education all but excludes technology and technological instruction, thus reinscribing Snow's bifurcation. The tension between the "cultures" plays an important role in contemporary English Studies, as well, made particularly palpable in the "technologized rhetorical subdisciplines" of English: technical communication and computer-based composition.

Following the work of Robert Johnson, Jay David Bolter, and others, this dissertation traces efforts by scholars in both technical communication and computers and writing to sketch descriptions of the humanistic nature of their respective fields of inquiry, a process that has been a necessary part of both defining the boundaries of each and reconciling their definitional relationships to technology with the values of English Studies, the usual departmental home for each.

Interestingly, these efforts to articulate a humanistic character, what Paul M. Dombrowski calls the "humanistic aspects" of these technologized rhetorical subdisciplines, have often relied on conservative, techno-skeptical notions of the humanistic that align well with academic humanities ideology but oftentimes resist alternative humanistic frameworks that recognize technology as central, rather than opposed, to humanistic goals and action. More inclusive philosophies of humanism like those defined in the three twentieth-century publications of the Humanist Manifesto can help scholars recast a more pragmatic interpretation of the humanistic that rehabilitates technology in English Studies eyes by complicating traditional assumptions, often polemical in nature, which situate technology against the values advanced in English Studies and the academic humanities. Doing so not only helps technical communication and computers and writing develop a more representative description of their humanistic character and disciplinary definition but also holds promise for extending the reach and vitality of English Studies broadly defined, as cultural demands for a more sophisticated and holistic view of technology increase.

Current Position: University of Wyoming

2002

TCR

 

Heather McGovern (Sehmel)

Web Sites and Advocacy Campaigns: Decision Making, Implementation, and Audience in an Environmental Advocacy Group's Use of Web Sites as Part of its Communication Campaign

Carolyn Rude (chair), Sam Dragga, Rebecca Rickly

ETD link

Professional communicators designing websites need to know more about common barriers to good decision-making they might face. They also need to know how the websites they make function rhetorically and how audiences interact with them. Current publications on web design do not answer some of the designers' most important questions, especially for non-commercial websites. I begin to answer some of these questions through a case study portraying how an environmental advocacy group plans and uses websites as part of its advocacy campaigns.

I interviewed and observed group staff, investigating barriers to good decision-making including not having clear goals, not knowing the consequences of one's choices, and dealing with cognitive constraints such as time and technical knowledge. My findings suggest using a more defined publication management process may lead to better decision-making.

I also conducted a rhetorical and content analysis, studying how the websites functioned rhetorically. My analysis demonstrates the importance of visual elements for emphasizing more important web material. In addition, by comparing the content of the websites to the group's goals for the website, my analysis also shows how groups might check whether their websites reflect their goals. My analysis of the websites provides a foundation for building a definition of the unique genre of an environmental advocacy site.

I also surveyed audiences for the group's websites, learning who visits the websites and why and completing a comprehensive portrait of how the group's websites function within a larger communication context that includes face-to-face, email, and other contact with the organization. The survey respondents demonstrated a heartening interest in taking action for the environment online and offline.

Finally, my dissertation provides an in-depth analysis of how one group plans and uses its websites that can guide website planning and use in environmental advocacy organizations and other small groups that are likely to suffer from similar decision-making barriers (such as not having a full-time web designer on staff). More systematically analyzing web audiences, using better routines to plan, create, and maintain websites, and evaluating the effectiveness of web communications might lead to more successful web discourse.

Current Position: Richard Stockton

2001

TCR

 

David Dayton

Electronic Editing in Technical Communication: Practices, Attitudes, and Impacts

Winner, Outstanding Dissertation in Technical and Scientific Communication 2002 (from the National Council of Teachers of English)

Carolyn Rude (chair), Thomas Barker, Sam Dragga

UMI publication number AAT 3015734

This dissertation examines the adoption and diffusion of computer-aided editing methods in technical communication. It begins with a literature-based, critical investigation into the reported reluctance of technical editors to adopt electronic editing procedures. The theory advanced is that for many editors the greater responsiveness and tangibility of hard-copy editing creates inherent advantages over on-screen editing which they are unwilling to give up for potential gains in efficiency.

Preliminary qualitative research and a pilot survey produced substantial evidence that most technical communicators did indeed associate hard-copy editing with ergonomic, portability, and text-processing advantages. Most of those contacted, however, also valued the potential gains in efficiency of editing on screen. While a good number of them chose hard-copy markup over on-screen markup options, most reported frequently or primarily editing on screen.

