COM 510 Study Guide

Brady, Ann; 2007; What We Teach and What They Use: Teaching and Learning in Scientific and Technical Communication Programs and Beyond, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Volume 21 Number 1, pp. 37-61.

1. What does Brady mean by the phrase "cognitive activities?"

2. What is invention and how do technical writers do it?

3. What is the difference between a linear composing process and a recursive one?

4. What does Brady mean by "social and rhetorical contexts?"

5. What is Brady's research question?

6. What is Brady's research method?

7. How does Brady group her research subjects?

8. What is the difference between using the problem-solving model methodically and using it heuristically?

9. What belief about the problem-solving model did Brady discover among all of her research subjects?

10. What are the three "criteria for heuristic procedures" that Brady lists?

11. What does Brady say about the limitations of her study?

12. What does Brady mean when she concludes, "[It's possible to] observe scientific and technical communication as a form of rhetoric?"

Dayton, David, 2002, “Evaluating Environmental Impact Statements as Communicative Action,” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp. 355-405.

1. In what sense does Dayton think that the writer of an environmental impact
statement is a rhetor?

2. What is the discourse community within which EISs are written?

3. What is the difference between communicative action and strategic action?

4. What norms of communicative action does Dayton develop from Habermas's communication theory of society?

5. What constituted Dayton' data?

6. What was Dayton's participant role in his research on EISs?

7. What is Dayton's research method?

8. What are Dayton's conclusions about the EISs he examined?

9. What are Dayton's general conclusions about EISs?

10. What insight from Rude does Dayton agree with about EIS as a genre?

Farrell, TB, Goodnight GT. 1981. Accidental rhetoric: The root metaphors of Three Mile Island. Communication Monographs 48:271- 300.

1. What does Farrell mean when he writes, "A rhetorical crisis occurs when discourse fails to fulfill ordinary epistemological and axiological expectations?"

2. What are the differences between technical reasoning and social reasoning?

3. How does Farrell characterize the technical community's perception of the public?

4. What are some of the metaphors that Farrell identifies in the Three Mile Island discourse

Video: Meltdown: Three Mile Island

Killingsworth, M. Jimmie; Palmer, Jacqueline S., 1992; How to Save the Earth: The Greening of Instrumental Discourse, Written Communication, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 385-403.

1. What is environmentalism?

2. What is instrumental discourse?

3. How does Killingsworth characterize a "good technical manual?"

4. In what ways are how-to books political?

5. What are the author/audience relationships inherent in the four types of instrumental discourse that Killingsworth describes?

6. What does Killingsworth mean when she says, "The green consumer movement is all too open to be appropriated by forces whose long-term interests are anything but environmentalist?"

7. How does Killingsworth characterize "the best of the how-to books?"

8. What does Killingsworth say is the weakness of these new how-to books?

Katz, Steven B; 1992; The Ethic of Expediency: Classical Rhetoric, Technology, and the Holocaust, College English, 54, 3; pp. 255-75.

1. What is the functional difference between Katz's "rhetorical analysis" and rhetoric as "persuasion?"

2. What does Katz mean when he says technical writing can be "too technical, too logical?"

3. What is deliberative rhetoric and how is technical writing a form of it?

4. What is the ethic of expediency?

5. What does Katz find problematic about the ethic of expediency?

6. What does Katz propose as an alternative to the ethic of expediency?

Koerber, Amy; E. Jonathan Arnet;, and Tamra Cumbie; 2008; Distortion and the Politics of Pain Relief: A Habermasian Analysis of Medicine in the Media, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Vol. 22: pp. 364 - 391.

