A Guide to Technical Communications: Strategies & Applications
Lynn Hall, The Ohio State University
Leah Wahlin, The Ohio State University
Pub Date: 2016
Publisher: Ohio State University Libraries
Conditions of Use
This book is lacking quite a bit of content for a Technical Writing textbook. It does frame the conversation about technical writing with a read more
This book is lacking quite a bit of content for a Technical Writing textbook. It does frame the conversation about technical writing with a rhetorical lens, suggesting knowledge of the field, but it is a very basic understanding that would speak more to a high school student, or first-year undergraduate. The authors do disclose that this text is designed for Engineering Technical Communications courses at Ohio State University, but the introduction is misleading in that it also claims that it "will help readers practice strategies for critically analyzing audiences and contexts, real-world applications of rhetorical principles, and skills for producing documents (reports, proposals, instructions), presentations, videos, and wide variety of other professional communications," but this textbook does NOT adequately do all that it promises. Perhaps this is a draft of the textbook rather than the polished final that is showing here?
The information that is presented, though very limited, is at least accurate. Except for the introductory claims that are NOT accurate in what the book provides, the elements on basic rhetorical appeals and interviews are useful. I will say that this text often references a banking model of education that knowledge/information goes from source A to receptor B, but much of the current scholarship suggests otherwise, so that is certainly something that I would question in terms of accuracy.
The historical aspects of the book about basic rhetoric are grounded and established, so those references are certainly a propos, but there is so much missing in this text for document design, usability testing (or even user-centered design), and conflict management when doing collaborative work that I worry that it is already obsolete.
The content included is clear, and there are links and references where necessary and appropriate. I cannot give full marks here, however, because of the abrupt ending which leaves so much ambiguity for the readers.
This text has an appendix as the ending page that literally says "This is where you can add appendices or other back matter." Again, I fear this is a draft of a final version that was uploaded to the Open Textbook Library.
There is not much content within the text to allow for modular use. One wouldn't jump to an interview module prior to the resume module, for example. The subunits are far less useful in a technical writing course because one is about the research process, which is (to my mind) a first-year writing course more than a technical communication course, and though another is about team projects, it is so brief and limited that I wonder if anyone would assign this module over just doing an in-class outline/template for groups to follow.
I do like the layout of the html version and the easy of clicking through the text, but the very brief paragraph on workplace communications that then links you out to a slide that reads "Workplace Communications" and nothing more is further evidence that this text is incomplete, and is perhaps a draft rather than a finished product.
As a reader eager to adopt a textbook for an upcoming 3rd year collegiate technical communication course, I was excited about reviewing this textbook, but the links out to other information often do not have additional components, and the work that is included is limited, at best. The two side links of the "home" and "table of contents" do work, but like I mentioned, many of the embedded links do not actually offer further information.
What is there in content does not appear to have any glaring errors for a academic grammar.
This book does have a section on "Employment Access, Equity & Opportunity" which is certainly useful.
This textbook appears to be an unfinished, draft version, which is disappointing. I hope the authors are able to revisit the text and make the necessary revisions to allow for use in the future.
The introduction explicitly states that this textbook was written for Engineering Technical Communications courses at The Ohio State University. read more
The introduction explicitly states that this textbook was written for Engineering Technical Communications courses at The Ohio State University. However, with the exception of one or two references to resources specific to The Ohio State University, the contents of the textbook can be applied to any technical writing course. In some instances, when referencing resources specific to The Ohio State University, the authors mention where students in other colleges and disciplines might find similar services. The actual different types of technical communications covered in this textbook are minimal: currently there is only information on job application materials.
The content contains a few grammatical errors but otherwise seems accurate and unbiased.
One of the main things the authors stress about the nature of technical communication in general is the awareness that "all communication must be designed with audience and purpose in mind" (2). This emphasis on the importance of understanding the rhetorical situation of a text makes its content relevant to most changes that might naturally occur in standardizations of communication with the passage of time. As the authors themselves state, "Whatever happens in the future, a nuanced, audience-focused communication strategy will allow you to evolve and thrive" (3).
At no point in this text did I encounter excessively technical terms. Keywords are highlighted and defined.
What is proclaimed as "the most important 'strategy'" emphasized in the textbook--"all communication must be designed with audience and purpose in mind"--is returned to throughout (for example, when discussing job application materials: "it is important to first consider the rhetorical situation for this particular type of communication. What is the intended effect? What are you trying to accomplish? Who is your audience? How will they be accessing and reading your document?" To further drive home the importance of assessing the rhetorical situation, the text inserts tables describing in detail the audience and purpose of the text being discussed.
The text contains several different levels of headings that make it easy to be divided into smaller reading sections that can be assigned at different points within the course. There are also sections like "key takeaways" that occur throughout the textbook that provide a nice summary of major sections.
As a reader outside of The Ohio State University context, the reasoning behind the textbook's organization was unclear to me. The book contains five main sections: the "Introduction," "Rhetorical Foundations," "Job Search Communications," "Engaging with Research," and the "Appendix." I was particularly confused with the placement of section on "Job Search Communications." Why was this followed immediately by "Engaging with Research"--what is the reason for jumping from a description of a concrete type of technical document back to more abstract concepts?