A more in-depth study involving 20 face-to-face interviews with technical communicators at five different workplaces showed that organizational cultures mediate perceptions of electronic editing according to their unique configuration of priorities and established practices. Finally, a sample survey of 992 members of the Society for Technical Communication provided a global snapshot of editing practices in technical communication. In 1998, technical communicators who edited others were about evenly divided between those who used hard-copy markup alone as their primary editing method and those who used one form or another of keyboarding changes and annotations directly into computer files. Most technical communicators who edited others used both hard-copy and electronic editing procedures, alternately or together. About two-thirds at least occasionally used some form of electronic procedures when editing others, and most of those used hard copy to mark up or to proofread as part of their standard electronic editing process.

The erratic diffusion of electronic editing in technical communication is explained from a theoretical perspective that combines the Diffusion of Innovations theory and the explanatory conceptual framework of cultural-historical activity theory. Predictions about the future evolution of electronic editing practices are offered, along with recommendations for future research into technical editing and, more generally, the adoption and diffusion process by which new technologies affect the lifeworlds of practitioners.

Current Position: Towson State University

2001

TCR

 

Corey Wick

Knowledge Management at a Multinational Information Technology Services Firm

Sam Dragga (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Fred Kemp

ETD link

In recent years, issues traditionally associated with the field of technical communication have been increasingly referred to in business settings as "knowledge management." Technical communicators generally contribute to knowledge management through their skills of audience analysis, interviews, and research-synthesizing relevant knowledge from volumes of information and compiling that knowledge into printed and electronic forms. Their skills allow people to (1) access it quickly, (2) understand it with relative ease, and (3) apply this knowledge within the context of their work. Technical communicators, however, also possess in-depth knowledge of pedagogy, learning theory, and rhetoric—in other words, an understanding of how humans learn, understand, and communicate—which enable them to facilitate organizational learning and sharing of knowledge through social means as well, not just through documentation. Technical communicators, then, are logical professionals to lead organizational knowledge management efforts.

Organizational knowledge management initiatives generally take one of two approaches. Codification approaches emphasize knowledge codified into documents and distributed to vast audiences through high-powered information systems. Personalization approaches emphasize learning and the sharing of knowledge through close social interaction and collaboration among professionals. Efforts to integrate these approaches to knowledge management, however, have traditionally met with limited success, and little is understood about the factors impeding successful integration.

This dissertation presents a case study conducted at a multinational information technology services firm, a company attempting to implement a knowledge management initiative that integrates both codification and personalization approaches. The firm will be referred to as Acme IT to protect its anonymity, and the names of all personnel have been changed. The purpose of the case study was to identify the barriers impeding the successful integration of these approaches. Acme IT's difficulties in integrating codification and personalization and codification approaches can be best summarized as the growing pains of an old economy company attempting to implement new economy practices. The limited success of knowledge management at Acme IT was largely the result of a socio-organizational environment that stifled the efficacies associated with personalization knowledge management approaches. These efficacies were ultimately filtered out of the knowledge management initiative as a result of several characteristics frequently present in old economy companies: (1) Restrictive control over communication and employee behavior; (2) An organizational culture and social climate that impeded trust, jeopardizing effective collaboration among employees; (3) And excessive concerns over documentation, bureaucracy, and intermediation that misdirected resources toward activities that added little value to the initiative.

2000

TCR

 

Joanna Castner Post

Digital Discussion: A Qualitative Study of Online Discussion in Writing Classes

Fred Kemp (chair), Rebecca Rickly, Carolyn Rude

ETD list

This dissertation examined the online discussions in five writing classes, two technical writing, two composition, and one creative writing. The purpose of the analysis was to determine effective ways for teachers to manage interaction in the digital environment. A five-part coding system was used in the first part of the analysis, and then two additional methods were used to contextualize the coding data. The assumptions underlying the coding system came from a long tradition of research into the traditional, whole class discussion. Results of this part of the analysis indicated that researchers should not pursue projects that analyze the digital environment using methods derived from research into the face-to-face classroom. Too many differences exist between the environments to make such methods useful. For example, turn-taking is not a factor in the digital environment, while managing turn-taking in the face-to-face classroom is an essential role of the teacher. Results of the additional two methods included common sense data. For example, teachers should see online discussions with open-ended questions; they should highlight important issues while the discussion is taking place, and they should make students comfortable enough to participate freely.

Current Position: University of Central Arkansas

2000

TCR

 

Kelli Cargile Cook

Online Technical Communication: Pedagogy, Instructional Design, and Student Preference in Internet-Based Distance Education

