End of Semester Stuff

Do your reviews of your colleagues on the course website by Wednesday, April 29th at midnight using the following criteria: http://www.guiseppegetto.com/engl7780/reviewer-criteria/

Gina will have hers up for us soon.

I will do so as well, through Blackboard. Please read my response, but remember that it is a simulated peer review. You will not be able to make my requested changes by next week. Try to make one or two of them, at most. Try to make the rest of them before submitting your manuscripts for review.

Your final project will be due Wednesday, May 6th at midnighthttp://www.guiseppegetto.com/engl7780/final-project/

After I submit grades, I will delete all draft material from this website so that when you send your manuscripts out, there won’t be any problems for you with copyright.

Let me know any questions you have! I’ll be around.

Reviewer Criteria

This is the generalized reviewer criteria I use to conduct peer reviews in graduate courses. It is generalized from my experiences as a reviewer for a variety of TPC journals:

Significance/purpose: What is your assessment of the manuscript’s potential contribution for the field of TPC? Is the manuscript timely? Does it present new approaches, findings, and/or theoretical implications? Do you feel these findings will be useful to other TPC scholars?

Methodology: What is your assessment of the manuscript’s use of methods, theory, and/or overall scaffolding? Is the overall framework of the manuscript justified, given its topic? Is it sufficiently explored so as to be clear to other scholars? Is it sufficiently grounded in other methodological or theoretical precedents?

Findings: What is your assessment of the manuscript’s rendering of research findings or extended examples or cases? Are the findings rendered with sufficient clarity to provide necessary context for the research or development of the approach? Are the findings sufficiently connected with the methodology so that it is clear how they work together to form an argument?

Style/organization: What is your assessment of the quality of writing in the manuscript? Are all concepts sufficiently explained? Is the manuscript organized in a logical, comprehensible manner? Is correct grammar and syntax adhered to rigorously?

Forgot a Journal

With new journals cropping up in TPC all the time, it’s easy to forget one.

connexions international professional communication journal (http://connexionsjournal.org/) “provides a forum for researchers, practitioners, students and emerging scholars from diversified backgrounds, interests, and nationalities.”

“The journal focuses on the practice, research, pedagogy, methodology, and technology of efficient and effective written, oral, visual, electronic and non-verbal professional communication—academic, business, crisis, development, environmental, health, media, nonprofit, political, research, science, and technical communication—in local, national, international, and global work and civic activity settings.”

I added it to the last module for future reference.

-The Beard

Teacher Response to Module #4: Theory as Disciplinary Infrastructure

Grades on Blackboard, as per the norm.

If you have learned one thing: Theory helps a field understand itself

A photo of a famous philosopher in front of a tax form
Top Google search result for “Beard Infrastructure”

The real purpose of theory, as I have tried to explain in this class, is to help a field understand itself. Theory is what we use when we’re trying to figure out who we are as a discipline, in other words.

Are we writers? Empirical researchers? Professionals? Project managers? Designers? What kinds of objects do we write about and research? Do we build things? If so, what?

A healthy discipline keeps asking these questions over and over again in collegial conversation. There are rules of discourse, but the rules shouldn’t squelch new ideas, and they should always be up for debate.

I think we have something to learn about the latter point in TPC, but I think we do a pretty good job of asking questions.

Teacher Response to Module #3: When Is An Argument Not An Argument?

Grades on Blackboard.

Everyone got the same feedback:

“This is really getting somewhere. Now you need to identify a journal and write to the conventions of that journal/editor of that journal.”

This is a very good thing

In every graduate class I’ve taken or taught, students reach a certain point of theoretical density that is sufficient for a “term paper,” which is still the dominant genre of graduate seminar paper in our field. A term paper is not a publishable paper, however, because it doesn’t necessarily interact with a specific venue for publication.

In order to get published, in other words, you have to write an article that is publishable within a specific journal. This means:

  • Catching the eye of an editor with a compelling argument and timely idea
  • Matching your writing style to the style most prevalent within that journal
  • Making a persuasive case for why your particular theoretical argument belongs within the conversation present within that journal
  • Submitting a manuscript that is well-written and matches the editorial guidelines for the journal (e.g. length, preferred citation system, formatting, etc.)
  • Successfully incorporating reviewer feedback, should you get a revise and resubmit
  • Seeking assistance from the editor of the journal if you have questions about formatting your manuscript, or if you are unclear how to incorporate reviewer feedback, including asking them for a phone call or Skype call to ask in-depth questions
  • Starting this process over with a new journal, should your manuscript ultimately be declined
  • Learning from early publishing mistakes and improving your writing continuously until it is of publishable quality

Teacher Response to Homework #4: Theory Is Hard Because of the Death of Theory

Grades on Blackboard.

