Module 4: Disrupting Disciplinarity through New Theories and Professional Activities


After doing this assignment, you should be able to:

  • Locate theoretical opportunities in existing literature
  • Theorize a positive instance of a disciplinary gap or missing connection in that literature
  • Assess the theoretical conventions of an academic journal
  • Write a Query Email to an editor of a journal who you think may be interested in a manuscript by you


On this module, you are encouraged to use any technologies  available to you, including word processors, web browsers, and online applications (e-mail, chat, blogging, productivity, workflow, etc.). We will cover some of these technologies as we go along, but you can use any that you are proficient with or want to experiment with on this module.

You will definitely need access to the following technologies to complete this module:

  1. A working and recently-updated Internet browser (Google Chrome, Firefox, or Safari are recommended)
  2. A word-processing application (e.g. Word, Pages, Writer, etc.)
  3. A reliable email client (Outlook, Apple’s Mail, or Gmail are recommended)


If you have gotten one message loud and clear in this class, it is: disciplinarity exists.

Theories are coins-of-the-realm in academic circles. They are a form of currency that enables a discipline to function. In order to become part of a discipline, you thus have to prove your value by demonstrating your facility with theories.

Following this analogy, editors and peer reviewers associated with academic journals are the merchants of a given discipline, purveying certain theories to the field and blocking others from being purveyed.

Your assignment in this module is thus to construct a Theoretical Analysis of a Journal in the field of TPC and a Query Email to the Editor of that journal. These two genres are essential if you are to assess whether your theory has a hope of seeing the light-of-day within a given journal.

Deliverables You Must Produce for this Project

The following must be posted to Blackboard by the following date / time:

  • Homework #4 – 3/30/15 by the start of class
  • Cover Letter, Theoretical Analysis of a Journal, and Query Email – 4/8/15 by Midnight ET

The following must be posted to this course website by the following date / time:

  • A copy of your Theoretical Analysis of a Journal and Query Email – 4/8/15 by Midnight ET
  • An answer to my theoretical question (see below) on the posts of each of your peers – 4/15/15 by Midnight ET

The following must be presented in class on the following date:

  • Brief presentations on the most common theories associated with a given journal


The primary audience for your module is myself, an experienced theorist who will assess your argument for a series of assertions about a particular case of technical and professional communication. Fellow theorists in the field are an important audience to consider as well, however.

To Complete This Project (Workflow)

1) 3/30/15 by the Start of Class >>

Do Homework #4

2) 3/30/15 During Class >>

As I mentioned above, the key to publishing new knowledge within an academic discipline is understanding the Theoretical currency of that discipline. The first step toward doing so is to understand how journals within a given discipline understand that currency.

To help us begin to do this for TPC, we will each choose one of the following journals, analyze theories common to it, and do brief presentations on the journal in class:

Complete archives for all the journals listed above are available in our library, except for RPCG and PP, which are open access, and CDQ/ACM, which I have a subscription to.

During your presentation, you will be expected to:

  • Talk about the theories mentioned in the journal over the past couple issues in a summative manner OR trace a particular theory within the past five years of the journal.
  • Describe the ways theory is used in the journal: as a introduction to empirical investigation? As a standalone argument? As a rhetorical analysis of a particular kind of artifact?
  • Describe the ways citations of literature associated with theory are used in the journal: as a summation of current research on the theory? As a touchstone for introducing the theory? As a means for critiquing particular theories?

3) 3/30/15-4/6/15 by the Start of Class >>

We will work in class to create presentations on the above journals, presentations which must occur on 4/6/15 during class

4) 4/8/15 by Midnight >>

Use your preparation for your presentation to craft a Theoretical Analysis of that Journal, which is essentially just a write-up of your findings from your analysis.

Next, you will need to draft a Query Email that follows these conventions:

  • SUBJECT: Query about a Manuscript on [TOPIC]
  • SALUTATION: Address the editor by name.
  • BODY: Introduce your intention, e.g. “I am writing about a manuscript I am developing on [TOPIC] and whether you think it might be a good fit for [JOURNAL NAME].”
  • TEASER: In no more than a few bullet points, sum up your argument and what you think it contributes to the field.
  • MATCH-MAKING: Explain why you think the journal would be a good home for your argument.
  • CLOSING: A call-to-action, e.g. “I look forward to hearing back from you,” or “I appreciate your consideration.”

4) 4/8/15 by Midnight ET >>

Revise all your documents and hand them in:

6) 4/13/15 by Midnight ET >>

Post an answer to the following theoretical question as a comment on the posts of each person’s webpage on this course website.

Each module, I will ask you a theoretical question, which you must post a response to as a comment on the posts of each of your peers. Your theoretical question for this module is the following:

  • Looking at this author’s analysis and query email: do you see a clear fit between the two? Given their analysis of the journal, does it make sense that the journal would be a good venue for their theory? Why or why not?

Grading Criteria

Can be found here: grading criteria for this module