Carolyn Rude (chair), Thomas Barker, Sam Dragga, Fred Kemp

ETD link

In response to the growing popularity of internet-based instruction in technical and professional communication, this dissertation is the first study to offer a comprehensive examination of pedagogical designs for such instruction. To answer the study's primary research question "How should program directors and instructors design curricula and employ technologies to best deliver technical communication courses and their associated literacies online?" two different pedagogical designs (one presentational, the other interactive) are compared in the study. The presentational design is most similar to traditional paper-based correspondence courses: materials are provided online; students work independently and at their own pace; and student/teacher interactions are restricted to student-initiated questions and teacher feedback on assignments. The interactive design employs three additional communication features—a bulletin board, a chat room, and an internet-based collaborative writing application—in the course's technology mix. Through these technologies, students interact with the instructor on a regular basis, comparable to the interactions onsite students have with their writing instructors. From these two designs, data was gathered on the formative and summative assessment opportunities each design afforded, on student grades as a result of the opportunities, on student literacy demonstration and achievement, and, finally, on student satisfaction with each design. This data was then analyzed to determine which design was most effective. The results of this study did not definitively demonstrate that one design was superior to the other, although the interactive design did appear to promote increased literacy achievement. In fact, both designs seem to have their advantages, depending on the course's literacy goals, students' needs, and institutional constraints, such as class size and instructional load. Because neither pedagogical design in this study was clearly better than the other, the study suggests that a variety of effective designs are not only possible but desirable. Based on these findings, the study recommends an online instructional continuum ranging from presentational to interactive designs. Using this continuum as a starting point for planning a distance course, instructors can locate their own pedagogical and student needs and create an individualized design that best delivers instruction to satisfy these needs.

Current Position: Texas Tech University

2000

E/R

 

Basnagoda Rahula

The Untold Story about Greek Rational Thought: Buddhist and Other Indian Rationalist Influences on Sophist Rhetoric

Fred Kemp (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, James Whitlark

http://etd.lib.ttu.edu/theses/available/etd-07312008-31295015156333/

During the fifth and the fourth century B.C., Greek Sophist rhetoricians developed rational thinking in many fields such as in epistemology, anthropology, sociology, religion, and politics. Despite the popular belief that the traditional Greek society provided the influential sources for sophist rational thinkers, the dissertation argues that Greeks sophist thinkers—Protagoras, Gorgias, Antiphon, Critias, and others—mainly borrowed and adopted Buddhist and other Indian rational thoughts that were prevalent in India during and prior to the rise of the Greek sophistic movement. This dissertation is the first in-depth study of Buddhist and other Indian rationalist influences on Greek sophist rhetoric.

Chapter One deals with the natural origin and development of Indian rational thinking. As a reaction to the social difficulties caused by the metaphysical and ideological concepts invented by the early Hindu tradition, Indian skeptics, materialists, and Buddhists developed rational argument against Hindu beliefs. In this development, the Brahmin myths of creation, transmigration, Brahma, and the soul were challenged vigorously by the new rationalist traditions. This criticism gave rise to rational concepts and rhetoric as opposed to the metaphysics and idealistic dogma of the early Hindu tradition. Chapter Two discusses the parallel development of rational thought in Greece with attention to the systematic borrowing of Greek thinkers from Indian sources since the sixth century B.C. Attention is drawn in this chapter mainly to Pythagoras, Empedocles, and Democritus, the forefathers of Greek sophist rhetoric, as the imitators of Indian rational concepts. Chapter Three discusses in detail the similarities between Indian and Greek rational thought. Here, the rationalistic concepts of Protagoras, Gorgias, and several other sophist thinkers are closely evaluated in the light of Indian rationalistic counterparts in order to prove the Indian influences on the Older Sophists. Chapter Four discusses the evidence of influence such as Greek thinkers' visits to India, easy accessibility to Indian concepts in Greece and in Persia, and the ancient routes of communication between India and Greece.

Current Position: Houston Buddhist Vihara

2000

TCR

 

Michael J. Salvo

Literacy, Hypermedia, and the Holocaust: Reconfiguring Rhetoric in Hypermedia Environments

Fred Kemp (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Sam Dragga, Myrna Harringer

Winner, Hugh Burns Award, for the best dissertation in Computers and Composition Studies 2001 (from the editors of Computers and Composition)

ETD link

Accompanying the move from an industrial-based to an information-based economy is a shift from a paper-based to a digit-based culture. As more American households are connected to the Internet there is a shift not only in the speed of communication but also in the mode and media of communication. While some critics are predicting the demise of literacy as we know it, electronic mail, hypertext and the World Wide Web are offering examples of different constructions of literacy. These new forms of writing are contexts for communication—new rhetorical situations. These new rhetorical situations require analysis so that literacy workers (writing teachers, language scholars, as well as other intellectuals in the humanities) can address the literacy needs of twenty-first century students. Literacy, technology, and the Holocaust come together in a technological system signaling a shift in how our culture stores and disseminates its stories and histories. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has constructed The Wexner Learning Center to house a database of Witness narratives. This hypermedia archive represents change in historical narrative and the way it is written, stored, and retrieved. Beyond the technical aspects of designing and implementing this system, the system itself signals a shift in the skills necessary to comprehend the historical stories being told. The images of witnesses retelling their experiences alter the cultural representation of the Holocaust. Utilizing high technology to convert filmed accounts of witnesses into computer-accessible files, the database of witness narratives is an example of a new means of sharing history that requires a sophisticated hyper-literate user. This dissertation investigates both the idea of an emerging high-technology hyper-rhetoric and the hyper-literacy necessary to read, write, and manipulate texts in the twenty-first century. Its theme should interest readers from a variety of humanistic and technical disciplines while contributing a new perspective on literacy in the digital age.