I did not see any significant interface issues. There are some links contained in the text to outside resources, such as links to Purdue's OWL. This book is currently available as either a PDF, ePub, or eBook (ePub & .mobi), which were all formats that required me to download the text to my computer. For those who prefer to read the text online, this might be an issue.
There are a few typos throughout.
One note provided under the section "Preparing Job Application Materials" states: "The practices for this document outline here are focused on business culture and norms in the United States, so keep in mind that you will need to research and follow the appropriate standards if you're applying for jobs internationally." I believe there is room for more acknowledgments such as these.
This book appears not to be completely finished.
This book is largely incomplete. It looks as though an early draft has been uploaded rather than the finished document. It has no index or glossary. read more
This book is largely incomplete. It looks as though an early draft has been uploaded rather than the finished document. It has no index or glossary. It does not even have complete chapters. There are several chapters that are only a chapter heading with no further text.
There is not enough content to comment on this area.
As stated, the content is largely incomplete. However, with the text that is available, there are relevancy issues. The focus at the start is on basic principles of rhetoric (logos, ethos, pathos) rather than on principles of technical communication. There is also an example (and picture) of the game Candy Land that is quite dated and not cross-culturally (or generationally) relevant.
There is rhetorical jargon at the beginning of the book (rhetor, kairos, logos, ethos, pathos) that isn't well-anchored into the "why" of technical communication. The prose becomes more accessible after that point. However, because of the incompleteness of the text, these comments are quite limited.
The book is too incomplete for me to give much commentary on the consistency. However, the tone to this point is inconsistent. It moves from instructional/explanatory to exclamatory ("Build a vocabulary!"). It reads like an early draft where style has not yet been addressed.
The text is broken into lots of headings, but the headings (or levels of the headings) sometimes feel haphazard rather than deliberate.
The organization has either a clear progression or nothing.
There are significant interface problems, including where the text in a table is tabbed erratically and difficult to read.
The text contains a fair degree of error at this point, including missing capitalization, grammar errors, etc. There are also highlighted notes from the authors to the authors saying things like "For example….some kind of example."
The text is too incomplete to comment much here, apart from the Candy Land comment under Relevance/Longevity.
**THIS BOOK IS NOT COMPLETE ENOUGH FOR CONSIDERATION OR REVIEW.** It looks like the wrong draft of this book was uploaded. This is an early and fully incomplete draft with only about 30 pages of text (with several of them blank) and entire chapters that are missing any text. This book is not complete enough to merit anything above a 1 rating at this point. A finished version would likely be much better.
The authors present an excellent introduction to technical communication and discuss the basic concepts such as audience and purpose in detail. A read more
The authors present an excellent introduction to technical communication and discuss the basic concepts such as audience and purpose in detail. A brief discussion of the Aristotelian principles of the rhetorical situation helps students analyze a specific communication task. This section is followed by a detailed step-by-step guide to conducting research for the job market and designing and writing effective resumes and applications. Thereafter, the authors discuss the two primary kinds of research. However, the book ends abruptly. Content for the chapter entitled Documenting Sources is missing. Sections on important technical documents such as Proposals, Reports, Abstracts, Summaries, Visuals and Graphics, Memos and Letters are missing. Index and Glossary are also missing. The book is incomplete.
Content is accurate and appears to be error-free.
The authors need to complete writing the book and include all relevant chapters in order to ensure relevance and longevity.
The writing style is clear and effective. The authors adopt a conversational and informal tone to explain technical concepts.
Consistency is acceptable.
Design features can be improved in the text. The authors need to provide sub-headings and visuals to make the content more accessible.
The authors begin the text well by writing an excellent introduction. However, as indicated before, they do not discuss a comprehensive set of topics.
There were no distortions.
The text seems free of grammar and mechanical errors.
The text is not culturally offensive.
The book has a lot of potential; however, the authors need to complete writing the book.
Table of Contents
- What is Technical Communications?
- What is Rhetoric?
- Applications in Technical Communications
Job Search Communications
- Preparing Job Application Materials
- Interview Strategies
- Employment Access, Equity & Opportunity
Engaging With Research
- Common Types of Research Reports & Documents
- Strategies for Conducting Research
- Writing about Research
- Using and Documenting Sources
About the Book
Welcome to the textbook for Engineering Technical Communications courses at The Ohio State University. Our aim in writing this textbook was to create a resource specifically focused on and applicable to the kinds of communication skills most beneficial to the students who take our courses. Therefore, this textbook focuses on developing both technical and professional communication skills and will help readers practice strategies for critically analyzing audiences and contexts, real-world applications of rhetorical principles, and skills for producing documents (reports, proposals, instructions), presentations, videos, and wide variety of other professional communications.
About the Contributors
Lynn Hall is currently finishing her Ph.D. in English from Miami University (Ohio). In addition to over 15 years of experience in the legal field, she has taught writing in a variety of courses including English composition, literature, women’s studies, business, and technical communication classes.
Leah Wahlin is interested in the intersections of technology and communication. While working on her Master's in Renaissance women's writing, she was a member of the Digital Writing Collaborative at Miami University (Ohio), focusing on teaching writing using digital technologies. After completing her graduate degree, she taught writing and literature, but also built a career as a project manager at a digital marketing agency and then as a content director and researcher for a small company building a gardening app. She is also serving as a writing partner for a book project with Professor R. Brian Stone (OSU Department of Design) that examines the increasing role of motion design in effective visual communications.