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Final Steps for the Final Project: Teacher Response to Module #5

Make sure you read your individual feedback for Module #5 on Canvas as you revise for the final project. Almost everyone has suggested revisions.

Identifying a Research Gap for an External Audience: Make It Simple

When identifying a research gap in a proposal, you need to explain that gap in laymen’s terms. You need to start from where the audience is, which is that of the “educated non-specialist.” So, the person reading your proposal (i.e. a funder, departmental colleague, or administrator) might not even know your field exists. Or if they do, they know nothing about it.

So: you have to start from that place with your research gap. Explain why communication is important to healthcare. Don’t assume the audience will understand that. Explain why communication is important to fostering a diverse classroom. Explain, explain, explain.


The field of technical communication (TC) and the role of the technical professional communicator (TPC) would appear to experience some indecision from what the academic requirements to TPC research are, to TPC in practice, to an overall inability to validate the role by officially defining the work or career (Henning & Berner, 2016; Jones et al. 2016; Spilka, 2002). In citing Turner and Rainey (2004), Baehr (2015) presents early “core competencies” which included advocacy as one of eight competencies to assist in defining the role (p 106) while Durá (2018) challenges approaches to advocacy in technical communication and designs an asset-map in how to implement participatory advocacy efforts as a TPC for several health, education, and business areas.
Back in 2011, the technical communicator was made official by the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) (Henning & Bemer, 2016). The career description for a technical communicator is described the same as for a technical writer and in lacking distinction, as well as definition, the TC then lacks legitimacy and power. Moreover, the responsibilities of a TPC as defined by the U.S. Department of Labor are not those of the graduated or certified TPC. Several principles guide instruction and engage students in service learning and introduce basic principles of social justice, yet there is often a disconnect between the academic fulfillment, hiring expectations of a company or an organization and its mission or vision messaging (Moeller, 2018). I have claimed that the literature on advocacy in the professional field is thin, and that principally it is linked to efforts of social justice within pedagogy and research. Further, because I understand advocacy can happen in any political leaning advocacy is not social justice in a leftist leaning sense. I came up with the idea because I was challenged by the undefined role versus seeing the role as flexible or versatile. The data has the potential to inform the Department of Labor to rewrite the position description for the TPC and managers could better attract graduates to positions familiar to curricular practice and service-learning endeavors. Ultimately the results from this mixed-methods study will exemplify social justice in that the responses come from TPC participants and could compliment the original survey Baehr (2015) generously explores.

What Theory Is: Working Assumptions Described Through Central Terms

Where the rubber really meets the road of this explanation is in your theory/methodology section. A theory in relation to empirical reseach is a series of working assumptions, often expressed through key terms. So, if your central term is multiculturalism, you need to define that term and how it impacts communication. Again, you need to explain this in terms that anyone with a Ph.D. can understand.

In order to make your central term(s) apparent, you need to explain what assumptions you’re drawing from and what sources those assumptions are drawn from.

See below how the following author frames the assumptions of their research as an issue of technological literacy:

Technological Literacy

Within the existing body of literature, there is limited direct exploration of the technology in demand for employers. More often, software knowledge and tools are addressed as a single unit or, as with Lanier, by subcategories rather than specific software titles. As with the tension between the TPC practitioner’s positioning a Jack of all trades or SME, so too the literature holds up two separate arguments about technology use. One side of the argument is that no specific software titles have emerged as definitive tools for the industry (Blythe, Lauer, & Curran, 2014) or even for specific genres (Kimball 2015 and Shalamova, Rice-Bailey, and Wikoff). The other
side of the argument (Lanier, 2009; Carnegie & Crane, 2018, Mallette & Gehrke, 2019) identifes specific titles and speculates that some of those have claimed enough market share to be, for all
intents and purposes, the go-to software. Lanier cautions, however, that even though software titles may fall under the same domain, they often have distinct purposes. Using the specific graphic design and document publishing software that Lanier references (p. 59), we see that
– Microsoft Visio is vector-based graphics software for diagramming. Adobe PhotoShop is raster graphics software that “has become the industry standard not only in raster graphics editing, but in digital art as a whole.”
– Adobe FrameMaker is a document processor designed for writing and editing large or complex documents, including structured documents. Adobe InDesign is a desktop publishing and page layout designing software used primarily by graphics designers
and production artists. Adobe Acrobat is used to view, create, manipulate, print and manage PDF files.

Other public attempts to guide TPC practitioners to the best software choices have their own problems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics entry for Technical Communication makes
generalizations. O*NET, which has been referenced in research used to develop TPC curricula (Carnegie & Crane, 2018), may not prove the most reliable source despite reportedly reliable methods, as evidenced by their inclusion of Adobe Flash as a tool currently in-demand by TPC employers 1 (National Center for O*NET Development).

Feel Free To Ask Me Questions

I’ll be checking the website and my email through 12/8, of course. If you have questions about my comments, please ask.

Final Steps for Final Project

The following must be posted to Canvas by midnight on Friday, 12/8/21:

  1. Cover Letter, which should answer the following questions a) what have you learned about the processes of conducting a sound research study in this class? c) what have these processes taught you about your future roles as a technical and professional communicator?
  2. A copy of your final Research Proposal

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