Current Position: Purdue University

1999

TCR

 

Michael Albers

Development of a Goal-Driven Analysis for Requirements Definition in Hypertext Information Systems Supporting Complex Problem-Solving

Thomas Barker (chair), Sam Dragga, Fred Kemp

ETD link

When engaged in open-ended problem solving, the user must evaluate information from multiple sources. Unfortunately, people find it difficult to effectively search for and integrate multiple sources of information, requiring the system to provide the information in a manner which relates to the context of the problem. Also, rather than needing information in pre-defined ways, the viewing order and specific information required changes with each problem. As a result, the methods used in conventional task analysis, which focus on defining the individual steps of a well-defined sequence, fail to provide good requirements for systems intended for supporting open-ended problem solving. Rather than focusing on individual steps, this dissertation develops a goal-driven analysis methodology based on defining and relating users' goals and information needs. Unlike a task-based analysis, the goal-driven analysis methodology revolves around uncovering the users' goals, the information needed to achieve those goals, and the contextual relationships between information elements. The analysis strives to uncover the major potential problem-solving paths and the information required to support following those paths to provide the problem solver with varied routes to solving a specific problem. The unique feature of goal-driven analysis is that, throughout the methodology, it focuses on maintaining a connection between users' goals, information needs, and problem contexts. This dissertation integrates the technical communication, cognitive psychology, and situation awareness literature, and explores the socio-cognitive aspects of information design as they relate to complex problem solving. It begins by arguing that effective information presentation requires a match between the users' mental model, the real-world context, and the factors which contribute to situation awareness. The dissertation then develops a four-step methodology, ethnography, interviews, scenario development, and group discussion, to develop a goal-information diagram which captures a graphical representation of the users' goals and information needs. The goal-information diagram then becomes the foundation for the analyst to use when developing system requirements. The dissertation also provides an extended example of how to perform a goal-driven analysis.

Current Position: East Carolina University

1999

E/R

 

Liliana Anglada

On-Line Writing Center Responses and Advanced EFL Students' Writing: An Analysis of Comments, Students' Attitudes, and Textual Revisions

Patricia Goubil-Gambrell (chair), Maryjane Hurst, Fred Kemp

ETD link

This dissertation analyzes the suggestions for revision sent by on-line writing center consultants in the United States to advanced EFL students in Argentina and examines the students' reactions to this type of feedback. Previous ESL/EFL writing process research, specifically in the area of revision, has explored issues such as peer critique and teacher feedback. Quite a few studies have focused on learners' attitudes to feedback, while others have paid particular attention to feedback incorporation during revision work. Most of these studies, however, have been conducted in regular classes where either ESL/EFL instructors or peers responded to drafts. Results from these studies tend to be inconclusive and cannot be applied to specific monolingual settings. Furthermore, very few studies have investigated how having a real audience of native speakers of English, and receiving suggestions from them, may affect ESL/EFL writing. The research conducted for this project was an attempt to explore this issue.

This study follows a case study methodology. During the 1997 academic year, one group of advanced EFL students taking a literature course at the teacher-training college "Juan Zorrilla de San Martin" (Cordoba, Argentina) e-mailed their short essays to and received feedback on two occasions from the writing consultants at the Texas Tech University On-line Writing Center. The participants' attitudes toward these electronic exchanges were analyzed through survey answers and interviews. The types of comments from the On-line Writing Center consultants and the textual changes made by the students were coded and subsequently examined employing three different taxonomies created for the purposes of this study.

Results show that, despite a few difficulties with the technical implementation of the project, these EFL students benefited from interaction with native-speaker consultants via e-mail exchanges. These students not only appreciated the feedback received but also employed a high percentage of comments to their advantage by making changes that enhanced the quality of their texts. Although a high percentage of the revisions involved formal or structural problems—as opposed to global or macrostructural concerns—the number of modifications the students incorporated in their final drafts supports the use of on-line writing center responses during the revision stage in EFL settings.