1. What theory of communication does Koerber use for their analysis?

2. What are Koerber’s research questions?


3. What is the particular rhetorical situation that Koerber examines?

4. What are the characteristics of Habermas’s ideal of communicative action?


5. What is Habermas’s criterion of comprehensibility?


6. What is Habermas’s criterion of truth?


7. What is Habermas’s criterion of truthfulness/sincerity?


8. What does Habermas mean by the term performative attitude?


9. What is Habermas’s criterion of rightness/ appropriateness?


10. If it cannot be achieved, of what use is Habermas’s ideal of communicative action?


11. How does Koerber assess the comprehensibility of the New England Journal of Medicine study?


12. How does Koerber assess the truth of the New England Journal of Medicine study?

13. How does Koerber assess the truthfulness/sincerity of the New England Journal of Medicine study?


14. How does Koerber assess the rightness/appropriateness of the New England Journal of Medicine study?

15. Based on their Habermasian analysis, what does Koerber conclude about medical researchers’ ethical obligations when they engage in communication with news media? 

Limaye, Mohan R., 2001, Some Reflections on Explanation in Negative Messages, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, vol. 15, no. 1, pp. 100-110.

1. Why are explanations important in bad-news letters?

2. Why is there so little research about explanations in bad-news letters?

3. How does the theoretical idea of "opportunity costs" make the sender of bad news obligated to offer the receiver an explanation?

4. What is attribution theory?

5. What are three reasons that recipients of bad news attribute to senders who offer no explanations?

6. According to Limaye why should senders of bad news not let recipients invent their own explanations? 

Lituchy, Terri R.; Wiswall, Wendy J.; 1991; The Role of Masculine and Feminine Speech Patterns in Proposal Acceptance: A Laboratory Study, Management Communication Quarterly, vol. 4, no. 4, pp. 450-465.

1. What is Lituchy's research question?

2. What speech patterns seem to differentiate women from men?

3. How does communication theory explain perceptions of speech patterns?

4. What are Lituchy's research hypotheses?

5. What was Lituchy's research method?

6. What were Lituchy's results?

Locker, Kitty O. 1999, Factors in Reader Responses to Negative Letters: Experimental Evidence for Changing What We Teach, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, vol. 13, no. 1, pp. 5-48.

1. What is the traditional textbook advice for writing bad-news letters?

2. What are the criteria for a “good” bad-news message?

3. How do various cultures regard the buffer in a bad-news message?

4. What factors in the text of bad-news messages did Locker test on readers?

5. What were Locker's results?

6. What advice does Locker have for bad-news writers based on her research results?

Loorbach, Nicole; Steehouder, MichaŽl; Taal, Erik; 2006, The Effects of Motivational Elements in User Instructions,” Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Volume 20, Issue 2, pp. 177-199.

1. What is the difference between “friendly” and “seductive” documents?

2. What are the three ISO aspects of usability?

3. What are the various motivational elements that Loorbach describes?

4. How did Loorbach test the effectiveness of these motivational elements?

5. What did Loorbach results suggest about the effects of motivational elements on (1) participants’ efficiency of task performance, (2) product appreciation, and (3) text appreciation?

6. What limitations does Loorbach admit about her research results?

7. What suggestions does Loorbach have for future research and practice in "affective aspects of technical documents?" 

McIsaac, C., & Aschauer, A. B.; 1990; Proposal writing at Atherton Jordan, Inc.: An ethnographic study. Management Communication Quarterly, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp. 527-560.

1. What do McIsaac and Aschauer mean by "the reciprocal role between an employee's writing and an organization's culture?"

2. What do McIsaac and Aschauer want to discover about employee's writing processes?

3. What is McIsaac and Aschauer's research method?

4. What did McIsaac and Aschauer discover about the genesis of the RFP that arrived at their organization?

5. What is the nature of the proposal writing process that McIsaac and Aschauer observed?

6. What are some of the metaphors for the proposal process that McIsaac and Aschauer recorded?

7. What did McIsaac and Aschauer discover about the early drafts of proposals?

8. What kind of writing problems did McIsaac and Aschauer identify among engineers in the early draft process?

9. What did McIsaac and Aschauer discover about the organization's goals and standards for writing proposals?

10. What are some strategies that McIsaac and Aschauer observed in the organization that were intended to help the proposal process?

11. What conclusions do McIsaac and Aschauer draw from their results?

Moore, Patrick; 1996; Instrumental Discourse is as Humanistic as Rhetoric, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 100-118.

