Week 5 – Research in Technical Communication is Essential

Blakeslee, Ann M., and Rachel Spilka. “The State of Research in Technical Communication.” Technical Communication Quarterly 13, no. 1 (2004): 73-92.


Ann M. Blakeslee continues the conversation about research in technical communication by focusing on the quality and consistency of research in the field, current types of methodology, and quality of training in specific research methods.  Like Charney, Blakeslee also promotes the hope for “communities of scholars in our field to work as a collective whole toward setting goals and suggesting productive agendas for our research” (75).  This idea of a collective body of knowledge is a legitimate concern in the field today; there is often no “shared agenda” for the research which therefore discourages future researchers from building on any kind of solid framework (77).  Additionally, methodology differs between quantitative and qualitative methods, rhetorical and discourse analytical techniques, and other methods borrowed from industrial, scientific, and social organizations (79).  Overall, the view remains that borrowing methodology from other fields is mostly an asset rather than a detriment; however, the danger comes when such methods are not adapted for use in the technical communication field.  Improvement of relationships appeared as a common theme as well in Blakeslee’s essay.  She advocates a need for improving the academic-practitioner relationship within our field as well as the need to improve our relationship with other fields.  Indeed, Blakeslee puts it lightly when she says:  “Unfortunately, the relationship between academia and industry in technical communication has always been somewhat strained” (82).  Somewhat strained, indeed.

Blakeslee concludes the article with a proposed plan of action which includes expanding our problem definition and vision as well as developing concrete solutions.  However, this suggestion made me think back to what we’ve already discussed at length in class:  that these “forums” for conversation about the current state of technical communication often shift away from “understanding . . . why research in our field sometimes has little impact” to becoming a venting session about the current state of affairs in the technical communication world.  I do agree, though, that establishing a set of guidelines and standards for research in the field would yield positive results.  Perhaps if such a set of guidelines were implemented, then the quality and consistency of research could have the potential to reach a level of approval acceptable to the larger scientific community.

This article was written with the hopes of implementing solutions between Summer, 2006 and Summer, 2008.  However, the current issues regarding research in technical writing remains similar to how they appeared at the time this article was written (in 2004).  Why has the research of technical communication not achieved this standard of consistency and quality at this point?  How could the purpose and format of forums be altered to allow for such change to actually be implemented?


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