Current Position: Argentina

1999

TCR

 

John Chandler

Managing Cross-Functional Teams: An Activity-Theory Approach to Software Development and Documentation

Thomas Barker (chair), Joyce Locke Carter, Fred Kemp

ETD link

While there is growing consensus in the literature that wider inclusion of technical communicators has potential for improving the processes by which software is developed—there is little agreement regarding the extent of this inclusion nor how it should be accomplished. This dissertation examines ways in which technical communicators participate in software development—specifically, examining the complexities of their roles in interdisciplinary development teams. The trend toward interdisciplinary development teams is based upon recognition that the specialized skills and expertise of a number of disciplines have potential to improve software processes and products. Ideally, cross-functional processes and roles would take advantage of specialized skills and integrate them into a single, cohesive development effort. This combined effort is in many ways the rationale for cross-functional teams, defined as a level of process maturity at which stages of development are characterized by interdisciplinary cooperation in delineating the process and resolving problems. This dissertation uses an Activity Theory approach to address many of the political and epistemic barriers inherent in contemporary development processes. Many theories posit that process improvement must evolve through careful management of various organizational behaviors. This perspective is complicated by recognition of two levels of organizational behavior: a formal level represented in "official" artifacts of the organization, and an informal level of human activity networks. The literature on knowledge management argues that a critical success factor for administering change in organizational processes is devising intervention strategies that reconcile these two dimensions of organizational behavior. In light of these issues, what factors should be considered in management strategies for software development process improvement, and how might these intervention strategies affect the roles of technical communicators? This dissertation addresses these questions by examining various issues that shape contemporary software development models and practice. The first chapter reviews the literature pertinent to team development. In the second chapter provides a rationale for activity theory as the lens through which the research is contextualized. Chapters three and four describe research methods and results of a case study investigation, which observes the activities and artifacts of a collaborative development project between a class of computer science students and technical communication students. And in the last chapter suggests strategies for implementing a cross-functional approach to process improvement efforts.

Current Position: Texas Tech University

1999

TCR

 

Amy Hanson

Aristotelian Appeals in Corporate Communication: Tracing the Communication Patterns in an Organizational Division Moving to Intranet Documentation

Patricia Goubil-Gambrell (chair), Sam Dragga, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Struggling with problems of document and data distribution and the desire for flexible and integrated information access, more and more companies are turning to intranets to maximize document accessibility and employee efficiency. However, many organizations begin the process of moving to an intranet system, failing to realize that intranets are communication technologies that can have significant affects on corporate culture. This dissertation, an ethnographic study of the communication trends in an organization in the process of incorporating an intranet system, is a study of the ways in which some members of a plastic-injection molding company communicate and how that communication reflects the culture of their division and of the organization itself. The communication within this division takes three forms—oral (meeting transcripts), written (instructional materials, intranet documents), and electronic (email). This dissertation examines the communication trends by applying Aristotle's three appeals—ethos, logos, and pathos—to the three communication situations. Ethos appeals were by far the most commonly used appeals, particularly in oral communication, and they reflected a power struggle within the division as members of the team vied for control over the group. Logos appeals were the second most commonly used appeal overall and the most commonly used in written communication. These logos appeals, which fell outside of the divisional power struggle, served to further action within the division and encouraged team members to accomplish tasks and to meet deadlines. Pathos appeals were the least commonly used appeal overall, although they were the most commonly used in electronic communication. These appeals were most often used as an attempt either to end an ethos-based argument within the division or to smooth over the friction caused by the divisional power struggle. The communication trends within this division reflected not only their production and certification events but also the attitudes and values of the individual team members, as well as the ways in which the culture of the division affected the culture of the entire organization. The findings of this study show the interconnectedness of the structural, cultural, and communication systems of an organization in shaping attitude, productivity, and cohesion.

Current Position: Texas Tech University

1999

E/R

 

Mark Jordan

Networked Electronic Discourse in a Liberatory Composition Pedagogy: A Cultural Critique

Fred Kemp (chair), Maryjane Hurst, Carolyn Rude

ETD link

This dissertation examines the similar goals and characteristics of liberatory pedagogy and networked electronic discourse pedagogy. Both pedagogies attempt to cultivate within students a critical consciousness. Both pedagogies share the two fundamental qualities of a formal dialogic communication model and a nascent postmodernity. Dialogically, both pedagogies demonstrate awareness of the dynamic ambiguity of language, privileging of communal dialogue, encouragement of epistemological knowledge-making, and nurturing of a critical consciousness. Common postmodern qualities are innate skepticism for prescribed values, an awareness of the decentered yet often oppressive nature of contemporary power formulations, and an intrinsic respect for diverse voices and different subjectivities.

Despite such similarities, the literature regarding liberatory pedagogy seems scarcely aware of the parallels between it and network discourse pedagogy. Literature on the latter pedagogy, meanwhile, shows more awareness of liberatory pedagogy but tends to borrow from it in piecemeal fashion. Nevertheless, the similar goals and characteristics of both pedagogies suggest that they can be mutually beneficial allies which together can create a more effective learning environment than either can separately. Further, this alliance of similar pedagogies can find a fruitful context for implementation in the community college, the third major element examined. Despite the typical community college focus on preparatory or vocational goals, some features which make the community college fertile ground for the suggested pedagogical alliance are the diversity of student populations, their large percentage of ethnic minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged students, and such colleges' own typical identity as small, locally-rooted, largely independent and thus versatile entities.