The death of Theory; the birth of theory

One effect of the trends identified in this week’s readings: the death of expertise, the backlash against local-only approaches to culture, the shift from communication to content, etc. is that theory is now much harder. During the early days of our discipline we could talk about something called “technical communication” that was relatively coherent. It was largely technical writers translating specialist jargon for lay audiences.

This was technical communication, in other words:


Now, however, that is no longer an accurate description of the objects of our discipline, which range all over the place.

So, now our discipline is like:


This is actually a good thing, however, because it creates agency for new members of the field.

Teacher Response to Homework #3: From Agenda to Framework

Grades and additional feedback on Blackboard. Please read the feedback, as it is highly individualized and important for the progression of the class, as is the feedback from your peers.

The difference between an abstract and a framework

The first module asked you to predict what kind of theory you might develop, and now you’ve created a foundation for that theory. The only difference is a difference of certainty, meaning how certain you are that you want to explore a particular direction. All theory-building takes, in other words, is time, effort, and creative thinking. And like most skill sets, under the right guidance, you get better at it the more you do it.

The last stage: Making an argument

Though there have been attempts to avoid agonism altogether in academic writing, these attempts have arguably not caught sufficient traction to make them an advisable course of action. The last stage of this class is called a “theoretical argument,” because this is how the statistical majority of your fellow researchers will see your theory: as an assertion of particular assumptions. Again, the only difference is that by the time you are ready to deploy a full-blown argument, you should be very certain that your theory is tenable, meaning a contribution to the field that you are willing to cultivate, no matter how long that takes.

Teacher Response to Homework #3: Fixing the Field

Grades on Blackboard, as per the norm.

My agenda in this class is becoming clear

I have joked in this class that your job after the class is to go out and fix the field, but actually I am completely serious about this. In order for TPC to continue to grow, future generations of scholars must do better at theory-building than we have thus far. As Alvesson-Karreman state, a lot of what we call “theory” in our field is perhaps better characterized as “conjecture.”

This is because the working assumptions behind our theories are not always clear. Take the ANT vs. AT divide, for instance. Each of these theories has a long history of development and carries with it very specific assumptions about what conclusions theorists can draw from using them. It’s not that we can’t continue to use these theories, or hopefully extend them, it’s that folks seem to see them, and many theories, as interchangeable.

This is a huge problem for our discipline. A theory is more than just a working assumption, you see, it’s a way of constructing a discipline. Theory is what we use to communicate the norms of our discipline to each other, including how we conduct research, how we teach, and how we make knowledge. We need to make these norms much more apparent, probably through meta-level research that looks at all the published works in our field. Without this kind of apparency, our field is a minefield of theoretical factions that don’t talk to each other.

Interesting discussion of descriptive, predictive, and prescriptive analytics

1. Descriptive analytics is mostly characterized in many Big Data discussions today. You have a lot of data but don’t know how to define it, organize it or tabulate it. We also interchange this term with “reporting.” It’s valuable information as a foundation, but it doesn’t tell you much about why the result happened or what might happen in the future.

2. Predictive analytics is what’s getting so much attention today. Here, you “use data from the past to predict the future,” according to Davenport. Don’t we all wish we could do this?

Skeptics hammer this concept because they insist correlation doesn’t mean causation. You might have the propensity to buy a hot dog from 7-Eleven at the same time you’re buying a Gatorade and a lottery ticket, but the reality of you buying a hot dog on your next visit, or any visit, is likely zero.

As Davenport says, “You don’t need to imply causation to apply predictions.” You’re simply predicting a likelihood of an action. For example, a certain type of customer might respond better to a certain type of email or product recommendation.

This is an important concept to understand whether you are using a model, a recommendation engine or simple business rules based on past behaviors. Predictions are just that — choices –and in a transient world moving faster, you’ll need to rely more and more on these. How far you stretch them is your RISK model.

3. Prescriptive analytics is what I think about on long walks. This is often where cause-effect analysis meets the real world. We mask this as “testing” in the marketing world. We all know the No. 1 rule of testing: You must have a hypothesis to test against.

Think of this area like a doctor writing prescriptions: fine if you are treating a common cold, but if you are trying to ascertain the relationship between increased purchase, profit and number of ad exposures over a given period of time by channel and segment, this becomes almost unfathomable operationally without a quant-geek team spending months on it in the back room.

So, what does it mean for you tomorrow?

Many discussions on the future are rooted in the questions you want to answer, how often you want the answer, from whom you want the answer and how you want to apply the answer to your business.  The importance of knowing this is what I’ve harped on for years:  We have more data, more transient consumers, more tools to choose from, and are expected to be faster and smarter than we were yesterday, all with the same budget.