1. What is the difference between a positivist and a rhetorical view of technical communication?

2. What is the difference between rhetorical and instrumental uses of language?

3. Why is Moore troubled by the dominance of rhetoric as an academic discipline in technical communication programs?

4. What aspects of contemporary life make a rhetorical view of technical communication irrelevant?

5. In what ways is the language of technical communication "often sharply different from the language of literature and rhetoric?"

6. What is standardization in language and how is it different from objectivity?

7. According to Moore, how can standardization of language "limit the semantic range of words and limit the creativity of writers" and still be humanistic?

Rundblad, Gabriella; 2007; Impersonal, General, and Social: The Use of Metonymy Versus Passive Voice in Medical Discourse, Written Communication, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 250-277.

1. What is metonymy?

2. What is Rundblad's semantic frame?

3. What relationship between anonymization of the researcher and replication and falsifiability in experimental sciences?

4. What types of metonym does Rundblad identify?

5. What link between type of impersonalization and type of metonymy does Rundblad hypothesize?

6. What is Rundblad's data?

7. What is Rundblad's method?

8. What is Rundblad's results?

9. What does Rundblad conclude about the use of impersonalization in medical research papers?

Rude, Carolyn D., 1995, The Report for Decision Making, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp. 170-205.

1. What does Rude find problematic about the treatment of report writing in textbooks?

2. What relationship does Rude see between problematic technical writing pedagogy and public decision making?

3. What fundamental distinction among the types of reports does Rude argue for?

4. What view of the term genre does Rude assume in her examination of reports?

5. How are reports for decision making and proposals, IMRADs, and persusive essays similar?

6. What kind of problem does each genre of report presume?

7. What sorts of strategies for inquiry are implied by the various genres of report?

8. How are reports for decision making and proposals similar?

9. How are reports for decision making and proposals different?

10. In what way is decision making a rhetorical process?

11. What criteria does Rude present for the decision making process?

Schryer, Catherine F., 2000, Walking a Fine Line: Writing Negative Letters in an Insurance Company, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, Volume 14, Issue 4, pp. 445-497.

1. What reasons does Schryer give for recognizing that bad-news messages can affect corporate public relations’ efforts?

2. What did Schryer try to find out about writing bad-news letters?

3. What two theoretical frameworks does Schryer base her research on?

4. What is a genre?

5. What is the relationship between a culture and an individual?

6. What is a chronotope?

Scott, J. Blake; 2004; Tracking Rapid HIV Testing Through the Cultural Circuit: Implications for Technical, Journal of Business and Technical Communication ; 18; 198.

1. What theoretical model does Scott use to examine HIV testing and why has he chosen it?

2. What does Scott mean by cultural circuit?

3. What sorts of things would a traditional technical communication study examine?

4. How would a cultural circuit analysis go beyond a traditional technical communication study?

5. What according to Scott should a cultural studies analysis be based on?

6. What kind of action does Scott hope to come out of such an analysis?

7. Given a cultural critique, what aspects of product development can technical communicators be involved in?

8. How does Scott use cultural studies approach to inform his teaching of technical communication?

Tardy, C. M.; 2003; A genre system view of the funding of academic research. Written Communication, 20, 7-36.

1. What does Tardy want to know about proposals?

2. What are some theoretical assumptions that Tardy holds about genres of writing?

3. What are some social dimensions of genres?

4. What does Tardy mean when she says that a genre is intertextual?

5. What are Tardy's research questions?

6. Where did Tardy get her data?

7. What did Tardy learn about the genre system of grant funding?

8. What are some overlapping discourse communities in the grantwriting system?

9. What is the genre knowledge in grantwriting genre systems?


1. What is the primary concern in writing user documentation?

2. What are four general categories of guidelines for safety labeling?

3 What is the three-part structure for the typical instruction guide?


1. What is meant by the phrase, "you attitude?

2. What are the main elements of the three common formats of the formal letter?

3. What are the common types of formal letter?

4. How is a typical memo organized?


1. What is a proposal?

2. What are the differences among external, internal, solicited, and unsolicited proposals?

3. What are the six parts of a proposal?


1. What is a report?

2. What is the general structure of a report?

3. What are the five chief types of report?