Current Position: Odessa College

1999

E/R

 

Donna Smith

Basic Writing and Stigma

Carolyn Rude (chair), Maryjane Hurst, Fred Kemp

ETD link

The number of college students who need remediation before they can function successfully in a college writing class is significant and likelier to increase than decrease because of economic factors that make a college degree a necessity. In addition, institutions and governmental entities are demanding accountability from remedial programs in the form of students who remediate quickly and persevere through subsequent courses to attain a degree. However, no consistent effective pedagogy exists for helping remedial writers, largely because our understanding of these students is both fragmentary and reductive. Basic writers have been traditionally defined too restrictively, recognizable either through their flawed texts or by their faulty cognitive, affective or epistemological processes. This dissertation argues that we lack an effective pedagogy because the paradigm we apply to define and understand basic writers is too static and narrow. Drawing on Mary Louise Pratt's notion of contact zone and Henry Giroux's border pedagogy, this study redefines basic writers relationally, arguing that the individual must be understood within a system of behaviors rather thin in self-contained isolation. Erving Goffman's discussion of stigma supplies a workable description of this system of behaviors, providing a malleable explanatory model of the basic, writing experience, rather than a definition of the basic writer. Goffman's ideas on stigma not only establish basic writers' unique position as stigmatized in the academic community, but also offer insight into the deeper patterns that guide their responses and interactions as they recognize and adjust to their stigmatized status and work through the ways they present themselves to others and the ways they come to terms with andtranscend their position within the academy.

Current position: Odessa College

1998

TCR

 

Michael Dean Bellah

Person-Based Response: A Postmodern Alternative to Text-Based Teacher Comments

Sam Dragga (chair), Patricia Goubil-Gambrell, Linda Breslin

ETD link

This dissertation offers a theory of teacher response that privileges persons over text. It is based on the finding that there are two major trends in current teacher response: one text-based, a legacy of modernism and founded on the principles of New Criticism, which locates meaning in the text, and the other, person-based, founded on postmodern thought, which locates meaning in the writer and the reader. During the last 25 years, composition scholars have unearthed a number of problems with text-based response, including the following: an overemphasis on formal error, the teacher's inability to function as a real reader, a corresponding lack of 'humanness' in teacher voice, a lack of clarity, including illegible handwriting and undefined proof-reading marks, a failure to gear comments to specific audiences including basic writers and ESL students, a lack of positive reinforcement with some teachers displaying overt hostility toward their student writers, a tendency for teachers to appropriate student writing so that the student's own voice is lost, and comments showing a product-centered rather than process-centered approach to writing, which discounts the role of rhetorical invention. After documenting these deficiencies in teacher response strategies, this study presents a solution in the form of four tenets of person-based response. Phrased in the imperative, they are (1) Respond first as a genuine (human) reader; (2) Emphasize student successes not errors; (3) Empower student writers; don't silence their voices or appropriate their work; and (4) Emphasize student process (successful writers in-the-making) not product ('finished' and flawed papers). In a descriptive quantitative analysis involving 303 beginning college composition students, this study goes on to show how all four tenets of person-based response correlate with positive student motivation, a condition which writing apprehension theory says is crucial for effective writing. In addition, this study analyzes some confounds to person-based response, presents the stories of eight students who react to the methodology, and suggests further study of the theory, especially a project linking the tenets of person-based response empirically to the Daly and Miller Writing Apprehension Scale. Finally, the dissertation emphasizes the need for what Burke calls consubstantiality, the act of really connecting with one's audience, including teachers with students and students with each other.

Current position: Amarillo College

1998

E/R

 

Elizabeth R. Pass

Electronic Academic Journals: An Analysis of the Striated and Smooth Spaces of Electronic Journal Forms

Sam Dragga (chair), Thomas Barker, Fred Kemp

UMI Publication number AAT 9826453

While print classic journals have been analyzed in depth, electronic academic journals have not yet been widely studied. This dissertation looks seriously at this new form of knowledge making and knowledge dispersal in order to reveal characteristics unique to electronic journals, showing advantages and opportunities for scholarship and knowledge-making that are not afforded to print journals. With the appearance of electronic academic journals comes many questions. The three questions that I focus on are: (1) How does digital communication (specifically, electronic academic journals) sustain and advance the discourse and distribution of knowledge in the field of computers and writing? (2) What advantage(s) do digital means of distributed knowledge offer readers that print academic journals cannot? (3) What are the research and pedagogical implications of electronic academic journals for the field of English, specifically computers and writing? The method I use to analyze electronic academic journals is interpretive, through a historical and rhetorical study. Specifically, the theoretical lens being employed to examine them is Deleuze and Guattari's concept of smooth and striated spaces. The smooth/striated continuum can be used in all areas of discourse analysis, the model is simple and inclusive. It provides a tool for looking back at the rhetorical spaces already created while at the same time provides a guide for the development of new electronic spaces. Electronic academic journals have the potential for a broader audience than print academic journals, they are more economical to produce than print academic journals, and they are also quicker to respond to current issues than print academic journals. There are many implications of electronic academic journals for the field of English. One implication for the field is that research needs to adapt to the medium of electronic communication. Second, pedagogy must take into account electronic environments. Third, there needs to be new ways to create rhetorical space in this new medium. Fourth, the face of the beginning professor is changing—he/she will need to know how to navigate successfully in the new medium. On a broader level, publishing companies will be changed by the demand of electronic technology. Finally, another implication for all societies using electronic communication is the issue of cultural differences and the Americanization of the World Wide Web.

Current position: James Madison University

1997

E/R

 

James Bullock

Decentering Teacher Authority in the Interclass: Creating Space for Student Participation, Responsibility, and Engagement

Fred Kemp (chair), Patricia Goubil-Gambrell, Thomas Langford

ETD link

Among the new teaching methods made available to composition teachers with the introduction of the Internet is the possibility of linking classes at diverse geographical locations to form what may be called an 'interclass.' Such linking is accomplished by means of email, listservs, MOOs, MUDs, and/or 'chat rooms,' which enable students to have class discussions online either synchronously or asynchronously, depending on which means are used. This dissertation provides a close analysis of an experimental interclass, one of the first of its kind in English, that took place in Spring 1993, linking graduate English classes at Texas Tech University, San Francisco State University, and the University of Texas at Austin. It further examines seven additional interclasses that have occurred since 1993, noting similarities among the analytic findings of each—namely, that participants in all eight interclasses under consideration reported that the online environment led to a more student-centered classroom in which more students participated more often, demonstrated a greater sense of responsibility for the effectiveness of the class, and were more engaged in their writing than they were in other classroom environments. The study also includes an appendix, which lists additional, similar interclass projects. The study claims that the online environment of the interclass created a space for greater student involvement primarily because it made possible a redistribution of teacher authority to include the students themselves. The online environment stimulated conversation among the students, who tended to take initiative for their own learning and to depend more on themselves and fellow students than on the instructors. A survey of the literature situates the interclass in the historical context of the process movement in composition studies, which focuses more on the process than the product of writing. The dissertation claims that the online 'classroom' is a logical outgrowth of the process movement, simply achieving more efficiently than the non-networked classroom can the goals of the process movement, which were, in part, to have a more student-centered classroom, in which students assume more responsibility for their own learning and are more engaged in their writing.

1997

TCR

 

TyAnna Herrington

From Paper to Digitized Expression: Intellectual Property Issues in Application to Rhetoric and Technical Communication

Sam Dragga (chair), Patricia Goubil-Gambrell, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Although the topic of intellectual property law is virtually absent from the range of scholarship in the field of rhetoric and technical communication, because control of intellectual property is tantamount to control of knowledge creation, it is an area of grave importance to participants in the field. This dissertation examines the intersection among rhetoric and technical communication, the Internet, and intellectual property law. The study consists of two parts: the first is a pragmatic approach to understanding and applying the existing law; the second is a theoretical examination of the effect of the differing ideological stances on interpretation of intellectual property law. It also focuses directly on the effects of digitized communication and the impact of the Internet community on interpretations of the concepts of 'authorship,' 'ownership,' and 'property.' The study reveals that the ideological differences between the communities of rhetoric and technical communication and the Internet, and that of the legal community derive differing interpretations of 'authorship,' 'ownership,' and 'property.' The dissertation concludes by arguing that to follow the dominant ideological stance of the legal community can lead to a definition of property that subverts the intent of the constitutional intellectual property statute and, in turn, effectively prohibits egalitarian access to the dialogic process of knowledge creation that supports the cultural development of society.

Current Position: Georgia Tech

1997

TCR

 

Brenda Camp Orbell

Discourse, Power, And Social Ruptures: An Analysis Of Tailhook 91

Honorable mention, Outstanding Dissertation Award, NCTE 1999

Carolyn Rude (chair), Maryjane Hurst, Fred Kemp

ETD link

Social constructionist theories that focus on discourse as a stabilizing force for creating shared meaning within a cohesive community have been criticized in recent scholarship for ignoring the power relations involved in constructing meaning. This dissertation examines the complex power relations involved in constructing meanings in military discourse. It focuses on the power of discourse to achieve closure with a social rupture, Tailhook, and on how this process influenced the values, beliefs, and policies of the military, particularly those concerning the restriction of women from combat. Chapter I develops a framework for analyzing military discourse that adopts a social perspective but compensates for the shortcomings of social constructionist theory by including cultural theories that emphasize the institutional and political circumstances in which social actions are produced and constrained and the ways in which marginalized groups can challenge these constraints. Chapter II establishes status as the recurring context needed to understand the historical participation of women in the military, and it establishes the situational context of the discourse used to establish policies for maintaining and altering that status according to the needs, values, and beliefs of the military. Chapter III, using methods of discourse analysis, shows how the social practices at Tailhook created a discourse that reflected and maintained an ideology prevalent in the male-dominated culture of the military, one that reduces women to sexual bodies and perpetuates the values and beliefs used to restrict women from combat. Chapters IV and V use methods of rhetorical and genre analysis to examine two groups of military reports that attempt to achieve closure on Tailhook and the crisis over military women, particularly the relationship between sexual harassment and the combat restrictions. The chapters show that the rhetoric of official reports is not neutral; it must first establish its own legitimacy and then deal with the illegitimate actions under investigation while maintaining the military system that is the source of its legitimacy but also allowed the illegitimate actions to occur. Through their rhetorical choices, the reports move to close Tailhook while perpetuating the status of military women as secondary players in a male-dominated culture. Chapter VI presents a closing look at the power of discourse in the struggle of women in the military and in the process of achieving closure with Tailhook. It returns to the silences in the discourse analyzed in the earlier chapters and concludes how separating issues of sexuality from issues of sexual equality allowed the official discourse to achieve closure Tailhook while at the same time reaffirming the existing military system, which institutionalizes gender hierarchy—sexual inequality—and encourages sexual harassment and sexual assaults.

Current Position: Oklahoma State University

1994

E/R

 

Elizabeth Overman Smith

The Forums, Profession, and Discipline of Technical Communication, 1971-1992

Carolyn Rude (chair), Sam Dragga, Fred Kemp

ETD link

The technical communication profession has grown rapidly in the years 1971-1992. The changing roles and responsibilities in the workplace and in academia have created questions about the goals and identity of technical communication. Technical communication professionals question whether there is the coherence of a discipline or an emerging discipline. They also question what the common body of knowledge and procedures may be that marks technical communication as distinct from other academic and professional activities concerned with the production of text and communication of information. Stephen Toulmin's Human Understanding provided theoretical support for the study with its definitions of profession and discipline and discussion of the forums and transmit that distinguish a field of study. The technical communication forums display the transmit of the problems-solving activities. Six technical communication journals provided text and citations for the study of the technical communication transmit: IEEE Transactions on Professional Communications, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, Technical Communication, Technical Communication Quarterly, and The Technical Writing Teacher. From the journals, 11,976 citations were collected for the representative years 1971, 1980, and 1988-1992. Analysis identified 78 frequently cited texts and 110 representative periodicals for further study. The texts and periodicals yielded observations about the discipline (the concepts and the procedures) and the profession that contribute to an understanding of workplace communication and problem-solving activities of technical communication professionals. Carolyn R. Miller's 1979 College English article, 'A Humanistic Rationale for Technical Writing,' served as a representative text of the technical communication profession. A rhetorical analysis of the text, intertext, and context surrounding Miller's article completed the study of the transmit of technical communication professionals. The study shows that technical communication has evolved to a discipline. Conceptual topics include Profession, Rhetoric and Composition, Document Design, Social Construction and Collaboration, and Workplace Communication. Procedures include empirical research methods (particularly collaborative ethnographic studies of the workplace) and nonempirical methods (such as rhetorical analysis). Technical communication scholars, researchers, and practitioners interact with professionals in other fields to solve problems of communication and text production.

Current Position: Auburn University

1988

E/R

 

Preston Lynn Waller

The Role of Ethos in the Writing of Proposals and Manuals

Jeanette Harris, Chair

ETD link

This study examines the role of ethos in research proposals and computer documentation. Rhetoricians and composition theorists have historically been interested in modes of persuasion. Aristotle identified these primary appeals (or 'artistic proofs') as logos, pathos, and ethos. The logical and emotional appeals have been extensively investigated by discourse analysts; however, the ethical appeal has been relatively neglected as a subject of research. Recently, the role of ethos has become an important issue in technical writing, which has traditionally been considered the most objective type of discourse. The purpose of this study is to examine how writers of proposals and manuals project their personalities in their discourse. The method used to investigate these projected roles is ethnographic, a variation of the discourse-based interview used by Lee Odell, Dixie Goswami, and Anne Herrington. This study examines the role of ethos in proposal and instructional discourse. The first two chapters examine the theory of ethos. Chapter 1 reviews the role of ethos in classical and modern rhetoric; Chapter 2 explores the role of ethos in technical writing theory. The following three chapters detail the study itself. Chapter 3 focuses on the methodology of the study, and Chapters 4 and 5 include transcripts of interviews with writers of manuals and proposals. Chapter 6 contains the results, and Chapter 7 concludes the study.

Current Position: McLennan Community College